To interview Mirai Kawashima of the great Japanese metal band SIGH is an honor. This band has done so many things many would not think to do musically in the metal scene. Everything from soaring vocal ranges, saxophones and all else between makes them truly stand out and it’s no wonder that they are known as the best known Japanese metal band. Mirai and I talked about all you could need to know and more about the band.
TMF: Please introduce yourself and your band:
SIGH: My name is Mirai Kawashima and I am a singer / a keyboardist for a metal band named Sigh. Sigh have been together for more than 20 years now and have released nine albums so far.
TMF: How did Sigh begin?
SIGH: At first we were just a fun band playing cover songs by Deathrow, Death, Slayer, Whiplash etc. Then we spontaneously came up with the idea to write the original songs. It was pretty quick. We wrote a few songs and recorded the first demo in 2 – 3 months.
TMF: How did the members meet?
SIGH: Satoshi, Shinichi and I went to the same university and we all belong to the same music club. It was quite lucky because here in Japan you wouldn’t see a lot of people into this kind of music. And later we recruited Junichi as a drummer around 2003. He was already a very well-known drummer in the Japanese extreme metal scene.
TMF: Why did you pick the name Sigh?
SIGH: We wanted some easy-to-remember and non-conventional name then we came up with the name “Sigh”. We thought it’d fit very well as the things this word implied were as varied as our musical style.
TMF: Please describe your musical style for those who haven’t heard Sigh:
SIGH: Cinematic Horror Metal which is the soundtrack to your nightmare.
TMF: What influenced the avant-garde sound for Sigh?
SIGH: The trigger was horror movies. I wanted to write scary songs but although there are some many books on composition everywhere, you wouldn’t see how-to-write-scary-songs ones. Then I noticed horror movies often use 20th century classical music, which is rather avant-garde, in their scores and started learning about modern classical composition techniques.
TMF: How did the rumor start about using World War II sonic weaponry techniques on Gallows Gallery?
SIGH: Gallows Gallery was supposed to be released on Century Media Records but they didn’t like it as it was not black metal at all. So we had to switch the label but we thought giving out an average press release saying “Century Media did not like the album etc.” would be very boring and came up with the idea to make up the sonic weapon story. It was 100% a joke and we never thought people would believe it, but somehow it became the center of the attention for the album.
TMF: How did Dr. Mikannibal join the lineup?
SIGH: I was searching for a model for the artwork when we were recording “Hangman’s Hymn” and I got to know her through our common friend. She told me that she also sang in a death metal band and gave me the demo. To be honest, I was expecting much thinking that this would be another hobby band but it turned out to be completely wrong. Her vocal technique was something outstanding. I found out that she also could play saxophones and speak English fluently. Then why not asking her to join the band?
TMF: Many see you and Mikannibal as a power couple in the metal scene, is it tough being in a band together?
SIGH: Not at all. Other male members of Sigh are by far crazier. Working with them is way tougher and requires patience. Of course Dr. Mikannibal and I sometimes quarrel but it’s nothing compared to having to deal with other weirdos if you know what I mean…
TMF: Many have called you the most well-known metal band to come from Japan, do you believe that is true?
SIGH: As far as extreme metal goes, I believe so. But if you include heavy metal, I don’t know. Loudness did well in the 80s. Their albums were charted in Billboard top 100, you know. Either way I do not care at all. If it was the most well-kwon band from the US, it’d mean a lot. Being the most well-known metal band from Japan means almost nothing.
TMF: How do you come up with new ideas for songs?
SIGH: It depends. Sometimes I compose playing piano or keyboards. Sometimes I come up with the new idea out of nowhere walking on the street. So I always have a notebook with me in order to write down all the ideas I come up with any time any place.
TMF: You are known for using laughter, heavy metal type vocals and just pure chaos in songs, not many bands can copy that. What made you take the chance and stand out?
SIGH: I like to experiment with my voices. Your throat has an infinite possibilities. You can generate an extremely high voice. You can get an extremely low one too. You even can sing with harmony by yourself. I’ve been always trying to expand my vocal techniques.
TMF: What influenced In Somniphobia? What is the theme behind the album?
SIGH: In Somniphobia was a realization of nightmares. I always have nightmares and I often realize that this is not real while dreaming. So there are so many thing now I cannot tell if they were real or just happened in dreams. The lyrical concept is about losing a border between reality and dream, or life and death. I love the movies which deal with this concept such as “Carnival of Souls”, “Dead and Buried”, “Jacob’s Ladder”, “Others” and so on. This is about fantasy. Fantasy also stands for something between reality and imagination. Not reality, but not complete imagination either. At least up to 70s, people have a slight fear about something exotic. H.P. Lovecraft often handled this theme like “Mad Arab” in his novels. “The Exorcist” starts with a scene in Iraq. “Cannibal Holocaust” is probably the best example to show the exotic fear, and people thought it was real. Well, at least I did. There used to be masked pro-wrestlers whose nationalities were unknown. There was Pharao’s curse. There was Yeti. We definitely took exotic places as something between reality and imagination with fear. Unfortunately all these fantasies have been lost now though. There’s no clear story line or anything whole through the album, but the lyrics, especially the “Lucid Nightmares” part (track 3 to 9) are about these things. That’s why the songs sound very nightmarish and sometimes exotic.
TMF: How do you guys prepare for shows and tours? Any weird special rituals or preparations?
SIGH: Before the tours, we always pray that we won’t get stopped at the Customs for the baggage inspection. Of course we do not bring anything illegal, but we always have to carry a lot of fishy things like strange powders, liquid, skulls, bones and so on for the stage prop. It’s a nightmare if we are told to open up our baggage and they found those skulls and things, you know.
TMF: What are some of your favorite bands personally?
SIGH: 80s thrash metal bands which I grew up with are my faves such as Venom, Celtic Frost, Whiplash, At War, Kreator, Wehrmacht, Death, Deathrow, Bathory, Sabbat (UK), Sacrifice (Canada), Artillery to name a few.
TMF: What is your favorite Sigh song and why?
SIGH: As we’re working on the new album now, obviously I like the new songs by far better than old ones. I always try to write songs that top the old ones. The new album’s opener “The Faithless” will be something special. Also “Out of the Grave”, whose demo version you can listen to on YouTube.
TMF: What are your thoughts on today’s metal scene?
SIGH: I just hope that the heavy metal scene won’t become pedophile’s heaven.
TMF: Any advice for upcoming metal bands?
SIGH: I don’t know. We’ve been just doing things we like. Actually we have never been a very ambitious band. We never thought we’d be able to release such many albums or to play at big metal festivals. And I really hate people who love to advise!
TMF: What plans does Sigh have for this year?
SIGH: The top priority is to finish up the new album Graveward. It’s been taking almost forever, but we will finish it up soon. Now we have got rid of the lazy sloppy guitarist and recruited You Oshima from Kadenzza as a replacement, who can play the guitar by far better than Shinichi, so the new album will be a big step forward from the previous albums. We’d call the new album’s style Cinematic Horror Metal. It’s the most epic, the heaviest and the most eerier album by Sigh. The album should be some time later on Candlelight Records. Other than that, some other releases are being planned such as the new vinyl versions of Scorn Defeat, Infidel Art and Ghastly Funeral Theatre, split 7″EP etc.
TMF: Any last words?
SIGH: Thank you for the interview! For our latest information, visit our FB page or follow us on Twitter.