Published on December 17th, 2015 | by The Beige Baron0
There’s never been a better time for Japanese hardcore than right now. The scene is exploding. In Osaka, Tokyo, and Nagoya, veteran players are being energized by a new wave of bands that are producing ridiculously good music: they are the Internet generation, unafraid to draw inspiration from any source, and determined to play every show like it was their last.
At the tip of the spear is Redsheer from Saitama, just outside Tokyo. More than a few critics have hailed the band’s debut LP Eternity as “hardcore album of the year”, and we’re not arguing: every note is distilled fury and menace. There’s magic on this record, the kind that makes the music somehow bigger than the sum of its parts. From start to finish, it’s an intense experience, the rage barely contained even in its more reflective moments.
“Watching their live performance and listening to their record, I’m swallowed into their emotion,” says Suguru, lead singer of Osaka band SeeK.
“Multiple structures of beautiful madness,” agrees Stubborn Father’s Shige Born.
“Redsheer is an awesome hardcore group with an extremely heavy and aggressive sound, empathy sorrow and strong will,” says Ryo from wombscape.
With praise like that from denizens of the chaotic hardcore scene, you’d be crazy not to have a closer listen. To get the full story on the band, we reached out to Satoru [guitar], Ryuji [bass/vocals], and Katarao [drums] for a world-first interview in English.
BNU: When you guys first got into a rehearsal space together, when did you realize you had something special?
Satoru: From very beginning I felt we three could make a totally new and intense sound. Especially with our drummer Katarao, I’d never played with him before then. I felt like there were so many possibilities coming from his unique groove.
Plus, he hits really hard [laughs].
I’d already written the basic ideas for two songs, so we started finishing them first. Maybe the initial direction Redsheer took was from those two songs and how they came to us.
From very beginning I felt we three could make a totally new and intense sound.
Katarao: I felt an indescribably intense feeling; something was sparking between us and it’s continued since then.
BNU: Were the members of Redsheer in other bands before this? How did you meet up?
Ryuji: Satoru and I used to be in the hardcore bands Atomic Fireball and SCALENE, and Katarao used to play in the heavy rock band Bucket-T. Our bands played together live a lot at 20,000V, a club that used to be in Koenji, so that connection led us to form Redsheer.
BNU: So what bands did you guys have in common? Is there any particular band that guided or inspired your sound?
Satoru: Personally, I’m really into King Crimson, King Diamond, Death, and Japanese ’70s pop music like enka. And movie soundtracks, and movies.
My mind was so completely blown not only by the soundtrack but also the progression of the story in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver that I wrote a song based on the image of that film. Like, an accelerating madness described in the song’s progression, and becoming violent at the end.
Katarao: I think we have similar taste of music and in the direction of the band, but we don’t have a particular band in common.
My mind was so completely blown not only by the soundtrack but also the progression of the story in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver
Ryuji: In common? It’s hard to tell… Neurosis? Unsane? Today Is The Day? Hmmmm …
BNU: When you recorded your debut LP, were you trying to capture your live sound on tape or did you try to build it up more, make it more layered?
Satoru: Recording and live are different, I think. While the sound becomes thicker and more multi-layered when you’re recording, it loses its sharp edge at the same time.
For the LP, I recorded just two tracks of guitar for Left and Right channels, and most of them are the same phrases. But that doesn’t mean we’ll keep doing it that way in the future.
Katarao: It’s totally different. I played more carefully to deliver the theme of the songs, and also tried to challenge myself with different things for each take when I’m recording. I think it’s more interesting to take different approaches for each song with Redsheer.
Ryuji: There are two types of bands: those that reject change, and those that try to adopt new ideas without any hesitation. Which direction should Redsheer take? Definitely the latter. Move forward.
BNU: There’s been a really positive response locally to the new album. Do you have any plans to try to make the transition overseas? Is vinyl and CD mail order the only way foreign listeners can own your music?
Ryuji: We’re so grateful to have had such a positive reaction. And yeah, we’re thinking about how to transition overseas. Little by little, but we’re contacting people and trying to move it forward. We’re thinking about releasing the debut LP on an overseas label. I’d like to share Redsheer’s music to hardcore fans all over the world.
I’ve always lived my life wondering about stuff, sometimes straying from the path, correcting, and getting stronger from it.
BNU: What attracted you to punk and hardcore initially? Why do you feel that it’s the best way for you to express yourself? Are you frustrated at any aspect of life that make you want to release that feeling into your music?
Satoru: It’s like I can’t feel my life without noise. Not only playing, but also listening. Actually I don’t consciously distinguish between punk or hardcore or metal when I’m listening to that kind of music.
Ryuji: The three of us don’t have punk spirit, though I’ve been inspired by CONFUSE, GAUZE and LIP CREAM since I was a teenager.
Forming and expressing “extreme” sounds… it was a heavy shock for me when I was young. “Extreme” and “heretical” … these words have been absorbed into my core. I’ve always lived my life wondering about stuff, sometimes straying from the path, correcting, and getting stronger from it.
What do I deliver with a mic and bass? Love that was never delivered. I vent an everlasting hatred hidden in my heart. Let’s call it “catharsis”.
BNU: A couple of the songs on the new record have a kind of dissonant, depressive black metal flavor. Is black metal something you guys listen to? Any good local black metal bands you can recommend?
Satoru: For guitar, I like Emperor and Darkthrone, but I like listening to all kinds of metal, not just black.
Katarao: I’ve never been into black metal at all as a drummer. Of course I know some though.
Ryuji: I don’t know that much about black metal. I like Burzum’s Filosofem and Xathur’s Subliminal Genocide. They scoop the darkness out of my heart. That sense may find its way into the sound of Redsheer.
Local metal bands? You should check CATAPLEXY! They’re definitely world-class and they’re based in Osaka. Their sound is divine. Superb!
BNU: Speaking of metal, your music seems to blend genres together, has the album crossed over a little and reached fans that might not be that into hardcore initially?
Satoru: Metal, hardcore. Emotional, chaotic… Our sound probably appeals to fans of this kind of music, but outside of that, I’m not sure there are many people who have had a chance to listen.
Katarao: Not enough at all. How do we deliver it … it’s important not only to think about the music itself but also venue and area. We’d like to try to expand the places we play at in the future.
Ryuji: That’s right. The theme of our sound is “future hardcore”. To increase the audience of hardcore music in the future, you have to have different places to play. The bands that have really made it are persuasive regardless of what music genre they are playing. But whether soft or loud, there should be some kind of madness in there. We’ll keep trying to get to that level.
BNU: So what’s the story behind the album artwork of the bird? It looks fantastic.
Katarao: The front and sleeve album artwork show a bird, a cliff, and the sun. From very beginning I got the image of a sheer cliff in Redsheer’s music, so basically the idea of artwork derives from that. When we were making the record, I began to imagine the sun burning on cliff with a big bird flying in the sky.
We had a discussion to decide the art direction and asked Mario, who is vocalist of the Spanish hardcore band Khmer, through Akihito Mizutani, who owns 3LA/LongLegsLongArms Records), to help. He did really cool job.
Every time we make a song, we take a new approach
BNU: So Ryuji, what’s the secret to your chunky bass sound? Did you like Korn when you were growing up? Got a favorite bit of gear?
Ryuji: It’s probably because I’m conscious of us being a three-piece band. I keep trying hard to get better, but it’s basically the result is because of the combination with Satoru and Katarao’s unique guitar and drums.
I feel like it suits the music to make the bass sound not too bottom-heavy, but instead boost it up to a solid low-mid sound. Maybe the bass sound isn’t so masked whatever audio system you listen on.
I use thick strings for a five-string bass on a regular four-string active bass, and with the combination of a SansAmp on the floor and Ampeg’s SVT classic, it sounds excellent. That’s my favorite. Also I go a bit crazy with the pick, and that makes a synergistic effect, maybe [laughs].
And by the way, I was in my mid-20s when I heard KORN for the first time [laughs].
BNU: Have you ever had an idea or direction musically that you decided not to take? Are you ever concerned about leaving the fans you’ve built up behind if you change direction?
Satoru: I’m not sure it’s the right time to be worrying about the musical direction of Redsheer. Every time we make a song, we take a new approach, so maybe the fans that only liked our first songs might move on one day, but that can’t be helped.
There are as many “dead issue” songs that never made the cut as there are on the album, but sometimes they come back alive like a zombie.
Ryuji: The “true” hardcore bands that I’m longing to be among are very unique and original. People who are always trying to create new music gather together, forms bands, and improve their music in tough competition. It’s a very inspiring situation.
That’s why we shouldn’t do things by half measure. Taking risks and prioritizing challenges are a good way for a band to stay motivated. There’s no win and lose in music, but I shouldn’t lose and don’t wanna lose [laughs].
BNU: What do you guys do after rehearsal? Do you have a favorite restaurant you go to?
Katarao: We go straight home after rehearsal. We put everything into so we’re usually pretty exhausted [laughs].
BNU: So I heard some of Redsheer is also in the band Earth Federation with members of Disgunder and Corrupted. How did that happen, and what will happen to Redsheer if that project takes off? I heard it’s incredibly heavy!
Ryuji: That’s true. I’m a part of Earth Federation as bassist. The guitarist is Shinji (Disgunder), the vocalist is Hevi (ex-Corrupted) and the drummer is Hiroto from Disgunder and Outburst. It’s a very simple, pure grindcore band. Heavy from mind and spirit rather than musically, I think, because Hevi and Shinji radiate this incredible energy when playing. Those guys I really respect. They inspire me a lot and I feed that energy back into Redsheer.
BNU: What has the band got coming up next year?
Ryuji: We’ll release a four-way split single on Impulse Records next spring and we’re going to be part of a compilation that’s being planned by Till Your Death Records that’s managed by Takahito Bannai, who we completely trust, this summer. He also put out our first LP.
And we’ve just started rehearsing new songs for our second album. We’ll continue to explore deeper and try to create “future hardcore”, so stay tuned.