With their fourth official release in North America, DIR EN GREY continue to break new ground and reach out to an ever growing fan base. While much of their appeal to some may be their country of origin, they are determined to get respect based purely on the quality of their music. The new album, Dum Spiro Spero, takes the band to progressive and challenging new places. APESHIT met up with guitarists Die and Kaoru in Los Angeles a few weeks prior to Dum Spiro Spero’s release in order to gain insight into the growth of the band.
APESHIT: Dum Spiro Spero is the most ambitious album of your career. In a lot of ways, it’s your most progressive and experimental album. There are a lot of layers and a lot going on. What were your conscious goals for this record?
Die: The biggest difference between this album and the previous album is that the mix and mastering has been done by international producers and so when we released each single, we had a different person mixing from out of the country, and finally for the album, we chose one person and they did the mix and mastering.
APESHIT: The production sounds great. You can hear every instrument clearly, even the organs and pianos. It especially sounds great on headphones.
Die: This time our sound is almost the ideal sound that we have been looking for. We worked alongside the producer and clarified what needed to be clarified and defined what needed to be defined. We were working closely to clarify each instrument, like you said, to come out clear.
APESHIT: Can you explain the meaning of the album title?
Kaoru: So if we were to translate the album title directly, it would mean “so all of us can have hope as long as we live.” It is related to the tragedy that happened in Japan on March 11th. It was really to provide hope for the victims and also creating the album itself was really hope for us [for the tragedy].
APESHIT: As guitar players, I find that you guys are showing a wide range of your abilities. There are clean guitars, heavy riffs, slow and fast riffs, even death metal riffs. Was it hard to find a balance between all the dimensions of your playing?
Die: In the process of creating music, what happens is that we usually write our own songs individually and we come to the studio and we discuss what we wanna do and we find the right arrangement. But while we were doing that, it is more like the music had taken its course. When were looking at the music and imagining through the music, we identified the type of sound that we wanted to put in there for guitars. What we also did was break rules. We didn’t want to create something that people have already heard before…what we have already heard before. We wanted to add in guitar in a place where we have not identified before. In conclusion, as we challenged ourselves, we tried new things and broke the rules and it turned out the way it ought to.
APESHIT: I don’t want to take away from anyone else in the band but I just wanted to ask about Kyo. He is a very unique frontman. There aren’t many singers like him. Like when he writes a great vocal line like in “Vanitas,” it just sounds so great. Do you guys sometimes step back when he writes something like that and say, “Damn, that’s good!”?
Kaoru: It may sound a little funny but we actually don’t know the complete lyrics until probably just the end when we’re in the studio recording. He’s constantly in his process of creating and writing. He records himself in his own studio so we really don’t have any idea on how the song is being composed or written. I really don’t know what’s going on.
But for these sets of songs on this album, Kyo had identified the negativity that feels of himself, his weaknesses. As we were listening to the lyrics as we were playing together, I realized that there is a distinct characteristic in the way he was choosing his words for these songs. And I think that’s a really strong characteristic this time.
APESHIT: I think DIR EN GREY is a perfect example of a band that has benefited from the power of the internet. Your early albums were not officially released here but you can go on Youtube, message boards, and all the albums are available for illegal download. Your fans have access to all your music and videos. How do you feel about how the internet has played a role in your success?
Kaoru: When we first started as a band, we never imagined we’d come out and be interviewed in the United States because there were not many bands [from Japan] coming out to the United States. Throughout the years and this past decade, the internet has definitely helped us to grow our fan base and that’s definitely why we feel like we’re here today, sitting here in this country and doing interviews. I do really feel the change, the time, the generation.
APESHIT: X JAPAN is incorporating English for the first time on their upcoming album. Is that something you guys have considered doing for future music?
Kaoru: We’re not actually considering it at this moment but we cannot deny that we may not ever either. It’s a possibility. Kyo himself values the expression behind Japanese and so we would have to see where it goes about with him and the identification and the emotions and the use of the words.
APESHIT: For the last several tours, you guys have done headlining tours and before that you did bigger tours with KORN and the DEFTONES. Do you have any plans to play in front of different and new audiences for Dum Spiro Spero?
Die: In August, we’re touring Europe and the first concert is the Wacken Open Air and that will be the first exposure to new audiences for this album. The rest of the tour will be headliner shows.
APESHIT: This is your fourth official release in North America. How do you feel about your progress here so far?
Kaoru: Considering progress, it’s hard to actually define “success.” But when we first started, we started more so within the popularization of Japanese culture with anime so that’s where we started. The majority of our fan base at that time was made up of anime fans. Gradually through the last couple of years, things have been changing. We definitely feel that we’ve been progressing. We have a different fan base [now]. We feel our fan base is more focused on the music itself and connecting and identifying with the music and with us rather than the culture of Japan or anime. We’re looking forward for the progression and we’d love to continue promoting our music.
APESHIT: Every time I’ve seen DIR EN GREY, the fans are some of the most passionate fans out there. At every show, they are screaming like crazy with adoration. When I saw you guys play at the House of Blues in Hollywood last time for the Uroboros tour, I was in the photo pit. As soon as you guys started playing your first song, the crowd pushed forward to the point where all the barricades were up against the stage. I had to get up on the barricades in order to save myself. It was so crazy. Even on the internet, they are so passionate. You have reached an almost god-like status with them where you can do no wrong. Does that make you feel weird? It’s like you guys must just consider yourself as regular people who play music.
Die: I’m really thankful for that passion for the music. I remember that time and the fans were actually waiting in line the day before. When we actually started playing, they started singing and screaming along so loudly that I couldn’t hear myself playing. That really mesmerized me and I was really thankful for the amount of passion that they have for us.