Saturday, June 9, 2012

INTERVIEW - Mirai Kawashima (Sigh) - Nightmares and Dreamscapes Abound

Recently I had the great honor of interviewing the vocalist and keyboard player of the Metal band Sigh from Japan, Mirai Kawashima. I can't express how grateful I am for him taking the time to answer all of my questions and in great detail! Find out what Mirai has to say on everything from the bands origins, the current activities of Sigh, the future of Sigh and even a little R-Rated material!

Photo courtesy of David Hall

RSF -Thanks a lot for taking the time to talk to us, I know how busy you are!

M -Well, to be honest, right now I feel more lazy than busy. I'm completely burned out on everything.

RSF-Would you care to introduce yourself to our readers?

M-Sigh are Mirai Kawashima - Vocals, Keyboards, Dr.Mikkanibal - Alto Saxophone, Vocals, Satoshi Fujinami - Bass, Shinichi Ishikawa - Guitar, Junichi Harashima - Drums.

Biography (Better to post a link than cut off what was asked)

RSF-You recently released a new album titled "In Somniphobia" back in March of this year and it's gotten very good review. Where would you rank this in terms of how happy you are with the final product?

M-The way it turned out to be was perfect. These days, I program everything on my PC with MIDI and have then replace with the real instruments. Thus, I know exactly what the album will sound like before hand. Still we have to go into the studio to record the drum parts, but other than that, mostly we can work on my PC so we don't have any budget pressure and we can keep changing and arranging the songs until we are 100% satisfied. So I can easily say that the final product of "In Somniphobia" is perfect, at least for us.

RSF-Your latest album features guest vocals by Metatron (The Meads of Asphodel) and Kam Lee (The Grotestquery/Death). How did that come about? Have you worked with them before?

M-I don't exactly remember how I met Metatron as it's a long time ago, but I believe he e-mailed me via internet first. We've been working together on a lot of things. He did guest appearances on our previous albums and I composed and played keyboards for his band, too. Our cooperation will last in the future.

As for Kam, we met through Killjoy. When Dr.Mikannibal and I visited Florida and stayed at Killjoy's house, Kam came there too as his house was pretty close from there. As I had been a huge early Death/Massacre fan, it was a huge honor for me to meet the legend in person. He did some vocals for our latest album "Scenes from Hell" and this time he even wrote great lyrics for "Far Beneath in the In-Between".

RSF-The artwork on In Somniphobia is amazing. Could you please tell us who created this brilliant piece of art?

M-It was drawn by Eliran Kantor. He did the one for our latest album "Scenes from Hell" too. Seriously he is genius. He always captures exactly what we want. This time we just told him about the nightmare concept and gave some demo tracks and the result was perfect. That's exactly what we wanted to express with our music.

RSF-"In Somniphobia" has a very dreamscape like feel to it, like a soundtrack to a dream that has turned into a nightmare that as hard as you try you cannot wake up from and just when you think you may find relief you're swept back into the darkness. Were you truly telling the tale of your dreams and by extension your nightmares?

M-The lyrics are not exactly about the actual nightmares I had, but definitely I tried to express my nightmarish world with music. I don't know why, but I always have nightmares. And I often realize that I am just dreaming in them. And sometimes even if I think I have awaken, it's just another nightmare. "In Somniphobia" is definitely a world like that.

RSF-This is the first album where Dr.Mikkanibal's skills as a saxophonist really shine through and just adds a whole new level to your music as a whole. How did she join Sigh?

M-When we were recording "Hangman's Hymn", we were searching for somebody to model on the booklet then I met her via our common friends. She told me that she was a singer for a death metal band and gave me a demo, but I didn't expect anything thinking it'd be another amateur hobby band. However, I was totally surprised to hear her vocal, it was so powerful and sung in decent English! 99% of the Japanese metal bands' English is horrible, but hers was not. Then I went to see her and it was amazing again. I seriously thought she should not be in such a small local band playing for 30 people or so. Then I realized that she played saxophone, too. She had everything so I asked her to join Sigh.

RSF-On "In Somniphobia" you are credited for performing vocals and playing the piano, synthesizer, Clavinet D-6, organ, Roland RE-201, vocoder, ring modulator, recorder, sitar, tabla, tampura, shortwave radio, jaw harp and the glockenspiel. My question is...How were you influenced to incorporate all of these what one might call traditional instruments like the sitar, tabla, tampura and jaw harp and combine it with the more modern sound manipulators like synthesizers?

M-I'm a vintage keyboard lover so I play old stuff like Minimoog, Prophet-5, Clavinet, Fender Rhodes Electric Piano etc. All these instruments have very strong sounds and even in this 21st century, they cannot be replaced by digital sampler in my opinion. Aslo I've been a huge fan of traditional Indian music, so I was taking lessons for Sitar and Tabla. As you know all of this Indian instruments are nothing new, or rather it's cliche' in rock music, already tried 50 years ago. Although I myself am a huge fan of 60s/70s rock music, I have no will to re-create it in 2012.

We live in 21st century, so we have to create something that can be created only in this modern days. Or else, we don't have to exist when there are tons of great rock/metal albums from 20th century!

RSF-You released your first album way back when in 1993 on Deathlike-Silence Productions which was found by Euonymus (Mayhem), how in the world were you lucky enough to get signed to such a prestigious label?

M-When we recorded "Requiem for Fools" EP in 1992 for now-defunct US's Wild Rags Records, we sent it out to all the labels we knew from all over the world to hunt an LP deal. But back then, everybody was enthusiastic about Death Metal from Florida and Grindcore, and Thrash Metal was considered to be totally outdated. As "Requiem for Fools" was heavily influenced by Thrash Metal, nobody was interested in working with us except Euronymous. The letter from him was rather incredible like "Dead was supposed to write you back, but unfortunately he shot himself in the head. Of course I took the picture! Anyway DSP is interested in releasing your album.".

Of course immediately we said yes because we had no other choice at all! Of course we never expected that DSP would be such a legendary label later. We still thank Euronymous a lot. Without him, Sigh must have ended in a demo band without releasing any album.

RSF- Okay whenever I do an interview I like to mix things up a little bit, that's what freestyle is all about after all so I hope you're ready!

RSF-Sigh are a unique metal band surrounded by a world of constantly multiplying generic idol groups and mediocre visual bands. You've been around for 22 years (As long as I've been alive) and you've toured the world multiple times, but yet you all have day jobs. It's obvious that the standard of living in Japan is incredibly; somewhat ridiculously high.

RSF-Would you say it's worth working outside the band so you can maintain your integrity as musicians?

M-Obviously it's impossible to live on Extreme Music here in Japan. You'd need like $30,000 every year to survive here, (And I must say $30,000 is not a good income here.) and we have five members. That means, we have to keep making $150,000 every year by Extreme Music if we want to live on it. Do you really think such a thing is possible? Living on music is your choice, you should not choose Extreme Metal here. And having a day job isn't bad at all. If we lived on music, do you think you could make a dangerous album like "In Somniphobia" which nobody would like??? I'd rather work and do what I want when I make music. And fortunately my day job is a really easy one.

RSF-During the course of an interview I always ask the person if they are single and of course I can't ask you that because you're very fortunate to have yourself one hell of a catch! Dr.Mikkanibal is beautiful, smart an amazing vocalist and saxophonist. I didn't ask a question did I? I guess I'm just saying you're a very lucky man! I'm jealous! (Laughs)

M-Yes, I'm not bragging, but she's a truly special person as my significant other, friend and a band member. Seriously she's one of the smartest persons I ever met in my 40+ year life and I truly think that she's musically more talented than I am. She understand English like I do, which is pretty much rare in this country, and she growls like a beast on stage.

RSF- You've said before that you don't like to go to the bigger sex shops because they're for posers so I have to ask. What is your biggest fetish?

M-I tried almost everything you could imagine. I mean EVERYTHING. But my extreme dream is to let Dr.Mikkanibal kill me during having sex. Having sex with her on top and let her choke me to death when both of us come.

RSF- Wow that's definitely extreme!

RSF-Seeing as how it's very hard to find good music these days, would you please recommend some music for our readers? It can be any genre and of course from any country. I myself would love to find any kind of music from Japan that comes close to Sigh in the metal scene quite frankly!

M-I myself cannot find good music these days. I am not sure there's no good music these day or I am just getting old. As far as a Japanese artist goes, I am a huge fan of J.A. Caeser, but I am not sure if his works are available outside of Japan or not, and his works could be too "Japanese" for non-Japanese. And basically you need to understand Japanese to understand his works. I don't think there's a Metal band that sounds like Sigh whether from Japan or not. But if you want to listen to some good Japanese Heavy Metal, you should try Genocide Nippon. They're really cool.

RSF- Age is just a number! You definitely don't look anywhere near 42! I listen to a lot of Japanese music with Japanese lyrics and although I don't understand it very well, I've always had such a deep connection with it, I hope to learn it a lot better in the future. I've never heard of Genocide Nippon before, thanks a lot for recommending them to me!

RSF- With having just released an album are you planning to take some time off and perhaps focus on one of your many side projects or do you hope for Sigh to start touring sometime later this year?

M-We've been and will play serveral gigs here in Japan. And I believe "Bathory Tribute" on which we're participating should be out now on The Meads of Asphodel's label. We did "Under the Runes". Later this year "Imaginary Sonicscape" triple LP should be out. There's been a talk about touring and fesitval appearances too, but nothing has been comfirmed yet. Other than that, I am not sure. If I started feeling inspired, I might start writing and making a demo for a new album, but right now, I feel no energy at all....

RSF-You're an amazing vocalist and you paly the keyboard, not to mention everything else (Laughs), could you tell us some the people who have influenced you as an artist?

M-There are so many, and everything I listen to influences me more or less even if I am not aware of that. But probably Celtic Frost, Frank Zappa, John Zorn, The Beatles and The Beach Boys should be the top five bands that influenced Sigh's music. All of these artists told us that anything goes in music.

RSF-Awesome! And yes music is only bound to what we allow it to do, too many people try to restrict their creativity for personal gain in my opinion!

RSF- One last question before we go because I know you're so busy! You've put everything in this latest album and it shows, so I have to ask. Where can Sigh go from here? Will this quite possibly be your last album?

M-I have several rough ideas. We might make an album with all the songs in the vein of "The Transfiguration Fear" or "Purgatorium". Namely a very Heavy Metal album with some twist. We might make "Scorn Defeat" Part 2. Making a primitive album with this line-up might be interesting. But it is also true that "In Somniphobia" could be our last album. I'm not sure. Making an album requires you to have a huge energy, and I am not sure if I still have it. I'm getting old, now I am already 42. Surely it wont be difficult to make a not-bad-but-not-that-great-either album, but what is the point??? If times comes, I'll put it to an end. We'll see.

RSF- Those are some very cool ideas and I'm sure you've still got it in you to make an album that will even TOP "In Somniphobia"! Then again, I think everyone would respect your decision to end it rather than create something not up to par.

RSF-Okay I lied! This is the last question! Would you like to say anything to our readers before we go?

M-Thank you very much for the interview. I have no idea at all what the future holds for Sigh, but feel free to follow us on Twitter for the latest information


We could like to thank Mirai for taking the time to have such a long interview and I greatly appreciate how extensively he answered all those questions! You can also LIKE Sigh on Facebook Sigh (Facebook) and you can get their latest album "In Somniphobia" as well as their other albums on iTunes US.

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