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Jul 20

[interview] D'espairsRay – Some Kind of Human-Clad Monster

It’s been two years since D’espairsRay’s last appearance in North America, and they’re back with a fresh outlook and a sound that leans more towards the dance-beat side of music. But don’t worry; they’re still the dark visual kei band overseas fans have grown to love. Just before the release of their new album, MONSTERS, on July 28 and the start of their North American tour in August, the band gave purple SKY the lo-down on what it means to be the monster that is D’espairsRay.

pSKY: You’ve been together as a band for over ten years now. What do you attribute that longevity to?

HIZUMI: Is it usual to have member changes in the US? Japanese bands don’t really seem to change as much. I don’t think Japanese bands change it up that much anyway.

pSKY: You’re about to embark on your next US tour. Your first experience overseas was kind of unusual for Japanese bands, especially visual bands. Instead of playing anime conventions, you played at small live houses. Why did you decide to do smaller venues instead of a big convention that might attract many people?

Karyu: A convention has a lot of people for sure, but it’s mostly for people who just like Japanese culture. It doesn’t feel like rock music. We figured if we played with other rock bands, we’d attract a rock audience instead, and maybe get some new fans that wouldn’t have found us otherwise.

pSKY: Actually, it seems like the fans have a lot of respect for you guys for playing at sort of “real” rock venues.

All: Thanks!

pSKY: On that note, what keeps you going back to the US and Europe?

Karyu: We want people to get to know us.

Karyu

pSKY: You’re going back to the same locations like New York and Los Angeles. Why not try something really different like Lollapalooza or something?

HIZUMI: We want to try it.

pSKY: Any particular festival?

Karyu: I don’t really know. Some famous ones like… um…?

pSKY: Ozzfest?

Karyu: Yeah, like that.

pSKY: What kind of songs would you play if you played at some place like Ozzfest?

HIZUMI: Something that fits with the style.
Karyu
: Maybe something similar to what we usually do.

pSKY: You don’t think you’d try to make it more like Ozzy?

HIZUMI: What should we do? I mean, I guess something kind of dark would work since people who go to that festival like bands that are really dark. That might be the natural thing for us to put in our set list.

pSKY: Do you guys consider yourselves dark already?

Karyu: Yeah.

pSKY: In what way?

Karyu: Most of our songs, if you listen to them on a basic level, have a particular nuance. We write songs in a minor key usually. Nowadays, we’ve changed it up a bit, but it’s basically dark.

pSKY: Recently you’ve put a little bit of a dance beat in your music. Do you think you’re growing out of this dark image?

Karyu: A lot of people are saying that. We want to make a variety of songs, even if that might upset what people expect.
HIZUMI
: Lately we’ve been putting in a few brighter songs. So at lives, the brighter songs help the darker songs stand out. That’s why we’re doing more with brighter songs.
TSUKASA
: We just want to do a variety of songs.

pSKY: Is there any type of music you wouldn’t want to do?

TSUKASA: Enka. We couldn’t do it as a band. Maybe in karaoke, but…

pSKY: Hizumi, do you think you could ever sing enka?

HIZUMI:  I can’t do enka! Enka for a rock band is like…
Karyu
: I think you can do it.
Hizumi
: Not really.

pSKY: I’m trying to imagine it in my head, and it’s a really strange image.

HIZUMI: Isn’t it? D’espairsRay’s sound doesn’t work with it at all! We’re not looking to try enka any time soon.

pSKY: Are there any types of songs or visuals that fans suggest you do that you absolutely will not attempt?

HIZUMI: We kind of decide what we want to do by ourselves, so getting suggestions from our fans isn’t really typical.
Karyu
: We get messages from our fans, but if we made songs based on what other people suggested, it wouldn’t really be the true feeling of the band.

pSKY:  If you could choose one song to represent D’espairsRay, what would it be?

Karyu: Can we choose individually? I pick “Lizard.”

HIZUMI: That’s dark!
TSUKASA
: “Human-clad monster.”
HIZUMI: Same.  It’s because the album is fresh in our minds.
ZERO
: Me too. “Human-clad monster.”

pSKY: Why are you all picking the same song?

Karyu: This is the easiest song for people to understand our style. Of all our music up to this point, this one fuses everything together.

pSKY: What does the title of your new album, MONSTERS, mean?

HIZUMI: What does it mean? What is it? While we were making the album, there was this concept in our heads of a monster. We wanted to display what was inside of us, what was outside of us, and the protagonist that would come out of it. There are a lot of things we want to say in terms of “monsters,” so that’s how the name came about.

HIZUMI

pSKY: Can we expect it to be dark and menacing overall?

HIZUMI: Menacing? Well, I guess it depends on the person. But the sounds that come out of it are certainly monster-like, so we want our listeners to hear the different shades of it.

pSKY: If you guys could be one kind of monster, what would you be?

HIZUMI: Pocket monster (Pokemon).
ZERO
: A monster called humanity.

pSKY: Oh, that’s deep.

TSUKASA: As for me, some aspects of humanity like desire and hope that turn out to be a monster.
ZERO
: You have desires like that?
TSUKASA
: Humanity is like that. Symbolically, I’d be that kind of character. I have a lot of dreams.

pSKY: Kind of like a-I don’t know-Pandora’s Box monster?

Karyu: He’s a Pocket Monster. And what would I be? The image I like is a typical Disney live-action monster. Like Pirates of the Caribbean and Edward Scissorhands.

pSKY: Like a monster with a soul?

Karyu: A tragic story, yes.

pSKY: The tragic anti-hero!

Karyu: Hentai hero?

pSKY: Anti! Anti-hero. Hizumi, are you sticking with Pocket Monster?

HIZUMI: No no no. Um…

pSKY: Kraken? Spaghetti monster?

HIZUMI: No… A monster named Hizumi.

pSKY: What kind of monster is that?

HIZUMI: I release a different part of me in lives. I bring out what I want to show, the sad parts of me, and a lot of other things.

pSKY: Kind of like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

HIZUMI: Yeah, that’s it.

pSKY: Your single “Love is Dead” has some similarities to the song “You Spin Me Round” by Dead or Alive. Is it homage or a coincidence?

Karyu: We went to a few dance clubs in Europe after our shows, and really liked the atmosphere the music created. I wanted to use that in one of our songs, and it’s possible I heard Dead or Alive’s song at some of the clubs.  I didn’t even know the name of it until we finished “Love Is Dead” and someone pointed out that it sounded similar.

pSKY: So it’s not that song directly?

Karyu: No, we just wanted to make a dance-style song like one you would hear at a club!

pSKY: You guys won’t end up like Pete Burns?

HIZUMI: I’m not gay!

pSKY: I think he’s a woman now.

HIZUMI: He’s not completely a woman, right? Karyu isn’t really decided on what he wants to be yet, but…
Karyu
: I’m gradually getting there though.

pSKY: You released about half your albums in Europe and the US, but your earlier works are not available for overseas fans to buy. So how do you expect your overseas fans to hear your music?

Karyu: They can’t buy it, right? This is a problem, but it’s hard to address. Of course we want people to buy them, but there might be a lot of issues in terms of how they can get them.
ZERO
: Well, we may be talking about whether people can buy them or not, but even if we want people to hear our old albums, it might not fit with who we are now.

pSKY: How do you feel about illegal music downloads?

Karyu: Of course it’s bad. Bands that have a lot of money are really lucky, but it’s bad for musicians.

ZERO

pSKY: I’ve heard so many people complain that Japanese CDs are too expensive to buy. Its either people don’t hear your music, or they download it illegally. How do you feel about that?

HIZUMI: We can’t really say anything about that, but…
Karyu
: That’s what Youtube is for, right?
HIZUMI: I mean, before we released our albums internationally, there was no choice but to download it illegally. But as musicians, we want people to just listen to our CDs.
Karyu
: The reason it’s even on a CD is because we put a lot of thought in the order of the songs, the mix, and so on. Even on iTunes, there’s a different way of listening to it all.

pSKY: Speaking of the internet, some of you have Twitter and blogs. How have they helped or hindered your career?

HIZUMI: Well, people who read it can get a little piece of who we are. I understand that there’s a bit of an affinity for that sort of thing.

pSKY: ZERO, you blog the most it seems. What do you think about it? Have fans said anything to you?

ZERO: Well for me, people seem to like what I write. I can put down the things I can’t say out loud. There are a lot of different aspects to the sentences I write, so I like to think that it’s enough. The person who appears on stage may have a different personality from the person who writes the blog, but I don’t want to change that much.

pSKY: You don’t want to give up too much information?

ZERO: Well, this is how I am. Actually, if people see me write this and that, they might think, “Huh? Is he this kind of person?”

pSKY: How much time do you spend blogging or tweeting?

HIZUMI: I have no idea.
ZERO
: Including time when I’m just thinking about what to write? I have no idea.

pSKY: Are any of you addicted to blogging or twitter?

All: (point at ZERO)
ZERO
: Isn’t everybody? When I write something, I have to wait for comments that might come from different time zones. It takes time, but its fun.

pSKY: You guys have played with non-Japanese and Japanese bands in the past. Do you have any plans to play with any non-Japanese bands in the near future?

Karyu: Of course. I want to try a session.

pSKY: Who?

Karyu: Maybe someone like Acey Slade. We’ve played shows together, but never got a chance to be on stage at the same time. I’ve only tried a session with other Japanese musicians.
HIZUMI
: You say that like it’s a bad thing!

pSKY: Have you ever approached him about doing a session?

Karyu: Not yet.

pSKY: Why not?

Karyu: It’s hard for a Japanese person to approach an overseas artist about that kind of thing.

pSKY: But you know, it’s been done before. A Japanese musician and someone who doesn’t speak Japanese might not understand each other, but they still create music.

Karyu: Yeah, I want to try that.

pSKY: What’s your secret for beating the Tokyo heat?

Karyu: I don’t!

pSKY: You just endure it?

Karyu: Yeah, basically.

TSUKASA

PS: You know, on the East Coast of the US, they’re having the worst heat wave in a long time, so stay cool.

Karyu: Yeah, I saw it on the news.
HIZUMI: It’s alright. I can endure anything in the 40’s.
Karyu
: But the US doesn’t really have humidity like Japan.
ZERO
: Uh, but it’s still hot!

pSKY: What if you woke up one day and you were a completely different style? Say you were suddenly bald or something else that would ruin your look.

HIZUMI: What should I do? I’d go back to bed.

pSKY: Have you ever thought of writing all your lyrics in a different language?

HIZUMI: Not really completely in English, but we thought about it.

pSKY: It also seems that a lot of German people like your music, so maybe you could try German.

HIZUMI: That’s way too hard! The pronunciation is just too hard. Du hasst!

pSKY: It might give you a harder edge, though. Like Rammstein.

HIZUMI: Oh really? Du hasst!

pSKY: Even when they say words like, “I love you.” It’s, “Ich liebe dich!”

Karyu: That’s awesome!
HIZUMI: Frightening!
Karyu
: Ich leibe dich!
HIZUMI
: Our melodies might be in a key that’s too high. What should we do?

pSKY: You’d have to rewrite it in a really low key.

Karyu: That’ll be interesting.

pSKY: Give it a try! Just start putting in random words from different languages.

HIZUMI: A mix of all languages. English, German, French…
Karyu
: That doesn’t really have anything to do with our sound though.
HIZUMI: It’s punishment!

pSKY: Do you guys have anything you’d like to say to your fans?

Karyu: We haven’t been to the US in two years, so check out our CDs and DVDs. MONSTERS has a really good feel. Come to our live and have some fun.
HIZUMI: Come to our monster tour.
ZERO
: We’re going on our US tour with a fresh attitude. I expect we’ll get back to Japan with a sense of clarity. With that in mind, we’re going to have fun on our US tour.
TSUKASA
: Since we’re going to the US, I want to enjoy a T-bone steak.  (thumbs up)

North American Tour Dates

2010.08.03(tue.) – Los Angeles, CA @ The Roxy Theater
2010.08.04(wed.) – San Fransisco, CA @ Slim’s
2010.08.06(fri.) – Seattle, WA @ Showbox at The Market
2010.08.09(mon.) – Chicago, IL @ The Bottom Lounge
2010.08.11(wed.) – Toronto, ON (Canada) @ The Mod Club
2010.08.12(thu.) – New York City, NY @ The Studio at Webster Hall
2010.08.14(sat.) – Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
2010.08.16(mon.) – Dallas, TX @ Loft
2010.08.17(tue.) – Houston, TX @ Meridian

http://www.despairsray.jp/

Thanks to the readers at JrockNYC for their question input!

11 comments

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  1. lynntorri

    Dear Hizumi,
    your cute,funny,and i love u alot

  2. Sean

    Awesome interview! Did you do this all in Japanese?

  3. Yoshi

    Simply the best from the best. Great interview, Sarah!

  4. Reitsu

    Thanks for the interview! Interesting, fun and insightful – all at the same time! Thanks for asking about Twitter/Blogs since it was one of the questions I submitted at Jrocknyc and was really interested in finding out about.

  5. nika

    thanks for this interview, it really cleared some things up!

  6. Karei

    A very nice interview, and some questions/answers here may satisfy the fans (the ones about Dead or Alive for example). Thank you! ; D

  7. xfranczeskax

    Nice interview. :) Thanx!
    (And it would be “Du hasst”, otherwise it’ll simply mean “you have”.)

    1. Kathy Chee

      Ah, I remember that change because they sound the same. You hate vs you have.

      1. Teresa

        I believe Rammstein’s song is called “du hast” so it’s “you have”.
        “you hate” is actually spelled like in the interview above. “Du hasst”, but the sound is the same.
        But “hass” (= hate) and “hassen” (=to hate) sound quite more rough and harder.
        Sounds much cooler than “eins, zwei, drei, vier”. They used it in one of their earlier songs, but i don’t remember which one.

        1. Sarah

          I think it’s a requirement for all visual kei artists to have at least one song containing the words “eins, zwei, drei, vier.”

        2. Kathy Chee

          I was reading up on it and they did change it to you hate when it hit the States. I can’t remember why exactly.

          I just changed it to du hasst, since that’s what most English folks associate the song with (you hate). Does that make sense?

          The original interview was du hast. Phew!

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