EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH DIR EN GREY
Interviewing Japanese rockstars Dir En Grey — whose excellent new album Uroboros is out now on The End Records — was one of the more challenging tasks I’ve been faced with as a journalist hack blogger. Interviewing a band you don’t know that much about and doing so on short notice? Been there, done that, easy. Having to do so in a completely foreign language through an interpreter? That threw me for a loop. Who do I look at while asking the questions — the interpreter or the band? Like, obviously I’m talking to the band, but in essence I’m talking to the interpreter since he’s the only one who understands what I’m saying. Kinda awkward. Did my questions get through as I intended them? Did the band members say I was a complete asshole? I’ll never know.
In any case the band’s two guitarists Kaoru (blue guitar in below pics) and Die (red guitar in below pics) were good sports, the interpreter did a fine job (at least as far as I know!) and the interview came out pretty well. My chat with Dir En Grey — which in retrospect seems really short because every question and answer had to be repeated — after the jump.
Welcome to the U.S. How is the tour going so far?
Have you played in… I know this is your second time in the U.S…. have you played in New York before?
Kaoru: Actually this is our second time for a headlining tour here in the United States, but before that we had a showcase here. We toured with the Deftones as well. So this is our fourth time to be here. We played with Korn for the Family Values tour two years ago. We played that at Jones Beach or something like that, but the show was cancelled.
How do you find American audiences different from Japanese audiences or European audiences?
Die: Basically the fans are fans everywhere. In Japan, the fans react in the very same way. Everybody does the same thing at the same time. So maybe it looks kind of weird to you guys. In the United States or in Europe, the fans are much more independent. Everybody does what they want to do at different times. So they have much more freedom. They know how to enjoy it. We don’t see much difference between the United States and Europe at this moment.
Maybe this is your first time touring with the Human Abstract. Have you had a chance to watch them? If so, what do you think of them?
Die: Before we came here, we checked out on the band on Myspace, and our first impression was that it was really complicated. On this tour we sometimes see the show from on the side of the stage. We feel a little sorry for them because the stage is so little and there are 6 members in the band so everything is packed into a small area. Everybody seems to be pretty busy on stage.
As a band who sings mostly in Japanese, is it weird to see an American audience who doesn’t understand anything that you guys are singing about singing along with your songs not knowing what they mean?
Kaoru: We don’t think it’s weird but are happy about that because the fans are really digging the songs. In a way, when we were much younger like in high school, we looked up to so many Western bands. When we listened to those bands, we would sing along not knowing the meaning behind that because it simply sounded cool. Maybe the same kind of thing is happening for them too.
So you have a new album, how is that album different from the last album? How is it an evolution of your band’s sound?
Kaoru: The difference between this one and the last one [Marrow of a Bone] would be the experience between the two albums. Our last album was released in 2007. After that we have done more than 120 shows all over the world. So we learned a lot from touring. Those experiences made a difference for this new album. This time we are much more honest to ourselves and it shows on this album.
It seems like the new album is a bit more progressive with longer songs and complex arrangements. Was that intentional or did that happen naturally?
Die: I would say half intentional and half natural. We are this type of band so it is pretty natural for us. There was a song on it that was over 9 minutes long, and that one was intentional. Those complex arrangements come from our hobby. In this new album we wanted to put all those elements in that we had from the past, present and maybe the future as well. We wanted to combine every element in this one album.
What’s the writing process for your songs? Do you all write together or does one person write and show the songs to the band?
Die: We mostly write songs personally, one by one. The most important process for creating songs is pre-production. We take time for making arrangements in our own studio. We always get together in the same room and work on arrangements together.
Are there any more tours coming up, and what’s in the future?
Kaoru: At the end of this year we’re going to have four shows in Japan. Next year in February we are going to start touring. We’ll have a show in December in Osaka. We are going to start touring and focus on promoting the new album in February. It will probably be longer than 3 months. We are still not sure when and where, but we are thinking of a Japan, Europe, and United States tour.
Are there any Japanese bands that people in the U.S. don’t know about that you like that people should know about?
Die: Actually we used to have so many favorite Japanese bands, especially when we were in high school. In the late ’80s and early ’90s there were so many unique metal and punk bands like Dead End. On this tour we are using his [Kaoru’s] iPod for starting the show, and we have some songs from Dead End on it. These days so many Japanese bands are coming to the U.S. but we are not interested in new bands in Japan at this moment. We are not familiar with those bands to be honest.
Thank you. Good luck!