SIGH - IMAGINARY SONICSCAPE - CENTURY MEDIA
SIGH - HANGMAN’S HYMN - THE END
Japan's Sigh has been a seriously under-rated force for a long while. The group's mind-expanding catalogue is a collection of music without boundaries, and the band consistently writes excellent material that deserves to be heard by the masses (put down those Trivium records, kids). Sigh's latest effort is Hangman's Hymn, an album that is immediately striking in both its aural and visual stances: the record's outstanding front cover is a reflection of the work enclosed, Sigh is both shocking and enrapturing the senses simultaneously. Metallian had the cool opportunity to chat with Sigh vocalist/bass player/keyboard player Mirai Kawashima about a range of interesting topics. - By James Tape 12.10.2007.
METALLIAN: Hangman's Hymn has some really unexpected elements on it, including symphonic black metal keyboards and even some King Diamond moments. Why did you decide to use those elements this time around?
KAWASHIMA: The orchestration has always been on our albums, especially our early albums like Infidel Art. I have three main musical backgrounds, namely heavy metal, thrash metal and classical music. I took classical piano for many years when I was younger. So, classical music is a very huge part of our sound. I try to incorporate it, and for some people it might be unexpected but it's pretty natural for us to use classical parts on the albums. As for the King Diamond vocals, I can sing high but I can't sing like him. I'm a big fan of King Diamond, so that comparison is an honour.
METALLIAN: The cover is fantastic, as well. How did you come up with the concept for the cover?
KAWASHIMA: Adam Wentworth did the cover artwork for our previous album, Gallows Gallery. I one hundred percent trust his taste, so I gave him the rough mix of the album and the lyrics and left it up to him. So it was Adam who completely came up with the album artwork.
METALLIAN: It's a very striking cover. When you see it, you're surprised and shocked.
KAWASHIMA: It makes a strong impression on the first look, I agree with you. It gives a strong impression when you see it in CD stores. It's a strong cover, I think. We're very happy with Adam's work.
METALLIAN: What are the goals for Sigh at this point? What do you guys still want to accomplish?
KAWASHIMA: It's very hard to tell because I think there's always room to improve your art. So I won't set any goals as a band, because I personally think we can push this forever. If we ever feel like we've achieved our goals, it should be the end of the band. This can mean the end of creativity. There's nothing perfect in art.
METALLIAN: It's interesting you take it from that angle, because a lot of bands when I ask that question tell me about record sales or that kind of thing.
KAWASHIMA: We play black metal, thrash metal and heavy metal. If I wanted to sell many more CDs, I would play pop music or accessible music. It's almost a big contradiction to play this kind of music and want to sell a million albums. That's a really hard thing to do. So I don't think it's the goal to sell millions of albums. We play this style. If we wanted to sell more, we would have to change the style. I've been listening to thrash metal since the '80s, and I listened to bands like At War, Bloodfeast and Venom. They never sold millions of albums, but that was the style of music I loved. I've really loved it for more than twenty years now. It would be cool if more and more people listened to our music, but it's not our goal at all.
METALLIAN: The band's music, from record to record, is always changing. What inspires that constant change?
KAWASHIMA: The biggest reason we change is because we always try to top the previous album. We never intend to change the style. If we came up with ideas in the vein of Hangman's Hymn and it topped Hangman's Hymn, we definitely would do Hangman's Hymn Part II. But we've found that the only way to top the previous album is by taking a different approach. It's not on purpose at all, it just sort of happens.
METALLIAN: Probably your most diverse album is (2001's) Imaginary Sonicscape. It's an excellent record. What are your thoughts on it more than five years later?
KAWASHIMA: I still like Imaginary Sonicscape a lot. It's totally different from Hangman's Hymn. It's more druggy and psychedelic, and it's got a lot of old, vintage keyboards. I personally love that album very much. I don't think we can top that album by doing something in the same vein, and I still really love that album.
METALLIAN: Given that the songs from that record are quite different, do you play a lot of the songs from that album live?
KAWASHIMA: We still play one or two tracks from Imaginary Sonicscape, we still play Dreamsphere (Return To The Chaos) and Bring Back The Dead. When we play live these days we try to play songs from every album. We go all the way from our first record, Scorn Defeat, up to Hangman's Hymn.
METALLIAN: Which songs are the most challenging to play live?
KAWASHIMA: I don't know... I think they're all the same. The old ones are pretty hard to reproduce, but the songs that have been overdubbed pretty heavily are difficult, too. Now we have a saxophone player in the band so I think we can play them better than before, but they're still pretty hard.
METALLIAN: Speaking of the live show, Sigh was supposed to tour North America during the summer, but at the last minute the tour didn't happen. Will Sigh be touring North America soon?
KAWASHIMA: We're going to tour the US next summer, in July or August. We were looking forward to playing there, but unfortunately the plan fell through because of bad organization. But we'll be back in North America next year.
METALLIAN: Around the time Gallows Gallery was released, I remember reading that the album included harmful audio technology that dated back to World War II. I'm wondering if you could elaborate on that.
KAWASHIMA: It was one hundred percent a joke (laughs). At first, the album was going to be released on Century Media but they didn't like the album. They wanted us to play much more of a black metal sound. So we talked as a band and decided to leave the label. Then we made up a story about the sonic weapons thing. It was just a small joke to cover up the label change. Somehow it became the centre of attention. To be honest, I never thought people would believe it. It's impossible to harm people with sounds on a CD. It was just a joke (laughs). There are no sonic weapons on the CD.
METALLIAN: It's funny, because there were people who stayed away from the album because of the sonic weapons technology story.
KAWASHIMA: It's true that you can get harmed by sound. Living besides the highway can give you headaches because of the low frequency created by the cars. It's possible. But I don't think you can do it on CD.
METALLIAN: Sigh's first full-length, Scorn Defeat, was released on Deathlike Silence Productions, the label founded by Euronymous (Mayhem). How did Sigh end up on Deathlike Silence?
KAWASHIMA: Back during the early '90s we sent our demo to as many labels as possible, but Euronymous was the only guy who was interested in us. Back then, all other labels were enthusiastic about death metal from Florida or grindcore stuff. Nobody was interested in thrashy, '80s-style stuff. I actually sent the demo to Dead, because he owned Deathlike Silence Productions. But it was Euronymous who wrote me back because Dead killed himself. Then Euronymous wanted to sign us and he was the only guy interested in Sigh, so we said yes immediately.
METALLIAN: Did you ever meet Euronymous in person?
KAWASHIMA: Unfortunately not. But I talked to him on the phone several times. And I talked to him on the phone just three days before he was murdered.
METALLIAN: What were your thoughts when you heard he had been murdered?
KAWASHIMA: I was really shocked, because I had just talked to him. Then I got a letter from Samoth (Emperor/Zyklon) about ten days later. He said he had heard our album and he liked it, but we had to sign to a new label because Euronymous was murdered. It was really shocking, because nothing sounded wrong when I talked to Euronymous on the phone. And the album was coming out very soon. I have to say, it was one of the biggest shocks I had in my life.
METALLIAN: A lot of people were very surprised when they heard about it.
KAWASHIMA: There's was lots of crazy stuff going on at the time like church burnings and murder, but I never thought the leader - Euronymous - would be murdered. It was very shocking.
METALLIAN: I've always wondered about the band name, Sigh. Why did you pick that particular word to be the band name?
KAWASHIMA: When we started the band, we wanted something different and also something easy to remember. We didn't want something conventional. We didn't want to be called necro-something or dark-something. So we chose the very simple name Sigh. It gives you lots of different impressions, such as anxiety and sometimes it can even be a sigh of relief. It gives you very varied impressions. It reflects our music. Our music is always very varied, from darkness to beauty, so we thought Sigh would fit perfectly what we were doing musically.
METALLIAN: When you write music for Sigh, where is your inspiration coming from?
KAWASHIMA: Everything. When you open your mind, everything can be an inspiration. If you listen to some music it can inspire you, if you read a book it could be an inspiration, too. Movies, TV, DVDs, everything can be your inspiration. I always have a notebook with me so I can write down melodies or chord progressions I come up with. When I go to work I have it, too. I put it beside my pillow when I go to bed. Sometimes I play the piano to compose, but sometimes I compose in my head. There are no rules at all when I write music.
METALLIAN: Have you started composing for a new record?
KAWASHIMA: We've already started writing some bits and pieces, but they're just little pieces. It's just a bunch of small ideas.
If you enjoyed this, read Gary Barden