More than 20 years on the road haven't sapped Dir En Grey of an ounce of creative vitality.
The legendary Japanese metal band's most recent studio album, 2018's The Insulated World, and its uncanny new single, "The World of Mercy," released this past September, are bristling with all the energy of a neophyte metal act but also the meticulous execution of the seasoned collective the band is after such a long career.
Dir En Grey returned to North America last week after spending the better part of the last four years taking its devastating live shows through Asia and Europe.
Whether or not you understand Japanese is irrelevant, Dir En Grey has a collective doctorate in the universal language of heavy metal. While The Insulated World as an album is a clinic in concise detuned annihilation, "The World of Mercy" is a dynamic 10-minute dirge with all the ambition of a full-length LP.
During a conversation this week with Q104.3 New York's QN'A (which was kindly translated by tour manager Nora Shazlin), drummer Shinya discussed the band's famous live visual presentation, its lasting relevance in America and what's on its creative horizons.
Read the full QN'A below!
Dir En Grey's remaining 'Tour19 This Way to Self-Destruction' tour dates are Dec. 11 at the House of Blues in Cleveland, OH; Dec. 13 at the Gramercy Theater in New York, NY; Dec. 16 at the House of Blues in Dallas, TX; Dec. 17 at the House of Blues in Houston, TX; and Dec. 19 at El Plaza Condesa in Mexico City, Mexico.
For more information, go here. (Photo: Masanora Fujikawa)
This is Dir En Grey’s first U.S. tour in four years. Did the band take a break from touring during that period or did it remain active touring elsewhere?
We've been still active in Japan over the last four years. We were touring in Asia and Europe, it was just that we somehow never made it back to the U.S. until now.
You've sold out many U.S. shows on this tour. To what do you attribute the longevity of the band in this country?
We know we're not going to continue this band forever. We just realized one day ... ‘Whoa, it has been like 20 years now we’ve been together!’ We just did one thing at a time, and before we knew it, this is where we are.
The Insulated World is Dir En Grey's 10th album. How has the band's writing and recording process changed over the past two decades?
We try to do something different with every album. Before The Insulated World was Arche (2014). That one had more melody; it was more mid-tempo, and after performing that album [for a few years], we realized we wanted to go with something heavier, something more aggressive. That’s why we came to make The Insulated World.
Dir En Grey has always alternated English and Japanese in its song and album titles. Do you remember why you started using English in your music?
Even from the first album we already were using English titles for songs. Back then, a lot of Japanese bands were using English for song titles or album titles. We weren’t thinking, ‘Oh yeah, we want to be able to go abroad one day.’ It was just something we did back then…and today, too, I guess.
I really love “The World of Mercy.” From the music video, I can glean that the song addresses violence in schools, which is a timely issue in America. How closely do the song lyrics relate to that subject?
The video is definitely based on what Kyo, our vocalist, intended to relate with his words. I think the video is definitely what the lyrics convey, for sure.
The music video is substantially shorter than the 10-minute "World of Mercy" track. How do you feel about cutting short such a long song for the purposes of the video?
For “World of Mercy” we didn’t really have to edit the song down; we simply cut the song at 3:00. It was not so difficult as restructuring a long song.
There’s just so much that comes after that point in the song, though. Do you worry the statement the song makes is appropriately conveyed in that abridged version?
Of course it feels like it’s only partly done. But there will be something else coming out in the future. You just have to wait and see, because the story is not done yet.
So there’s another part to that video?
When was “World of Mercy” composed? Did it begin with the lyrical concept or a musical idea?
We started working on the composition in February of this year. The music came before the lyrics for that song, in particular.
I think that actually works to its advantage as a single, whereas it might not get as much attention on an album.
Dir En Grey has covered so much ground musically in its career. Are there any songs or albums that you have lost your connection to or don’t like anymore? Are there other periods of the band that you think are timeless?
For me, there are no songs that I don't relate to anymore. A song that I like the most is probably “Macabre,” but not the original version; the new version where we made it extra long. That song is my favorite.
Without giving anything away, what can fans expect for the lives shows on this U.S.?
Visuals on stage have always been integral for Dir En Grey, so fans can expect to understand more of the world of the band. Of course it’s a showcase of the last album and of the new single, “The World of Mercy.” It’s a combination of that.
It has been four years since we [last played America]. We’re better and stronger and more powerful today. We hope to see everyone at our shows. There’s only a few more left, so hopefully we’ll see everybody there.
Photos: Takao Ogata