Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

Interview by Deborah J. Draisin and Justine Perez

Sixteen year old international Japanese metal outfit Dir En Grey has faced some struggles in recent years. Set back eighteen months by vocalist Kyo’s struggles with nodule dysphonia, they returned to the scene at the very end of last year with new single “Rinkaku” and released "The Unraveling" four months later, an EP of mostly rerecordings of older material and the self-titled new single.

Back on the road now, "Diru" (as they're called by fans) blazes into town this November with renewed vision. Main songwriter and guitarist Die was nice enough to get on SKYPE with us last weekend and cheerfully answer all of our questions with his usual humor. Special thanks to managers Reina and Nora for all of their help.

Welcome back to New York, finally – it’s been a couple of years since you were here last.

We’re really sorry that it took us so long to get back – we wanted to be here sooner, but Kyo got sick and we had to cancel the last tour. We were sad about that.

How is Kyo’s throat doing, better now?

We’re in the middle of rehearsal right now for the upcoming Japanese tour, and yep, Kyo is doing fine. Everything is going pretty well for us and he’s singing okay.

That’s good. What can we expect this tour – anything that we haven’t seen yet?

As of right now, we’re thinking of doing a different stage production - maybe including some visuals – something that we haven’t done in a long while in America. So, fans can look out for something new for sure, and obviously, it will be a new and different setlist. Of course, everything is still in the works right now, so there’s nothing that we can absolutely promise at this point.

Fair enough. We wouldn’t want you to ruin the mystery anyway. What never-before-seen stuff can we expect from the documentary?

We have a new director working with us for the first time on this dvd, so we left a lot of things up to him. It’s Dir En Grey from his perspective. His presentation will appeal to someone who is not very familiar with the band, as this director was not - it’s not just aimed at fans. People who have never heard of Dir En Grey before can learn a little bit by watching this dvd.

Ah, very cool. What was it like to play Download? Was it crazy?

(laughing) I guess you can say it was crazy! You’ll be able to see what happened at Download on the dvd. We actually ran into some trouble.’

What kind of trouble? What happened?

Buy the dvd and check it out!

Oh, it’s a surprise, okay. Did anybody go to jail? Can I blackmail somebody?

(laughing) The mood onstage was pretty intense; you’ll be able to see everything that happened.

That’s awesome. Regarding “The Unraveling,” what made you decide to rework those songs? Did you just feel like they needed a new flavor?

For every single we release, we always have a B side which is a rerecorded older song, so it’s not something really new for us to do. After we released “Dum Spiro Spero,” we were all kind of thinking “Hey, maybe we should do this: work on more of our songs and release a mini-album.” So that’s how it all came about.

Which versions of the songs do you like better: the old or the new?

Well, it’s not about really about which we prefer - the process of taking older songs and seeing what the current Dir En Grey can do with them - because things have changed for us over the years. We can’t even compare the two really.

What do you feel has changed the most?

For me, probably the simplest way to summarize the whole change is how much heavier we sound today than before.

Yes, we’ve noticed that – what do you think made that progression happen? Was it an internal change?

I don’t think it was a conscious decision to go heavier. Every time that we go into the studio to make new music, we want to do something different. In going with whatever we want to do at that moment, it just happened to lead up to where we are right now.

Alright, and while we’re talking about making changes, I’ve noticed that you’ve gotten heavily into expression through illustration - the video for “Rinkaku” being the perfect example of that. Is this stemming from someplace in particular?

Kyo has started to involve himself in illustration, so that is why we had so many drawings in “Rinkaku.” Also, the director who worked on that video has worked with us on many of our videos in the past, and we wanted a concept where the band didn’t have to be in physically involved.

Is Kyo planning on displaying his illustrations anyplace?

(laughing) I have no idea – that’s a question that you’d probably have to ask Kyo.

Can you draw?

I’m not very good at it, but yes, I can.

Well, you’re a better man than me – I can’t draw anything. Justine can draw. What do you like to draw?

Faces mostly.

Your own face? (all laugh) Have you been writing at all?

This summer, we were constantly writing new music.

That’s exciting! Any time frame for when that might get put out?

Probably next year.

Cool beans – next year’s in three months.

Yeah, just look out for it.

We will. So, I like to ask my subjects to do a mini-version of the show “Storytellers” in America, in which bands give a live performance and explain the background of or give an anecdote or tell a funny story about each song. I’m gonna throw a couple at you – let’s start with “The Final.”

When we started playing overseas – about six years ago – “The Final” was this song that the label pushed in America and Europe, so it’s probably one of the most famous songs of Dir En Grey abroad, and we feel this every single time we play a concert. Every time we play the song, the crowd goes crazy! Everyone’s singing – and the lyrics are in Japanese – but, somehow, everyone memorizes it. Every time we see this, we just get overwhelmed. For me, “The Final” is a song that I would call the starting point of Dir En Grey overseas.

Awesome! Is it weird seeing a bunch of foreigners singing Japanese lyrics at you?

It’s just very shocking. We’re always very surprised at the whole scene.

There is definitely a huge scene for J-Rock here in America – I can’t speak for Europe, but I’ll bet it’s similar. Okay, let’s do “Amber.”

“Amber” is a really old song – it was written over ten years ago, from the album “Vulgar.” What I remember about it is that it was one of the last songs that the whole band worked on together. All of us came into the studio and a lot of memories were created in the process.

Well, share one! (all laugh)

I feel like this song was the final piece to the whole puzzle of what the album “Vulgar” was. The song is different from the other tracks on the album. It just made the album complete, I guess, with the creation of “Amber.”

Okay, cool, and what about “Akuro no oka?”

This one is from our debut era. Before “Akuro no oka,” most of our songs were very more up-tempo, heavier – we’d never really done a ballad. “Akura no oka” is more acoustic, melodious. We actually flew all the way to Italy for the recording of the video clip.

How awesome was that? You were a brand new band at the time.

A month before we were there in December 1998 to film the video clip, we were actually in L.A., recording – the first time that we were outside of Japan. Right after we were done with recording, we flew to Italy for this video clip. As you said: we were a brand new band - it was a time of a lot of firsts for all of us, for sure.

Yeah, that’s a hell of a first! So, why do you have so many Latin-named albums? Justine over here’s Latina, she’d really like to know.

Latin titles look good on the cover. How the words are laid out and the way that they sound is very cool to us. Also, when a Japanese fan looks at a title and has no idea what it is, that’s interesting for us.

Can you say anything in Spanish?

(laughing) No, I can’t.

Ola, Die! (all laugh) Anything you’d like to say to your American fans to get them stoked for the tour?

Again, we’re really still sorry that we had to cancel the last tour that we had in North America due to Kyo’s condition and all. Of course, we were really excited when this tour got confirmed. As I mentioned before, we’re working on a new stage production, bringing something new to the fans who have been waiting almost two years now. The whole band is definitely looking forward to being in America again this November, and we hope that the fans are looking forward to seeing us again as well.

We definitely are. Thank you so much for your time today.

thank you for your time as well. See you guys I guess…somewhere?T

You’ll see us on the New York stop – which is the best crowd. Maybe we’ll buy you a slice of Brooklyn pizza.

(laughing) Ah! I’m looking forward to it.


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