Sunday, April 5, 2009

ギターウルフ:Guitar Wolf - A Little Background

Odd as it sounds, Guitar Wolf was one of the initial inspirations behind my obsession with Japan. If you think I'm a huge geek, I'm just going to have to say "Fuck You." I think this photo explains my inner feelings.

I snapped this photo at a Guitar Wolf show at New York's CBGB's in spring of 2005. I was fortunate to have been there. It was one of the band's last performances under their original lineup; Bass Wolf Billy died of a heart attack literally a month later. The legendary New York City rock club has also since closed its doors.

A few years later, the starstruck teenage kid I was grew up into an adult. During my senior year of college, I applied for a Fulbright grant to research Japanese rock music culture. I unfortunately didn't get the grant, but in the long run, I honestly feel that the Werewolf project as it is today is way more indepth than any academic study I would have been able to do. In any case, this excerpt from my proposal gives you a little bit more background:

...I first became interested in this subject through my exposure to the Japanese punk band Guitar Wolf. During their spring 2005 tour, I was fortunate enough to see the band perform one of their last shows with the group’s original lineup. The self described “Jet Rock” band was by far the wildest group I had ever witnessed. In homage to 1970’s American punk rock bands such as The Ramones and Joan Jett, the members of Guitar Wolf all wear motorcycle leather, aviator sunglasses, and cowboy boots. The guitarist plays a Gibson SG running through a Marshall amplifier, the signature setup made famous by classic rock bands such as AC/DC. The words they sing are a mixture of Japanese lyrics with catchphrases from English songs. While the throwback look and sound of the band has its roots in American and British hard rock, their inexhaustible energy is distinctly Japanese. This attitude is called 'ganbari', the tenacity and endurance that the Japanese have long been known for.

In comparison with more mainstream groups, Guitar Wolf’s image and style comes off as outrageous, yet the band is a paradigm of how Western rock n’ roll culture has infiltrated Japan. This is evident in their 1999 cult film,
Wild Zero. In the movie, the rock legends who the protagonist idolizes are more than just role models; they are quasi-prophetic figures who appear in his dreams, help him to fight the onslaught of evil, and teach him the meaning of love. Rock n’ roll is deified as a transcendental and divine power...

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