Interview by Brian Galloway and Todd Nelson
Translation by Cap Hayes
August 26, 2020
We sat down with all four members of Mary’s Blood to discuss their latest release, Re>Animator; their 10th anniversary celebrations; virtual live performances; and more.
You’ve all cosplayed over the years as anime and video game characters for Halloween, and you’ve already covered “Magia” at one of your Halloween lives, so your fans know that you enjoy the genre. How did the idea for Re>Animator come about? Was it a decision to do something a little less serious, after Revenant and CONFESSiONS? Or was this something that’s been in the works for a while?
EYE: At first, we got the idea from a member of the record company. They said, what do you think about doing an anisong cover album?
How did the band decide on which songs to cover? Did each of you select personal favorites?
EYE: Someone from the label came up with the initial list, and that person knew our band and what the band members liked. For example, I really like L’Arc~en~Ciel, and of course other members’ favorites were on there as well. Originally it was about five songs, and then we added some others like “Magia.”
EYE-san, many overseas fans didn’t realize that X-Japan’s “Forever Love” was used in an anime and are very excited to hear you sing it. I know it’s a very difficult song, vocally. Did you find it challenging?
EYE: Thank you, I’m happy to hear that. Yes, it’s quite difficult. The original singer is very good, so I was very nervous when singing it.
From the Re>Animator preview clip, the tracks seem to have that signature metal sound one can expect from Mary’s Blood. Was there anything special the band did for the arrangements? Are there any surprises fans can look forward to?
EYE: Something that may surprise fans are some of the arrangements SAKI-chan did.
Any songs in particular?
SAKI: (in English) EYE-chan said Track 4, “BATTLER” ~「荒涼たる新世界」, will surprise people. I did the entire arrangement on that song. I combined multiple SEIKIMA-II songs because I’m a huge fan of theirs. It was hard to do the arrangement. I used three guitars for the signature SEIKIMA-II guitar sound, and took parts from many SEIKIMA-II songs. It might be that only SEIKIMA-II fans will know the arrangement secret, how many songs I combined and phrases I used.
For the overall album, I think the most important thing is to not lose the Mary’s Blood sound, even while playing anime songs. We thought we should make a metal album, even playing the anime songs. For example, with「甲賀忍法帖」 (Track 2), we thought we should make it “harder.” Onmyouza is a great heavy metal band, everyone knows that, but we should make it sound more like Mary’s Blood. So we sped it up and played it heavier, things like that. We did the same type of thing with all the songs on the album.
SAKI-san, I wanted to say, with “BATTLER” to 「荒涼たる新世界」, I was really impressed with the way you took the pieces and put them together. And, the entire album, like you said, it does have that Mary’s Blood sound. You took all these disparate songs and artists, and made it sound like you. And it’s fantastic.
SAKI: (in English) Thank you.
As mentioned earlier, the band has cosplayed for various events in the past. Did you create the costumes for the Re>Animator photo shoot?
EYE: Those costumes are from a professional.
SAKI: We used a costume designer.
Are there plans for any additional music videos for tracks off of this album?
SAKI: (shakes head no) (in English) It’s so hard to make music videos. It’s very different from the Western music world. You know that. (smiles) For Japanese, it’s a very surprising thing that artists in Europe and US make so many videos from an album. Here, it’s usually one or two. So, only the “Pegasus” one at this time.
If in the future Mary’s Blood were to write their own song for an anime, what genre do you think would fit you best? Like a Shonen, or Shojou, or Magical Girl, etc.?
EYE: Ehh… Because I love Evangelion, I would like to write an Evangelion song.
The 10th Anniversary concert was a very special milestone for the band. How did the band decide which songs you wanted to perform?
RIO: The feeling was to make it like a Best album, choosing songs from everything we’ve done so far.
The four of you have now been together now for 9 years. How did SAKI and RIO come to join the band?
EYE: A mutual contact introduced them.
RIO: That’s right, we were introduced.
It is rare accomplishment for a band to be around for 10 years and still going strong. What has been your most satisfying experience over the band’s history so far?
MARI: Most satisfying is a little difficult to answer…
EYE: Well, I didn’t think that we would have so many chances to perform overseas. After we became this four-member group, at first we played at Anime Matsuri in the US, but after that we were able to play with Dragonforce in Hong Kong, and then play in London last year at Metal Matsuri. I think that’s from being together for a long time. A band that plays together for just a year or two probably doesn’t get those opportunities. It makes me happy knowing that we could do that.
Revenant and CONFESSiONS were my favorite albums for both 2018 and 2019. They are both very eclectic, with a lot of new sounds, while also sounding very much like Mary’s Blood. Was this stylistic change a conscious choice by the band, to pursue and incorporate different sounds? Or did it just happen with the songwriting?
EYE: It makes me happy to hear that. But, every time we are making an album we put a lot of thought into it.
EYE: The new album is the same. We were keeping a lot of things in mind while making it.
EYE-san has posted on SNS playing acoustic guitar. In general, to all the band members, do any of you play other instruments besides the one you are primarily known for in the band?
SAKI: Piano, just a little.
RIO: Guitar, a little bit.
MARI: I don’t play anything else.
EYE-san, you have such a great rock voice. Who were some of your vocal influences?
EYE: Thank you very much. NoB-san, who sang with me in “Pegasus Fantasy” on Re>Animator, he is my teacher.
Ah, NoB-san is your vocal teacher?
EYE: Yes, for about the last 10 years.
That’s very cool. Following up on singing, a lot of metal singers seem to “end up” in metal instead of pursuing it from the very beginning. Did you follow a similar path, or has metal always been your style of choice?
EYE: At first, no, not until I heard Hyde (of L’arc en Ciel).
How did you end up singing metal then?
EYE: The band I was in before Mary’s Blood was looking for a singer, and there was an online listing for it, and I went and auditioned.
EYE-san, I wanted to ask about your vocal techniques. You add a lot of grit to your voice, especially in songs like “On the Rocks.” I have described your voice to friends as a “velvet-covered hammer.”
Yet, your voice just seems to keep getting stronger and more powerful. Can you tell us about what kind of vocal training you’ve had, and how you care for your voice, so you can do what you do so well?
EYE: I found out quite a while ago I had a very strong throat, so I haven’t really done any training for that specifically.
Please take care of your voice. (laughs)
EYE: (laughs) Thank you.
As a follow up to the instruments questions, what is your songwriting process like? For example, how does a song like “Layla,” with its drum intro and its Arabesque orchestrations, go from an idea in your head to a demo that you present to the band?
EYE: I came up with it first, right? I was playing with that pattern…
MARI: Yes, EYE-chan was experimenting with that kind of ethnic… Arabic pattern from the beginning.
So, was that something that she wrote out, or something that you came up with in the studio?
SAKI: We usually use software when we make our demos. For the first step of the demo, EYE-chan had already made an Arabesque pattern.
EYE-san, as the primary lyric writer, even for the songs where you don’t compose the music, do you write the vocal melodies? Or is that something the other songwriter hands to you, and you fit the lyrics to it?
EYE: I receive the melody from the songwriter and I write my lyrics afterwards.
With each new album, the band has a new visual look. Is that something the band comes up with, or do you work with somebody to come up with those new looks?
EYE: We get some suggestions from a designer first, then each of us responds with our own input as well.
RIO-san, for CONFESSiONS, you wrote three songs: 「エイム」, “Hello,” and “HIGH-5.” And they all sound completely different!
RIO: Ah, the character of the songs are totally different right? Well, to put it simply, it’s because I started with completely different rhythms that I wanted to try.
Do those different sounds represent the different sides of your musical personality? All the different styles that you like?
RIO: Yes, they are all styles that I like.
「エイム」 marks the first song since “Frozen” (on Azure, way back in 2013) where EYE did not write the lyrics. How did that come about? Did you and EYE arm wrestle to see who would write the lyrics? (smile)
RIO: (laughs) The lyrics were inspired by an old game that I like. I thought the people who play games would get it and find it cool and suggested that we do it. And, no, we did not have to arm wrestle. (smile)
RIO-san, this is not a question, just a compliment. I love the bass solo on “Hello.”
RIO: Oh, thank you very much. (In English) Super thank you.
Until I saw the live version, I did not realize the solo was a bass. I was both surprised and delighted. I loved it. Please do more in the future. (smile)
RIO: Other people have also said it didn’t seem like a bass solo, like maybe a guitar or a synthesizer. I also kind of like tricky stuff like that, so I smiled to myself when I heard it. (laughs)
SAKI-san, you are very active on Twitter, and you do a great job engaging with fans. I just want to say, again, how much I appreciate the work you did to get the web shop set up to work for overseas fans.
SAKI: Thank you!
SAKI-san, this is kind of a fun question, but you have a signature stage move. . . when you finish a solo, you often lean back – way back! It looks like a ballet move. Did you study ballet or gymnastics, by chance?
SAKI: No, never.
Just naturally flexible?
SAKI: Yes. (laughs)
Did something give you the idea to start doing that?
SAKI: Yes, I studied sun-go☆-san from SHOW-YA. She did it a little bit like this. So I saw that in the SHOW-YA performances for many years. So I started to think about it way back. (laughs)
SAKI-san, do you do a lot of experimenting with guitar effects for live performances? For example, on “R.I.P.” from Make The New World 2018, and “Counter Strike” from Change the Fate Tour 2016-2017 Final, both sound really cool and give the listener something new from the studio versions.
SAKI: Yes, I often use a wah-wah and I also use it on the live versions. I think it’s – how do I say it? – sometimes I’m, not bored, but I just want to try something new at the live. Something different from the studio version.
For me, personally, that’s probably my favorite version of “R.I.P.” The guitar sound on that is really catchy.
SAKI: Ah, thank you!
MARI-san, not a question, just a compliment. I love watching you perform live. You always seem to be having such a great time. No matter how fast or complex the drum part might be, you are smiling and bobbing your head like you’re taking a walk in the park. It’s great.
MARI: Thank you! It’s fun to play the drums, so that’s why I look like that.
MARI-san, your drumming is the backbone of the band and is technically very demanding. What would you say are the most challenging and satisfying songs for you to play?
MARI: On the album CONFESSiONS, the song 「贖罪の鐘 ～Requiem for the victims～」 is quite difficult to play, and live, it’s very satisfying.
As an alternative to live shows attended by fans, you held a no-audience live hosted by Zaiko. Many overseas fans enjoyed it including some of us here. What was fan feedback like?
EYE: In the June livestream, a lot of people asked for an encore and said “Mary’s! Mary’s!” You know, they typed that out. In the comments, people were getting excited. That was quite interesting.
Do you want to do more streaming live shows from now on?
EYE: I want to for sure. Next time will be in September, on the 5th and the 6th, so hold on a little longer!
Will those be the conceptual shows?
SAKI: (nods yes)
Can you give us any background information, like what the differences between the Azure and Scarlet shows will be?
EYE: How should I explain it? (laughs) Scarlet is more… how should I say it? There are a lot of intense songs in it. More straight and powerful. Azure is more adult and technical, like something more like a film. That’s a little difficult to explain. isn’t it!
With Scarlet and Azure being the names of two of your albums as well, are the concepts built around just the names, or are they specific to the albums for each performance?
EYE: They will celebrate those albums, but the theme will incorporate similar songs from other releases as well.
SAKI-san, you have headed up a number of World Girls Guitar Collection events over the years. I was wondering if you plan on doing more of those in the future?
SAKI: Not sure. The idea was from my management. Actually, it was so hard to do that event, because there are so many guitarists. So, I should choose the guitarists and we should think of the order and the songs, so…yeah…if I have time between three bands…so (laughs) 20 or 30 people to do this. (laughs) So, yeah, maybe. We will probably do it again at NAONのYAON.
Follow-up question for the other members. Do they think they would ever want to do something similar, with their instrument of choice – including vocals?
EYE: What would be a good way to do it for singers? (laughs) I’d like to, though.
I’m sure you have a lot of contacts that would probably be interested.
EYE: It sounds like it would be fun if it could be done.
MARI: I’d like to do something like that, I think. I would like to play some sessions with another drummer.
RIO: World Bass Collection? Sounds pretty interesting, doesn’t it.
In the last year, you performed for the first time in Europe, at Metal Matsuri in London. What was that experience like?
EYE: It was really fun. We got to meet some other bands. It was really fun to be able to share a stage with them. Even though we were in England, it felt kind of like being in Japan. We were able to relax and really have some fun.
Did the audience also make it feel like being in Japan or was it different?
EYE: It wasn’t so different from playing live in Japan. The audience’s call and response was similar and we felt like we could communicate with them. There weren’t a lot of Japanese fans in the audience but the atmosphere was really just like playing our other shows. That made us really happy.
Following up on that to RIO-san. A bit of a humorous question. From your SNS posts, fans know you are very fond of beer. When you were in London, did you have a chance to have a yard of ale?
RIO: (laughs) No, I think I didn’t drink any beer other than Heineken.
They also sell yards of beer at Hub in Japan, so you can try it there.
SAKI: Oh, they have them at Hub?
EYE: Yeah, they have them (laughs)
RIO: I can’t speak English, but in order to be able to order and ask about beer, I learned some. (laughs) I was very happy that both the beer and the pizza were quite large in London. (in English) Delicious! Delicious! Very delicious! (laughs)
The anisong cover album will keep fans happy for quite a while, but they also want to know if Mary’s has any plans for original material in the near future?
EYE: We haven’t formally discussed the next album yet, but working on this album we developed a lot of ideas and it definitely has us excited about doing some originals.
To all the members, some readers on our website are “gear heads” and like reading about the equipment you use. Is there any special equipment that you use, such as mics, keyboards, etc., that you would like to let our readers know about?
SAKI: Besides the guitar itself?
Right, and maybe also if you like a specific brand of guitar? Or amp or whatever gives you the sound that you want.
SAKI: I’m using Killer guitars for 10 years. They are supporting me, so I love to use the Killer guitars.
EYE: When recording the anisong cover album, I used a Brauner microphone.
SAKI: They’re a German company.
EYE: It’s the first time I used it, but it seemed to really suit me. It felt like it made it seem easier to sing.
Was that a tube mic?
EYE: Yeah, that’s right, a vacuum tube condenser mic.
So will you be using them going forward?
EYE: I think I’d like to, but that wasn’t my mic — it was SIN-san’s. (laughs)
Editor’s Note: SIN is the producer the band worked with to make Re>Animator.
RIO: I’m playing Sago New Material guitars. I use them a lot and really like them. Also, Orange amps and a Boss overdrive pedal.
The old-school yellow ones?
RIO: Yeah, the way I use it, it’s kind of like a guitar. (laughs)
MARI: The main drum set I play is from Tama with bubinga shells. I really like the bubinga shells.
Would the band like to say anything to their overseas fans?
EYE: We would like to do a world tour, please wait for us.
EYE: (laughs) Thank you!
Thank you again for joining us.
MARY’S BLOOD: Thank you!
Mary’s Blood Website: https://marysblood.jp/
Mary’s Blood Twitter: https://twitter.com/marysblood_Info
EYE Twitter: https://twitter.com/EYE_marysblood
SAKI Twitter: https://twitter.com/_chakixx_
RIO Twitter: https://twitter.com/RIO_marysblood
MARI Twitter: https://twitter.com/MARI_marysblood
Mary’s Blood YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/MarysBloodOfficial
Mary’s Blood Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MarysBloodOfficial/
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