Greetings over there, Mirai. Thank you very much for taking your time to answer this interview. It’s a pleasure to interview a band member that I’ve been following his works for many years. First of all, how is life treating you and Sigh? I know that you have a daughter now, how has the whole experience been for you?
We have been working on our tenth album “Graveward” for a long time. Finally the recording process is over and now it is being mixed. As all the songs on the album are so thickly layered like each song has more than 100 tracks, it’ll take a few months to finish it up. We’re hoping to release it some time in the first half of 2015.
This might sound like some blind “fanboyism”, but if you check the opinions and reviews of Sigh’s albums, you’ll eventually conclude that every single Sigh album has been highly praised, some a bit more, some a bit less. Talking about full-length albums only. I’d like to know what the explanation is for this, I mean, to be around for almost twenty five years; always releasing qualitative albums. How do you manage/ what do you do to keep yourselves always so creative?
It’s very simple. You need input to keep output going. Probably most of the music fans are enthusiastic about discovering the music they do not know when they’re younger, however they get more and more conservative as they grow up. They prefer to stick to the music they’re familiar with when they’re mature. I’ve been trying to avoid this on purpose. Now I am 44 and I am often tempted to be indulged in the music I know very well, but I always try to keep disposing myself to the music I have never heard of. I have been listening to so much music for more than 30 years now, but still there’s a plenty of great music I am not aware of in the world, which is amazing. I’ve never stopped reading books on music. I’ve never stopped studying music. But I still feel that I know nothing about music.
Another point is that I will never start writing the songs for a new album unless I am 100% confident that I can make something that tops our past albums. I have no will to keep Sigh alive by releasing mediocre albums. Sigh will come to an end when my well is run and dry.
Connected to the previous question, in a way, I’ve mentioned that the band is about to reach its 25th anniversary. That’s truly an important milestone that very few manage to reach. Is there any special plan to celebrate this mark?
Oh yes you’re right. I was not aware that 2015 would be the 25th anniversary for us. Well, we have no special plan. We will release Graveward and will play at some European festivals next year. That’ll be good enough.
To be honest, just being together for a long time is not necessarily a great thing. Some bands who were together only for a few years left a big mark on the music scene. Others started a band and gain 20 fans and still play for those 20 after 20 years because they have no guts to give up, which is miserable.
Still concerning the band’s history, could you share with us what were the hardest times and problems that Sigh has faced and how you overcame them? Was there a time in which you seriously thought about ending the band?
Well, I must confess that we have never been a very ambitious band. When we started Sigh in 1990, we never thought that we’d be able to release albums or tour abroad. We never thought we’d be still together after 25 years. We never even imagined that we’d play at big European festivals. We’ve been just doing what we want, so we have never had the real hard times.
Having said that, actually I have thought about having Sigh come to an end several times. The most serious one was after having recorded “In Somniphobia”. I just felt that I had done everything I could done.
The band is going to release a new album, Graveward. I’m sure, many of us, Sigh listeners, are eagerly waiting for this new opus. What can you tell us in advance about this new album? I’ve read that you started the recordings in 2012. Usually, how long it takes to a Sigh album to fully form and how does the band work when it comes to the composition?
“Cinematic Horror Metal” should be the best word to describe “Graveward”. It’s symphonic, eerie and heavy. Probably I should say this is the most symphonic, the most eerie and the heaviest Sigh album ever. I’d say this is the 21st century’s version of “Hail Horror Hail” with some “Gallows Gallery” touch. Anyway it will never disappoint Sigh fans.
The biggest step forward from the previous albums is the guitar parts. We fired our long-time guitarist this year and recruited You Oshima from Kadenzza as a replacement. You is by far a better guitarist than the previous one and he is really cooperative. He not only plays the guitar on the album but does the mixing.
As for the composition, basically all the songs are written by myself. I compose the songs then program them with MIDI. And I keep listening to the programmed songs and keep arranging them until I am 100% satisfied with them. Once the demo is done, I give it to other members to learn songs. Our recording process is replacing the programmed tracks with the real instruments. The composition / recording period is getting longer and longer. These days you can do almost everything on you home PC. That means you can do recording without thinking about recording budget.
Questions about inspirations are quite common, but I’d like to know what drives you to compose and write lyrics, especially when it comes to Graveward. When it comes to the songwriting process, was there anything different about it on the new album compared to the previous ones?
The composition for Graveward was kind of the culmination of my studies on music for the past 25 years. It’s got everything from heavy metal from classical to experimental, from jazz to ethnic stuff. I think I was able to compose at my free will this time. I mean, not 100% based on the theories but it does not mean breaking the theories on purpose. Usually my composition is pretty much strict like setting the scale first etc., but this time I wrote songs without those restrictions. I had a small conversation with Fabio Frizzi and his words were very inspiring.
Also this time You arranged some of the guitar parts, which is very new to us. The previous one did nothing but trace what I wrote on the music sometimes just deteriorating it because of his technical limitations. I’ve always wanted some input from the guitarist because I am not a one for the chemistry. This finally happened for Graveward.
Still on this subject, a few years ago I’ve read an interview with you in which you didn’t see yourself as a good lyricist as you didn’t know special techniques on writing lyrics. Has your view changed? I respectfully disagree with you, I must add, since I personally believe that feelings, honesty and messages are more important than techniques and I must say that these are some of Sigh’s qualities. What are your views on that?
Music and lyrics are totally different. As far as I write the lyrics in English, being a Japanese, or should I say not being a native English speaker, is a handicap. I understand that honesty and messages matter, but if your lyrics were like say, “I am walk at shadow death die tonight etc.”, nobody would take you seriously no matter how honest you are!
I’ve read an interview which was stated that everything in a click away and all that matters, concerning music, are the first thirty seconds impression. Most people don’t give themselves enough time to discover music. How do you feel over this? Do you believe that people are lazy nowadays to actually get to know and enjoy new and good music?
Because of the Internet, the way to listen to music definitely changed partly for the better and partly for the worse. Obviously it is great that you can find anything you want to hear on your PC as a music fan. Back in the 80s, even if you heard the rumor about the great underground bands from the US that released only demo, it was not easy at all to actually get hold of it. Also back then, there was no way to “try” the music beforehand especially when it was underground stuff. So buying an LP was kind of a gamble. Sometimes you had to rely on your instinct. And even if you did not like the LP you bought, you had to keep listening to it until you got enough money to buy another one. And through this you’d learn that music could grow on you. Some music may not click with you at first listen, but after several spins, the impression could drastically change. The problem about the Internet age is this. You try some artist on YouTube, and if you don’t like him / her, that’s it. The first thirty seconds are all that matters as you said. This is very dangerous as great music you could fall in love with after several listens would slip through your fingers.
I am not sure if people are lazy or not, but all I can say is there are not as many music fans as you may think. Music is everywhere. Music is almost a commodity. It’s like a food. We all eat something every day. We have some favorite dishes and favorite restaurants. We sometimes voice our opinion which restaurants are good or not. However, only a few of us are very serious about it. Most of us do not care about what is behind it. We just love to it, nothing more. It’s exactly the same for music. For most people, music is nothing to be serious about.
Mirai, you are also involved with other bands; in fact, many bands. Not in a negative way, it’s always great to listen to your music, no matter in which band. How do you find the time to work with all them? One particular band that I highly enjoy is The Meads of Asphodel, how did you get to know and eventually work with this band?
Actually I do not remember. Probably Metatron e-mailed me and our correspondence began. When we had a mistake in booking hotel rooms in London and almost ended up in spending the whole night on the street a few years ago, he bothered driving a few hours to pick us up at midnight. We might have frozen to death without him.
Although I do guest appearances for some bands, I’ll never do a full-time band other than Sigh any more. Definitely I cannot stretch myself thinner and I have no time for that.
And about the greatest band in the world, which I know you are a huge fan, Babymetal, I’d like to ask you. No, I’m joking, I too don’t enjoy them at all. Well, I actually wanted to ask you a question that I’m sure you’ve been asked many times before, but I’d like to have something for the record of this website. In Japan there are so many incredible bands such as Sabbat, Abigail, Sigh, but how do you see the Japanese underground nowadays? Has it evolved? Are there any new bands that deserve more recognition? How do you see the future of Japanese metal?
I’m sure the Japanese scene is getting better and better. Now there are several bands that are internationally recognized such as Coffins. When we started Sigh, no Japanese extreme metal bands had an international release or anything. That’s one of the reasons that we were not ambitious back then. I never thought that the Japanese bands would be able to have worldwide releases or tour Europe.
As for the new bands, I am sorry but I do not know. I am not keeping up with the scene any more. I’m getting too old.
This is the part where I always ask a few things about the man behind the music, nothing too intrusive, of course. I think we’ve covered a lot of this on the past questions, but, if we didn’t and we could get to know a few more aspects in a more detailed way, that would be highly appreciated. Well, outside the music word, what are your main passions, what do you enjoy doing, be it about anything you’d like to share with us.
Basically all of my time is spent for music. There are so many things to be done. Listening to music, reading books, writing songs, and practicing instruments are time-consuming enough. Of course I watch movies and read books which are not directly connected to music, but still they’re a part of my musical activities as they could be a source of inspiration.
And we have reached the end of this interview. I hope you enjoyed answering it and so the readers. I also would like to wish you and the band all the best, both in your personal and musical plans. Do you have any last words for our readers?
Thank you very much for the interview. Besides “Graveward”, some vinyl releases are being planned such as “Scenario IV: Dread Dreams”, “Gallows Gallery” (Standard Edition), “Scorn Defeat” (Standard Edition) etc. For the latest information, visit our Facebook page.
December 3, 2014