During the past 10 years of their existence, DIR EN GREY have risen to become one of the biggest rock bands in the world. The band finally broke into the U.S. market with their 2005 album, Withering to Death, and have been enjoying sold out shows and an ever growing fanbase here ever since. Their sixth and most recent album, The Marrow of a Bone, is DIR EN GREY’s most ferocious and accomplished work to date. Humble main guitarist and chief songwriter, Kaoru, looks back on their recent U.S. jaunts and reflects on the band’s musical mission now gone global.
APESHIT: You guys recently finished a headlining U.S. tour, which was almost completely sold out. How did the tour go? Were you guys surprised by the reactions at the shows?
Kaoru: I was surprised to see so many people actually came to our first headliner tour and was overwhelmed with gratitude. The reaction towards songs like “The Final” was different from the response in Japan, the crowd just went wild. I felt pleased to know they had been waiting for this.
APESHIT: DIR EN GREY was invited to play the Family Values Tour last year with KORN, STONE SOUR, DEFTONES, and others. You guys were the only foreign band on the bill. What was that experience like? Was the tour a success in your eyes? What was it like to tour alongside a band like KORN?
Kaoru: Amazing! As the tour name reads, all the bands and crew had a fun time, just like family would day by day. It was full of impact. We watched all the bands play every single day from backstage, and it felt weird just standing there, for our band to be playing the same stage, you know. After each show, we would have to pack up and head out to the next venue, so we’d be rushing, taking our shower while listening to the DEFTONES live from our dressing rooms! We have never expected such luxury. Those were the days we could have never imagined. We are honored to have taken part in this great tour and do appreciate KORN and all people concerned.
APESHIT: The band has been well-known and revered by fans in not only Japan but the rest of the world for years. It seems like America is the last major country that you have yet to conquer. Is making it big in America a major goal of the band? Has making an impact in America been a difficult task?
Kaoru: Actually, we don’t think much of [our] success. If there are people who wish to come and feel and experience our songs and watch our stage, we will go anywhere in the world. I think we will feel great if we can reach that point called success after having many people listen to our songs. But, we don’t go on, striving for that purpose. All we do is to follow the path we believe in.
APESHIT: Congratulations on the new album, The Marrow of a Bone! It turned out great and it’s definitely your best album yet. How do you feel about how it turned out? Are you satisfied with the results or do you think you could have done better?
Kaoru: I think this is the album without regard to make the contents balanced when compared with the past works. Honestly, we are delighted the fact we were able to come up with such an album. We just wanted to let loose our feelings. We are really satisfied with the album, but, as time goes by, you will start realizing parts you think you could improve and that is when we will feel tempted to work on the next album. It is always a repetition of this.
APESHIT: The Marrow of a Bone features more of your unique, modern heavy rock/metal style with your heavy, chunky riffs, frequent tempo changes, and sinister groove. At times, it sounds like an evolution of bands like SLIPKNOT and early TOOL. What is the inspiration behind this sound/style?
Kaoru: We have never intended to make it sinister on purpose. All I can say is that we just like heavy, damp and dark music.
APESHIT: On each album, it definitely sounds like Kyo is really reaching deep into his soul and exorcising demons to find the lyrics and vocal lines. How does he write his vocal parts?
Kaoru: [It’s] pretty normal [for him]. I think he writes his words by connecting the world of lyrics with the song.
APESHIT: Kaoru, being the main songwriter of the band, do you write most of your parts alone? How do you guys put the songs together and work out the final song structure?
Kaoru: Basically, we take our demos and arrange them together. My songs are often chosen but a final track includes each members’ ideas and opinions. When the song is almost completed, the lyrics are then written.
APESHIT: Much of DIR EN GREY’s music is about pain, darkness, sadness, and dealing with inner demons. How do you mentally prepare yourself before you start composing new such dark music?
Kaoru: I think it is important to stand face to face with and reflect on oneself.
APESHIT: All of your videos are very interesting, creative, and a bit sick and twisted. Do you guys come up with all the concepts for the videos by yourselves?
Kaoru: We make our videos while discussing with our director who has been working with us for 10 years now, always exchanging ideas. If it is possible, we would actually like to make it by ourselves. But, we would rather be making songs than studying video production. If we have enough time we will definitely want to try making videos one day.
APESHIT: What bands, globally and in Japan, do you consider your peers?
Kaoru: I am not sure if I understand the meaning of ‘peer’ here but I believe every one has the same feeling to get people to feel something from the band. The one thing I can say is there are few bands in Japan that hold the same mentality as us as a band.
APESHIT: 2007 marks the 10th anniversary of the band. What are some of your best memories in the past 10 years? Where do you see the band in the next 10 years?
Kaoru: I believe the best thing was probably the fact that the five of us met. I think we will continue to do what we have to do now and continue our activities as the band for years to come rather than be thinking about the next 10 years.
Interview translated by Chris Bishop.