Photo courtesy of Guitar Wolf

Jet Rock n’ Roll: Blast Off With Guitar Wolf

Music Interviews

At the age of 20, I was introduced to Guitar Wolf via their 2000 rock n’ roll zombie b-movie, Wild Zero. A year later, in 2011, I failed to catch them in Salt Lake City at the Urban Lounge. Luckily, I soon moved to the UK and saw them perform in Brighton, England, with The Ricky C Quartet in support. In that intimate venue, I was sold on Guitar Wolf.  The show was an inspiring experience. These guys clearly lived and breathed everything that is rock n’ roll: It wasn’t an act or some shallow novelty— for these guys it was a lifestyle. They played dressed in their signature motorcycle jackets and lit the room up with an untamable fury. Since then, getting their records has been a priority, and watching Wild Zero, a yearly tradition.   

For the soon to be initiated Guitar Wolf are the true—and perhaps among the last—embodiments of the hopeless romanticism that powers rock n’ roll. They blasted out of Nagasaki and onto the Japanese garage rock scene in 1987, around the same time as The 5,6,7,8’s and Teengenerate. They are a mix of the Ramones speed-like-intensity fused with the rockabilly nature of Link Wray, but with a defiantly Killed By Death punk attitude. Since forming, Guitar Wolf have released 14 studio albums, their most recent T-Rex from a Tiny Space Yojouhan in 2016. Throughout, their style has remained consistent. Their sound is nothing short of “Jet Rock n’ Roll’—a term they invented.  It’s wild, raw and must be heard devastatingly loud.

2017 is Guitar Wolf’s 30th anniversary. They will be touring the States and landing in Salt Lake City on July 3 at Urban Lounge. Before we bear witness to their awesome fury, frontman Seiji talks rock n’ roll in Japan, their recent album, the “Shimane Ajet Festival” and Fabian Huebner’s new film, An Electric Fairytale, in which Seiji stars.

SLUG: Guitar Wolf started in 1987. What was Japan’s rock n’ roll scene like then?
GW: Punk, blues, surfing, Link Wray, Davie Allan, Elvis, The Rolling Stones, rockabilly, heavy metal, etc … a variety of different kind of music was there.  There were a huge number of bands back then.  It was very exciting.

SLUGHow has it changed over 30 years?
GW: It’s great to see the original and innovative music, and the music full of fresh ideas showing up, but I feel the core, or the foundation of orthodox rock, is becoming thinner.

Shimane Jet Festival poster.SLUG: In an interview with Ca Va Cool in May 2011, Guitar Wolf’s style is referred to as “Jet Rock n’ Roll.” How would you describe that style?
GW:  “Jet” is the word I like best in this universe. The explosive music with the thundering noise—like a jet engine—is what we want to play. That’s “Jet Rock n’ Roll.”
オレは、Jetという言葉が宇宙で一番好きだ。自分達もジェット機の様な、激しいノイズを持ちながら爆発力のある音楽を目指している、それがJet Rock’n Roll!

SLUG: What do you find the mutation is from rock n’ roll to Jet Rock n’ Roll?
GW: There is a possibility for rock n’ roll to travel to space. In the future, rock n’ roll will blast in the dome of the soundless space.

SLUG: Do you think there are other bands that come close to embodying Jet Rock n’ Roll sound?
GW: King Brothers, Gasoline are the bands I can think of. There are not that many.
King Brothers Gasoline とかかな、でもあまり数はない。

SLUG: Guitar Wolf released T-Rex from a Tiny Space Yojouhan, which came out on May 11, 2016. Does Guitar Wolf have another album in the works?
GW: Of course!  The last one was T-Rex. So the next one is … uh-oh,  that’s a secret. Look forward to the next album.

SLUG: What’s your favorite track from T-Rex from a Tiny Space Yojouhan?
GW: Of course, I love all of the tracks. “T-Rex from a Tiny Space Yojouhan,” “Soviet Hiroshi,” “Sea and Cola” are really good.

SLUG: How would you describe the difference between T-Rex from a Tiny Space Yojouhan and Beast Vibrators, which was released in 2013?
GW: Come on, what are you listening to?  The songs are different. I’ve been rocking love, courage, rock n’ roll and explosions of the heart all through my life.
何を聞いてんの?もちろん曲の違いさ。自分は常に1貫して、愛と勇気とRock’n Roll そして心の爆発をロックしてるんだ。

SLUG:  Guitar Wolf’s material— song wise,  “In The Galaxy and “Universe Youth” as well as the film Wild Zero— references outer space frequently. What draws you to outer space?
GW: I grew up as I was watching space.  When I was in high school, I often lay down on the roof of my dad’s car watching the night sky in the hot summer night. Compared to space, my life is not even a tiny dot. I thought, “Why not go for what I want to do?” I bet my life on rock n’ roll.
もさえもない。だったら自分の好きな事をやってやると思い、Rock’n Rollに賭けたんだ。

SLUG: In an interview I conducted with you for Heatwave Magazine in October 2016, you mentioned the idea of a Guitar Wolf Rock Festival to celebrate the 30 years since your formation. Will there be a Guitar Wolf Rock Festival?
GW: On this coming Oct. 7,  we’ll have a festival named Shimane Jet Festival Yamata-no-Orochi Rising—an eight-headed serpent in Japanese mythology.  The festival will take place on top of the ancient tomb in my hometown, Shimane. For the next festival, we’d love to invite the bands from the U.S.
今年、10/7に自分の田舎で シマネジェットフェス・ヤマタノオロチライジグをやる。これは、古墳の上でやるフェスなんだ。今回はだめでも次回からはUSAのバンドも呼びたいと思っているよ

Shimane Jet Fext_backSLUG: You are also playing a fictional rocker named Blitz in Director Fabian Huebner’s new film, An Electric Fairytale. What was it like working in the film?
GW: It’s simply fun. My concern is what I am going to wear on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. I have only the leather jackets and pants.

SLUG: Also during our Heatwave Magazine interview, you mentioned that the film deals with humans who are totally controlled by a social network. Do you find that theme parallels how humanity behaves now?
GW: There is a folding paper fan called harisen in Japan, which is a slapstick often used by the comedians. When you hit people’s head with harisen, it makes a huge noise but it actually doesn’t hurt. I think those masterminds who are behind the social network scenes must be wanting to hit people’s heads with harisen. Think of it. People are all looking down on the phones everywhere, at the airport, in the train, even in the park. Eventually, people’s necks would become hardened as [they’re] looking down. Then the masterminds of the social network would come out and start hitting everyone with harisen for fun.  You never know who hits you, ’cause you can’t look up any longer.
日本の漫才と言われるお笑いで、紙で作られていて、人の頭をたたくと派手な音がするけど、そんなに痛くないハリセンという物があるんだ。 きっと今のソーシャルネットワークを仕掛けている人は、そのハリセンで人の頭をたたきたくてしょうがない人が仕掛けているに違いない。

SLUG: What can Salt Lake City expect from Guitar Wolf on July 3?
GW: The director, Fabian, filmed part of his movie in Salt Lake City. Our Jet Rock n’ Roll straightens your neck back to where it’s supposed to be, while it’s not locked up completely.
全に固まってないみんなの首を、オレ達のJet Rock’n Rollで元にもどしてあげるよ

SLUG: What’s next for Guitar Wolf after this tour?
GW: A scandal with Ivanka Trump.

Guitar Wolf will play Urban Lounge on July 3 with Isaac Rother and The Phantoms. This is going to be the show of the summer, so come out and risk the permanent hearing loss. You won’t regret it.