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Toshiya uncensored: mosh pits, skirts and Dir en grey’s fans and non-fans

Toshiya, bassist for Japanese alt rock phenomenon Dir en grey, isn’t interviewed very often, but we got a chance to catch up with him during their recent American tour and found him smart, thoughtful and refreshingly direct. Dark, weird, and frequently rather disturbing, Dir en grey’s unique amalgam of styles has earned them a rabid underground following all over the world. This is what Toshiya had to say about the band, how they function as a unit, and what his own contribution to the process is.

Kirsty: Recently it seems like you’ve been experimenting with slap bass. What brought on your interest in experimenting with other techniques? Are there any other styles you’d like to try?

Toshiya: Hmm, I’ve always had an interest in slap bass. But I never really planned on doing it. Lately… I felt like it was one way to play and started try to play that way. As for new techniques, right now, I’m not really thinking of any. But I would like to gather new techniques.

Kirsty: It seems that you only wrote maybe one song on the last album. Will you be writing more for the next album?

Toshiya: Though I am thinking of writing a couple songs, we all bring material and all five of us do it– it’s not like only one person contributes; everyone works together. It’s like that.

Kirsty: In the promotional picture that your management sent us, I noticed that you’re wearing a skirt. Why did you start doing that again?

Toshiya: From the last album, UROBOROS, when we released it, I felt like the past and the present connected within me somehow. Because of that, I wanted to look back at the past, review and renew it in my own kind of style in the present.

Kirsty: Are you thinking of not only in terms of visual style but also musical?

Toshiya: Yes, I think that. Next month in Japan we’ll be releasing a new single, and as part of that we’ll be re-releasing remixed versions of our old songs. And in that song from the past, it’s like we’re playing it as the five people we are now.

Kirsty: Are the old songs completely rearranged?

Toshiya
: There’s one that’s completely rearranged. One more song–there are three in total; one completely new song and two old songs. Of the two older songs, one of them is completely rearranged yet keeping a shadow of the past. The other is where everyone changed their own part or phrase and made it work in one take.

Kirsty: A while back it seemed like you guys weren’t getting along very well, and you in particular have made allusions to that in interviews. Are you getting along better now?

Toshiya: Well, if you continue a band for a long time, it’s like a married couple…or, well, there are times when we act cold to each other and when we all get along more at times. We’ve cycled around that and right now we are all moving along well, especially as a band, we’re all moving toward the same direction. It’s going really well.

Toshiya. Photo: Kirsty Evans
Toshiya. Photo: Kirsty Evans

Kirsty: It’s often a complaint of bass players that no one takes them seriously or that they don’t get to have much say in how their bands evolve over time. Do you feel like you’re able to express yourself within the band and have an influence on its music and image? Does it feel like enough of a creative outlet for you?

Toshiya
: I think it’s the same with everything – if you were to do everything by yourself, you’d be able to express yourself 100% to your liking. But since there are five of us we agree that it’s not going to be 100% by one person, and that working to get to 100% with the five of us is the best way of working. This is also related to my parts as bass. It’s not all 100% of the sound I want to input, but as the bassist and one of the five members of a band. I feel strongly that I want to contribute my bass part as some percentage of the 100% that five members produce.

Kirsty: You were in art school for a while, right? Is that something that you’ve maintained an interest in?

Toshiya: I can’t say that it’s not influencing my music. I think that we like the process of creating something by ourselves.

Kirsty: Does it have an influence over the visual imagery the band uses?

Toshiya: For that, all five of us have a discussion and decide together. Whether it be for the music or our looks. For us, Dir en grey, we move as a whole.

Kirsty: What kind of music do you personally listen to? Is that what you’ve always been into or has it evolved over time?

Toshiya: Since Japanese music was always nearby to me, I’d been listening to the Japanese music scene for a long time. As time went on, and I learned that there were other kinds of music from around the world, and then I started to listen to different sorts of music. But lately, there’s nothing in particular category that I listen to. I just leave my iPod on shuffle.

Kirsty: Sometimes when you’re playing in the West fans get a little wild and aggressive, how do you feel about that watching it from the stage?

Toshiya: During the show- if, for example, if there was a mosh pit starting or if everyone started getting hyped up – I’m the type of person who thinks that it’s fine like that. The music we make, we don’t even sing the lyrics in English, and singing them in Japanese, maybe it’s not reaching out to the fans. But on stage we try to use our actions as a way of expressing ourselves. And for the fans, I don’t mind if they express themselves the way they do but I’d just like for them, if possible, to not hurt themselves.

Kirsty: Your band has occasionally encountered some hostility when performing in the West and opening for American or British bands. What’s your approach to those kinds of situations? Do you get angry or frustrated or do you try to win people over?

Toshiya: I do get angry; But instead of trying to take in those hostile fans as new fans (for Dir en grey), I do my best to get our message across.

Kirsty: You yourself seem a bit more upbeat in general than your band’s image would suggest. Is it ever hard for you to behave in a way that’s in keeping with the band’s image?

Toshiya: If I were to say one or the other, I am… really gloomy. (Laughs) And to be seen as cheery would be my own way of battling against it. To have people think that I’m a happy person would be pretty lucky for me.

Dir en grey. Photo: Kirsty Evans
Dir en grey. Photo: Kirsty Evans

Kirsty: It’s not like you’re forcing yourself to be dark, right? You seem to be laughing in all your photos.

Toshiya: Nope, not at all. But, I feel like smiling is more approachable than having a scary face on.

Kirsty: Since we’re running out of time, final question. If and when the band breaks up, would you want to join another band or do something completely different?

Toshiya: Well… I think humans can do anything if they put their mind to it. Maybe it’s okay even if it’s not music. If I’m still able to express what I want to do, maybe that choice is fine.

11 thoughts on “Toshiya uncensored: mosh pits, skirts and Dir en grey’s fans and non-fans

  1. Thank you so much for this. It’s nice to hear more from Toshiya, rather than always from the other band members. It gave some real insight to his personality and how he plays his part in the band. Again, thanks so much! 🙂
    Nxx

  2. This interview was a nice read–thank you for sharing it! The questions were just as good as the answers, too. It’s nice to see a member of the band be asked different or interesting queries for a change…

    And I never knew Toshiya was an art student. Huh.

  3. This interview was really insightful to not only Toshiya but the band as a whole!

    Thank you so much for sharing this with the fans and possibly even new fans!

  4. Nice interview, nice questions and nice answers.

    It’s always a pleasure to read interview when the member choosen is Toshiya.

    Thank you a lot!

  5. This interview was really interesting and I was enjoying it through the whole time I read it!

    Lately, it seems most interviews object is Toshiya. And I like it . A lot.
    His answers are almost poetic sometimes and he gives such a beautiful, visual image when he talks about the band.

    Thanks for this, it was a real nice reading!

  6. I liked the interview, but it woulda been great to have more specific questions that nobody else seems to want to ask them when they are right in front of them:

    ** Many fans outside of Japan initially discovered Dir en grey’s music through mp3 files that were put up on internet fan sites and file-sharing services as early as 2002. How aware were you of this connection between The Internet and the sudden increase in popularity of your music outside of your home country?

    ** “You’ve put out many albums and DVD’s before your U.S. debut, Withering to Death, was released through Warcon in 2005. Would you ever consider re-releasing some of the older albums and DVD’s through your current U.S. distribution so that a wider group of fans could afford them, or is that strictly up to your record label in Japan?

    ** You released a DVD for the Japanese leg of “The Rose Trims Again” tour. The DVD was made available on The Omega Order’s website, but at a very steep $80, which very few fans are able to afford. Would you ever consider recording a Full Length Live Concert DVD in America and releasing it through The End Records? Something like that would be far more affordable and accessible for the U.S. fans, and it’d also be very special to them.

    ** As a special treat to fans in New York, you performed an older song which you haven’t played in almost ten years. Will this willingness to play songs from earlier albums spill over into your next American tour, or was this something just for New York?

    ** Is there any song from your past that you would -NEVER- want to play again, no matter how many fans asked for it? (probably Garden, lol…- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2vT65xV2BI& – or maybe ” i’ll ” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D35ydMr-rUI)

    ** Does it bother you that alot of your veteran fans, both Japanese and Americans alike, still think of you as a being Visual Kei band, even though you no longer fit this classification musically and appearance-wise?

    ** Toshiya once said in another interview that one of the things you -DON’T- want to do is be like the Backstreet Boys, would you say that the Visual Kei genre is now more like the American Boy Band trend of the late 80’s and 90’s? (Bands manufactured by big record labels getting by more on their looks than actual musical talent).

    ** Do you have a favorite American band that you listened to alot as a kid?

    ** Kaoru says he likes Nine Inch Nails, you also allowed Chris Vrenna to remix one of your songs (S from their first record, MISSA). Would you guys ever make an “Industrial” album?

  7. THIS:
    “Many fans outside of Japan initially discovered Dir en grey’s music through mp3 files that were put up on internet fan sites and file-sharing services as early as 2002. How aware were you of this connection between The Internet and the sudden increase in popularity of your music outside of your home country?”

    Someone please finally ask this question! And let it be for Toshiya or I’m afraid it may remain unanswered. 🙁

  8. I kept forgetting to comment on this, but thank you so much. I don’t often see English Dir en grey interviews that don’t ask the same questions that about a billion other interviews have answered already. And to have it with Toshiya was a definite plus. Keep up the great work.

  9. the photos posted along with this interview, they were taken on Dir En Grey’s most resent tour, correct ? If so, were these photos taken in Portland, Oregon, which was the last stop on their tour?

    PS: great interview 🙂
    you really brought a light to Toshiya

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