CROSSFAITH are perhaps the biggest metal band to break out of Japan in the last few years. Their EP Zion drew massive attention in the UK and catapulted the band into the spotlight. Their follow-up, third album Apocalyze, was equally-as-praised and the band continued that trend with last year’s XENO. Ahead of their XENO Tour concert in Liverpool (you can read our review here), Jack Fermor-Worrell spoke to frontman Kenta Koie and bassist Hiroki Ikegawa to find out more.
Hey guys, how’s the tour been so far?
Kenta: It’s been great man – European tours are always interesting for us as a band.
How do you find it performing in Europe, compared to in Asia?
Kenta: Oh, it’s totally different. Like, we already have popularity in Japan, but in Europe we’re still on the way to break through. Because, you know, Europe is obviously very big and each country has different cultures and different history. And of course every country loves, like, its own favourite type of music – like, in Germany they really love metal music; in France there’s more types that are a bit more ‘arty’. And, also, we can’t talk about just Asia as a whole, because Japan is totally different from the rest of the countries in that way.
So, the new album ‘XENO’ – it’s technically only your third release to make it outside of Asia in a big way, correct?
Kenta: Well, yes – but I mean, you guys can use Amazon for the others! *laughs* But, yeah, first and second albums aren’t really popular like say Apocalyze is here. It was really that and the Zion EP.
Does that affect how you create your setlists for different places then?
Kenta: Yes, it does, and set times can also be a factor – like, on the last tour we played for about an hour and a half, which was something like 15 songs?
Hiroki: Yes, fifteen. If we’re talking about just the XENO Tour – here and Japan is virtually the same
Do you think you’ll ever play tracks from your pre-‘Zion’ albums over here? I noticed you’d been playing ‘If you want to wake up?’ at some of your Japanese gigs in February.
Hiroki: I don’t think so – those albums, like you said, haven’t been properly released here. And as well, this is the XENO Tour, but maybe next time at a festival. There’s always priority, but maybe there is a chance.
Kenta: I know there’s a fanbase for those albums but most of our fans here started from Zion and Apocalyze so we focus on them. We try to play what’s most popular.
Your latest album XENO came out back in September – what’s the reaction been like overall?
Kenta: Oh, it’s been great. We’ve had some great reactions from back home and it’s cool to see that people like it. What’s it been like here?
People seem to really like it – it’s been pretty positive across the board.
Kenta: That’s awesome, really glad to hear it.
There’s a couple of tracks on the new album with special guests – Benji Webbe and Caleb Shomo. Is that something you enjoyed creating and would you like to feature more guests on future albums?
Hiroki: Well, Benji’s been a good friend of ours for a while now – we’ve toured together two times now. And he’s just completely a different type of singer to anyone we’ve ever met. So, Teru [Tamano, turntablist] kept saying that he wanted us to make songs together. And so, he just created the track that became Wildfire and that’s how we got started. We had the Skype call from Benji in the early morning and I was ready to go to bed, but we were just like “Fuck it, let’s do this”. His singing blew my mind, it was incredible. And we ended up using the very first take on the album as well.
And then you guys went on tour together at the end of last year.
Kenta: Yeah, we actually ended up performing the track together. I didn’t really expect him to do guest vocals with us because, you know, they’re headliners and we were main support. You don’t normally expect the headliners to perform with the support. It was amazing though, and that’s why we love him. I think it happened because we have that mutual respect of each other now.
Going back to XENO slightly – Ken, how do you decide on subjects to write your lyrics on?
Kenta: Well it depends entirely on the song. Like, with XENO, the ideas came from Teru. He found this word ‘xeno’, which means ‘unknown’ or like ‘something beyond normal’. And I think that’s the best way of describing us really. And the story within the album started from the title-track. There’s two main characters – one is like this cyber-brain, and the other is a guy who wants to end the world because he thinks it’s been fucked up by humans, because they’re always betraying each other and things like that. And the cyber-brain Xeno really wants to understand what a human is and like what they are about. So she decides to essentially dive into his brain. And from there she, the cyber-brain, dives into a load of other people and that’s where the other tracks come from. Wildfire is about like a party, and Tears Fall is more of a romance. And also, Ghost In The Mirror is about myself. So finally, this brain character, she notices that humans are…each human is very, very alone. That’s her answer for the humans.
There seems to be a lot more moments of clean singing on this album compared to your other releases – is that something you feel more confident doing as time goes on?
Kenta: It’s something very natural. Of course, our music style has been always-changing, so that’s why really. And for something like Tears Fall, I don’t want to just throw in a scream vocal or something because it would ruin the song. So yes, our style has been almost growing-up in a way.
There seems to be a lot more Asian/Japanese acts becoming popular over the last few years – yourselves, COLDRAIN, DIR EN GREY even BABYMETAL. Is that a good thing in your opinion, more Japanese acts becoming big worldwide?
Hiroki: I think it’s a good thing, because when we first came here, it was difficult to play in front of you guys – because, even before we would play, there would be some people sneering at us like “Ha ha, look at these Asians coming over here”. And like, at the second show we ever did here, someone threw a bottle at Ken. It didn’t hit him luckily, but things like that, they really fired us up and we were just ready to go then. Like, we decided to take those idiots who were heckling and kill them with our music. Now we can talk about stuff like that as, like, funny stories but at the time we were really serious, like “We need to make them understand our music”. So now, if Japanese bands are getting big here, or even BABYMETAL, it’s fine because it means that people will be more open to Japanese bands like us – and that’s awesome.
What’s next for the band in 2016 then?
Kenta: So, the biggest thing for us will be releasing our next record, this summer I think. And we’re coming back here for Reading & Leeds Festivals. We have shows in Japan, and a headline tour there lined up as well. So basically, just stuff around releasing a new record.
Is there anything you’d like to say to the readers of Distorted Sound?
Kenta: We are finally back in the UK, we’ll be back in the summer playing festivals for you guys, so definitely come and check us out. Thank you for supporting XENO also, and please pick up a copy if you haven’t already.
Well, thank you very much for your time guys.
Kenta: No problem, it’s a pleasure.
XENO is out now via UNFD/Razor & Tie/Ariola Japan. For more information on CROSSFAITH, visit their Facebook page.