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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.


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