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DIR EN GREY Image courtesy of sun-krad Co., Ltd.


Two Decades of Pushing Musical Boundaries

A Japanese metal band with nine full-length albums under its belt, DIR EN GREY has nearly 20 years of experience in the music industry. Drawing on inspiration from different genres, from the strong presence of visual kei at the inception of their career to current influences like alternative metal, DIR EN GREY continues to evolve and push boundaries. The five-member band showcases a masterful combination of music and lyrics. Formed in 1997, they caught the attention of one of their idols early on — X Japan’s Yoshiki, who produced five of their singles in 1999. The Los Angeles Times wrote that the lead singer, Kyo, “is a staggering vocalist” and “has stockpiled an extreme range of vocal in ections, from a guttural mutter to a tonsil-ripping scream — no electronic effects needed.” DIR EN GREY is set for an exciting summer. Their recent releases include a July 27th new single, “UTAFUMI,” in collaboration with renowned X Japan / LUNA SEA guitarist SUGIZO, as well as a June 29th Blu-ray/DVD of the band’s live performance of ARCHE on the legendary Nippon Budokan stage from February 2016. Tokyo Journal Executive Editor Anthony Al-Jamie talked to Kyo (voice), Kaoru (leader/ guitarist), Die (guitarist), Toshiya (bassist) and Shinya (drummer) about the band’s journey and their plans for the future.

TJ: How did the band get started?
SHINYA: Everyone, except for Toshiya, met in Osaka while playing in different bands. Then we met Toshiya in Nagano, and we started DIR EN GREY.

TJ: How did the band come with up the name? Is there a special meaning behind it?
TOSHIYA: We decided on the name together and focused on how it would sound. Each word is from a different language, so our name expresses freedom, especially in regards to the name’s connotations.

TJ: How has your band’s style of music evolved over the years (i.e. visual kei to metal)?
DIE: We just keep doing what we want to do — seeking excitement. The visual image of the band has evolved over the years, but we never had a discussion on how we should look. We just keep doing what we consider to be cool at the moment.

TJ: What have you enjoyed the most about being a part of DIR EN GREY?
DIE: There are so many things; I can’t really pick one. It’s going to be almost 20 years since we started DIR EN GREY. I would love to keep sharing good times with the members!

TJ: What were some of the most challenging things that happened throughout the band’s career? How did you overcome them?
DIE: Writing songs, preparing for the shows, being part of a band ... it’s always a challenge. We try to overcome every obstacle and move forward. I believe that the obstacles become tougher and tougher as we move forward, but we must overcome them.

TJ: Do you listen to other types of music? Is there another genre of music you would like to incorporate into your own music?
TOSHIYA: Yes, I do listen to other types of music. I don’t have a specific genre at the moment, but I want to absorb all kinds of music in order to find new inspiration.

TJ: Are there any musicians that you would like to work with in the future?
TOSHIYA: I don’t have a specific artist I want to collaborate with at the moment, but I would be thrilled to work with other musicians if given the chance.

TJ: Has there been a time when you thought the band might break up?
TOSHIYA: When you are in a relationship for a very long time, obviously there are moments when we have different opinions, but we know it only takes a second to break up. We all understand and respect each other, so that’s how we keep the relationship going.

TJ: How do you write your songs? Does the music come first, or the lyrics?
KYO: Music comes first.

TJ: Can you tell us about your most recent album, ARCHE? How is it different from your other albums?
KAORU: We tried to make it simple and to the point compared to the previous albums. We really tried to visualize the audience this time.

TJ: Do you still get nervous before performing live?
DIE: Yes. I get more nervous than before because the structure of our songs is getting more complicated.

TJ: Where has been your favorite place to perform?
SHINYA: Yokohama Arena is my favorite!

TJ: Is there any place you haven’t performed where you would like to?
SHINYA: Tokyo Dome would be a place I would love to perform at.

TJ: I understand that during your first European tour some of your concerts sold out without any promotion. Why do you think foreign fans are attracted to your music?
KAORU: That’s something we would like to know too!

TJ: Have you thought about doing songs in English?
DIE: I don’t write the lyrics, but we have some songs in English.

TJ: Do you see any difference between fans in Japan and fans in other countries?
SHINYA: I feel that Japanese fans hear the music, while foreign fans feel the music

TJ: Which one of your songs would you recommend to someone who is new to your music?
SHINYA: I would recommend all the songs on ARCHE.

TJ: Do you have any plans for your 20th anniversary?
KAORU: Who knows? I wouldn’t say anything about it, even if we had plans!

TJ: What has been your proudest achievement?
KAORU: Every time we complete an album.

TJ: What are your goals for the future?
KYO: To not die meaninglessly.

TJ: Do you have any advice for new musicians?
KAORU: It’s very tough, so don’t try to become a musician! tj

The complete article can be found in Issue #278 of the Tokyo Journal. Click here to order from Amazon.

Written By:

Anthony Al-Jamie

Anthony Al-Jamie lived and worked in Japan for over 20 years. His in-depth understanding of Japanese language and culture has allowed him to carry out interviews with many of the most renowned individuals in Japan. He first began writing for the Tokyo Journal in the 1990s as Education Editor, later he was promoted to Senior Editor, and eventually International Editor and Executive Editor. He currently serves the Tokyo Journal as Editor-in-Chief.


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