Photos by Andrew Epstein

I recently had the chance to speak with guitarist Kaoru of Japan’s art rock legends Dir En Grey. The band, who began their life nearly two decades ago in the glammed out visual kei scene, are arguably the most well known Japanese speaking act in the world. They’ve always had two levels of musical style, releasing avant-garde rock compositions alongside pop ballads. In recent years the former has had a distinct metallic touch. Along with a more toned-down look on stage this new sound swelled their fan-base in Europe and North America.

Their latest album Arche goes against this formula by combining their two sides into a unique experience that doesn’t reveal all its secrets in the first listen. It’s garnered the band some of the best reviews of their career. Much like the music on the new album, interviewing the band can also require peeling back a few layers. I sat down with Kaoru before an energetic set at Toronto’s Opera House to chat (through a translator) about the new album, his need to be loud, and re-embracing the visual side of the band. Also with the effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011 once again in the news, we touched on the band’s Scream for the Truth campaign which called for government transparency in the wake of the tragedy


Dir En Grey have two dates lined up in February at Tokyo’s legendary Nippon Budokan. Arche is available now and you can watch the video for “Uroko” here. 



Check out my previous interview with Dir En Grey bassist Toshiya from 2014.