EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH SIGH’S MIRAI KAWASHIMA
Since hearing last year’s Hangman’s Hymn (read my review here), Sigh have fast become one of MetalSucks’ favorite black metal acts. Now the band has recorded a tribute album to the legendary Venom – appropriately titled Sigh’s Tribute to Venom – that will be released on The End Records sometime in the late summer/early fall, just in time for the group’s U.S. tour with Zimmer’s Hole. So when I was offered the opportunity to be the very first music journalist to get to talk to vocalist/bassist/general mastermind Mirai Kawashima about the tribute album… well, naturally, I jumped at the chance.
This homage, Mirai tells us, is really an excuse to introduce the world to the band’s new saxophonist Mikannibal (pictured above, with Mirai), but for fans like me who want a new Sigh album so bad we can fuckin’ taste it, it will also tide us over until Sigh complete their new album of originals, Scenes from Hell/Tempore Belli/Vanitas.
After the jump, read Mirai’s thought’s on all things cover-related, plus a quick update on the new album, in this super duper exclusive interview.
Why did you decide to record a tribute album to Venom?
The biggest reason is that we wanted to introduce the new member Mikannibal to our fans. It will take a while to finish up the new original album, so we wanted do something before that to introduce her.
Also, definitely we’ve been a big fan of Venom for a looong time, and we even played some Venom tracks at our very first gig in 1990, and still we play them live.
Sigh cover Venom’s “Witching Hour”
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This is actually your SECOND tribute album to Venom… why do ANOTHER one? Did you ever consider recording a tribute EP to a different band?
The first one was just a compilation of the live tracks, and it was released only on cassette with the old line-up. I myself even haven’t seen its original copy so probably only a few hundeed copies were made. The new one is a studio recording with the new line-up, so definitely those two are something totally different.
No, we never thought of recording to a tribute to any other bands.
If you DID have to record a tribute album to any band besides Venom, who would it be, and why?
Probably Celtic Frost. They are the biggest influence on us besides Venom, and their songs, esepcailly those from Into the Pandemonium, should sound great with the orchestrations, etc.
Your most recent (original) release, Hangman’s Hymn, featured a lot of orchestral work. Will the Venom tribute feature these same kinds of arrangements, or do you plant to make some a little more basic, a little more meat n’ potatoes?
I did some orchestrations for “Mayhem with Mercy,” but that’s all. I guess there are two ways to cover songs, totally disassembling and re-building the song or copying it as perfect as possible, and we chose the latter this time. To us it was quite obvious that the orchestrations or re-arrangement just ruin the Venom songs. We even tried to reproduce their mistakes! This is going to be like Garage Days Revisited stuff, so it’s totally different from our usual studio albums.
Sigh cover Venom’s “Schizoid”
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When recording covers – let along a group of covers, all of one band – how do you approach it to make the songs your own? Did you just try to mimic the original recordings as closely as possible? Do you seek to change arrangements, melodies, etc? And do you feel any pressure with regards to trying to top or even just equal the classic originals?
As I said above, it depends on the case and this time we tried to mimic the original. When we recorded the Hawkwind and John Coltrane covers, we changed the arrangements a lot. We know the Venom songs inside out and we are confident that we haven’t ruined them by those covers.
What are some of your favorite cover songs by bands other than Sigh, and why do you admire them?
My faves are “Since You’ve Been Gone” by Rainbow, “Cum on Feel the Noize” by Quiet Riot, “Diamond and Rust” by Judas Priest, etc. I think you can find something in common among them. I simply enjoy them, they all are very heavy and catchy at the same time.
What are some of your LEAST favorite cover songs by other bands, and why don’t you like them?
Well, probably the Discharge cover by Metallica or the Dead Kennedys cover by Laaz Rockit. I never thought Discharge songs could be ruined in such a bad way! So powerless and boring. I did like their Garage Days stuff in the 80s, however most of the tracks on the new one were horrible.
“Holiday in Cambodia” by Laaz Rockit was also really horrible in my opinon. I know it won’t be easy at all to copy the DKs as the vocalist owns so much in their music, but, you know. All in all, I think it depends on the order in which you hear the original and the cover. I mean, if you know the original first and like it a lot, you’ll have to hear the gap between the original, which is an ideal, and the cover, and vice versa. Sometimes you know the cover first and like it, then the original disappoints you.
What are some bands you’d like to hear cover Sigh? And, more specifically, which Sigh songs would you like to hear them cover?
I don’t know, I’ve never thought of that. If somebody wants to cover our songs, that’s an honor.
You’ll be doing another US tour in September… can fans plan on hearing any of these Venom covers out on the road?
Yes, we’re rehearsing those tracks, so probably you’ll hear at least one Venom track!
Finally, your website hints that there’s a new original album in the works. Is there anything you can tell us about that album?
Yes, now we’re working very hard on the new album, which will be entitled Scenes from Hell/Tempore Belli/Vanitas. We’ll work with a string quartet and some brass players this time, so the orchestrations will sound way better and more vivid than before.
Musically, the songs are longer, a bit more complex, more sinister and more varied than the previous album. Probably there’ll be eight songs: 3 for Scenes from Hell, 3 for Tempore Belli and 2 for Vanitas. Well… I actually might scrap those ideas at any time when I come up with the better ones, though!