DIR EN GREY is currently touring Europe to promote its eighth studio-album titled ‘Dum Spiro Spero’. The band stopped in Paris, France for two successive shows, on August 9th and 10th, at Divan du Monde. We took the opportunity to conduct an interview with guitarist Die and drummer Shinya to unveil the concept of this new record. All the photos from the photoshoot are available on VerdamMnis Magazine.
« Dum Spiro Spero » has just been released. How long did it take you to write and record it ?
Die : A long time, over a year. The writing and recording process started after we did the Budokan show in Japan on January 2010. However, during that period of time, we toured Japan as well, so I don’t think we kept any kind of precise agenda. I mean, we were not recording the whole time, but were working and creating constantly. It took us quite some time to complete it because we do not like to rush. A song can take from a month to a year to be completed. We finished it a couple of months ago.
The title of the album is a latin proverb that means « While I breathe, I hope ». Is it related to the current climate in Japan after what happened on March 11th , 2011 ?
Shinya : We decided on this title after what happened in Japan, therefore we might have been influenced by it mentally. Nevertheless, we do not want to push people towards a particular meaning. Take it as you like, yours is ours !
There is something new musically and vocally on every album. Is it intentional or does it come naturally ?
Die : It is kind of a mixture of both : It is natural and intentional at the same time. We are always eager to create something new so as to improve ourselves and not to get bored. However, we do not try to be something we are not. I mean, we just did our best to convey musically what was in our hearts, what we wanted to say at that moment in time. We weren’t that concerned by the idea of changes. The ideas come as they do. What we really focussed on was the quality of the sound. From this point, we branched-out and expanded our horizons, then we tried to portray them in the foundation of the music. Our process has always been to grasp at various things and turn what we sense into sound and this comes naturally.
« Dum Spiro Spero » is pretty dense and diverse. As for me, it is the obvious yet darker continuation of « Uroboros ». How would you describe it compared to your previous work ?
Shinya : After « Uroboros », we decided to wait some time before working on the new one — to get over it, in order to create something even more special and unique. On the new album, the songs are a bit stronger and deeper than they were on our previous work. I think « Dum Spriro Spero » goes beyond « Uroboros ».
Die : Like you said Mandah, it is much more diverse and gloomier. I totally agree with that. All the songs were created with seven-string guitars, that is why we have heavier and darker sounding on the new album. There are more harmony parts and solos which adds color viriancy to the guitar parts. « Dum Spiro Spero » is probably more guitar-oriented than « Uroboros » and definitely much more wider musically-speaking.
The album opens with « Kyoukotsu no Nari », a spine-chilling instrumental track. The intros of your albums always offer an accurate insight of the sound and atmosphere of the whole. Do you write the intro of the album you’re working on prior to the other songs so as to lead you or do you write it once every song is done ?
Die : Hum… Interesting. There was no vision for the album as a whole to start with, we tried to focus on making one song at a time and ultimately ended-up with a complete image. « Kyoukotsu No Nari » was made during the last part of the recording. We made « The Blossoming Beelzebub », the first song of the album, almost at the same time to get a logical and coherent combination. Actually, we changed the arrangements of « The Blossoming Beelzebub » a little bit afterwards because we wanted it to sound more suitable with « Kyoukotsu No Nari ». We do not have any particular agenda in the writing of the opening songs but it is very true to say that these songs are special to us and that we focus on them.
The bonus track « Rasetsukoku » is a re-recording of the original song found on your 2000 album « Macabre ». This is something you’ve done in the past with « Hydra », « Zan » for examples. How do you choose the songs you re-record and why ?
Shinya : This time around, we decided to re-record « Rasetsukoku » because we know that it is a very important song for the live-performances, not only in Japan but overseas as well. The fans get wild when we play it, so we really wanted to re-write it in order to play it on tour. We just wanted to refresh it for both, the fans and the band.
What has been your biggest challenge in the recording of the new album ?
Die : The most challenging part of the making of the album was probably the mixing (Mixing engineer : Tue Madsen) and the mastering process (Mastering engineer : Alan Douches). As for the mastering part, we wanted our sound to be as perfect as possible, I mean as we wanted it, but since we called upon a western guy for it, it was pretty hard to discuss it through the Internet. This is something that has better be done in person. It was very complicated to exchange ideas, assemble the pieces and make sure to have what we wanted. The mastering process was definitely the most challenging step of the recording.
I guess the artcover represents Tarani Bosatsu (Tara), the « Mother of Liberation » in Tibetan Buddhism. Can you tell us more about it ?
Shinya : Woah ! The album cover is not particulary based on religion. For « Dum Spiro Spero », we wanted a spiritual symbol that everybody can relate to, that can speak to everyone more precisely. We also wanted something different from our previous artworks. Yoda Koji designed it. We have been working with him for years.
« Dum Spiro Spero »’s artwork and title refer to hope and life while its content – the music and lyrics – evokes quite the opposite. Was this made on purpose ?
Die : This contradiction was not really intentional. « Hope » is definitely a key-word for the album and especially for the art-cover. We have been discussing it a lot. The scenery of the bamboos is very meaningful. The bamboo conveys the idea of sacredness and serenity yet on the art-cover the wood of bamboos is dark and invasive. The light coming from the enlightenment-being (Tarani Bosatsu) conveys the idea of spirituality and life. Ultimately, it means to keep faith and hope alive even though you are living the worst : While I breath, I hope. We have been talking about it a lot… How the light shines on the bamboos and so on. As for the content of the album, it is the exact same thing. Like you said, the most part of the music is dark and heavy but the melodies enlighten the whole. If it makes you question, it is great. Do we have hope or not ? It is meaningful.
I get it, interesting. The « Lotus » also conveys the values and ideas you described.
Die : Exactly.
As for you, what is the greatest strength of DIR EN GREY (compared to other bands ) ?
Die : Hum… It is hard to tell because we do not look at the other bands (laughs). But as for me, I think that we have the courage to do what the others are scared to. I mean, musically we go beyond the format established elsewhere. Our visuals and videos are meticulous, outrageous and grotesque. The whole identity of the band is unique. This is our strength. We motivate each other, the idea is to grow together, develop together, and continue to inspire each other with what we individually bring to the band. It is definitely a plus. Also, most of the bands try to be friendly to people, to the media ; this is not our case. We are not here to please anybody and we have the courage to do what we want to do in every level.
Thank you for the interview.
Die : Thank you very much. This was an interesting interview.