Interview with Tatsu Mikami of CHURCH OF MISERY
This interview goes to eleven! Antihero Magazine caught up with doom mastermind and founding member of CHURCH OF MISERY, Tatsu Mikami, and talked to him about the new album, And Then There Were None, which is released via Rise Above Records on March 04, 2016.
Three years have passed since Thy Kingdom Scum, and you have a new album that will be released this month. What can you tell us about And Then There Were None?
And Then There Were None was just released today! I am relieved now. The time to create an album alone is a challenge to me. This is the first time I’ve played with foreign musicians. So, this was a ‘challenge’ to me. I sent demos to them to practice in early 2015. I was really excited when I got their answer “OK, we will do it.” As I told you this is a great challenge, but I am also nervous too. I was afraid that we couldn’t play well together. In Maryland, after the first rehearsal with Dave and Eric, I knew it was going to be a great album.
What is the story behind the album’s title?
As you know, except for me…three guys quit the band in late 2014. The album title reflects the situation around me at that time. I was in misery.
You are still the primary composer and songwriter. How has the new lineup affected the overall sound and groove of the new material?
As for song writing, I wrote all songs alone with no collaboration with them. Until we record, I need to finish writing all the songs completely. Because I knew that I didn’t have much time to stay in Maryland, I wanted to avoid wasteful time. So I finished demoing the album in December 2015 and sent it to them for their practice. The direction of the new material is the same as typical Church of Misery style. I have never changed my style for over 20 years. If you feel the new album is less fuzz and more cleanliness, it’s due to different players.
How did the concept of basing lyrics around serial killers become such a fascinating topic for you to write about?
First of all, I am disgusted by typical lyrics by typical stoner bands – “smoke weed and get high” or “trip to the unknown galaxy.” It’s boring to me. In the beginning of Church of Misery, I had been reading and watching about “Serial killer.” It’s really an interesting process from normal guy to psychotic killer. It’s a very interesting story. And I thought that these topics are a very good fit to our heavy and doomy music. That is the reason I chose this topic. And this combination is really strong and brutal. It’s best for Church of Misery. But, still now I sometimes get an email like “your sound is really awesome. It’s amazing music…but your topic about ‘serial killers’ really sucks“…ha, I don’t care about what they say. I keep on continuing to do what I want to do. So we never change our style/topic.
In the US, the doom genre has gone through a resurgence. Many bands that were once considered underground are starting to gain momentum. Do you think this sudden interest is a good thing? Or do you fear it turning into a passing trend?
I don’t think it’s a trend. Since the early 80’s, this kind of music existed surely. There were not so many bands, but there were great bands like “Trouble,” “Candlemass,” “Saint Vitus,” “The Obssessed,” etc. I think that at last the times gave a fair evaluation.
Has the doom scene in Japan grown in the last few years? Are there any new bands making a name for themselves? Or is it still the case that “there is NO doom scene in Japan,” as you’ve stated in past interviews? If so, why do think that doom is marginalized or lacking in Japan?
First of all, Doom/Stoner music is not totally popular in Japan. The population that listens to this music is not much. Major magazines ignored what we do. That is the reason why we toured hard out of Japan. Maybe our music is too much heavy for common people.
The last time the band toured through the states was back in 2013. Are there any plans to return?
Sure! I am really hungry for tour now!
How did it feel like playing festivals such as Maryland Deathfest and Road Burn? Are you planning on any festival shows in the near future?
We always plan full-scale US tours. Last time we played in over 40 places. But I want to hit more places than before. America is so big. It’s worth the challenge to me.
I am always curious to learn how musicians got their start playing, studying, and/or performing music. How did you first begin playing music, and when did you know that this was what you wanted to do? Did you come from a musical family, and were they supportive of your interest in music?
It was good luck that my older brother played guitar. I began playing bass guitar when I was 11 years old. At that time, my older brother already played guitar and he was in the band.
When the bass player of his band quit, I joined that band, I was 13 years old and they covered “Jimi Hendrix” and “Cream”!!! I was already playing correctly “Crossroads” (by Cream) when I was 13 years old!
Who are some of the artists in this genre, or any genre for that matter, that you look up to? Who were some of your early influences?
Of course, Black Sabbath – Ozzy-era. Besides “Sabbath,” I’m deeply influenced by 70’s Swedish monster November. In the 90’s, Bloodfarmers is the biggest influence. Dave Szulkin is a riff master!!
Do you have any interests outside of music? Or does this occupy most of your free time?
Uh…. it’s a difficult question. Watching wrestling. Collecting “Spaghetti Western” DVDs. Digging through vinyl at the record store. That’s it.