Interview Exclusive

Interview with BlackLab

20/05/2020 2020-05-20 02:00:00 JaME Author: Christine

Interview with BlackLab

Osaka's "dark witch doom duo" BlackLab discuss their new album "Abyss", their creative process, and how they've been spending their time in the wake of COVID-19.

© BlackLab. All rights reserved.
Dubbed a "dark witch doom duo", BlackLab play a heavy, fuzzy, punk-infused brand of doom/stoner metal, with a vibe that has drawn comparisons to early Boris. They just released their second album Abyss digitally via British label New Heavy Sounds on May 8th, and they were also slated to play their very first show overseas at Desert Fest in London this month. Unfortunately, the event had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis, so fans overseas will have to wait a while to experience one of their live performances.

However, despite their bleak look and sound, BlackLab are staying positive. JaME was able to get some insights from guitarist and vocalist Yuko Morino and drummer Chia Shiraishi about the new album, their musical roots, and how they've been spending their quarantine time.

What drew you to doom and stoner metal? Was there a particular artist that inspired you, or is there an aspect of the sound or the scene that appealed to you?

Yuko Morino: To be honest, I'm not that familiar with the doom/stoner metal music scene. Since I was young, I loved Japanese heavy psychedelic rock and 70s rock music such as The Stooges and Led Zeppelin, etc. Of course, I love early Black Sabbath as well. Also, I was shocked to see that Sleep and Cathedral were included in the music video compilation that was released by Earache in the 90s. At that time I still didn't know there was a scene called doom/stoner metal. My recent favourite discovery is The Dead Weather. I feel that this music led me to discover doom/stoner metal. I'm still looking about for more though.

Your performance at Desert Fest in London unfortunately ended up being cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis. Are you still planning to head overseas in the future? If so, are there any countries besides the UK you’d like to visit, given the opportunity?

Yuko Morino: If possible, I'd like to perform at Desert Fest next year. For now, there isn’t a plan for touring abroad. Fans in Europe, US, Taiwan, China and many other countries are hoping to see us live. I want to go to various countries, but I don't have a particular country in my mind.

But, in the post-corona world, it's expected there will be soaring air ticket prices and limits on global activity. Because of this we realise touring may be difficult.

Chia Shiraishi: I was really disappointed about Desert Fest, but I haven't lost hope for next year. We are not able to make any live plans in Japan as well as overseas, but we would like to play a show in any country where someone wants to see our performance. I am interested in seeing the underground music scene in places such as China, South Korea and Taiwan.

How does Abyss differ from your previous album Under The Strawberry Moon 2.0? Did you try anything new with this release?

Yuko Morino: The recording method has not changed from our previous work. By the way, what we had for lunch (Domino's Pizza delivery) was the same. Anyway, microphones and guitar pedals are about the only things that changed. But adding a few guitar pedals was really worth it, creating a new guitar sound. I added a fixed wah blender and a buffer to my board. Especially Daredevil's Atomic Cock (fixed wah blender) worked very well. As a result, the guitar sound was getting more mad than the previous album. Besides that, I tried overdubbing the Moog sound into only one song. Oh, and another thing, Chia put a little chorus and a bell sound in one song.

What is your songwriting process like? Do you have something you look to for inspiration?

Yuko Morino: My composition is often inspired by the visual image of movies and manga scenes I've seen in the past. For example, "Edward Scissorhands", "Brazil", "Mad Max", "The Ring Virus", "JoJo's Bizarre Adventure", "AKIRA", and more.

About the way I tend to write songs, at first, I define roughly what kind of song I want to write. Fast or slow, what time signature/irregular time signature?, etc. Next, there are riffs that came to mind in my daily life. I arrange them, unfold them, and assemble the configuration. And then we have jam sessions at the studio rehearsal where myself and Chia make the song together. After several rehearsals, the drum pattern is decided. We complete the track in this way and then create the vocal melody. Finally, I apply the lyrics to the vocal melody.

Were any of the songs on Abyss particularly difficult to write or record?

Yuko Morino: There wasn't a lot of time between the songs needing to be finished and the recording, so that was a bit of a challenge. However, on the other hand, I think that this could have been a good factor for making us more focused on the recording. So, we were able to play with a very good mindset. About recording the guitars, I'm not very good at playing leads. I made mistakes several times and retried. It bothered me every time. Chained had the most retakes. I took a lot of time with the opening phrase. What was difficult to write was the melody on the verse of Weed Dream. I couldn't easily think of a melody that fit my vocal range.

Chia Shiraishi: We record the guitar and drums together. So, if I make a mistake, Yuko would have to start over, right? When I thought of that I’d get nervous, so there was a lot of pressure I’d have to try and work past in my head.

You mentioned that not just your shows in the UK, but also gigs in Japan were cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis. How have you been passing the time recently?

Yuko Morino: I spend most of my time at home. But we made a new video for Weed Dream. And, we did a live show without an audience and recorded it in a video. I spend the rest of my time cooking, writing songs and looking for new riffs while playing a guitar. Oh, and I'm thinking of answers to interviews. Just like now.

Chia Shiraishi: I enjoy doing what I like at home. For example, I meditate, look up at the moon, flip through tarot cards ... I'm relaxing. I want to keep this current relaxed feeling even after COVID-19 is over.

Can you please leave a message for your overseas fans?

Yuko Morino: Thank you for supporting us. The world is in chaos right now, but music will never stop. We hope to meet y'all at live shows sometime. Thanks.

Chia Shiraishi: Thank you for always supporting us. I think of the present as a preparatory period, and I would like to meet you with the best performance when safety returns to the world. Thank you with love.

JaME would like to thank BlackLab and For The Lost for this interview opportunity.

Abyss is available for download and streaming here, and it can be purchased on vinyl and CD here.
 Download or stream "Abyss"  Buy "Abyss" on CD or vinyl


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