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By Dan Grunebaum

Guitar Wolf

The death of bassist Billy seemed the right occasion for a retrospective, says main wolf Seiji

Everyone knows Guitar Wolf stand for de-evolved, leather’n’sweat rock and no-holds-barred decadence. Or do they? By reputation, frontman Seiji should be in the process of throwing TVs out the window when I enter the sterile conference room at Sony’s Ki/oon label. But instead, he eases out of a high concept chair and gives me a genial handshake and greeting in rudimentary but serviceable English.

The occasion for the interview is the release of a best-of album and a live DVD in tribute to bassist Billy (aka Bass Wolf), who died of a heart attack on March 31 at age 38. It’s a difficult subject to broach, so I take the circuitous route with the obvious question...

Why did you decide to release the album now?
Billy died, so it seemed right. Ki/oon said this would be a good time. I was like, really? OK.

The songs were selected by fans who voted on the band’s homepage. Any surprises?
The song “Rock de Korose” [“Murder by Rock”] is the loudest on the album—very dirty and loud—but everybody loved this song. Wow! Thank you!

When you listened to the songs, did you feel like anything had changed?

No, because we always play old and new songs. To choose the order, I recorded each song on MD, and after that I listened. Wow! Great! I wanted the album to be like Ramones Mania.

The Ramones weren’t on speaking terms by the end. How do you stay friendly?
We’re always joking, and beer helps too.

Tell me about your different personalities...
I’m the leader. Billy was the chimpira [hoodlum]. [Drummer] Toru is the conscience of the band. Not serious, but he stops us from going too far. He is like dog trainer, but not too strict.

The new single is just the two of you. Tell me why you decided not to look for a new bassist.
We are looking for a new bassist. But now it’s just us, so we decided [to document] this moment. We thought: important.

On the DVD it’s clear how popular you are worldwide. How was your tour to South America?
Especially Argentina, now no money. It’s poor and violent place. The town is not so bright, a little dark. Maybe not so many bands go there, so everybody was hungry for rock‘n’roll. The next day, I went to Brazil. The sun was very strong. No shadow because directly overhead. And every girl is very beautiful. Very different from Argentina. Hot girls and boys.

Do people know your music well?
Yeah, at CBGB’s they know us. Almost all countries we visited, everybody know us. In my childhood, I always thought in uso [pretend] English, and now they think in uso Japanese. When we were young we listened to English songs and sang uso English, now they’re singing in uso Nihongo.

What kind of image do people have of Japan?
Harakiri! [laughs] Japan is famous these days, so they don’t have strange image. I visited Japantown in São Paulo. Good food.

Doesn’t touring get tiring?
No. Never. I keep my energy with Jet Beer.

Is that a brand?
Yes. Our song.

What does jet mean to you?
I like the word jet. Jet plane is fast—cool. Every word, if we add jet to it, it will be cool. Jet water, jet rain, jet mike, every word will be made cool!

What first gave you the idea for the name Guitar Wolf?
I like the animal. It has a cool feeling.

How about your Guitar Wolf edition jacket?
Schott designed it. Because I always wear Schott from long time ago. It’s got a beer pocket. You’re not supposed to bring in beer, so I can hide beer. If it was made out of cloth, it would rip. Leather is stronger.

Are there special stage-diving pads?
Good idea! And it should have air conditioner.

It’s a classic rockabilly look. Was that an influence?
Of course! Elvis, Link Ray...and punk rock. Johnny Thunders, Ramones, Clash, Sex Pistols…and Bruce Lee, Joan Jett.

What do you think of the Yoyogi Park rockabilly dancers?
My friends, but I don’t dance with them.

Tell me about working with Joan Jett.
Of course she is a big star for me, in my heart…and same birthday! Miracle! One day long time ago I read Runaways album. The album had discography. It said, Joan Jett, birthday Sep 22. Whaaaa, wooww, seggaii, great! I called somebody and said, “Same birthday with Joan Jett.” They were like, oh, I see...

How did you feel when you met her?
I was scared, very nervous, but she was not nervous. I couldn’t talk with her—only ask for her signature.

No jam session?
Just opening act. But the set list was all jet songs: “Jet Generation,” “Jet Nagasaki”…

Recently there’s been a new wave of garage rock. What do you think of it?
Really? I thought it never died.

Is there anything you like?
The Vines. I like their songs, but their live show didn’t impress me too much. They’re too serious.

What do you think is behind this new wave?
Guitar Wolf!

Golden Black (available with special edition gold leather case) and Live at Sekai Ookami Rising (Live at the World Wolf Rising) are available on Sony imprint Ki/oon Records.

Would you like to comment on this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.