Interview Exclusive

Interview with Die from DIR EN GREY

23/02/2020 2020-02-23 13:00:00 JaME Author: Lucy C.H., JBH

Interview with Die from DIR EN GREY

DIR EN GREY's guitarist Die spoke with JaME backstage at the Elysée Montmartre just before the band's European tour finale in Paris.

© Lucy CH - JaME team

Nestled on a steep slope between the Sacré Coeur and the bohemian Boulevard de Rochechouart, at the very heart of Paris's divisive red-light district, the Elysée Montmartre is a majestic building with an austere bas-relief facade and a centuries-old ballroom bearing the signature of Gustave Eiffel. The birthplace to the French cancan, it was once one of the city's main creative hubs, having hosted a myriad of renowned European artists of the post-Napoleonic era.

Today, it comes alive again, albeit with a different form of art, no less disruptive than the transgressions that once made its name. For the Elysée has always belonged to the daring, the transgressors and the misfits. Exit the absinthe, the frills and the bright colours, enter a cruder, more sinister kind of tune.

Backstage, in the very underbelly of the ballroom, guitarist Die sat at a canteen table with the Olympian calm of someone who's no stranger to sold-out concerts in foreign lands. He is a man of few words, parsimonious in his remarks, but he talked of his experience in Europe with a fond smile on his face, slightly drawn features that loosened as he shared insights on DIR EN GREY's creative process, the emotions they try to convey to their fans and what metal music means to him.

Today is your THIS WAY TO SELF DESTRUCTION European tour final. Would you like to say a few words about it?

Die: Sure. The last time we were in Europe was back in 2018. This year we kicked off this leg of the tour with a show in Russia, and this evening's our very last show here in France. In every venue, we were greeted by many, many people. Everyone gave us an incredibly warm welcome. It was a great tour.

We noticed that this tour's setlist consists mostly of songs from your latest album, The Insulated World. This record's sound has been described as exceptionally heavy and less melodic than your previous ones. What are your thoughts on this? Was this heavier vibe intentional?

Die: Well, when we started working on The Insulated World, our goal was to break all the rules, all the chains. To let one's foot slip off the pedal, do you know what I mean? Everything that had been holding us back, we wanted to get rid of it. It is not a strictly mechanical process, and it certainly doesn't happen only at a musical level. It is far more complex than that.

From when we started working on the artistic concept, we began to come up with some specific ideas that we wanted to share through this record. And the way to go about it was to start with a clean slate, to go about it intuitively, candidly, without overthinking it. That being said, I don't personally find The Insulated World particularly heavy compared to some of our older records. The sound was intended to be the way it came out, though, it was a well thought-out process.

Speaking of heavy tunes, one often sees DIR EN GREY described as "some sort of metal". You're known for your dark themes, for this very unique somber atmosphere that took the shape of a leitmotif all throughout your career. The Insulated World is a good example of it. And yet, people have been following you for years, en masse, in Japan and throughout the rest of the world.

They are vocal about how DIR EN GREY's music carried them through rough times and they gather here today with an expectant smile on their face, eager to score a spot on the front row. Would you say that even the most hardcore forms of metal can nonetheless carry a positive element to them?

Die: Yes, absolutely. Our lyrics have a lot of dark elements, it's our trademark of sorts. But you see, what really matters is what comes after. After the storm, so to speak. It is easier to understand if you look at what happens during live concerts. We can dredge up a lot of troubling feelings, some will be the darkest known to man. It is one of our main themes, that's for sure, but the catharsis that comes after is the silver lining most of us so desperately crave.

Something positive, some sort of light, like you put it. Moreover, we are very wary of how the audience reacts to each song. We don't just stand there, play sad songs and then go home. No. We watch how people react, we interpret what we see. Seeing how our music is received and perceived is very important for us.

And what are your main inspirations: is there a personal element to DIR EN GREY's songs? Do you write about your own experiences in real life, or do you so indirectly, through the emotions you absorb through books films, other music...? How do you keep up that impressive creative flow?

Die: Well, inspiration, inspiration... (he hesitates) It's a very difficult question, actually. I can't really pinpoint a specific source of inspiration for us. With DIR EN GREY, we always strive to create something that has never been done before. You know, when you listen to this new band and you think "oh, their music reminds me of so and so"? Well, this is exactly what we want to avoid. This is why we tend to filter our inspirations.

We often start with something quite complex, and the entire process is more like streamlining it, simplifying things until we can put them on a record people will want to listen to. I would say that's the core of the work when we're trying to create something new: breaking things down, cutting the frills, simplifying until we have something that sounds like DIR EN GREY.

Do you listen to lots of dark metal music yourself? Or are you open to other genres as well?

Die: Actually, I listen to everything I find on Apple Music. I like listening to new releases, I really enjoy seeing how some bands and artists mature over the course of their career. Some do really change a lot, others always stay true to themselves. That's what I find really interesting.

What about European bands, are there any that you particularly like?

Die: European bands, well... oh yes, there's Dagoba! We first played with them here in Paris back in 2015. They're a very powerful band, their music is really aggressive. As for other bands, feel free to recommend me some new ones!

And our readers sure will help you build quite a playlist! Last but not least, have you had a moment to visit Paris? What do you reckon?

Die: Sure, I've been to France many times before, but this was the first time I climbed the hill all the way up to the Sacré Coeur. From up there you get this insane view of the city, I loved it. By the way, I really like French bread too, the baguettes. I know they're a really commonplace thing for you locals, but believe me, they're delicious!

JaME would like to thank Die, DIR EN GREY's management, Veryshow Productions and tour manager/interpreter Nora for this interview.


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Album Digital Release 2018-09-26 2018-09-26
Single Digital Release 2019-09-18 2019-09-18

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