Guitar Wolf (Japanese: ギターウルフ) is a Japanese garage punk power trio founded in Nagasaki in 1987. The band is known for songs with piercing vocals and an extremely loud style of noise-influenced punk which emphasizes heavy distortion and feedback. They coined the phrase "jet rock 'n' roll", which they also use to describe their musical style — an energetic cross between the Ramones, rockabilly, 77 punk, and garage rock. The band is part of Sony Music Japan's Ki/oon Records division.
Guitar Wolf has released nine studio albums internationally as well as a live album, numerous singles, and a retrospective compilation called Golden Black. The band members have also been featured in two B-grade science fiction horror movies: Wild Zero and Sore Losers. A collection of Guitar Wolf's most popular videos and live performances have been compiled into a limited edition DVD entitled Red Idol. In March 2005, bassist and founding member Billy, also known as Bass Wolf, died of a heart attack at the age of 38. His replacement in the band, bassist U.G., has become a permanent member of Guitar Wolf and now rounds out the trio which currently consist of band members Seiji (Guitar Wolf): U.G. (Bass Wolf); and Toru (Drum Wolf).
Guitarist Seiji and bassist Billy became friends while the two were in Harajuku. The two worked across from each other, Seiji in a used clothing store and Billy in a punk rock shop nearby. Realizing they shared similar musical tastes, the two decided to join together to play rock and roll. After convincing Seiji's coworker Narita to accompany them on drums, Guitar Wolf formed in Harajuku in 1987. After creating the band, each member adopted a Ramones-style surname reflecting their instrument of choice: Seiji became Guitar Wolf, Billy became Bass Wolf, and Narita became Drum Wolf. In time, Narita left the band, apparently to become a fortune teller, and was replaced by Toru, a drummer suggested by Enocky from the band Jackie & The Cedrics.
In time the band would come to develop its own unique strain of punk rock music, fusing multiple genres together into what the band described as Jet Rock 'n' Roll. The term Jet Rock 'n' Roll was coined by the band to describe their musical style; a conglomeration of punk, traditional rock, heavy distortion, feedback, and screamed vocals. The name is derived from the last name of musician Joan Jett, whom Guitar Wolf frontman Seiji considers his greatest influence. To date, the term Jet Rock is infrequently applied to anyone other than Guitar Wolf itself. Nevertheless, the members of Guitar Wolf would eventually begin to tout themselves as "The World's Greatest Jet Rock 'n' Roll Band."
After releasing two vinyl albums in Japan, the first of which, Wolf Rock!, was recorded in guitarist Seiji's basement,the band started a tour of America. Guitar Wolf performed at the 2nd Garageshock festival in Memphis, Tennessee, where Memphis local and Oblivians member Eric Friedl first saw the band. Impressed with the band's set, Friedl approached the band and received a demo tape which he decided to self-release, forming his own label, Goner Records, for the specific purpose of exposing Guitar Wolf to an American audience. After placing a call to the band in Japan in order to get permission to issue the album, Goner Records released "Wolf Rock!," Guitar Wolf's debut LP, in 1993.
Guitar Wolf released their first CD, Run Wolf Run, in 1994, distributing it through the Japanese Less Than TV label. In 1996 an in-store performance at a New York City record store secured the band a contract with Matador Records, who issued the band's fourth album "Missile Me!" that same year. Guitar Wolf would continue releasing albums with Matador until 1999's "Jet Generation," an album which Matador Records claims is the loudest CD in history.
In 2000 Guitar Wolf starred in the Japanese rock ‘n’ roll "zombie horror" movie, Wild Zero, directed by Tetsuro Takeuchi. The band plays themselves as they take on crazed fans, zombies, and an alien invasion. Guitar Wolf recorded the soundtrack to the film as well, releasing it in 1999 under the title, Wild Zero. Guitar Wolf is currently looking for a sponsor for the sequel, Wild Zero 2. This was not the first time the band had appeared on screen, in 1997 all three original members of Guitar Wolf appeared in the John Michael McCarthy-directed The Sore Losers, appearing as the "mysterious strangers."
Death of Bass Wolf
In 2002 the band made the move to Narnack Records where the band continued to release material until 2005 when the band released their greatest hits album, "Golden Black." That same year after completing a U.S. tour, the band returned home to Japan where bassist Billy/Bass Wolf suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 38. Billy, whose real name was Hideaki Sekiguchi, died in Tokyo on March 31, 2005. In September 2005, Guitar Wolf played their first show with their new bassist, U.G.
Guitar Wolf are well known for their frenetic live shows. They sometimes rely on elaborate stage productions, including lighted banners, comically oversized speakers, and microphones that spew fire. There is little-to-no time in between songs and the band has been known, on many occasions, to play completely non-stop through their entire set.
At Rising Sun Rock Festival 2009, Seiji grabbed a fan from the crowd, brought him on stage, handed him his guitar, and told him to play while he sang (the fan of course did not play along with the song at all). It is unknown whether or not this will be something Guitar Wolf will do for future shows.