A wild, frantic rock & roll band whose sonic barrage is an explosive fusion of Ramones-style punk, hot-rodded rockabilly, and heavy-gauge garage rock (they call it "Jet Rock" in reference to the rumble of an airliner), Guitar Wolf are arguably Japan's most celebrated punk rock band.
Led by singer and guitarist Seiji, the group's merciless attack has changed remarkably little over the course of a career that's spanned more than three decades. From early efforts like 1995's Wolf Rock! and strong millennial albums like 1999's Jet Generation and 2000's Rock 'n' Roll Etiquette to 2019's Love & Jett, cut when they had more than three decades of experience, Guitar Wolf's sound and impact has remained consistent; the streamlined tunes, overdriven guitars, and rapid tempos have remained their hallmark despite numerous personnel changes and the passage of time.
Guitar Wolf were formed in Nagasaki in 1987 when Seiji, a vocalist who picked up guitar after discovering the raunchy sound of Link Wray, crossed paths with Billy, a bassist who was working in a punk rock shop located next door to the '50s boutique where Seiji was employed. One of Seiji's co-workers, Narita, played drums, and the three decided to put together a band. They named their new trio Guitar Wolf, and inspired by the Ramones, they took on the stage names Guitar Wolf (Seiji), Bass Wolf (Billy), and Drum Wolf (Narita). Narita didn't last long in the band, and Toru took over as the new Drum Wolf.
In 1993, the band released its first album, Wolf Rock!, a lo-fi effort recorded in Seiji's basement. That same year, Guitar Wolf toured the United States for the first time; Eric Friedl of the Oblivians saw their performance at the Garageshock Festival in Memphis and was so knocked out he launched Goner Records to release Wolf Rock! in America. Their second album, Run Wolf Run, was released in Japan in 1994, followed by another trip to the United States. An in-store appearance at a record store in New York City was seen by a representative of the successful indie label Matador Records, which signed Guitar Wolf to a deal and released their next three albums, Missile Me! (1995), Planet of the Wolves (1997), and Jet Generation (1999). (Matador enthusiastically publicized the latter LP as the loudest album ever made.) The band was regularly staging international tours by this point, sharing stages with friends and fans like the Oblivians, the Cramps, and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.
In 2000, filmmaker Tetsuro Takeuchi made the film Wild Zero, which starred the three members of Guitar Wolf as themselves in a crazed comedy-drama in which they had to deal with zombies and alien interlopers. In the wake of Wild Zero's release, Guitar Wolf struck a new U.S. deal with the punk rock label Narnack Records; their first release was Rock 'n' Roll Etiquette. Narnack would release the group's next three studio albums, as well as a "best-of" set, 2005's Golden Black.
The year 2005 marked the end of an era for Guitar Wolf when Billy, aka Bass Wolf, died of a heart attack at the age of 38. Though devastated by the news, Seiji and Toru decided to continue as a band, and in September 2005 the group played its first concert with its new bassist, 19-year-old U.G., who made his recording debut with Guitar Wolf on the 2007 album Dead Rock, and in 2009 the band launched its own Guitar Wolf label with the Jet Satisfaction EP. The group maintained its busy schedule of live work in Japan, Europe, and North America, and ducked back into the studio to cut 2011's Spacebattleshiplove. Beast Vibrator followed in 2013. After a few years of relative quiet, Guitar Wolf were back with a new album in 2016, T-Rex from a Tiny Space Yojouhan, and they scheduled supporting tours of Japan and North America. In 2017, U.G. left Guitar Wolf, and Hikaru took over as their bass player. Hikaru's tenure with the group was short, and less than a year later, he was out and another bassist, Gotz, was in. Gotz arrived in time for Guitar Wolf to begin work on their 13th album; 2019's Love & Jett was released in Japan on their own Guitar Wolf label, and in North America by Third Man Records. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi