By Ryan Meehan
Church of Misery was founded by Tatsu Mikami (bass guitar) back in 1995. After the breakup of his leading thrash metal band SALEM (that had toured in the UK several times and received critical acclaim from metal fans as well as the press) Tatsu decided to start his own solo project. He wanted to do something that reflected his other musical inspirations – doom metal and doom rock. Apart from metal and thrash, he was strongly influenced by doom bands like SAINT VITUS, BLACK SABBATH and became aware that his own riffs had started to include doom vibes. Also, he was very much into late 60′s/early 70′s heavy rock material like LEAF HOUND, NOVEMBER, MAY BLITZ, HIGH TIDE, GUN, BLUE OYSTER CULT and so on. It was natural for him to shift his musical direction from metal to a more rock-influenced style. In 1995, Tatsu formed a band with Tomohiro Nishimura (guitar), Hideki Shimizu (drums), Kazuhiro Asaeda (vocals), that was named Church of Misery. In April-June 1996, they recorded their very first demo entitled ”ADV.1996.” Copies of this demo were sent to fanzines, labels, and bands overseas. They originally intended this as a promotional pack for friends in the underground doom scene. But Doom Records (USA) released the demo as “Vol.1″ without the permission of the band. They hadn’t expected anything like that to happen and of course made a complaint to the label. Ironically, as a result of this bootleg release, their name became well known amongst doom metal listeners all over the world. Seventeen years later, they are bringing the increasingly popular doom metal sound to Rock Island, and Tastu Mikami is our guest today in 7 Questions.
RM: Let’s flashback to the nineties when you were in Salem…What made you really want to start a new project and when did Church of Misery because your primary focus?
TM: Though SALEM was broken up in ’94, I’d been composing some DOOM songs for a side project since the early 90’s. At that time, Salem had tons of fans, released some CDs, toured England – they are undoubtedly one of the top bands from the Japanese metal scene of the early 90’s. They broke up for troubles with interpersonal relationships. I’m really tired of that. I wanted to play more relaxed and get back to the roots of my musical experience. It’s 70’s based heavy rock – it’s DOOM – in the summer of 1995.
RM: Was your desire to start a new project solely based on your love of the doom metal and classic rock genres, or did it have more to do with wanting to get away from being in a band that was primarily thrash metal?
TM: Both. SALEM was playing technical and complicated thrash music. At that time, I was getting into Euro prog rock too.
RM: What does the term “doom metal” mean in the Far East? In your opinion, how does it differ from stoner metal? For example, how would you classify a band like Electric Wizard?
TM: “DOOM” is not popular in Japan. There are no bands, no scene. It’s the most underrated genre in Metal scene. I can’t describe true difference between DOOM METAL and STONER METAL. I think the roots are the same – BLACK SABBATH and tons of 70’s heavy rock legends. DOOM METAL has a more traditional METAL taste since NWOBHM. But STONER METAL has a more punk, hardcore essence, I think. Electric Wizard? Undoubtedly they are a DOOM band I think.
RM: What is your writing process like when you’re at home? Do you find that at times a host of ideas will come to you at one when you’re feeling exceptionally inspired, or is it more spread out over a period of time?
TM: First of all, I make many guitar riffs. Next I choose the strong riffs from my stock, and carefully build songs. It’s not easy to make “quality” songs. Also I think the most important things in rock music are a cool guitar riff and a heavy groove.
RM: You’ve released three split EPs…What is it about that format that you’re such a fan of and why?
TM: It’s a very simple reason. I really love vinyl. And at that time particularly, we didn’t refuse any release offer. We spent our own money for the recording sessions. Anyway I’m really glad to have released splits with some my favorite bands of this scene – Iron Monkey, Sheavy, and Sourvein.
RM: What did you set out to do differently on “Thy Kingdom Scum” as opposed to the other records? And what steps did you take to make sure that record would satisfy those requirements?
TM: We are really satisfied with the new album. This time, we want to feature each instrument’s abilities more. For example, the free jamming on “Dusseldorf Monster” or the end section of “Brother Bishop”. We record 3 or 4 take for each song, each a little different. I always think that’s a big weapon for us. Other bands just play their songs just like the studio version on stage – but we always play a little different. Good vibes take us to the next level. “Jamming” – It’s very thrilling – we want you to listen carefully to each member’s playing.
RM: As a musician what is your primary goal when it comes to creating and performing your art? Do you feel that you’ve reached that goal, or that it’s a continuous process to achieve it?
TM: I don’t feel that we’ve reached that goals yet – not even close. We must keep doing more – creating more good albums, touring unknown places we haven’t been… We must keep building an audience everywhere. Of course I really love to perform on stage. But I’ve always thought I would like to ask to evaluate as a composer more than as a musician.
RM: You’ll be playing at RIBCO on December 18th with The Horde and Obsidian Hammer, and we can’t wait to check it out…What is life like on the road for you here in the states and what do you do to pass the time between shows?
TM: Almost sleeping, and some sight-seeing. If you don’t know life on the road, it’s a repeat of the same process – long drive to venue, venue to hotel, and move to next city. But I really would like to see all there is to see in America. Everywhere we go is unique and interesting. Anyway, we are really looking forward to play in Rock Island! We’re already so excited!
RM: What’s up next for church of Misery in the remainder of 2013 and into 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
TM: We will tour Europe in Jan/Feb 2014. It’s a support tour for Monster Magnet. We also got many offers from Festivals in Europe… So we are going to be busy in Europe next year.
Official Website: http://www.churchofmisery.net/
Official Artist Page at Metal Blade Records: http://www.metalblade.com/us/artists/church-of-misery/
Church of Misery on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/churchofmiserydoom
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