Backstage Q&A: Dir en grey at the Fillmore
Dark, emotional and deliberately disturbing, Japan's Dir en grey make alt rock and metal for the kind of people who'd normally be found at goth shows. With a solid base of deeply devoted fans, they're a genuine international cult phenomenon, pulling in audiences from all over the world.
Following up on our interview with drummer Shinya last year, we sat down with Dir en grey guitarist Die backstage at the Fillmore earlier this week to discuss the band's musical evolution, his songwriting process, and how he feels about his fans.
What kind of music do you listen to on your own time, and is it at all similar to the kind of music you write for Dir en grey?
Rock music. I listen both Japanese and Western rock , both old and new. The music I listen to is similar to what I write, but I also listen to other kinds of music.
Do you ever find yourself writing music and then realizing that you can't use it because it's not a good fit for the band?
I write to create something that comes out of my mind, and then I work with the other band members to create a whole song. I do have my own creations but I always try to work them out with the other members of the band because each member has different taste in music.
You seem to be the member of the band who speaks the most English. Are you often the intermediary between Dir en grey and other bands/people that you meet on the road overseas?
In terms of speaking English, it's not only for my band. Since I'm playing live music here I want to exchange information with other musicians and want to exchange our philosophy directly with people here, especially other bands. It's a good chance to ask about the American music scene, for myself and also for the band. My English is not perfect, but I try to talk to people and I have drinks with them. I force myself to talk to people when I find a chance. I know if I use English more often, I can improve my listening and speaking skills at the same time.
Your bass player mentioned that Dir en grey is revisiting older material. Can you elaborate on that?
A few years ago we started digging out old songs and playing them again because we think that now we've developed our skills compared to when we first did those songs. We recorded a remake of our debut single, which was released ten years ago. Ten years passed by and we thought that it might be interesting to cover our old songs using our current musical skills. This is part of a continuing project.
Do those songs sound very different when you play them now?
Of course, they're totally different songs when we play them now.
How do you feel in general about how Dir en grey when it started out
compared to how it is now? Has spending so much time overseas changed
Four years ago we started playing outside of Japan, before that we played only in Japan. Since we've started to play overseas we've heard other bands and gotten exposed to different cultures and different music. We've had many opportunities to play with big bands. I found some areas of our music that needs to be improved and [know] what our strengths are as well. We were very inspired by other bands overseas but we don't want to copy them. Now we feel sure that this is what we want to do.
What do you see as your strengths and your weaknesses as an artist? Is there anything in particular you'd like to get better at?
It's a difficult question. I cannot find an answer so quickly.
Does the intensity with which your fans seem to follow you ever
scare you? It really is unusual to see fans as devoted as Dir en grey's.
It makes me happy to know they're fans.
So it's never frightening?
I think it's a natural response because they don't get to see me in real life very often, so I don't mind them following me around. I would feel the same if a foreign musician who I admire came to Japan.
If and when Dir en grey breaks up, would you want to join another band or do something completely different?
I have nothing else at all that I'm thinking about doing. I don't think about the future. I'll figure it out when it happens.