Saturday, September 13, 2008
DFSBP Podcast Series #1: Mirai Kiwashima of Sigh
Greetings, good people. This post kicks off what I hope will become a regular series on DFSBP. (But as with everything having to do with this blog, it would be silly of me to promise anything.) I think the podcast--which is, as I understand it, nothing more than a radio program in the form of an MP3--is a good fit with one of my main initiatives on this site, which is to provide in-depth interview content. And sometimes, it's cooler to hear the actual audio recording of a given conversation rather than simply reading the transcript. So here we are. I present you with a 25-minute audio interview I conducted with Mirai Kawashima, frontman of the long-running Japanese black-metal band Sigh:
DFSBP Podcast Series #1: Mirai Kawashima of Sigh
(Topics covered include: how the band got its unusual name, the challenges of speaking in Japanese yet singing in English, the band's relationship with the infamous Euronymous of Mayhem fame, the role of humor in heavy metal and Mirai's love of classical music.)
Please note that since I was reaching him in Tokyo, Mirai was good enough to speak with me at approximately 5am Japan time. His answers were brief, but extremely insightful; I really enjoyed this chat. His accent is a bit thick, but I don't think you'll have too much trouble understanding him. Please let me know if anything in particular is unclear.
NYC readers should note that Sigh is playing at B.B. King Blues Club (yes, that unlikeliest of shrines for extreme-metal in NYC) in Times Square this coming Tuesday, 9/16. They were supposed to come around last year, but it fell through. This month's U.S. tour is the band's first ever full trip around the States. And now a few words on Sigh--followed by a few MP3 links--for the uninitiated.
By way of an introduction, I'll reprint a brilliant "disclaimer" of sorts that ran on the back of Sigh's 1997 full-length, Hail Horror Hail (I discuss this particular message with Mirai in the podcast):
"This album is way beyond the conceived notion of how metal, or music, should be. In essence it is a movie without pictures; a celluloid phantasmagoria. Accordingly, the film jumps, and another scene, seemingly unconnected with the previous context, is suddenly inserted in between frames. Every sound on this album is deliberate, and if you find that some parts of this album are strange, it isn't because the music is in itself strange, but because your conscious self is ill-equipped to comprehend the sounds produced on this recording."
I remember first being exposed to this band by the heavy-duty experimental percussionist, vocalist and visual artist Fritz Welch, best known for his work in Peeesseye (say "pee-ess-eye"), info on which can be found here. (Interestingly, that band name was formerly rendered PSI, which could conceivably be pronounced "sigh.") I think he turned me onto their incredible Imaginary Sonicscape album four or five years ago. But I didn't really get into them until 2007's Hangman's Hymn--perhaps my conscious self was ill-equipped before this time!--which I reviewed in Time Out and which ended up making my Top 10 list for last year. I'm not really in the habit of quoting my own words, but since this seems like a pretty solid and concise description for the band overall, I'll make an exception: I characterized the record as "a ghoulishly extreme firestorm of symphonic thrash-metal lunacy." I'll stand by that.
Anyway, Sigh has been around since 1990, and Mirai, whom I interviewed, has been the frontman and mastermind of the group that entire time. Despite being from Japan, the band did have some contact with the infamous Norwegian scene, signing to Deathlike Silence Productions in the early '90s. (The head of that label was none other than Euronymous, the Mayhem guitarist who was murdered by his bandmate Varg Vikernes, a.k.a. Burzum, in what might be the most notorious incident in metal history. More info here for those who don't already know this grisly tale.) Sigh's excellent full-length debut, Scorn Defeat, came out on DSP in 1993, after Euronymous's death. It's a very strange and varied album, as you can hear from the crazy organ-and-voice invocation "Gundali" below.
The band only got weirder after that, seasoning its music with a wide variety of left-field influences, including psych-rock, electronica, classical, fusion and even Beatles-y pop. This eclectic approach culminated on the aforementioned Imaginary Sonicscape disc, released in '01, which can only be described as a trip. It's one of the weirdest and most enjoyable metal albums I've ever heard. After a while you come to expect the constant stylistic shifts, but they never get in the way of solid songwriting. Gallows Gallery, which followed, abandoned Mirai's trademark shrieking altogether for a headlong foray into boogie-rock, but then the band headed back into the intensely extreme territory of Hangman's Hymn. The latest Sigh release is a tribute to one of Mirai's favorite bands, Venom, which you can order from The End Records.
Here are four Sigh MP3s to get you started:
Shingontachikawa, from 1997's Ghastly Funeral Theatre
Scarlet Dream, from 2001's Imaginary Sonicscape
Me-Devil from 2007's Hangman's Hymn
Gundali from 1993's Scorn Defeat
And here are two other relevant links:
*Sigh's official homepage, The Slaughtergarden
*A brilliant blog post that Mirai recently contributed to the Headbangers Ball homepage re: the "Evil, Darkness of Classical Composers Schubert, Liszt"
*The band, at their most rock & rolling, performing live in Japan in '02: