Thursday, January 17, 2013


Japan’s Church of Misery has been spreading their brand of psychedelic Doom since the late 1990s. Their debut album, the devastating “Master of Brutality,” is classic Sabbath-worship combined with sinister true crime themes. Founding member and bassist Tatsu Mikami spoke to Occult Rock about the band’s fascination with serial killers, its dedication to vintage riffs, and what the future holds for these carriers of the 70s hard rock torch.

So what is the latest news from Church of Misery?

We just finished a headline show at the end of 2012—on December 29—in Tokyo. Tickets were completely sold out and we played a hundred and fifty minutes of DOOM! That show was captured on video by eight cameras—it will be out on DVD in 2013.

The band had a pretty big European tour in 2011. Do you plan to hit the road again and bring the Word of Doom and Damnation upon the Old World in the near future?

Yeah, the European tour in 2011 was pretty big! Last year, we toured Europe plus the USA—so that
tour was even bigger than the one in 2011. We plan to tour Europe this summer and then go on to Australia; maybe visit the US again. Make it a true World Tour!

You had another replacement in the Church of Misery crew this summer. Who is your new player? I see the lineup changes from time to time; does this mean you’re a tyrannical leader and a demanding musician?

Ha ha ha! No, I'm not egotistical. I'm not a dictator! The most important things for me are making cool music, cool albums and cool live performances. Band activities are my top priority. As to previous members who left the band—they’re just not as serious about band activities as I am. And they don't like the kind of Doom that we play. We’re always thinking about how to make a cool Doom album, but they aren’t interested in this kind of music, so we fired them.
The new guitarist is Ikuma Kawabe – he has been playing in Heavy Psych and Krautrock bands. His playing style is different from our previous guitarist, Tom Sutton. Tom is a real “Heavy Metal” guitarist but Ikuma's playing is more 70s rock style, with lots of improvisation.

Most of your songs are about “serial killers and mass murderers.” Has your passion for this topic lessened over time or do you think you’ll keep on exploring this theme in next release?

Of course. We never change the topic!

What attracts you to serial killers as subjects? There's no glory in such murders; there're just sadistic killings of those who are weaker. What will you do when you finally write a song about the last maniac? Will you change your lyrical theme after that or will you just go out on the streets and became a killer yourself?

When Church was first formed, I was reading and watching a lot about serial killers. It’s really interesting—the process that takes someone from being a normal guy to being a psychotic killer. These are very, very interesting stories. And I thought that these topics fit with our heavy, doomy music. That is the reason I chose this topic. The combination of heavy music and true crime is really strong and brutal. It’s best for Church of Misery! I know what you mean, though, because I sometimes got a mail like "your sounds are really awesome, it’s amazing music, but your topic about serial killers really sucks.” I don't care what they say. I keep on doing what I wanna do! So we never change our style or subject.

Your last release was “Live at Roadburn” back in 2010—it would be good to hear some news about your forthcoming album!

Yeah, we’re already preparing for a new album! We will enter the studio for demo recording this week—it’s in pre-production. I wrote six new songs. At the end of this month, we‘ll start to record the new album. We don’t have a title yet—do you have any ideas for the upcoming album? How about "VOL.4?” Hah! The new release will be out in May, on Rise Above Records.

Church of Misery doesn’t hide the fact that it hates trends. What kind of particular Doom trends do you hate?

In 2001, there were so many boring "Stoner" bands around the world. At that time, the "Stoner Rock" movement was going strong and there were so many small underground labels releasing boring "Stoner" records. Most of them are crap, so I became really disgusted with that movement. We put our statement on our first album’s back cover: "we hate trend, we hate corporate attitude.” After that, we got really tired of hearing about "Drone/Ambient Doom." That’s not "DOOM!” But here in Japan, everyone in the media was writing about "Drone—best influence of Black Sabbath," or "best Doom music besides Black Sabbath.” Drone is just really boring. I’m disappointed with all the Japanese Rock media. So our statement again is "No Drone, no Power Ambient. Let them eat DOOM" on our third album's back cover.

Japan has a unique original culture; do you ever think of incorporating some of your country’s musical traditions into your work?

You can’t mean adding some “Oriental Music” style into Church Of Misery's serial killer Doom Rock? It wouldn’t work! We are not interested in the traditional Japanese style of music. Our music style is BLACK SABBATH! That’s it!

Doom Metal coming out of Japan is still a very rare thing. Eternal Elysium plays Western-style Stoner Rock, though Zaki once mentioned the influence of traditional Japanese music on the band’s work. There’s also the mighty Corruptedand they’re beyond Good and Evil. Do you think that Japanese Heavy Metal bands support each other? Have any new good bands appeared in last few years?

First of all, I have to say: there is no Doom scene, here in Japan. As you mentioned, there are only two Doom bands: Church of Misery and Eternal Elysium. No new bands, only us. We sometimes play together but I don't think this is going to make a Doom scene. As for Church, we’re really disappointed with this situation and that is the reason why we always tour overseas.

What about your side-projects Sonic Flower and G.A.T.E.S.? Do you have any plans to release new stuff under these names?

Sonic Flower! I already wrote tons of new songs for this project. After Church of Misery's new album is recorded, Sonic Flower will rise again. I hope to release an album sometime this year. As for GATES, I already quit that band two years ago. Their music style changed to 80's hair metal (!!!) before I left. So I got really bored with that, ‘cause I wanna play Motörhead-influenced punk metal!! But don't worry, I already formed a new band and we recorded an album last month. This band is a recording project—a collaboration with a US band's singer. Sorry I can’t tell you more about this now. Soon we will announce when his vocal tracks are going to be finished. The album will out in 2013. I hope you love it – it’s real Motörhead-influenced hardcore punk metal!

Church of Misery has changed labels a few times during its history. Which labels were the best matches for the band? How do you usually work with labels?

Now we have a deal with Rise Above Records for three albums. They always help us with European tour dates and promotions. Our label Emetic Records has helped a lot too—they re-released some of our albums. They really help us in every way they can. Steve from Emetic Records supports us strongly. He is amazing!

Most of us know that even the most brutal musicians are normal guys in their daily life. So how did the almighty maniacs from Church of Misery celebrate the New Year?

We just drink beer too much. Hideki just smoked some weed. We never burn churches or anything like that! 

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