Founded in the Harajuku district of Tokyo in 1987, Guitar Wolf puts on one of the most wild shows around. Inspired in part by guitarist Seiji's encounter with "Rumble," the Link Wray classic, the band crafted a sound that combines bits of old time rock and roll with punk, garage rock and noise.
The outfit, which endured the tragic death of bassist Hideaki Sekiguchi (aka Bass Wolf), who died of a heart attack in 2005, is currently touring in support of its latest record, Beast Vibrator. We recently exchanged emails with Seiji about the impact of Link Wray on his own music, the virtue of playing a guitar that's easy to replace on the road and more.
Westword: Guitar Wolf was a major part of the film Wild Zero. In what ways did you collaborate with Tetsuro Takeuchi and Satoshi Takagi in the making of that film?
Seiji (aka Guitar Wolf):The director, Tetsuro Takeuchi, started this movie as he wanted to film our daily life. That was the beginning. I'm just pleased that now everyone has come to know who is protecting this earth after watching this film.
What was it about Link Wray's "Rumble" that made such a major impression on you? How did that song save your musical life?
I had tried really hard to improve my guitar play many times since I was in the junior high school, but I kept failing. I couldn't play the F chord. If you can't play F, how could you go further to be a guitar player? I thought it was impossible for me to be able to play the guitar as I wanted. Then I happened to buy Link Wray's album. I hadn't listened to him before. I just bought it 'cause I liked the jacket.
When I put it on my record player at home, "Rumble" began. The electricity ran through my body. He played such simple phrases even the small kids of the 6th or 7th grade could play, but all sounded so cool. That was an eye opener for me. I thought I was good to go. That was the moment that defined my guitar style.
Did you ever get to meet Link Wray? What did you have to say to each other?
It's my great honor to know that Link Wray seemed to know me. Unfortunately I haven't met him. I haven't seen his live performance, either. I am a person who usually don't look back or regret, but it is definitely my regret. There was nothing to talk about with him. He was my aspiration. I just wanted to shake his hand and get his autograph on the back of my leather jacket. That was all I wanted.
Why do you love noisy music?
I simply love that sensation my body feels. I want to live my life in the noise of the jet plane.
Why is Joan Jett an important influence on your own music and style?
First of all, her name is cool. Then her sharp eyes. I don't know if I'm right, but I feel some clumsiness in her, which is so pure. I love the way she simply sticks to rock and roll. I am a clumsy rocker myself. I love Johnny Thunders and the Cramps so much for the same reason.
When you started Guitar Wolf, what was it like in Tokyo, in terms of a scene and other bands to play shows with, and in terms of places you could perform?
At that particular period of time, everywhere in the world was in a sort of state of synchronicity. Not only in Tokyo, but millions of bands who had interesting ideas and originality emerged all over the world. Tokyo might have been the most interesting city of all. You can't find it in Tokyo today. Teen Generates was there, the 5,6,7,8's, MAD3, Jet Boys and many more. Guitar Wolf played at the last show of Teen Generates. I was completely deflated after they were gone.
How did Mitsuo Yanagimachi's film God Speed You! Black Emperor impact you on a personal level and in what ways did it impact your musical style?
I had a lot of friends who just lived like the characters in that movie. So it was interesting to watch that movie. "God Speed You!" sounds so cool. So I wrote a song with that title later. But I'm not sure if I was influenced by that movie. I was always in that culture. I was born and raised there. Without motorcycles, I wouldn't be me, myself.
What kind of guitar and amp do you usually use? Why?
My guitars are Epiphone SGs. Why SG? Because Link Wray was using SGs and Epiphones are cheap and strong. The guitars often get broken on the road. The lower price tag is great. The amp is Marshall JCM800. The manager got one for me years ago. I often told him I wanted to get the sound like Jimi Hendrix.
The Ramones were known to have no breaks between songs at their shows. Did that have an influence on the way you pace your own performances?
On your new album, Beast Vibrator, you have a song called "Magma Nobunaga." Of course Nobunaga Oda was the warlord that initiated the unification of Japan in the 16th Century that was completed by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1600. What do you find fascinating about Nobunaga and that time period, and have you considered using Takeda Shingen as a character in a song? He was quite a character.
Actually I was so shocked when I got this title popped out in my head. What a weird title for a song. Shingen Takeda is cool, as well, as you suggested. I was thinking who I felt [was like] "magma" the most in the Japanese history. It was Nobunaga. I'm craving for creating songs no one else even thinks of trying.