Upon the occasion of the release of « Renovate », the seventh studio-album from Japanese heavy metal band NoGod, vocalist Dancho and guitarist Kyrie spoke to VerdamMnis at King Records’ office, headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.
NoGod’s music ranges from classic heavy metal to rock ballads. The band emphasizes its image with excessive makeup as it is usually the case in visual kei. A nostalgic atmosphere emerges from the whole. For the those who aren’t acquainted with NoGod yet, how would you describe the spirit of the band ?
Dancho : I think that’s a good description. Visual Kei is a movement born in Japan that does not only include excessive makeup, it also implies the theatrical performance that is to say, how to stand on stage and lead a show. There is a wide range of Visual Kei bands, and sub-movements. In our case, we focus on makeup but we play traditional heavy metal and hard rock, in its most classical side. Originally we have been a part of the Visual Kei movement, but now the two labels fit us. One is NoGoD is a ‘visual kei’. And another is that we are a ‘heavy metal band’. It is up to you to choose one of the two boxes according to your feelings, the important thing for us is the music itself.
What are your main source of inspiration (favorite bands, artistes or beyond) ?
Kyrie : Many artists inspire us. As far as the new album goes, ‘Renovate’, I would mention Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe, Aerosmith and Guns N Roses.
Your 7th studio-album titled ‘Renovate’ was just released on March 30th. Would you tell us more about it ?
Dancho : This album was made by impulse. Our initial goal was to create an album that gathers everything the band has made since its debut. We wanted a record that summarizes in few minutes our artistic evolution, so definitely it is the perfect crystallization of our musical journey. Also, some tracks reveal an older style that characterized us at the beginning of our career, while others sound more like the modern NoGoD. Personally, I think that ‘Renovate’ sounds like another concept of the best album, except that it is entirely about new songs (laughs).
I see. It’s the band’s first release since the best-of album ‘Voyage ~ 10th Anniversary Best Album’ (2015.04.08). Renovate means building something new from the old, which is significant, isn’t it ?
Kyrie : Yes, indeed. With this album, our first intention was to go back to the essence, that is to say the basic ideas and spirit, which exists in our previous albums, and is included in this album.
What were the steps of creation ?
Kyrie : Regarding the ideas of the songs, some have emerged in our minds 7 and 10 years ago while others, no more than 3 months ago. For creating the new album, we first selected the melodies, from the oldest to new compositions. Once choices were made, we went through a phase of arrangement, this is the moment where we put the finishing touches to the compositions, their frame and orchestration. After finishing this musical redevelopment, Dancho got down to writing the lyrics. The songs were then recorded in the studio. These creation steps are quite common.
What are the common points with and differences from your previous albums ?
Kyrie : These two points lie in our approach. In the conception of ‘Renovate’ and ‘Make A New World’, the previous album, we focused on the main idea of each track rather than thinking about the overall concept of the album. Each title was independently created, without the necessity to coincide with a general guideline or main theme. This design approach is the common point between our last two albums. However, all compositions from ‘Make a New World’ were written at the same time, while as for ‘Renovate’, some compositions are several years old as I mentioned earlier, some were written before the release of ‘Make a New World’.
Can you tell us more about the artcover of ‘Renovate’ ? Who designed it ?
Dancho : Actually, we wanted to change a bit the band’s image. I think we’ve always had a gothic side but that never fully emerged. So we wanted a little something more aesthetically gothic, in a sense that we ‘renovate’ something. Then we told our designer our ideas, he then designed the artcover.
Kyrie : Soon after recording was finished, we contacted our designer, Mr. Hasegawa, who has worked on our cover-jackets. He took his inspiration from the word ‘renovate’, which is actually the album title itself to design the artcover.
What’s your favorite song off of the new album and why ?
Dancho : My favorite track on the album is ‘killer clown’ (キ ラ ー · ク ラ ウ ン). I think this is the maddest track of the album. You can sense craziness out of it. In this song, I talk about a serial killer known as the ‘Killer Clown’. This is something I had never done before. Writing lyrics on this topic, a serial killer, made me curious, I wanted to try myself on it.
Kyrie : For my part, I would choose ‘hikari’ (光). Other songs on the album were created either before or at the beginning of the creation o the new album whereas ‘hikari’ has been written much later, just a few weeks ago, when almost everything was already set up. Its new character pleases me.
Dancho, can you give us further informations on the lyrics of ‘killer clown’ ?
Dancho : First, I did some research on how this man lived and thought. He was a multifaceted character, he was very smart and tidy in appearance. He was used to dress up as a clown to entertain children in hospitals but in the end, he turned out very strange, even difficult to describe. He was a very sad man, I think. I could, of course, never accept what he has done, but I wanted to talk about the sadness that has led him to those many crimes. Nothing could have saved him, he was completely lost. I wish you could read the lyrics.
Kyrie, is there a guitar solo / or riff you like best playing on the album ?
Kyrie : For this album, many of the tracks have been created based on guitar riffs I like to play without exception. But if I had to choose, I would say the sixth track, ‘hakobune’ (方舟). Without guitar riffs, this song could not simply exist. Regarding the solos, I love guitars’ effect in ‘VAMPIRE’. All guitars have been meticulously composed. There is my first solo guitar, followed by the one of Shinno (Gt.), then an unison solo between Karin on bass and myself on guitar. It is a fairly traditional structure, but I find these parts really nice to play.
How about ‘toki o koete’ (時を越えて), the only instrumental song ?
Kyrie : To be completely honest, we wanted an instrumental track to include in the middle of the album. That’s why we composed the instrumental track. Not including words was the basic idea and intentional.
Last year, you released a best-of album ‘Voyage ~ 10th Anniversary Best Album’ (2015.04.08) celebrating your 10th anniversary. After 10 years, what motivates you to keep going ?
Dancho : We started a little over 10 years and a decade is a very long time. However, I feel that we still have a long way to go. We have plenty to do, whether about the music or our live performances. I can not tell you exactly what or how, it is a feeling of unfinished business. We can do much more. This leads our motivation. The adventure goes on !
What would you say are the main three points of your career ?
Dancho : One of the most memorable moments has been our first one-man live. I still remember it ! Signing for a major record campany too. You know, the music business is tough, and many bands remain indies during their entire career. You can expand your dream more when you become major.
Kyrie : Yes, it’s true. More generally, I think every time we encountered difficult times we have been able to overcome, became memorable times in our career.
Speaking of which, what has been the biggest challenge ?
Dancho : Two years ago, we performed on stage in France. It was part of the Japan Expo. It was our first performance in Europe. We did not know at all what to expect, we were in the complete unknown. We felt how difficult it was like to perform on stage as we usually do in Japan in front of an audience we know. It became a good experience in the end. After this concert, I really had the urge to return abroad. I think we like challenges (laughs). We must succeed in breaking the language barrier with the stage performance. We must give body and soul to deliver our message.
Kyrie : To pick up on what Dancho just said, I think we focused on the language barrier as our songs are in Japanese. In addition, it was crowded with people who do not understand us since we would address them in our native language, Japanese, between songs. This left us with our music only, its energy, our overall stage performance. A real challenge though… After this performance in France, we realized that we could feel such things only abroad. I would like to renew the experience. And the … the pasta too ! I wish I could eat some again abroad (laughs). I have kept good memories (laughs). Oh, and the cheese course !
Dancho : Oh, hum (laughs) ! The cheese was really good. The wine too (laughs) !
Kyrie : The baguettes ! I want to eat good bread again, in France. We have to go back !
For the love of food, you’ll be back over Europe then ?
Dancho : This is one of our main motivations (laughs).
Would you like to add something to end the interview ?
Dancho : We will play in Canada on June and July, we look forward to meeting our foreign audience. Heavy metal is a genre born out of Japan, but with time Japan has developed its own rock and by extension the heavy metal, just like visual kei did abroad. Therefore, I think our music will be accessible. Whoever you are, purists who love the traditional heavy metal or modern rock lovers, come and see us !
Kyrie : Yes, although we sing in Japanese, our music is inspired by the West. Whoever you are, you can fully appreciate our music.
Thanks, both of you, for the interview.