Japanese Black/Avantgarde metal act, Sigh, impressed me with their new album Heir To Despair, which became my favorite one since I’ve listened to the first two tracks. To find out about the concept behind the new album, the lyrics, the cover which seems to be an unusual one than the previous Sigh releases and other stuffs, here you can read an interview I had with Sigh’s mastermind, Mirai Kawashima.
Nice having you here Mirai to Antichrist magazine, how is all going?
Well, I have been really busy these days but I’m still doing fine. Thanks!
Heir To Despair is definitely one of my favorite 2018 releases, I like it a lot! Tell me what is the concept behind it.
The concept of the album is about insanity. To be precise, probably I should say it is about what insanity is. We usually think insanity is something that exists for real. But as Michel Foucault said, you can think insane people are insane simply because they are defined as insane. The same goes for being normal. What is being normal? How can you claim that you’re normal? Extreme metal was supposed not to be normal, well, at least I think so, but these days there are role models even for extreme metal. That is strange, isn’t it? The concept for Heir to Despair is something like this.
And the characterstics of the lyrics has the traditional Japanese elements. Can you detail these elements?
No, most of the lyrics are definitely in Japanese, but the contents are not. As I said above, it’s about the general view about this world through the eyes of madness. And my visions are kind of influenced by thinkers like Foucault and Hannah Arendt, I can say it’s rather Western than Japanese.
It is also the first Sigh album in Japanese. What determined you this time as tthe lyrics not to be in English as the previous ones?
Even in the past works, I sometimes used Japanese but this was the first time I used it this much. There are several reasons behind this. First of all, I can sing much better in my mother tongue as I don’t have to care about the pronunciation. Also I have been working on the Japanese traditional singing technique and definitely Japanese is easier to achieve that than English, which is a very rhythmic language with lots of voiceless letters. Japanese and English are aurally very different, so I also thought that if I’d sing in Japanese, the songs could quite different from the past works. I guess I was pretty much right about it.
I noticed also some heavy elements on the album, that solo on ”Homo Homini Lupus” (my favorite song), You (Oshima) nailed it! He joined the band few years ago replacing Shinichi (Ishikawa). How is it to have him in the band?
He joined us during the recording of Graveward, so Heir to Despair is the first album for him to get involved from the very beginning. Definitely Heir to Despair count not have been done without him. He is a great guitarist and he is a great guy, too. We should have had him much earlier.
The cover looks way too different than the others, looks like a paiting more likely. Does it have somehow a connection with the album theme?
Yes, definitely. As I said, the album is about insanity and the artwork 100% refers to insanity. This artwork by Eliran Kantor is based on the ad for the Japanese psychotropic drugs from the 60s / 70s. You know insanity is not always obvious. The woman on the artwork ostensibly looks very happy but if you go into details, you will be able to find out that everything else is wrong. The flowers she’s watering are dead. The room in the back is a mess. This is the true horror and this is the true insanity. Nowadays there are so many people trying to show how happy they are on social media. But when you are happy for real, do you really have to show it off on the Internet? Why do you have to tell people what you had for lunch? I always feel something dark is going on behind those “happy” photos.
How do you describe Sigh’s sound and/or genre at the moment? It can be placed as Black, Avantgarde, Dark metal. Of course, there are a lot of avantgarde elements in your music and if we are talking about the past releases like Scorn Defeat and Infidel Art where these albums are Black metal…
I have no idea but I personally think the word “black metal” fits the best. At least it fits better than death metal or thrash metal. There is no other genre than black metal that compasses everything. You know anything goes in black metal. Both Alcest and Blasphemy are categorized as “black metal” although you rarely hear musical resemblance in their works. In that sense, calling our work “black metal” is nothing wrong.
Since I discovered Sigh and listening to the music, it seemed very interesting to hear other instruments, the saxophone is one of them. Not many bands can do it as you’re doing, my opinion. Are there any other instruments that you have tried and transpose them into the music?
Well, we are using saxophones and flute, but these instruments are rather cliché in rock music. It’s nothing special. Considering that heavy metal is a part of rock music, using those instruments are nothing to fuss about. For Heir to Despair, we used the countless instruments. Some traditional Japanese instruments such as Shakuhachi, Shamisen, Taishokoto, Shinobue etc. were used. Just to mention harmonicas, I played chord harmonica, bass harmonica and blues harp. Regarding the wind instruments, I played flute, piccolo, Shenai, tin whistle, bansuri etc. So many were used that I can’t even remember all.
There is a book you have released recently, what is it about?
Actually here in Japan people take me as a music journalist rather than a musician. I’m not sure if it is a good thing or not, but anyway people think so. I’ve been doing countless interviews and writing so many liner notes. I write for major magazine like Burrn! and Headbang. And last year I published the book about heavy metal lyrics.
Will you be touring this year aswell? Hope to see you live someday!
Yes, there are some talks about it. Nothing has been finalized though.
As a last question, what is your opinion on the Japanese metal scene from today? Are there other bands would you suggest?
I guess there should be some cool younger bands but I am getting to old to keep up with the scene. There are some experts I love such as Abigail, Sabbat, Genocide and so on but probably they are already well-known in the international scene.
Thank you for the interview Mirai, it was my pleasure! Cheers!
Thank you very much!