Here’s an interview with Dark The Giant, a band that’s toiled and suffered and worked their asses off in every kind of shitty situation for over two decades. Well… to be honest, I think they were busy or doing other things? (sorry, Keisuke!) But last year they got a human infusion of rock and roll called Masaya and now they’ve put out their first single on Stay Free Label. The interview was done by Tsune from Young Parisian and appeared in a Japanese punk rock magazine.
There’s nothing like punk and power pop based rock and roll that hits you with a blast of power and melody that’s over-the-top catchy and not even trying to hide its love of US and UK rock from the 90s to today. The band I’m talking about is Dark The Giant, a “rookie” band of 22 years that’s now, way too late, putting out its first single. The single features four scorching rock and roll tunes whose production was overseen by Firestarter’s Fifi. It’s a great first release that’s better late than never.
―Thanks a lot for sitting down to… (K-suke is slowly pulling a pile of CDs from his bag)… What are you doing?
K-suke – Just in case you asked me about our roots (laughs).
―I’ve interviewed people for a long time and this is a first (laughs). Let me start by asking you, you’re the guitarist of Firestarter, but you’ve also been doing Dark The Giant all along, right?
K – Yeah, it’s been 22 years.
―Twenty-two years! What kind of band were you planning to do when you first started?
K – I just wanted to start a band, just like a cover band or something. I was listening to a lot of different stuff and then heard Weezer and I was like – This!
―Is Weezer still an influence?
K – I was way into them at that time. I never got a chance to see them until they played Summer Sonic and it was so good I cried. For the first two years or so we just did Weezer covers and then I decided I wanted to do originals. Nobody else seemed like they were going to write any songs, so I had to. So I went with pop tunes with catchy melodies backed by a powerful rhythm, like Weezer.
―So, you guys have always sounded like that. Your tunes are definitely catchy. Hoshi, you’ve been in the band since the beginning. Do you think the sound has changed?
H – Yeah, now that you mention it the basic sound hasn’t changed. Lately, I detect the influence of some of the bands we play with.
―I don’t know much about Weezer, but at the same time you were into stuff like Guitar Wolf and Teengenerate, right? Were you trying to keep those influences out of your music?
K – No, that wasn’t intentional at all. I just can’t write stuff like that (laughs). New York Dolls are one of my favorite bands but if I try to write something like that, it just doesn’t work at all. It’d be totally forced and unnatural.
―I see. There was also a pretty long time when you guys struggled, right? When you didn’t have a drummer and played as a two-piece and things like that?
H – We were a two-piece from 2007 to 2009 and then again from 2011 to 2013.
K – Just guitar and bass with no drums. And we also had to pay norma. (editor’s note: There’s a shitty system no one likes in Japan except maybe some greedy club owners called “norma” where the band has to buy the event’s tickets and promote and sell them themselves while the bar owners sit around and smoke and look at their smartphones and take the money and only give the band money if X tickets are sold).
―That’s depressing (laughs). There are many bands who’d give up if faced with that.
K – Yup (laughs). We just thought if we can practice once a week and play a show once a month, well… that’s enough for us.
―And then your savior (drummer OGG) appeared!
K – One day Boogie from High Life said, “You don’t have a drummer? How about OGG (editor’s note: High Life’s drummer)?” We asked him and he said yeah right away.
OGG –I was like, if you guys aren’t really doing anything, what’s the point? They were like, well we don’t have a drummer so… How about it? (laughs).
K – The drummers we had before were really technical, like really into drums.
― Oh, you mean they love drums but not necessarily rock and roll.
K – Right. But OGG is a rocker, and he really plays with the whole band.
―Last year, Masaya joined the band. How did that change things?
K – One day, Masaya said let’s go drinking and I was too embarrassed to say I didn’t have any money so I went and for some reason I just started saying, how about joining Dark The Giant?
―He said OK, just like that?
K – Pretty much. He said, really?… Okay! That was easy! (laughs)
Masaya – I saw them a lot as a three-piece and thought it was cool that he was at the center singing and playing guitar, but I thought it’d be better if he could focus more on singing. Plus, I thought my guitar style would fit the band.
―Did you also have a lot in common musically?
K – Yeah. Masaya’s wearing an Exploring Hearts t-shirt right now. That’s the kind of stuff I listen to too.
―How long have you been in the band?
K – A half year.
H – Nothing really happened for us for 20 years and Masaya comes along and things start happening (laughs).
K – To be honest, up till now we hadn’t really thought about recording. We were just playing shows whenever it suited us. Right after he joined, Masaya started kicking our asses to record something. We were like, yeah sure, when the time comes… But also once he joined, we started expanding our sound quite a bit, we could write stuff we couldn’t write before, and with him, we could get songs together more quickly. So, he convinced us and we started scheduling recording time.
―He’s a guy that gets stuff done!
H – It’s been crazy. But actually, we’ve been waiting for somebody like Masaya for ten years. We were a 4-piece originally.
―What kind of record did you want to do?
K – We wanted to make something we could really call rock and roll. The songs are all catchy, poppy rock and roll, but Masaya adds more power and speed to it. I always refer to us as rock and roll and a lot of people don’t get it. Like, for example, I love Johnny Thunders, but I don’t play like that, our style is totally different. But I think if people hear this, they’ll get it.
M – The first song “Diamond” is one we wrote since I joined the band and we’d never played it live before, but it really captures the band as it is now.
―This is a punk rock magazine. Do you guys consider yourselves a punk rock band?
K – Honestly, I want to say we’re a punk band but it’s tough. Everybody is so concerned about who is or isn’t punk rock, and that makes it tough to say that. It’s a word that has a high hurdle. I really kind of aspire to being able to say that.
O – It’s kind of ironic to say the hurdle for punk is high (laughs).
―Right, it’s a style of music that’s supposed to be the total opposite (laughs). But I think that’s just because people love punk so much and there’s a lot of fake shit. Anyway, do you have any last comments for our readers?
H – After 22 years, we’re finally getting started. Please check out our record!
K – Twenty-two years is a long time and people come and go, but you can still meet somebody that turns things totally around. Our sound and image haven’t really changed but I can honestly say this is the best lineup we’ve ever had. Thanks to everybody who supports us. If I could sum it up in one word – Rock and Roll!