Profile: Shinki Chen

Shinki Chen is a Japanese rock legend as much for what he hasn't done as for what he has. Since his 1972 eponymous solo album, the guitar god has given up recording and lived the life of a recluse. What makes this so tantalizing is that when he broke upon the scene he was hailed as the "Japanese Hendrix."

Born in Yokohama in 1949 to Chinese parents, Chen was unusual not only for his looks—tall with cascading Afro hair and a cigarette dangling from his lips (a kind of proto-Slash)—but also for his uncompromising rock n' roll attitude. Starting out playing folk, he graduated through a Ventures-type surf group before becoming obsessed with The Kinks and The Yardbirds, playing increasingly psychedelic blues-rock between stints in the Japanese version of the musical Hair and periods sleeping rough on the Shinjuku streets.

In 1970, with keyboard wizard Hiro Yanagida, he recorded the legendary Food Brain album, then went on to form Speed, Glue, and Shinki, a threesome, where the two other members were nicknamed after their respective addictions. In these various combos Chen's guitar oozes expressiveness along with the don't-give-a-f**k attitude that later saw him turn his back on the music business.

19th May, 2011

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