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PUGS - JPop.com
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PUGS

PUGS

PUGS


When it comes to Japanese musicians trying to break through overseas, one of the classic might-have-been stories is that of the Pugs. In 1997, after putting out four poorly received but very cool albums in Japan, the Pugs released an album comprising tracks from their Japanese releases on L.A.-based indie label Casual Tonalities. Titled Pugs Bite the Red Knee, the album struck just the right balance between the band's at-times whacked-out weirdness and their poppier, though still quirky, side. Read more on Last.fm
When it comes to Japanese musicians trying to break through overseas, one of the classic might-have-been stories is that of the Pugs. In 1997, after putting out four poorly received but very cool albums in Japan, the Pugs released an album comprising tracks from their Japanese releases on L.A.-based indie label Casual Tonalities. Titled Pugs Bite the Red Knee, the album struck just the right balance between the band's at-times whacked-out weirdness and their poppier, though still quirky, side. But despite hopes the Pugs would achieve at least cult status in the States, Pugs Bite the Red Knee became a casualty of Casual Tonalties' business woes and more or less sank without trace.

The band later recorded another album with Steve Albini (producer of Nirvana's "In Utero"), but due to creative differences and business hassles, that album was never released. Too bad, because the Pugs were one of the most interesting and accessible acts ever to emerge from the fertile Japanese indie/underground music scene. The band was formed in 1993 when indie scenemeister Hoppy Kamiyama made a tape at his home studio with vocalist Honey*K and guitarist Hikaru Yoshida. Kamiyama - undoubtedly the Japanese music scene's best-known transvestite keyboard player - then called up some other musician pals and asked them to join what had become the nucleus of a new band called the Pugs.

Besides Kamiyama, Honey*K and Yoshida, the Pugs' other members included Steve Eto (percussion, metal, gong, meat grinder, chorus), Hajime Okano (waste bass, chorus), and Kazuhisa "Roger" Takahashi (drums, chorus). The Pugs soon started gigging in Japan and played their first U.S. date in 1994 at the CMJ Music Marathon. In 1996 they played at the South by Southwest music-biz confab in Austin, Texas, where they came to the notice of Casual Tonalities.

A key part of the Pugs' appeal was their extremely visual stage show: Honey*K, looking like a B-girl from a bar in the asteroid belt, alternated between seductively whispered phrases and high-pitched wails; "metal percussionist" Eto took auto parts and other bits of industrial junk and destroyed them with his arsenal of chain saws; and Kamiyama, unrecognizable under thick layers of makeup, a voluminous chinchilla stole and a grotesque blond wig that made him look like Mae West on a very bad day, played his synthesizer and manipulated sound effects with manic abandon. No wonder they never made the Christmas dinner-show circuit. The Pugs' music, as you might expect, wasn't exactly easy-listening: dense and overwhelming at times, it drew on just about every musical genre save Laotian tango. For example, the opening drum part on "Shizku Is Color Of Tears", one of the standout tracks on Pugs Bite the Red Knee, is lifted from the Ronettes' Be My Baby, while the song's heavily layered synths and doom-laden riffs sound like King Crimson at their most dirge-like - until the very end, when it mutates into an acoustic bit that's as much unhinged as unplugged.

Kamiyama and co. are still active in different musical agglomerations on the Japanese underground music scene, but they've never come as close to breaking through into the mainstream - or somewhere near it - as they did with the Pugs. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..

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