Interview Exclusive

Interview with Toshiya from DIR EN GREY

01/05/2024 2024-05-01 20:00:00 KoME Author: Lucy C.H. Translator: JBH Copyeditor: JBH

Interview with Toshiya from DIR EN GREY

DIR EN GREY bassist Toshiya spoke with JaME in Paris during the band's "FROM DEPRESSION TO ________ [mode of Withering to death. & UROBOROS]" tour.


© Lucy CH
In Paris, ragged clouds drift across a silent grey sky. The early spring weather is not kind to the small crowd that's started to gather outside the Bataclan. The venue’s very name is a French word that evokes fanfare, and yet, the bubble that formed around it is quiet and suspenseful - how long until it bursts?

Inside its maze of leopard print-lined backstage rooms is Toshiya, bassist of DIR EN GREY. A towering presence with gentle manners, he twirls a silver chain bracelet between his fingers as he opens up to JaME about the band’s impressions of the tour so far, recent releases, future plans and the role music plays during turbulent times.

It’s been four years since your last European tour. A lot has happened in the world since then. DIR EN GREY carried out several activities to stay in touch with their foreign fans, but your return to Europe was a much-awaited event. How do you feel being back today?

Toshiya: We are really happy to be back. This year our tour started in Warsaw, and we are now halfway through our Paris performances. The differences in fan energy between countries is not as obvious as one might think. We felt their excitement and their energy during our opening shows in Poland, and that had a huge impact on us as a band. But during our first show in Paris, [mode of Withering to death.], the crowd was one. It was as if the venue came together to share its power with us. We felt honoured to be there with them.

Two years ago you released your eleventh studio album, PHALARIS. What can you tell us about this release?

Toshiya: PHALARIS is a concept album. There is one storyteller from start to end, and one story that is being told. We had tried to do something similar with UROBOROS and DUM SPIRO SPERO. PHALARIS was named after a torture device: the brazen bull. There are people who feel scared when they think of torture, others see it as a form of salvation. There are two sides to it; one word, two ways of understanding it. Some people will listen to PHALARIS and feel terror, others will feel a sense of catharsis.

PHALARIS included remakes of two of your most popular singles from the past, mazohyst of decadence and ain’t afraid to die. More recently, you released the single 19990120 to celebrate your 1999 major debut, which includes remakes of songs from the same year. And yet, the intention was not to change the essence of these songs, was it?

Toshiya: I think it is in an artist’s ego to want to remake older songs. But once you release a song, it is not yours anymore. It no longer belongs to you as an artist. It belongs to the listener, it is something that is given to, and shared, with the people. It is no longer our own thing that we can go on shaping, changing however we want. Once a song is no longer yours, you can’t do that - shouldn’t do that.

So this time, when we remade these older songs, we resisted the compulsion to make major changes. We kept their nostalgic side, the essence of the song that our listeners like, because these songs now belong to them. If we made any changes, they would be new songs, and they wouldn’t belong to them anymore. If we had made considerable changes, we would have done it for our own egos as artists, and we wouldn’t have kept that sense of belonging intact.


For this tour you chose to pay tribute to your albums Withering to death. and UROBOROS. Why these two, and how are they different in terms of mood?

Toshiya: We chose these two albums because they are like Yin and Yang. Darkness and light. Withering to death. has a much lighter atmosphere than UROBOROS. The latter’s mood is a lot more sombre. The atmosphere of each album is reflective of our life experiences as a band, of what we were going through while each of these albums was being produced.

As DIR EN GREY, we've undergone a significant evolution since we released those two records. As individuals, all five of us experienced our own metamorphosis. After 20 years, the difference is that we no longer approach DIR EN GREY as a five-piece act, but simply as a whole. We adopted a much broader perspective of what we are as an act.

The first time you played in Europe was in 2005. Was playing outside of Japan a part of your broadening perspective on DIR EN GREY?

Toshiya: I remember when we played in Germany for the first time. It was with our Withering to death. repertoire, precisely. Until then, we had never considered the possibility of playing outside of Japan. But it was with UROBOROS that we started to think of DIR EN GREY as a worldwide band. From belonging to Japan to belonging to the world; that is a good example of our perspective shifting from micro to macro at that stage of our career.

And after all these years, DIR EN GREY shows no signs of relenting. You will release your 34th single, The Devil In Me, in April...

Toshiya: And I believe this is a single that is going to be different from DIR EN GREY’s usual style. If you listen to the songs only once, you won’t get it. I think you’ll need to listen to it several times, and then you may get it. As a bass player, I tried to shape my part of the sound to make it stay with the listener. Outside of them, or inside, the more they listen. I wanted my bass lines to cut into them, and stay with them. I want the listener to think about it, feel about it after listening. I want them to think; "something is here, in the room with me, something stayed behind from that song, and that something clung to me".


DIR EN GREY has been a band for 27 years. It’s very unusual for a band to stay together that long. What can we expect next?

Toshiya: You can never foresee what the future will be like. To be honest, the way I see it, we will just continue playing as DIR EN GREY. For as long as we can, and even if we only have one fan left in the world, I would still feel like playing for that one person. As individuals, we all have very different artistic styles, and there is a lot that we still want to explore solo-wise. The constraint with DIR EN GREY is that we are not a one-man show, we are an act, an amalgam of five. One of us cannot single-handedly change our artistic direction based on his own style. There is a lot that we want to challenge, musically, but it has to fit. Whatever we do next has to be DIR EN GREY.

We are thrilled to have DIR EN GREY back in Europe, even if we wish we met during happier times. Europe is going through a rough patch, with rising conflicts in the East and the unrelenting threat of terror attacks. Just yesterday, 60 people were murdered at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow during a rock concert. The venue where you’ll be playing today - Paris’ Bataclan - saw over 90 casualties at the hands of gunmen during a metal concert in 2015. How do you feel, as a musician, playing here today?

Toshiya: I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. And I wonder, what can music do in the face of such tragedies? Music cannot save the world. Music is only entertainment. You can only enjoy it if your most basic needs have been met. Only then can you make space in your life to appreciate an art form such as music. And yet…music can feed the soul to an extent. It can bring you a sense of comfort, of satisfaction.

We are in France as we speak, the country of the revolution. It was not music that changed the world, but music might have brought comfort to the people during dark times. Given the current state of the world, I know music is but tangential satisfaction, but I dearly hope tonight brings our listeners some comfort.

JaME would like to thank Toshiya, DIR EN GREY's management, Twisted Talent Entertainment and interpreter Masa Eto for this interview.

Links to download and stream DIR EN GREY's latest single, The Devil In Me, on various music platforms are available here.
 Download or stream "The Devil In Me"
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