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Half Japanese

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Half Japanese
Half Japanese at the SXSW Festival, March 2008
Half Japanese at the SXSW Festival, March 2008
Background information
OriginUniontown, Maryland, United States
Years active1974–present
Labels50 Skidillion Watts, Safe House, Alternative Tentacles, Joyful Noise Recordings, Fire Records (UK), Emperor Jones, T.E.C. Tones, Psycho Acoustic Sounds
MembersJad Fair
John Sluggett
Jason Willett
Gilles Reider
Mick Hobbs
Past membersDavid Fair
Mark Jickling
Howard Wuelfing
Don Fleming
Jay Spiegel
Henry Beckmeyer
Rick Dreyfuss
John Dreyfuss
Moe Tucker
Rich Labrie

Half Japanese is an American art punk band formed by brothers Jad and David Fair in 1974,[1] after their family's relocation to Uniontown, Maryland.

Half Japanese' original instrumentation included a small drum set, which they took turns playing; vocals; and an out-of-tune, distorted guitar. Both Fair brothers sang, although over time Jad held the frontman role. As of the band's last several releases since the 1990s, according to the album and CD credits, Half Japanese composes and plays the entirety of the music while Fair, eschewing his role as guitarist from earlier albums, plays almost no guitar but is responsible for the vocals and lyrics, which typically divide into either "love songs or monster songs."

Band history[edit]

Their lyrics often deal with monsters and the supernatural (especially as influenced by "creature feature" and sci-fi movies), in addition to more conventional themes, such as young love.

The band released their first single, "Calling All Girls", in August 1977, followed by a triple album, 1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts.[2]

The band played and recorded as a duo until the early 1980s, when they began incorporating additional members into the group: Mark Jickling (guitar and vocals) and brothers Ricky and John Dreyfuss (drums and saxophone). Since that time, dozens of musicians have come and gone under the Half Japanese banner, including Howard Wuelfing, Don Fleming and Jay Spiegel both from the band Velvet Monkeys, and Shockabilly bass player and Shimmy Disc impresario Mark Kramer among others. Jad is the only member who has been with Half Japanese from the beginning.[2]

The next line-up of Half Japanese came together in the late 1980s, proving to be a long-lasting and stable unit recording several albums and touring frequently throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan. This incarnation featured guitarist/multi-instrumentalist John Sluggett (also a longtime member of Moe Tucker's band), multi-instrumentalist Jason Willett, Mick Hobbs, and drummer Gilles Reider. Since then, the group has worked with Moe Tucker from The Velvet Underground, who produced and performed on Fire In the Sky (1992), as well as The Band That Would Be King, and with Fred Frith, and John Zorn, among others.[2]

Kurt Cobain, who had them open some dates of Nirvana's 1993 In Utero tour, was wearing a Half Japanese T-shirt when he died.[3]

The band's history and influence are chronicled in the 1993 documentary Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King by Jeff Feuerzeig.[2] The band was chosen by Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel to perform at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival that he curated in March 2012 in Minehead.[4]

In 1997, the band released Heaven Sent.[2]


Studio albums[edit]

Live albums[edit]

  • Half Alive (Cassette - live at DC Space and the Red Door, Baltimore[5] - 50 Skidillion Watts, 1977)
  • 50 Skidillion Watts Live (Calypso Now, 1984)
  • Boo: Live in Europe 1992 (TEC Tones, 1994)

Compilation albums[edit]

  • Best Of Half Japanese (Timebomb Japan, 1993)
  • Greatest Hits 2 CDs / 3 LPs (Safe House, 1995)
  • Best Of Half Japanese Vol. 2 (Timebomb Japan, 1995)


  • "Calling All Girls" (50 Skidillion Watts, 1977)
  • Horrible (Press, 1982)
  • Real Cool Time/What Can I Do/Monopoly EP (Overzealous Editions, 1989)
  • Everybody Knows, Twang 1 EP (Seminal Twang, 1991)
  • 4 Four Kids EP (Ralph, 1991)
  • Postcard EP (Earl, 1991)
  • Eye of the Hurricane/Said and Done/U.S. Teens are Spoiled Bums/Daytona Beach EP (1991)


  • "No Direct Line from my Brain to My Heart"/"(I Don't Want to Have) Mono (No More)" 7" (50 Skidillion Watts, 1978)
  • "Spy" (Armageddon, 1981)
  • "How Will I Know" (Press, 1982)
  • "U.S. Teens Are Spoiled Bums" (50 Skidillion Watts, 1988)
  • "T For Texas"/"Go Go Go Go" (X.X.O.O. Fan Club, 1990)


  • Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King (Jeff Feuerzeig, Washington Square Films, 1993)


  • All the Doctors in Hot Springs, December 2012[6]


  1. ^ "Half Japanese". Fire Records. n.d.
  2. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (2003). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Eighties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. p. 232. ISBN 1-85227-969-9.
  3. ^ "Follow-Up Report". Seattle Police Department. 8 April 1994. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  4. ^ "ATP curated by Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel) - All Tomorrow's Parties". Atpfestival.com. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
  5. ^ [1] [dead link]
  6. ^ "Half Japanese had so much fun in Hot Springs, they published a book about it - Rock Candy - Arkansas news, politics, opinion, restaurants, music, movies and art". Arkansas Times. 18 December 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2014.

External links[edit]