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By Tom Collins and Angie Corsiglia
Arizona Summer Wildcat
August 11, 1997

Japanese band looks toward stardom


Arizona Daily Wildcat

Photo Courtesy The Pugs
Pugs, a Japanese sextet, played on the second stage at Lollapalooza. They play an eclectic variety of music, with chainsaw percussion. Drag exhibitionism and sexually explicit vocals are characteristic of the band's stage performance.

PHOENIX - Pugs aren't rock stars, they're just playing them on stages around the country this summer.

The Japanese sextet, minus one member, has been a second stage act on the Lollapalooza 1997 festival tour.

The band goes from show to show, from motel to motel, said Hajime Okano, one of the band's two bassists.

"No alcohol, no drugs, nothing but sweat, it's rock 'n' roll," he said.

The western leg of the Lollapalooza tour involves an awful lot of driving. The band's bus traveled 15 hours to get them from the previous date in Texas to Phoenix. They were then on their way to a club date in Los Angeles and the next Lollapalooza stop in San Bernardino, Calif.

"It doesn't leave a lot of time for fun," said Mark Hughes, the band's road manager.

Being on the bus for that long doesn't seem to phase the band, most of whom were friends before Pugs came together four years ago.

After the shows, the band does Zen exercises, keyboardist Hoppy Kamiyama joked.

The band was quiet, almost subdued, when we talked to them on their bus.

Okano said that after shows the band tends to relax, they don't talk much. In the past, he said, people have gotten on the bus and thought something was wrong.

On the bus, Kamiyama had his makeup out preparing to prepare. He does the show in drag. He's been doing drag for six or seven years, he said.

Lead singer Honey K was in the back corner of the bus, relaxing, quiet, shy.

Asked about her lyrics which, when translated, are pretty direct and sexual, she said they simply come out of thin air.

All of this contrasts the bands stage show, which is loud and obnoxious but go-humored.

Guitarist Hikaru Yoshida puts on a red, white and blue sequin jacket and a Jimi Hendrix shirt.

The music is a little bit thrash, a little bit surf and a little bit weird. For example, at one point the male members of the band line up in a chorus line behind Honey K, who shouted and crooned her words.

At times, Honey K sounded like Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and The Banshees. On stage, in bright green and silver dress with a skirt that stood parallel to the ground, she was the opposite of the reserved woman on the bus.

The member who didn't make the trip uses a chainsaw to do his own unique percussion.

The band first hit the United States a year or so ago and has found it easier to get audience feedback, Okano said.

At one stop, an audience member was tossed on stage with the group. Okano said he was unfazed.

"I have a weapon," he laughed.

The band is striving for mainstream success in the states and Lollapalooza is a step on that trip.

They've also played such important industry events as the College Music Journal conference in New York City and South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. They played a club tour last spring.

Early this year, Pugs released their first album, Bite the Red Knee (Casual Tonalities), which is an amusing, genre jumping piece of work.

Okano said that while their music takes its inspiration from many genres, the stage show comes most from watching television and movies.

And certainly the show was as hammy as any comedy. Pugs are always mugging, as it were.

They've watched "Spinal Tap" a lot. And like the mythical band goes through drummers, they go through bassists. At least the second bassist.

Okano has been with the band from the start.

Dreadlocked Joe Yabuki joined the band after his own band shared a gig with Pugs in Japan.

Yoshida said he heard Yabuki for two minutes before asking him to join the band. The others didn't mind.

Then they were off to America "to make money," Okano said.


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