Sunday, September 23, 2007


Japanese Guitar Wizard Invades America!

It’s hard to imagine two less likely bands touring together, than pop/folksters Damon and Naomi and the noise metal merchants of Japan, Boris. Both groups are at the cutting edge of their respective genres, yet little would suggest this is a likely pairing. Yet for 25 shows in the next month they will be sharing the bill on a co-headlining tour.

This is made possible by the inclusion of the best unknown rock guitarist in the world. He’ll be playing for both bands every evening, much like an actor playing multiple roles in a stage play.

For over 20 years Michio Kurihara has been working in relative anonymity in his homeland of Japan. In 2005 Kurihara finally recorded and released his first solo record, Sunset Notes. Just released this year on the 20/20/20 Label, it is the best guitar instrumental record since Satriani set the guitar world on its ear with his first two records in the mid/late 80s. Please note that I didn’t say amongst, or one of the best, I decisively said, THE BEST.

He’s been called “The Japanese Jeff Beck,” “The fuzz-guitar god,” and is deserving of both accolades. Whether he’s combining pop sensibilities with a Page-ish tone with The Stars, adding incredibly beautiful ambient backing to Damon and Naomi’s dark and ethereal emo/pop/folk blend, or composing and recording an amazing solo debut in an equally amazing short period of time, Kurihara is a guitar genius.

I’d love to write this about any guitarist. I live for good guitar music. This is made even sweeter by the fact that this man is not just a guitar-slinger. He’s also thoughtful, polite, well spoken, and incredibly unassuming in the shadow of his mind-bending gifts. I recently had the pleasure of doing an interview with the artist through a translator. Though his English is respectable, I thought it best that he be given the chance to answer without having to consider language barriers. His answers to questions that were very guitar-centric were deliberate, thoughtful and caring.

His solo album is a stunning statement. It’s as if he somehow mastered the guitar and ingested a lifetime of knowledge of tones, sounds, and chops without making any of his influences obvious or known. He speaks with a voice as unique as Hendrix or Dick Dale. If you’re shaking your head and saying, “Hendrix or Dick Dale?” consider this….Can you think of any other guitar players who sounded like they had never heard rock music before they made their own records?

Sunset Notes is that rarest of beasts, the non-self indulgent guitar record. Every tune stands up as a composition without relying on gimmicks or jaw-dropping chops. While he’s a very capable guitarist, with a lexicon of unique sounds and techniques, Kurihara is no victim of cliché or tradition. Nothing sounds as if it were informed by the past except in the spirit of celebration. He uses a 1968 Gibson SG and a Fender Twin Reverb amplifier, and a few pedals. These tools are relatively unspectacular and provide a basic foundation. The guitarist applies different effects, displaying a stunning mastery of distortion and time based effects (reverbs and delays). His tones are rarely less than amazing. Fat, saturated leads that drip with a sultry sweetness, singing unison riffs that sound like a small guitar orchestra, he sounds like nothing but himself from the albums first notes. While claiming to be a huge fan off John Cippolina of Quicksilver Messenger Service, Kurihara sounds better than Cippolina could have dreamt, and I certainly don’t mean any disrespect to the masterful west coast guitar legend. It’s simply that this is an artist who has spent many years evolving into perhaps the most unique rock visionary of his time. He’s that good.

While I am extremely anxious to meet Kurihara and see him daringly take the stage for a night with two of the most demanding bands in their respective genres, it is an imagined future that really makes me dream in a big way. One of my goals for this year is to help Mr. Kurihara gain enough exposure and acclaim to bring his act to American stages as a solo artist. Of course, that’s my need, that’s the teenage guitar geek that I’ve always been and will always be. I don’t want another Michio Kurihara record, I need one. You may not know it, but you do too….

Tour dates are available @
Sunset Notes is available on 20/20/20 records.

No comments: