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|Genres||Alternative rock, power pop|
|Labels||Polydor Records, Universal Music Japan|
Spitz (スピッツ Supittsu ) is a Japanese rock band formed in 1987. They gained commercial success in the mid and late 1990s, and are known for their abstract and eccentric songs penned by primary singer-songwriter and guitarist Masamune Kusano.
In March 1991, they debuted their self-titled album and the single "Hibari no Kokoro." Since the commercial success of their breakthrough single "Robinson" which was released in 1995, they have retained their popularity in Japan. To date, they have produced 14 number-one hits (nine albums and five singles) on the Japanese Oricon record charts. As of November 2007, total sales of the band's albums and singles have been estimated more than 20 million units.
The band's name was proposed by Kusano and means "sharp and pointed" in German. Kusano liked the "sp" sound (as in "special" or "crispy"). He had wanted to use this name since he was a high school student, but members of his band disagreed with him. Their fan club is named after the Norwegian island Spitsbergen.
In 1995, the album Hachimitsu sold more than one million copies and became very popular. After that, the singles "Sora mo Toberuhazu" (空も飛べるはず) and "Cherry" (チェリー) sold more than one million copies each.
Spitz's music is often seen as conventional pop ballads. However, the band initially started as a hard rock band. They love rock music, and view themselves as a rock band. They say that their music is "rock and popular music."
Their connection with their audience is very important to them. Their policy is not to give a performance at a stage bigger than an ordinary concert hall. After becoming a famous band, Kusano said "We are not thinking of giving a performance at Nippon Budokan." However, he also said "I didn’t say we won’t do it forever."
In spring 1986, Kusano met Tamura at Tokyo Zokei University and they formed a band, the "Cheetahs" with drummer Atsushi Ono. The band was heavily influenced by punk rock, so they arranged "365 Ho no March" (365歩のマーチ) as punk and played "Ichigo Hakusho wo Mou Ichido" (いちご白書をもう一度). The band eventually evolved into "The Spitz" with a new member Taku Nishiwaki. However, Kusano realized that The Blue Hearts had already done the music that they wanted to do, so this incarnation of Spitz broke up.
In 1987, Kusano transferred from Tokyo Zokei University to Musashino Art College, but he continued to play Nintendo with Tamura, so they stayed friends. In the meantime they planned to form a band again. Tamura invited Miwa from his junior high school, and Miwa invited Sakiyama who belonged to the same folk song club at Bunka Fashion College. These four members formed the new incarnation of Spitz and gave performances at venues such as Shinjuku Jam, Shibuya La Mama, Shibuya Yaneura from that autumn. At first they were influenced by The Blue Hearts so greatly that the booking manager of Shibuya La Mama said to them, "You have no future." In addition, Kusano began to think his style wasn't suitable, so he started to play acoustic guitar. At that time, they composed "Koi no Uta" (恋のうた) or "Hibari no Kokoro" (ヒバリのこころ) which they often perform even now. Spitz’s style was beginning to take shape.
In July 1989, they did a live show for the first time at Shinjuku Loft, which 300 people attended. In March 1990, they released a mini album, Hibari no Kokoro (ヒバリのこころ).
On March 25, 1991, they released the single "Hibari no Kokoro" (ヒバリのこころ) and their first album Spitz simultaneously by Polydor Records, and they made their "quiet debut," as they say. Indeed, the audience of their live concerts was small because it was time when the boom of band music had just passed, so they couldn’t catch people’s attention. But the music world didn’t miss their unique musical style. Rockin’on Japan introduced them as even "the new wave in 90s" and they became noteworthy artists in the press. But, originally not having admiration for major, the members repeated comments which can be taken jokingly and seriously, such as "We don’t have ambition," and "We’re a survivor of band music boom." Despite their major debut, they were free because the number of their live concerts was small. So they engaged in making albums and they spend many days in a studio. In that year, they released their second album Namae wo Tsuketeyaru (名前をつけてやる).
In April 1992, they released an orchestra-arranged mini album Aurora ni Narenakatta Hito no Tame ni (オーロラになれなかった人のために) with Tomoki Hasegawa (長谷川 智樹 Hasegawa Tomoki ), who took charge of orchestra arranging in the recording of "Majo Tabi ni Deru" (魔女旅に出る) on Namae wo Tsuketeyaru. That day they performed a joint recital with string musicians.
In September, they released the rock taste third album Hoshi no Kakera (惑星のかけら) in which they made use of echo in background which they got in the mini album. They started broadening their world of music and showed eagerness as a band in the second year after their debut. At that time they hadn’t released any works that placed among the top 100 of Oricon Chart. Although the members originally weren’t conscious of the sales, they started feeling sorry for their office and recording company that overprotected their vision. In the following year they appointed a producer to make works that would sell much.
In 1993, they took on Masanori Sasaji as an outside producer, and were busy recording in the studio. In addition, they performed a monthly live concert Spitz no Harunatsu Yakai (スピッツの春夏夜会) from March to August at Shibuya On Air (currently known as Shibuya O-East). The concerts were favorably received. As a result of these concerts, they released the pop-arranged 4th album Crispy! in September. The album didn’t sell as well as they hoped, and Kusano lost confidence in his voice and his ability to write songs. However, the single "Kimi ga Omoide ni Naru Mae ni" (君が思い出になる前に) from that album ranked in Oricon chart for the first time. Gradually, they started attracting people’s attention. In April and July 1994, with Takayuki Hijikata (土方 隆行 Hijikata Takayuki ) as producer, the singles "Sora mo Toberuhazu" and "Aoi Kuruma" (青い車) were released and became smash hits. In September, when they installed Sasaji as producer again, they released the 5th album Sora no Tobikata (空の飛び方), which ranked 14th when just released. By the way, this year they appeared in Music Station (TV Asahi’s program) with "Kimi ga Omoide ni Naru Mae ni", in Pop Jam (NHK’s program) with "Aoi Kuruma", in Count Down TV (TBS’s program) with "Spider".
In April of the following year, they released the single "Robinson" (ロビンソン) which placed among the top 10 of the Oricon Charts for the first time and sales exceeded 1.6 million. It ranked in 9th overall in the year. It became a long time seller, which stayed in the top 10 charts for over 30 weeks. In July, the single "Namida ga Kirari" (涙がキラリ☆) also ranked 2nd when just released and its sales were 98,000. At first they couldn’t realize these great hits. It was not until they appeared in Meet the World Beat '95 at the Expo in Osaka in July that the members realized they really became stars after hearing great cheers from the audience. In September, they released their 6th album Hachimitsu (ハチミツ) which became a million seller. In October, they started their first long-term tour, and they performed over 40 concerts. In January, the following year, "Sora mo Toberu Hazu" was used as the theme song of Fuji TV network's drama Hakusen Nagashi (白線流し). It became a revival hit and ranked No. 1 in Oricon Charts for the first time as a single. More than 1.5 million copies were sold. (The members say this bewildered them.) In April, the single "Cherry" was also a huge hit with sales of 1,610,000 copies. In October, they released their 7th album Indigo Chiheisen (インディゴ地平線) and started a lengthy tour, which has as many as 70 concerts.
By 1997 (their 10th anniversary) Sasaji withdrew as their producer and all the members were in their thirties. Since they felt they couldn’t depend on keeping their producers forever, they determined to stand on their own feet. They began to wonder if they should change the band's course. The band disliked the fact that they had taken on a conventional, orthodox image. So, they held Rock Rock Konnichiwa (ロックロックこんにちは) in Osaka, which became an annual event. They performed a secret live concert at Shinjuku Loft where they mainly played their amateur days’ songs. In March 1998, Yuichi Tanaya (棚谷 裕一 Tanaya Yūichi ) joined them as a co-arranger, and they released their self-produced 8th album Fake Fur (フェイクファー). In May 1998, Hiroko Kuji (クジ ヒロコ), the keyboardist, joined the all-over-Japan concert tours, and came to be an essential supporting member of their tours since then. During the tour, in August, they recorded "Hi-Fi, Low-Fi" (ハイファイ・ローファイ Hai Fai Rō Fai ), "Sakana" (魚 Fish ) and "Seishun Ikinokori Game" (青春生き残りゲーム) with Kuji, which were collected in the album 99ep.
In March 1999, they compiled some unreleased tracks and released a special album entitled Ka Chou Fu Getsu (花鳥風月) with producer Ryomei Shirai (白井良明). In July of the same year, they appeared in Meet the World Beet in Osaka again. Although they didn’t have plans to release new single at that time, they recorded by themselves inside or outside Japan from September to October. They brought "Moon Light" (ムーンライト Mūn Raito ) (already tracked down) and "Funanori" (船乗り) to the United States. After recording "Haru Natsu Rocket" (春夏ロケット) and "Memories" (メモリーズ Memorīzu ), they mixed them down in Miami and mastered them in Los Angeles. Stephen Mackersen, who was in charge of mastering then, would become a necessary engineer for Spitz since 2000, except several singles.
While the members were in America, the recording company decided to sell a "greatest hits" compilation album. The members had no intention of releasing a "best of" album until after their break-up or retirement. However, despite their reluctance, the album Recycle: Greatest Hits of Spitz was released in December of that year. In the end, it became a very successful album with the sales of more than two million copies. However, officially, the band did not recognize the album and did not include the CD in their official discography.
In 2000, they hired Shokichi Ishida (石田 ショーキチ Ishida Shokichi ) as producer and started recording a new album in earnest. The members said it was a big stimulus to cooperate with a contemporary. In July of the year, they released 9th album Hayabusa (ハヤブサ), which is distinguished by its harder rock styling and changed their conventional image. They toured for one year with more than 100 performances.
After Sasaji’s withdrawal, their producer varied with their work, but they installed Seiji Kameda as producer, who is known as a producer of Ringo Shiina since 2001 and himself is a bassist in Tokyo Jihen. In September 2002, they released the 10th album Mikazuki Rock (三日月ロック), which recovered the melody peculiar to Spitz, along with the rock sound of the previous album.
Although they didn’t release any singles in 2003, "Star Gazer" (スターゲイザー Sutā Geizā ) was played on TV as the theme song of Ainori from that autumn; it was released in January 2004 to rank 1st in Oricon chart and get many fans. In March 2004, they gathered the songs which hadn’t appeared in any albums since 1999 and released special album Iroiro Goromo (色色衣). In January of the following year 2005, they also released the 11th album Souvenir (スーベニア Sūbenia ).
In March 2006, when 15 years had passed since their debut, they released official single collection album Cycle Hit Spitz Complete Single Collection. The following year marked their 20th anniversary of organization, and they held 20 Shūnen Kinen Matsuri (20周年記念祭り). They released the 12th album Sazanami CD (さざなみCD) in October and went on an all-over-Japan tour from December onwards. A thirteenth album, Togemaru (とげまる), was released in October 2010.
- Masamune Kusano (草野 マサムネ Kusano Masamune ), real name 草野 正宗 (same pronunciation) - Lead vocals, rhythm guitar. Born on December 21, 1967 in Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. Graduated from Fukuoka Prefectural Jōnan High School, as well as from Musashino Art University with a degree in Design.
- Tetsuya Miwa (三輪 テツヤ Miwa Tetsuya ), real name 三輪 徹也 (same pronunciation) - Lead guitar, backing vocals. Born on May 17, 1967 in Fujieda, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. Graduated from Fujieda Meisei High School and Bunka Fashion College.
- Akihiro Tamura (田村 明浩 Tamura Akihiro ) - Bass, backing vocals, leader. Born on May 31, 1967 in Fujieda, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. Graduated from Shizuoka Prefectural Fujieda East High School. Attended Tokyo Zokei University, but left before graduating.
- Tatsuo Sakiyama (崎山 龍男 Sakiyama Tatsuo ) - Drums. Born on October 25, 1967 in Sano, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. Graduated from Tochigi Prefectural Sano High School and Bunka Fashion College.
- Sora to Video (1995, POVH-1046)
- Jamboree 1 (1996, POVH-1052)
- Sora to Video 2 (1997, POVH-1057)
- Jamboree 2 (1999, POVH-1076)
- Sora to Video 3 (2000, UPVH-1001 (VHS), UPBH-1009 (DVD))
- Sora to Video Custom (2001, UPBH-1025)
- Jamboree Deluxe (2001, UPBH-1026)
- Hōrō Hayabusa Junjō Sugoroku (2003, UPBH-9135/6)
- Sora to Video 4 (2005, UPBH-1170)