Beast Vibrator – Guitar Wolf’s Latest Blast of Jet Rock & Roll

Hey folks, here’s an interview with Guitar Wolf from Qetic from last March. Their latest ‘Beast Vibrator’ had just come out and they were getting ready to head out on some major tourage. They mostly talk about the album and playing live. A conch shell?? Apparently…

Interview by Qetic on March 1st, 2013

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Whenever I try to describe Guitar Wolf’s music, nothing comes to mind but onomatopoeia. ‘GAAA!’ ‘GOHHHH!’ ‘GWAAAAA!’ You just can’t describe their sound with words. It’s a noise assault that rips through the
air and stabs you right in the gut. But to the band, it’s more than just noise. Rolled up in their songs are images, stories and meanings buried underneath the harsh distortion.

Guitar Wolf’s latest offering comes 2 years and 4 months after its last album, ‘Spacebattleshiplove.’ The title is ‘Beast Vibrator’ and just as the title suggests, it shakes with a savage intensity that only Guitar Wolf can conjure. With a good mix of the band’s signature style and some new elements that reflect where they are today, it’s what you might call their latest installment in the evolution of Jet Rock and Roll. ‘Beast Vibrator’ finds the band playing with minor chords, synthesizers, conch shells and boogie-infused rhythms, all the while gleefully bashing away like they always do.

Guitar Wolf has been together for 26 years. Each new record builds on the last and offers new directions for the band, and ‘Beast Vibrator’ is certainly no exception. Guitar Wolf has descended from the heavens to talk about the album with Qetic.

Guitar Wolf:
Guitar Wolf – Seiji
Drum Wolf – Toru
Bass Wolf – U.G.

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Qetic: It’s been two years and four months since your last release, ‘Spacebattleshiplove.’ In that time, you guys have been busy. You’ve done some overseas tours and some pretty big events here in Japan.

Seiji: Yeah, we went overseas again. I guess we’ve been playing a lot. But that’s really nothing unusual for us. But yeah, we’ve been doing a lot of shows.

U.G.: It doesn’t really feel like we played a lot to me. Just same as always these last two years.

Toru: Yeah, same as always (laughs). We’re always playing a lot.

Q: Especially last year, which was your 25th year playing and 15th year on a major label, you played a stadium show opening for Eikichi Yazawa and at the end of the year, you played at Budokan with some young and up-and-coming bands. It seems like you’re more active than ever.

Seiji: Yeah, those were good experiences, especially Budokan. That was the first time we played there and we always wanted to. I was so happy we could do that. But I gotta say, it was hard to hear through the monitors. I couldn’t hear a thing at first but I got used to it by the middle.

Q: At Budokan there was no MC and you guys could totally do your own thing. I thought that was really cool.

U.G.: Definitely, playing a big stage was fun. It was hard to hear, but you could wander around the stage looking for a place where you could hear better (laughs). Playing in front of a whole bunch of people is always fun. But playing a small place is cool in its own way too.

Toru: Yeah, it was great, especially Budokan. But the best part was just before we played. Once you start playing, pretty much everywhere is the same. So, when we finished playing at Budokan, it was like, ‘What? Did we just play Budokan? I should’ve enjoyed that more!’

Q: How was the show with Eikichi Yazawa? I know you guys must admire him quite a bit to cover his song ‘I Love You OK.’

Seiji: Yeah, that was a big thing for us. But you know, we were playing right when people were coming in so I’m sure not a lot of people saw us, but we enjoyed watching his show. That night he was really on. I’d seen him about three times before but this one was the best. I was blown away.

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Q: You guys made ‘Beast Vibrator’ while you were playing lots of shows, but what really strikes me about the album is that it seems like you guys are trying out a lot of new things.

Seiji: Oh yeah? I don’t think we’re doing anything different at all. I guess that if you have new songs, there’s always something new. I don’t wanna do the same thing each time. When you create something, you want to build on it each time. You’re making this thing that’s where you’re at today, but you’re using elements from the past to make it. But I dunno, I haven’t really thought about it.

Q: Were you like, ‘Let’s make this kind of album?’ Did you have something stylistically in mind?

Seiji: No, we totally didn’t. When I wrote the song ‘Beast Vibrator,’ I was like, ‘This is the title of the new album,’ but that’s about it. In the end, I think this one song really summarizes what the whole album is about. I think we just created an album that comes from where we’re at right now, that’s it.

U.G.: About the tone of the songs, ‘Beast Vibrator’ is really savage. Every song is a little difference but that one’s especially ferocious I think.

Toru: When we play the songs, it’s always the same. We’re not aware that there’s anything different or new about them. But when we’ve completed an album and people hear it, for sure, they probably notice different elements in the songs.

Q: How did you go about writing the new album?

Seiji: We wrote the songs while playing a bunch of live shows, so we tried out our new songs live as we wrote them.

Q: What was the next song after ‘Beast Vibrator?’

Seiji: ‘Ghostly You.’

Q: Up to now, your songs always had keywords related to space but on this album there are lots of historical keywords. It’s like a history lesson (laughs).

Seiji: I wasn’t thinking that when we made the record (laughs). It’s not like I decided to write about history or anything like that. Just at first the titles pop into my head and from that the words start coming. I wasn’t thinking about history or studying or anything but just writing rock and roll songs.

Q: What about track 8, ‘Magma Nobunaga?’

Seiji: I just felt like the name ‘Magma Nobunaga’ sounded really rock and roll. Stuff comes into my head and I just grab it and write it down. I don’t really see it as singing lyrics but just singing rock and roll, so I just threw words on top of it that were easy to sing and sounded right. I’m good at coming up with these stories from out of nowhere. But like I said, the most important thing to me is just creating a good rock and roll song.

Q: There’s something that sounds like a conch shell in that song.

Seiji: Yeah, that’s really a conch shell. I played it too. But we also got somebody really good at playing conch shells to play it.

Q: You played it? Is it pretty hard to play a conch shell?

Seiji: Yeah, it’s tough but once you start doing it you get the hang of it.

Q: This album has a conch shell but there’s also a song that has a synthesizer, right?

Seiji: Yeah there is, but we didn’t decide beforehand ‘let’s do a synthesizer song.’ It was more like we were in the middle of recording and were like, something’s missing, we need another sound here, and the synthesizer provided it. So it wasn’t like we started with the synth, but we were after a sound and the synth could make it.

U.G.: Yeah, it was more like, ‘Wouldn’t a sound like this be cool here?’

Q: I really want to see you play ‘Female Machine Gun’ live. This seems like a song that would go over well at your shows.

Seiji: That’s our own version of a Puffy song where Jon Spencer wrote the music and I wrote the lyrics. Jon Spencer is a good guy but he’s definitely quirky. I’ve known him for more than 15 years. He has a unique way with melodies that’s hard to play guitar with (laughs).

U.G.: That’s the kind of song that seems like it’s going to make something happen at a show. Of course, whether something happens at a show is totally up to Seiji (laughs). Anyway, crazy shit happens at shows and you just go with it (laughs). It’s like, ‘Oh, he’s about to do something…’ Sometimes during a show he suddenly goes into another song or goes in another direction, and I just use my intuition and try to follow him. I catch him suddenly looking at me and I know something’s about to happen. When that happens, it’s like ‘Here we go!’

Seiji: Well, live is ‘live,’ right? When you feel something, you go with it. Sometimes you get an itch to play something even though you didn’t think to put it on the set list. I guess I just go for it (laughs).

Toru: But that’s what’s thrilling and fun about it. It’s like, ‘This is happening right now.’

Seiji: Like, I like the Ramones and I think they’re live shows were really cool, but they’re always the same. I love them and their songs, but as far as live shows go, I’m more into something like Johnny Thunders, where there’s always this element of danger, like you never know what could happen. That element of ‘something could happen,’ like whether the band can even play or not, is one of the fun things about live shows (laughs).

Q: It also seems like the first time Guitar Wolf tried doing a song like ‘Batting Center.’ In addition to the boogie rhythm, the lyrics are kind of reminiscent of early punk rock.

U.G.: That song’s totally hip hop.

Seiji: Yeah, it definitely has a hip hop kind of rhythm. It just came to me out of nowhere but at the time, and I really loved it. The lyrics are like, ‘Why do kids have to go home straight from school and start studying? Let them play more.’ That’s what I was thinking about at the time.

Toru: Now that you mention it, yeah, it is that kind of rhythm. It’s kind of fun like disco or something, a pattern I’ve never done before.

Q: Right. You can hear some sadness in the lyrics of ‘Sapphire City.’ You guys haven’t done anything like that until now either.

Seiji: Yeah, that song uses minor chords, which is a first for us. It was just random. I messed around and hit that chord and liked it. I guess the words ‘Sapphire City’ kind of evoked those chords.

Q: The song definitely gives a melancholy mood. It seems to kind of paint a visual scene almost.

Toru: I don’t play guitar so I don’t know anything about chords, but I think that song has a kind of youthful feeling, more than being melancholy.

Seiji: Youthful, yeah, kind of a burning kind of song. I don’t mean like a raging fire, but more like simmering.

U.G.: This song brings to mind the place where me and Seiji grew up, around Lake Shinji in Yamane Prefecture. The melody and lyrics and chords really match the scenery there.

Seiji: I didn’t mean to make it this way, but the scene in the lyrics is in the shadow of a mountain, and Lake Shinji is also in the shadow of mountains. There’s a connection there.

U.G.: It’s snowy and bleak all year round there.

Q: ‘Barf Night’ is reminiscent of some uncouth early 70s good for nothing three piece Japanese punk band or something like that.

Seiji: I like that, ‘uncouth.’ Now that you mention it, it is like that. There are a lot of great songs in the Japanese rock canon I think are uncouth and kind of hurtle at you through the air. I wasn’t aware of that when I wrote it but now that you mention it, yeah, I can see it.

G: That song also has lyrics that are about sense perception and feeling.

Seiji: Pretty much, the lyrics of this song are just images. The neon and the puke on the street in the entertainment district of a city. But pretty cold, like maybe it’s December.

Q: This song repeats the same chords and then kind of builds and opens up.

U.G.: Yeah, it repeats one loop. When you’re just hammering out one chord over and over, I dunno, you start feeling better and better. It’s like you get euphoric, like a natural high. This song also stirs things up live.

Toru: I think we managed to create some wonderful dance music.

Q: So, you guys are heading off on a Japan tour on March 8th to support the album, starting at Seiji and U.G.’s old stomping ground Shimane.

Seiji: That’s right. The tour will burn like magma.

U.G.: It’s our first Japan tour in a while and we’re raring to go. I love playing live. It’s all I ever wanna do.

Toru: I feel like we put out a good album and I can’t wait to play these songs live. I’m really looking forward to it. Recently we haven’t been playing the new songs live. We’ve been holding out so we can bust them out for the tour.

Seiji: Starting with this tour, we’re going to head off to Europe, the US and then Australia. We’re gonna rip the world to shreds.

Interview & Text Kazuhiro Sukao Ikeda
photo by Masato Yokoyama

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