sukekiyo was formed as a side-project in December 2013 by Kyo, the vocalist of well-known Japanese band DIR EN GREY. The other members were revealed later on through his official Facebook page and website. Together, they released their very first album, Immortalis, on April 30th 2014 and are now embarking on their first headlining-tour. Before the show at Divan du Monde in Paris, we interviewed the frontman Kyo and guitarist Takumi to discuss the new project.
The project is born after DIR EN GREY released its most ambitious and diverse album of its career, meaning that I thought pretty much any aspect of music could be covered. But, you wouldn’t have started sukekiyo if it did. Can you explain why you felt it was the right time to launch your side-project ?
Kyo : Hum. I’ve never questioned myself about the whys and wherefores I decided to launch sukekiyo at the moment I did. I just wanted to. But you are right. Looking back, with « Dum Spiro Spero », I think we’ve pushed ourselves as far as we could go regarding the sound of DIR EN GREY. It was a very deep experience for me. We have delved into ourselves. I guess it was the right time to take a break and do other things.
What do you benefit from sukekiyo compared to DIR EN GREY ?
Kyo : With DIR EN GREY, there are things that I cannot do. There are songs that I cannot sing. DIR EN GREY has a certain sound, a certain image, a certain mentality. It is the result of the combination of five different people. I guess I launched sukekiyo to challenge myself and do stuff that I have never done before. I wanted to work in a new environement, with new people with different mentalities. These two bands have two different vibes. I am also a new person. I have changed a lot over the years and I wanted to express this new self. This is what I benefit from sukekiyo compared to DIR EN GREY. The other self is still living, but I wanted to open new doors and broaden my horizons.
It’s as if DIR EN GREY and sukekiyo represent two different parts of yourself, doesn’t it ?
Kyo : Yes, exactly.
Can you describe this sukekiyo part of yourself ?
Kyo : I cannot express it with words. You have to experience it to get it. It’s something that has to be felt not explained. Even if you listen to the CD, you’ll only get half of what sukekiyo is about. The most important thing about this project is the live-show. Both matter to me, but live-shows are more important. I hope you’ll grasp the meaning of it later tonight.
I guess I will. You are involved in every conceivable aspect of the band. For exemple, you are the man behind the origin, image and even the choice of the actors of the first music-video. Do you consider sukekiyo a band or a personal solo-project ?
Kyo : A band, definitely.
At what point did you feel the need to bring on other people to the project ? Did you have something specific in mind when you first started working with them or did you want to be surprised and let improvisation open the doors ?
Kyo : Hum… I’ve never wanted to do it by myself. From the very beginning, I wanted to work in collaboration. It was always on my mind. The aim of the project was to create something nobody could possibly expect and imagine, even myself. So I needed to bring on other people with me quickly. This is why I consider sukekiyo a band rather than a solo project. Every member is an added value to the project, every member has an influence on the direction of the sound. We are complementary to each other. And, you are right, I wanted to be surprised. Though I had general ideas in mind, it mattered – and still matters – to me to let improvisation an important place.
So as far as the music goes, do you think it gets better when working in team than alone ?
Kyo : Hum… Let me think about it. I think it depends. You can create great music alone and bad music in team. However, creating music with other people who have great ideas and have the same intention as you, definitely helps you surpass yourself. Working with the right people makes you create a better and more surprising music than if you would do it alone. I was lucky enough to find the right people. I feel blessed. It wouldn’t have been the same without them.
So you handpicked the other guys yourself. What were your criteria ?
Kyo : Black long hair (bursts into laughter). No seriously, I just wanted them to have the same goals and perspectives as me. I wanted to work with people who are on the same page creatively. I wanted to feel a chemistry. I didn’t want to work with crazy people who drink too much sake or people who do drugs (laughs). I wanted them to be able to play different types of music and different types of instruments. I selected serious, creative and artistic guys.
I feel a connection growing over the past few years between your work and Tibetan buddhism. I might be wrong or over-analyzing but I guess the title « Immortalis » may be linked, like « Uroboros », to re- incarnation and the circle life and death. Is Tibetan Buddhism a source of inspiration ? What do you want to convey with this title ?
Kyo : (smiles) I won’t say that you are over-analyzing but I won’t say that Tibetan buddhism is a source of inspiration either. I am not interested in religion, whatsoever. To tell the truth, I don’t even know that much about Japan’s History. However I am Japanese, and therefore a reflection of Japan. I like the Japanese way of life, I like its traditions, and buddhism exerts some influence over Japan, over its people. So I might put it out in some way and make you feel some sort of a connection with bouddhism via my music, via my lyrics, via my stage performances or visuals. But I really have no particular link to religion.
I see. The project sukekiyo follows the collections of photographies you released last year. Have you ever wanted to be more involed in the visual aspect of your bands, like using your photos for the artworks ?
Kyo : I always take pictures. I even take pictures of the band, when they are rehearsing and so on. As soon as an opportunity arises, I take pictures. I am very much interested in photography and visual arts. But unfortunately, I have no time to get more involed in it. When this tour ends, I will get back to DIR EN GREY to record the new album. Music keeps me very busy. I would love to get more involved in it but I have no time for extra stuff no matter how interesting it must be.
sukekiyo played their its first headlining-shows in Kyoto, your exhibition also took place there. Why is this city so important to you ? I am going to move there next year, so it’s quite interesting for me to know what you like best about this place.
Kyo : Ooh ! Really ? (smiles) I was born in Kyoto and my family still lives there. It’s special to me. This is where I come from. I would love to spend more time there. It’s my hometown, so it’s very close to my heart. It’s very peaceful, relax and inspiring. Everything about it is smooth. But, because of that atmosphere, people tend to be lazy and you might get bored at some point. This place is important to me, there is something special about it. I cannot really describe it. You’ll see by yourself. And the food is great (laughs) !
I bet. Tonight, you will play with sukekiyo for the first time in Paris, but for the umpteenth time in your career. Do you feel different with sukekiyo from when you play with DIR EN GEY ?
Kyo : The performance is different, the vibe on stage is different but everything else is pretty much the same. With both bands, I spend countless hours in the dressing room. Then I go on stage and go back to the dressing room. Touring feels the same with both bands but the vibe on stage is, of course, different. Everything is faster with DIR EN GREY though. Tonight is the first time I really feel like I am in Paris. We went outside with the other guys of sukekiyo, it is their first time overseas. I will definitely remember this trip. Yesterday, we went to this Japanese restaurant because we were hungry but it was closed. I will remember that too (laughs). I never should have left the hotel room (laughs). But well, seriously the feeling is not that different.
Thank you for the interview, best of luck for tonight.
Kyo : Thank you.