Sigh - Interview
On the leading edge, and perhaps the only edge, of fusing metal with various states of hallucinatory sound injected euphoria and grooving confusion, Sigh is without a doubt one of the most unique bands in metal, or perhaps all the music of our day. With a chance to interview one of the brains behind the b-movie horror flick influenced incarnation, my fingertips began to crack away at the questions. Mirai, the man to not only credit for the bass, keys and vocals, but much of Sigh’s creative driving force, delivered on those questions with charismatic balance and openness, having very interesting things to say about everything from Madonna to a new project with Phil Anselmo.
"Imaginary Sonicscape" made Album of the Month at Metalbite.com and from what I can tell, it seems to be very well received by critics elsewhere. How do you feel it’s being received by the public?
Yes, the reactions towards "Imaginary.." have been really positive so far. It is always really difficult to expect the reaction to our albums, so I am real glad to hear that people liked the new album. I am looking forward to seeing how our album will do with a fair distribution and promotion by Century Media Records.
Do you consider "Sonicscape" to be a concept album?
No, I do not. I guess both musically and lyrically, it is too disorienting to be a concept album, and there is no coherent concept behind the songs either. "Anything goes" may be a concept if you call it so though.
As a trio, do you find it difficult to pull off "Sonicscape’s" incredibly dense wall of sound in a live situation?
It is totally impossible to reproduce the albums live, and we don't want that either. In my opinion, our albums should be listened by your own in your room, not at the place like the venues where many people gather. As we are a trio, we emphasize our metal side on stage. Actually we have been searching for a session keyboardist for gigs, but it isn't easy to find somebody who can play the keyboards well enough and at the same time can understand what we are doing. I do hope we can find somebody good in the very near future.
Do you guys think that you might add another member permanently?
At the moment we have no will to add another member because we've been doing really well as a three piece so far. If we'd come to the dead end musically in the future, we might think about it, but now we do not see any point in adding somebody else when everything is fine with three.
What do you think is the most expressive musical instrument?
To me, it is an acoustic piano because this is the instrument that I can play the best. Acoustic instruments are often more expressive than electric ones.
How did you end up making the jump to Century Media?
Actually we tried to leave Cacophonous after we did "Hail Horror Hail" in 1997 because they didn't do anything right. Though Century Media was interested in us, Cacophonous told us that they would sue us if we'd sign to another label because we signed to them for three full-length albums. Then we came to the conclusion that doing another album ("Dread Dreams") for them and leaving them peacefully would be much faster and easier than fighting them in the court. Now the contract with Cacophonous is up, and we are finally on Century Media.
So you’re happier there?
Definitely. When we were on Cacophonous, so many people told me that they couldn't find our CDs at their local stores because Cacophonous' distribution was terrible. But now we are on Century Media, who has a great distribution all over the world, and they've been promoting our new album really well.
Japan seems to be making itself a noticeable force in the metal world with upcoming bands like Shadow. What’s your sense about this? Do you think that this will be a short-term thing like when EZO came on the scene in the 80s?
It isn't easy for me to tell how the Japanese metal scene is perceived as in the States or in Europe, but looking from inside of Japan at the scene, unfortunately it's nothing great at all. In the 80s, bands like Loudness or, as you said, EZO were quite popular both abroad and in Japan, but now no Japanese bands have such popularity. Also metal itself isn't popular now. What I don't like about the Japanese scene the most is that more than 90% of the bands are absorbed in copying the leading Western bands, and the fans appreciate that! They say "They are great because they sound like a Swedish band blah blah", which is totally ridiculous. Still there are some great bands who have their own identities such as Abigail, Sabbat, Defiled, Eternal Elysium, Solar Anus and so on, but all in all, the scene here isn't that interesting.
"Sonicscape’s" vision is undeniably the most original thing the metal scene has come upon in many years. What prompted such incredible imagination?
We really do not want to set any limitation on music. Anything goes in music. Some people like to make a rule how metal should be or something, but it is ridiculous. Each member of Sigh has a completely different musical taste though 80s metal is our common background, and we respect each other's ideas or opinions. The important thing is that being weird or being original is not our purpose at all. We just choose the best way to express our feelings, sometimes it could be jazz, sometimes it could be classical music, and sometimes it could be aggressive metal. Solo piano can express something which distorted heavy guitar cannot, and vice versa. We just choose the best and the result is our music.
As well as being an incredible metal album, this is also an indestructible force of psychedelic sound... I’ll just ask it straight, how many pounds of shrooms did you guys go through in writing this album?
We consumed a lot of mushrooms. But usually we don't take any drugs when writing songs or rehearsing. We take week on mushrooms to get inspirations and make them music later. I personally prefer to fuck on mushrooms or weed.
I’ve listened to "Sonicscape" in a couple of different mental states. To tell you the truth, this disc is so rich I have just as much fun and fascination with it while sober as well as baked out of my gourd. To some, this is the bleeding edge of stoner-metal, where a complete night is bongs and Sigh. What are your thoughts on that interpretation?
I am sure you can enjoy "Imaginary Sonicscape" even if you do not take any drugs, but if you listen to it on weed or on mushrooms, you can enjoy it more! "Imaginary Sonicscape" is not an all-evil or all-horror album. Like life itself, it is sometimes fun while sometimes sad. It has every feeling we all have, so it may sound totally different depending on your mood.
I could sit for hours and talk to you about each song, but I think that there’s one in particular that I need to ask you about: 'Requiem - Nostalgia'. This track, which is appropriately saved for last on the disc is probably the most overtly mind provoking of them all. What was the concept behind that track?
I myself like the track very much. It is metal, classical music, jazz and psychedelia. It has everything and they turned out to be in the way we'd exactly wanted. The song is literally about Nostalgia. Now I am 31 and I sometimes feel so nostalgic looking back the days when I was a little kid. I've never felt like that when I was 20. So how would I look back my life when I'm 60 or 70, or when I die? That is what 'Nostaliga' is about. If you are a teenager, you may not understand what it is about, but you will know what it's like ten years after.
What about the bizarre clean vocals on 'Requiem', are you the one who performs them? What gave you the idea to have them sound like that?
No, it was done by Yukito from the Japanese stoner/doom metal band, who also engineered the album. We recorded the album at the studio owned by him because we though he'd have a lot of knowledge to get a heavy sound as he himself is in a heavy band. I came up with the idea to ask him to sing for me during the recording because as you hear he is a real great vocalist. I am sure his vocals added the great atmosphere to the song.
When are you touring the States, dammit?!!
Now we are talking about touring the States this Autumn. It is not confirmed yet, but we do hope to tour there as soon as possible!
Having such bizarre music begs for an equally bizarre stage show, do you do anything outside of freaking people out with your sound at a show?
We used to lots of pyro/blood stuff in the early days, but these days we don't do anything particular. We have some ideas but they cost too much.
"Imaginary Sonicscape’s" sound is so visual, are you guys influenced by film?
Yes, especially horror films are really influential on us. The cut-up/juxtaposition techniques in our songs are completely those of horror movies. My favorite horror movies are The Beyond, Burial Ground, The House by the Cemetery, Omen, Nekromantik, Redneck Zombies and so on.
Man, Nekromantik is a freakin' weird one, have you seen Blood Sucking Freaks?
Oh yes, Blood Sucking Freaks is a real sick strange movie! I really liked it a lot.
The way I see it, if Clive Barker, John Waters and David Lynch collaborated on a film, it would be a video track for a Sigh album.
Yes, I agree with you. Especially David Lynch's "Eraserhead" is a big inspiration on our music.
Who do you think are your biggest musical influences?
The biggest influence on us is obviously 80s thrash/heavy metal which we listened to a lot when we were teenagers like Venom, Celtic Frost, Deathrow, Ozzy, Mercyful Fate, Iron Maiden, Warfare, Whiplash and so on. The music you listened to during your adolescent days will live forever in you. Another big influence should be classical music because I was taking classical piano for more than 20 years.
What albums are you listening to now?
Speed Metal Hell 3 (Various Artists), Best (Henry Mancini), Loco Live (Ramones), Cold Dark Matters (Psychic TV), and Music (Madonna).
Madonna's CD is really psychedelic. You should listen to it on mushrooms!
That's a very diverse selection. I never thought I'd see Henry Mancini and Psychic TV in the same sentence! Do you think that musicians that are open to other styles of music generally make better music?
I guess there are roughly two bit elements to be a good composer. One is a talent, and another is an experience, namely musical inputs. You can't write music from nothing. You need an accumlation of the music you heard in the past to write your own song. The genius may write good music with a small accumlation, which is a talent. But usually the more musical inputs you have, the better music you can write. I don't think I am a musical genius at all, so I need a lot of inputs.
I've heard a little bit of Madonna’s latest work and you're right. Speaking of which, I've always had a great deal of respect for Madonna and her work. Interestingly enough, more and more, I'm finding metal musicians that have no fear admitting that they enjoy Madonna (the guys from Vader for instance), however, it seems that most metal fans hate her as much as any boy-band clone. Why do you suppose that is?
Probably that is because of her image. Here in Japan the situation is the same. Most of people think that Madonna is for the teenage trend-followers, which may be right, but it is also true that her albums have a great musical quality composed, arranged and played by first-rate musicians. Also the lyrics might be something the metalheads can't appreciate, but fortunately I don't care about it that much because English isn't my mother tongue.
What metal bands do you have the most respect for and why?
Venom. I was totally got into thrash metal by them. I don't think thrash/death/black metal would even exist without them or it’d be in totally different forms.
What music (metal or not) do you dislike the most and why?
Regardless from the genre, I despise all the bands/musicians who can do nothing better than copying the leading artists. Those people should stay away from any art.
Do you guys do anything for a living outside of Sigh?
Yes, we all three have to have day jobs to survive. It would be great if we could live on music, however at the same time I think having a day job isn't a bad thing as a band. I mean, if we'd live on music, we'd have to sell the album, and then I am not sure if we could do musically as we like, like we do now. We might have to be a bit more conservative.
Are there any side-projects going on that the fans should be aware of?
I myself am working on a project called Enoch, with Phil from Pantera and Killjoy from Necrophagia. Enoch plays totally non-metal, synth-oriented horror movies soundtrack-like music. You can easily imagine how they sound from Sigh's synth parts. We hope to go into the studio to record the debut album "Graveyard Disturbances" as soon as Pantera's tour is over, hopefully within this year.
This sounds like something I'll really be looking forward to! Is it just the 3 of you? What are all your roles?
I think Opal, who is Phil's girlfriend, will do some chorus and voice effects. Phil and Killjoy will do scary voice effects and write lyrics. I'm in charge of composition and synth/sampling stuff.
Is all the music written and just waiting to be recorded?
Yes, the music is already done and I've already recorded my parts. So as soon as Pantera's tour is over, we'll gather at the studio to add the voices.
How did this project come about? How did you end up getting Phil on board?
Both Killjoy and I are big horror movies fans and a few years ago we came up with an idea to do the project. You know Phil is in Necrophagia and he's a horror movie lover too, so Killjoy asked him to join us.
Finally, if you were to change the face of metal today, how would you change it?
I don't care about today's metal scene, but it would be great if we could go back to the 80s and play with great 80s thrash/heavy metal bands!
Thanks so much for this interview, is there anything else you would like to add or say to the fans?
Thank you very much for the interview. You can get our latest information on our website at http://listen.to/sigh
Please e-mail me though the website if you have something to say.
Scorn Defeat 20th Anniversary Gig
The Curse Of Izanagi
Scenes From Hell
A Tribute To Venom
Hangman's Hymn - Musikalische Exequien
Necrophagia / Sigh
Scenario IV: Dread Dreams
Ghastly Funeral Theatre / 葬式劇場
Hail Horror Hail
The Eastern Force Of Evil: Live '92-'96
Requiem For Fools
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