We just introduced IX -NINE-, a new band in the scene, about a month ago. They released their first mini-album “VIDYA” on March 12th, and since then they have been quickly accumulating a following to their distinctly different sound. They’ve also just released their first EP “Pairidaēza lost / Subliminal Sunrise“ for free; you can get “Pairidaēza lost” here and “Subliminal Sunrise” is available for download here. (Update 6/10/2015: Since the limit of downloads on Soundcloud has been reached, IX is offering the full EP download via Firestorage.)
Interview: Shannon, Ku
Not for republication.
–Since you’ve just formed, there are probably a lot of people who aren’t familiar with the band. Could you start by introducing yourselves?
$ali: I’m the band leader and composer, $ali.
Nøi: I’m Nøi on koto and sampling.
–Could you also tell us a bit about the band?
$ali: Basically, I wanted to try something new. Since I’m Japanese, I wanted to play not only rock music but also mix in traditional Japanese instruments and music. I originally made electronica and ambient music—a completely different genre—and I thought it would be interesting to put those elements together. We play a complex kind of music.
–Is there any sort of special meaning to the band name?
$ali: When you attach a meaning to [a band name], that’s how people will always perceive it, so we decided to start a band with no meaning. We liked how it sounded and how the characters “IX” looked.
The meaning of the title of our first mini-album “VIDYA” is associated with things like light, wisdom, and life being pulled up to the heavens.
“Nine” is also the tarot card symbolizing The Hermit. It was pure coincidence that the band name and mini-album title ended up linking together like that, like connecting point A to point B. Now, it’s more like instead of having a band name with no meaning, it’s a bit innovative and we’ve become really attached to it.
–Before the band came together, did the members know each other?
$ali: Yes. The vocalist and I were in a band together before. What made us talk about forming the band was when we kept meeting at D’espairsRay’s after-parties. That’s how we came to know each other. As for Nøi and I, we’re from the same area. I invited him to join the band and we became a three-member group.
–Have you been in a band before, Nøi?
Nøi: No, I haven’t.
–How are you liking the band so far? (laughs)
Nøi: I haven’t really played an instrument before—I’ve only used DTM on my laptop. I’m a bit nervous about playing in front of people.
–So, getting a little bit more about your band concept – on your Facebook, it says you’re a “visual art band.” How would you describe this in your own words?
$ali: We’re not saying “this is the meaning of visual art,” but when you think of visual kei, you naturally think of bands that wear makeup and have showy hair, right? I think it’s expressed well in our music, but we wanted to make music more deeply rooted in culture rather than just for entertainment. That’s how we came up with the concept.
–What genre would you consider IX to be?
$ali: That’s a bit difficult to say. There’s a lot that isn’t decided since we just started. What we do recognize though is that we have a bit of an ambient rock and electronica sound mixed with traditional and post-rock music…
–Nøi plays the koto in a few songs, which is a bit unusual for a band – especially a rock band. Could you tell us why you decided on this instrument and this sound? You talked about it a bit before – how you wanted to do something a bit different from visual kei…
$ali: I made all of the songs, and that’s how he’ll perform it live. But the main factor in the decision was that there weren’t any other bands doing it. Also, there’s the instrument itself. I haven’t seen a band use an electric Taisho koto before. Even though bands using traditional Japanese instruments are becoming popular lately, it’s a little different. I don’t think we’ve drawn a new line or anything, but I thought that it would produce a really new sound if I added it in.
–How well do you play the koto, Nøi?
Nøi: A little…I didn’t play it at all. The first time I touched one was when $ali gave it to me. Since that’s when I started, it’s only been about a month.
–Wow, only a month? How often do you typically practice in a week?
Nøi: About one day a week.
–Do you use any other unconventional instruments or sounds in sampling as well?
$ali: It’s not a very avant-garde way of sampling per se, but it is something I try to do. For instance, I’ll take the sound of someone knocking on a door, edit that sound, and then add it into the rhythm. I also use people’s voices…
–Like in “Sky Burial”?
$ali: Yes, like that.
–Where did you get those lines from, by the way?
$ali: I just used a part of a movie where someone was talking. I extracted it from the movie and added it in [to the song]. Also, you know when you’re walking down the street, sometimes you can hear people crying really loudly? I secretly record those things on my iPhone and mix them in.
–Which bands or artists are you influenced by?
$ali: Well, if you’re talking about in Japan, then it’s definitely DIR EN GREY. As for foreign music, I’m influenced by a lot. To give a few names, there’s Efterklang, Múm, This mortal coil… And there’s also Keith Kenniff – he’s more of a solo composer. Those four artists have really influenced me personally.
Nøi: Avicii, David Guetta, Nicky Romero. I mainly listen to European DJs.
–Moving on to the mini-album: you just released your first mini-album “VIDYA.” Could you tell us the meaning of the title?
$ali: This is a bit of a repeat from before, but in Japanese, it’s called koumyou. It’s a Buddhist word that means something like “enlightenment.” The album itself is about a person who is facing death. He sees that light and climbs towards the heavens to the next life. This is reflected in the song titles “Sky Burial” and “Chinmoku no Tou.” I chose that title to convey something like facing our own futures.
–Is there any other sort of story or message among the songs?
$ali: Starting with the lyrics of first song “Soubi na Yurameki,” it feels as if you’re tattered and torn by scars. As the CD progresses, around “Chinmoku no Tou,” [the main character] prepares for death and, in the end, dies. Then he is reborn, and that’s the kind of nuance it connects to. More than a message to listeners, I think that sort of warning from one’s will is stronger.
–We’d also like to introduce the songs on the album briefly one by one.
$ali: “Remembrance” is a song I made inspired by the image of turning an hourglass upside down. The song starts with a reverse noise that’s supposed to represent an hourglass. It’s a song that slowly fills your mind.
2. 壮美なゆらめき (Soubi na Yurameki)
$ali: It’s a sort of distorted love song. It expresses things like regret and repentance in our lives. In the lyrics, it talks about a candle flickering. This song is like that candle’s flame flickering and, in the end, going out.
3. 白蓮 (Byakuren)
$ali: Then things go completely black….When you think of “byakuren,” it’s like life fading out. In the lyrics, the word “pessimism” comes up. It’s like you hate the world or you find it nothing but disappointing. It feels like you’re sinking into that deep space – that’s why the word “sinking” is in the lyrics as well. If you were to become a butterfly, and you spread your wings to head towards death, that’s what this song is singing about.
4. 沈黙の塔 (Chinmoku no Tou)
$ali: This song is the setting for the next song, “Sky Burial.” In Japanese, “sky burial” is like a bird funeral; birds eat your dead body and carry it up to the heavens. This song is about preparing for death.
–That’s kind of scary. (laughs)
$ali: (laughs) It is a bit scary, isn’t it? So in the song, you can probably hear it—the song is quiet and then suddenly becomes loud. This song is like the turning point for announcing your departure from this world. That’s the kind of standpoint this song has.
5. Sky Burial
$ali: Like I said before, this is when the character dies with a sky burial. In the lyrics, it says something like “casting away thought” – it almost sounds like suicide, but the song itself is pretty. It’s like everything turns white, and you want to move on to the next [world] with your hopes in mind. So in the words at the beginning, it’s like you’re reflecting on things in your life, your friends. It starts with that top scene of reflecting on your life.
6. 彼岸と月 (Higan to Tsuki)
$ali: “Higan to Tsuki” is about looking over your life in the scene after you die. In the MV, there are scenes like the Sanzu River. It’s completely dark at first and then you face the light. When you reach nirvana, you’re in heaven. In Japan, your soul is said to live on even after [your body] dies for 49 days. This song references that time period. When you’ve reached nirvana, you look over your troubles and discords and are flooded by memories.
–The PV for “Higan to Tsuki” was released on March 11th, the same day as…
$ali: The Tohoku Disaster, right.
–Were you thinking about that when you made the song?
$ali: I was. It’s sort of like my condolences to those who couldn’t help but face death. I wondered what I could do for those facing death. The title itself “Higan to Tsuki” sounds like a requiem. That’s how I feel about it, too. I know there were a lot of people whose lives were lost then, and I wondered what I could do to help as a musician. This is the only way I can express that. That’s why I decided to change the key to a brighter one at the end.
–“Dirge” really feels like an appropriate ending song to this mini-album. It’s like the end of the first chapter of IX.
$ali: Yeah. I’ve gotten messages like that from people who have listened to it. They said it sounds bright, or like you’re facing the light. It’s sort of like rebirth. In the lyrics, the phrase “Conveying with the tears on my cheek, softly crying” is meant to express the fact that when you die, there must be at least one person that will cry for you. With the image of those two people looking at each other and what they think of each other, at the end you turn towards the heavens.
–In the process of creating “VIDYA,” did you face any challenges that gave you a particular sense of accomplishment?
$ali: I recorded all of this at home. This is more about the technical side of things, but it’s really hard to make good music by recording at home. That was difficult. I wondered a lot about things like how to mix digital and live guitar sounds together.
–Do any of the members play guitar?
$ali: I did all of it. That was also challenging.
–What about bass and drums?
$ali: I used sampling for drums, but I played bass, drum, and violin.
–We’d like to ask you about listening points on the album.
$ali: I think our vocalist IX has a beautiful high tone. He matches the deep feeling of songs really well. I hope you can feel the gap between his beautiful world view.
I also want people to listen to the traditional instruments, of course, but I also want people to listen to how there are funk rhythms in the middle. Like I said before, there are lots of different kinds of genres like electronica that are mixed in as well. I hope that shows.
As for a particular song, one of my personal favorites on the mini-album is “Chinmoku no Tou.” The intro is all sampling, so I think the electronica experience that I’ve accumulated until now shows the most in this song. In the middle, it switches to a loud drum rhythm akin to metalcore. In that is also the Taisho koto. I think I succeeded in creating an interesting mix of rhythm and sound in “Chinmoku no Tou.”
–Have you decided your next release yet?
$ali: You can download our first EP for free. I’ve been told a lot of things about the new songs; whether it’s Japanese or overseas, the fact that we use traditional instruments makes us sort of seem like a sukekiyo copy band. I guess that’s unavoidable because of our image, but we want to show that we’re more than that. The newer songs are a bit more gothic—a bit darker. They have different elements mixed into them than the songs on the mini-album.
–IX started from music, from a release. That’s a bit unusual; bands usually start with lives. Do you have any upcoming plans for lives?
$ali: We’re thinking of playing a show in summer. Since we have only three members, we’ll probably play as a five-member group with two support members.
–What can we expect from your first performance?
$ali: Because of the songs themselves, I don’t think people will go crazy over them. So rather than making people’s hearts soar or having a lot of fun ourselves, I want to give a performance that makes people glad that they came to see it.
–Will you use the masks in your shows?
$ali: That’s a bit hard to say. We want to, but the vocalist can’t really sing with his mask on. We might have to re-configure his mask so that he can. If we can, we’d really like to wear the masks.
–That would be really interesting. (laughs)
$ali: We’ll try our best.
–Who made the masks?
$: There’s a mask-crafting expert named Nakamura Mitsue, and Tokumitsu was one of her pupils. Nøi and I used a couple of his basic masks then I decorated the surface of it myself. I decided the color and pattern of the mask. The vocalist’s kitsune mask was made by another person — he goes by Cell. We played in a lot of events together. Originally he was an acquaintance, so we asked him to make one for us.
–Switching gears a bit – we noticed that you promote your band equally to domestic and international fans alike. Why do you do this?
$ali: Personally, I’ve noticed lately that there are a lot of visual kei bands that look and sound alike, and I wondered how Japan was being perceived by the rest of the world. Like Japan is famous for anime…what else is Japan famous for?
–Anime, samurai, ninjas, teriyaki… (laughs)
$ali: (laughs) I want to show people that Japan is more than just that. There are people doing things like this. This might sound a bit presumptuous, but we want to sort of represent [Japan] in a way by using a more Japanese sound.
–You also have an international shopping site. We were a bit surprised that you can order IX’s goods from overseas. Why did you decide to open the international shop?
$ali: I know there are a lot of people overseas that like Japanese music. I wanted to be able to send our products to them. Usually people will just sell things on iTunes, but it’s hard to get the physical copy of something in your hands. Even if you sell it to them, it’s difficult to distribute it…. So when I thought about what could be done in this day and age, it seemed really simple. Rather, it seemed like the only way. I realized that I could ship the products directly.
–There are probably a lot of fans that don’t speak Japanese. What do you want to convey through IX’s music through just music (not lyrics)?
$ali: To sum it up in three words, “yuugen,” “lyricism,” and “nostalgia.”
–Lastly, could you give your fans (both nationally and internationally) and the readers at S-T a message?
$ali: We’ve only been around for 2 months, so you definitely haven’t seen everything yet. We want to make music that you won’t get tired of. I hope you’ll watch over us for that, and I hope you can get some of our music and listen to it.
And for the people who will start following us [after reading this], I just want to say “Please give us a listen.”
S-T and IX have come together to give away not one, but three copies of their first mini-album “VIDYA” to three lucky readers. They also come with a board autographed by all the members. To enter, choose any or all of the entry methods on Rafflecopter (below) and share away. The deadline is May 21st, 2015 at 12:00AM (EST).
Tags: IX -NINE-