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Sigh Frontman Mirai Kawashima On New Album "Heir To Despair", The Influence Of Drugs And Old Ads

Many bands strive for commercial success, others work for respect. Then there are the true artists, who simply create to express themselves, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Some examples would be Tom G. Warrior of Triptykon (and ex Celtic Frost/Hellhammer,) Lou Reed and in today's case, Mirai Kawashima of Sigh. The Japanese band has been challenging preconceptions about music and art since their debut, "Scorn Defeat" was released in 1993, with subsequent albums such as "Imaginary Sonicscape," "Gallows Gallery" and "Hangman's Hymn," as well the superb 2015 release, "Graveward" surprising listeners at every turn.

Three years on from "Graveward" and fans are in for another shock with the release of, "Heir To Despair" on November 16th through Candlelight. The record is completely different from the previous effort, boasts a guest appearance from Phil Anselmo and most importantly, is a strong artistic and personal statement. I had the honour of having my questions answered by the band's vocalist and leader Mirai Kawashima who discussed "Heir To Despair," his insistence that fans will hate the record and the influence drug advertisements had on the artwork.

Diamond Oz: Thank you for taking the time to speak to us. Obviously the first place to start is with the new album, "Heir To Despair." You maintained for months that fans would hate the album. Why is this?

Mirai Kawashima: There is no other reason than I have been feeling so. It's not a part of promotion plan or anything. I just mean it. This is 100% my personal album. This album is not meant to please anybody including the band members. I am quite sure the other members do not get what it is about, either. So far "Homo Homini Lupus" has been published and people say they liked it, but this song is a big exception. This does not have an Asian feel or flute, which is a feature of the album. Other songs do not sound anything like HHL. If you liked HHL, that means you'd hate rest of the album.

Oz: There is a trilogy of songs on the album entitled, "Heresy." Could you tell us more about this concept?

Mirai: Actually this trilogy is the main reason that I keep saying fans won't appreciate the album. It has nothing to do with metal. I myself do not know what they are. I just made those songs without thinking much. I just wanted to make something druggy and evil. For Heresy II and III, I tried to imagine how schizophrenic people see and hear this world. Heresy I was remixed by David Harrow. He also remixed "The Tranquilizer Song" on "Gallows Gallery". David is one of the artists I truly respect. "Tantric Steps" by Technova, which is actually David, is one of the druggiest techno stuff I have ever heard. It's a genius work.

Oz: Why did you decide to write the lyrics primarily in Japanese this time, after so many years of performing in English?

Mirai: There are several simple reasons. As Japanese is my mother tongue, it is much easier for me to sing in Japanese. Obviously I can sing much better in Japanese as I do not have to care about the "accurate" pronunciation unlike I sing in English. Also I thought I'd be able to make something new with the Japanese lyrics because Japanese and English are aurally completely different. I mean, I thought I'd come up with "different" riffs and melodies if I had "Japanese" in my mind. I guess it worked well. And the simplest reason is that I almost ran out of the things I would like to say in English after 10 albums.

Oz: There seems to be a Middle Eastern influence on the album. Particularly on the opening track, "Aletheia." Where did this come from?

Mirai: A Middle Eastern or Indian influence is something very common in rock music. It's been tried probably since 60s and it's rather cliche. Also I myself have been into the Indian traditional music for a long time. I used to take Sitar and Tabla lessons for a while so this influence has been on every Sigh's album since "Gallows Gallery".

Oz: The art work for the album is, much like your music, very striking in a unique way. The image of an everyday Japanese woman with hints of darkness behind her reminded me of Fusako Shigenobu (former leader of the left wing militant group, Japanese Red Army.) Can you explain a little more about the front cover?

Mirai: The concept of the album is insanity. I've been wondering what insanity is these days. Insanity isn't often very distinctive and a line between sanity and insanity is 100% arbitrary as Foucauld said. The artwork by Eliran perfectly describes it. I sent him some Japanese psychotropic drug advertisement from 60s / 70s I love to show what kind of feel I wanted for artwork. A woman looks happy but everything else is wrong. The plant is dead and the room is a mess. This is what I consider insanity is. Look at social media. They're too busy to pretend how happy they are but you can easily tell they have huge darkness inside their mind.

Oz: Some of the vocals on the album are incredibly fast, most notably "In Dreams Delusional". When writing them, did you think about how difficult it would be to perform them live?

Mirai: I still remember when I heard "Hell Awaits" for the first time. I was listening to it with a lyric sheet but I could not follow it at all as Tom Araya was singing way too fast! So I always try to sing as fast as I can. I guess some song from "Hangman's Hymn" have very fast singing in English. And this time as I sang in my mother tongue, I tried to sing even faster. Well, recording the songs was much tougher that I had expected! I never thought it'd be that tough as far as I sang in Japanese, but probably Japanese does not fit the fast singing! Every letter has a vowel in Japanese so maybe it's tougher to sing fast than in English. To be honest I am not sure I can make it live...

Oz: You've mentioned your dissatisfaction with the previous album, "Graveward," despite it being very popular among fans. What don't you like about it?

Mirai: I am not sure if it is very popular among fans. There are a few problems about this album. During the recording, we had to fire the former guitarist, so it turned out to be a bit half-assed album. Also I must say I was into the orchestral stuff too much. And it was not a good idea to have Yuichi, our guitarist, mix the album. I'm not saying that he's a bad engineer. What I mean is it's the matter of objectivity. He played guitar on this album and he knew too much about the album. Of course he wanted to his playing heard more than anything. The album needed more objective view from outside of the band. That's why we had a Canadian engineer this time.

Oz: I was fortunate enough to see you at Graspop Metal Meeting 2015. Are there any plans to return to the West any time soon?

Mirai: There are some talks. I believe we will be back to Europe some time in 2019.

Oz: To date, there has been no home video releases from Sigh. With such an amazing live show that so few people are lucky enough to see, would you ever consider releasing a live and/or career retrospective Blu Ray/DVD in the future?

Mirai: Do you really want BD / DVD from us when you can find many live footages from us on YouTube? Maybe some people do, but I myself never ever buy live BD /DVD! Actually there are some material that can be released on BD / DVD so there's a possibility.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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1 Comment on "Sigh Frontman On New Album, Drugs And Old Ads"

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1. Ixi'kweez writes:

I didn't care for Graveward. I don't really have a good reason for it. All of their other albums have some great songs on them. Looking forward to this one.

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