GRAZEL: “We try to express ourselves with different makeup and look, and we basically just do it. The visual kei is still a part of us, but we do not focus on being just a visual kei band. We’re trying to be a metal band, or a rock band even because we want to make it accessible for more people. “
After the show in Dordrecht I managed to quickly sit down (for about half of the interview) with the guys from the German band VII ARC. Due to a lack of time this interview had to be cut short, but the guys were happy to provide the rest of the answers via email! So if you’re wondering why it looks a bit wobbly at some point… Well, now you know. XD
For the photo album of this show, please follow this link.
01. You have this wonderful small bio about the seven deadly sins written down as a sort of introduction for the show we’re going to see today, but how would you introduce yourselves to the readers of this interview right now?
Bena: (Jokingly) We’ve already answered this question in the previous interview (with Saetori)…!
Stephany: But, I wasn’t part of that interview, I can’t read that!
Bena: So basically we are just five guys from Germany who have formed a band, and we are very inspired by Japanese rock and metal music in general. There are also other influences from other styles, bands and countries, but the Japanese influence is the core. This makes our sound really heavy, crazy and experimental but we have a melancholic vocalist that sings like clean beautiful lines over it as well as screams, but I scream too…
GRAZEL: I scream too!
Bena: That’s the description of our band.
Stephany: “Melancholic, I scream.” Got it!
Z’ev: “Write that down!” (*As you can see I totally did write that down…)
Bena: So, very heavy, but on the other side very melancholic too. We try our best to bring that to the audience on stage through our performance. We are very theatrical. That’s how I would describe our band to someone who has never heard of us before.
02. There are so many stories and interpetations about hell and the seven deadly sins. When you decided to use this theme for your band, did you follow any “set” universe (like for example Dante’s Inferno) or is it a fully original world created by the five of you as a band?
GRAZEL: We had a song that was called Gluttony. It was the first song that had this connection to the seven deadly sins, and we really liked this idea and seven was already a part of the name of the band. We really liked the idea of pulling our listeners deeper into this setting and now we have different songs that don’t really directly lead to this setting but “Love it or leave it” is a bit like “sinful/lustful” and “Ira” translates to wrath and anger, and thus is connected to this. We’d really like to get the listener to have an idea of this concept which is easy to grasp here in Europe because of the influence of the church. There are lots of sounds for the familiar atmosphere, like NIL for example has a church organ and is kind of setting a mood, setting and theme already, which makes it easy to convey a certain dark setting.
Z’ev: Even though we are not religious. (Everyone laughs.)
Bena: If you’ve read the text of DOXA you’d know!
03. From my point of view, VII ARC has a different theme in every music video or new album. But how do you want to recreate this live? Do you choose one of these themes, or decide to keep it more neutral?
Bena: In our outfit we create a neutral image of ourselves live, because otherwise we’d need to have like 10 outfits in the back to make that happen. So it’s a fusion of everything we’ve just released, I think. But I think we’ve created a visual image in our performance already and with every song we behave differently on stage. In for example Ira we are a very angry looking band on stage, so I really think that with every song during a live performance it’s a unique image.
KAY: I’m writing the lyrics, and for me as a vocalist each song has a different message which I have to bring to the audience in a different way each time. So I think it’s like you said, we have to approach each song individually. And the videos are just so people who don’t know us can get access to us. For this video these looks fit with it and we put that together, but on stage we focus on the message that this song has.
GRAZEL: With the album ATONIA and Reflected Upcoming, the second part of ATONIA we’ve created a setting or a mood. Which you can already see from the album cover. It’s a very dark place with stones with something weird in the background and a lonely woman in the middle of this who has to convey this atmosphere of a very unsettling feeling which is related to the songs on the album. With the next album we want to make a twist on this as well and combine all this.
04. You are inspired by the visual kei scene from Japan, but what was your first encounter with this scene? Did you see it online, on TV, or did a friend show it to you?
Fu: My first encounter with visual kei was actually 13 or 14 years ago. A girl I had a crush on back then really liked Gackt and Malice Mizer. I didn’t know them at all, so I looked into it because I wanted to know who they were and why she liked them. My first reaction actually was “who are these weird girls?”, so that was my first impression. I checked them out, listened to their music and I was simply blown away. After that I moved on to hide and X Japan. That actually inspired me to make music.
Bena: I saw MUCC on the television, with the music video for 最終列車 (Saishuu Ressha).
GRAZEL: I was in school and we had a German class and we had the BRAVO magazine as a topic for the lessons. On a small corner there was a small review of the It Withers and Withers DVD by Dir en grey, and I was very intrigued by this because it said “shock rockers from Japan”. I was Googling it on my old school dial-up modem back then. It was loading 5 hours for a video, and I eventually got to watch the uncensored version of OBSCURE. I was 9 or 10 years old back then and I thought “okay, that’s pretty fucked up”. I told my sister, and she was actually collecting all the BRAVO issues. D’espairsray was actually featured in one of the BRAVO issues back then and I still have the poster actually…
GRAZEL: They’re all half-naked and such…
Bena: That’s worth thousands now!
GRAZEL: I was very fascinated and then I came across MUCC at the same time because there was a video in the MTV Viva chart, I think? It was the first CD I got at the Saturn or Media Markt at that time too, the 666 album from MUCC. It is my favorite album by them too.
Z’ev: I started getting connected to this music by them, by these guys. I started playing with them. I was just looking for a band to play in and uh-
Bena: It was the last option for him!
Z’ev: And look at me now!
KAY: He was alone, in despair, and needed friends!
(Everyone laughs again)
KAY: And now he’s sitting here! But for me it’s the same as Bena. I saw 最終列車 (Saishuu Ressha) on TV and my mom caught me. She asked me “come on, what is this? It looks interesting!” and I listened to it and thought “wow”, because I only knew Japanese music, but only from anime. I didn’t know that they made this rock and metal like music. I did some research and came to D’espairsray’s Coll:set album, Dir en grey with the album Vulgar, and then came NIGHTMARE because they released ANIMA and LIBIDO in Germany and MERRY released their New Chemical Rhetoric and PEEP SHOW albums here and the GazettE with [NIL] and I was totally into it.
KAY: And since then I’ve never been able to escape from this scene and so I only listen to Japanese music until today and I don’t regret it, at all!
05. Being inspired by the scene probably means that you have a few artists you follow for inspiration, right? Which artists specifically inspire you (either as a group or individually)?
Bena: I think that the last three years we’ve had some similarities with bands like DADAROMA or the heavy side of NOCTURNAL BLOODLUST, and I think that the GazettE is a really good example of what we think is really good music and what style we want when we play on stage.
KAY: Me being a vocalist means I am very focused on vocalists, but some bands have such an impact on me by the way they perform. The most impact a vocalist had on me was actually HYDE, from L’Arc~en~Ciel. I’ve admired him so so much. I got to meet him and take a photo with him and-
Bena: (Jokingly) Fanboy…
KAY: Yes, yes, totally… I am such a fanboy for this band. We went to a concert and I was totally like “I really want to touch his hand!” and such. But other vocalists I admire are Ruki from the GazettE, Tsuzuku from MEJIBRAY and Yoshiatsu from DADAROMA or Aki from Arlequin because of his screaming style. He does it the same way I do it, and I checked his style and noticed he can do it, so I thought “maybe I can do it too”. When they perform I get a lot of inspiration from them. Same for Gackt, his vocal range is incredible.
GRAZEL: I also would say Gackt because he’s one of my favorite singers, despite his recent tweets and stuff… I got to know him him through AMV’s of Harry Potter movies made by fans. So I listened to that and I thought “what is this Indian metal?” because of his vocal style.
Fu: As I said I like hide and X Japan and old 80’s 90’s visual kei bands from Japan like LUNA SEA and even poprock bands like Kiyoharu. But nowadays a lot of Western bands of different genres too. Glamrock, folk metal…
Z’ev: (Sighs deeply) Me… Not! I’m actually mostly inspired by rockers, and mainly drummers. I really listen to Soul Work, and even poprock songs from Britain like Porcupine Tree drum wise. I listen to mostly Western music because I hate it when I can’t understand what they sing about and I don’t want to learn Japanese just so I can understand what they are singing about. The lyrics are very important for me so that’s why I prefer to Western music.
06. What made you decide to pursuade the visual kei genre in Europe as a band? Since the “market” for such music is so much smaller here, especially for non-Japanese bands…
GRAZEL: We don’t see ourselves as a visual kei band, or at least, we don’t try to be “only” a visual kei band. We are inspired by the things we like and try to transform that into something that feels natural to us and what we want to perform. Especially in visual kei you have this very enthusiastic, theatrical and extreme way of performances, but also in the music itself. The videos are extreme, the music extreme, their gear is extreme, so everything doesn’t have to be as extreme on our end. We just do it like it feels natural to us. We try to express ourselves with different makeup and look, and we basically just do it. The visual kei is still a part of us, but we do not focus on being just a visual kei band. We’re trying to be a metal band, or a rock band even because we want to make it accessible for more people. We’ve seen that at conventions people come to express themselves at such an event, and when they see us there they like us and can connect with us in that way.
Z’ev: Often we also call ourselves visual metal because of the metal we produce and us adding a visual part to it.
Bena: We just do what comes natural to us. We play what we like and we look like this because we like it. Before the band we already looked like this, it’s not like we’ve created these looks for the band. Though on stage we are more extreme versions of ourselves, but other than that it’s just who we are. I don’t think it’s really a visual kei band-style, but we do definitely have some similarities with them.
KAY: I think it’s really strange if you attach yourself to one specific genre like visual kei and then do your own band and not do anything related to visual kei. For me it was natural to put makeup on because I was like this as a teenager already. It never went away.
GRAZEL: When joining the band I just looked like… Like me, but the alpha version of me. I always wanted to have bleach blonde hair and I always wanted to do this and that, but with the band it was like “let’s do this”, I got bleached hair, white hair, purple hair, whatever. I got the clothes I wanted to wear on a regular basis. I wore them on stage and in private and I was actually able to do the things I wanted to do instead of only doing it on stage.
– Unfortunately due to a lack of time from both myself and the band I had to cut the interview in person here, but the guys were nice enough to answer the remaining questions through email, with exception of the final question. This was still done in person. Sadly enough Z’ev had a very busy schedule during this time, so he wasn’t able to answer any more questions. –
07. There is a tiny elephant in the room, and it’s on your chest specifically… What’s the story behind your Korean tattoo? Since we’ve spoken so much about Japan in this interview, let’s talk about that for a bit?
KAY: This tattoo is a remnant of the time I was totally into K-Pop music. Yeah, I’ve had this phase too, where I was really hyped by all these talented and exploited artists. They dance like devils, sing like angels and look adorable to me. But after about 2 or 3 years I had to aknowledge that my heart belongs to the heavy, crazy music from Japan.
This tattoo is an allusion to the song “내가 제일 잘 나가” (Naega jeil jal naga) from the band 2NE1. I don’t think “I am the best” at all, but I thought it would be funny to have that sentence on my chest. I am proud of who I am, and I love to provoke a lot.
08. I heard that you’ve also been a model for alternative clothing once. Has there been or is there an outfit that you’ve worn or would like to wear that stood out to you? And why this one specifically?
Fu: Yeah it really is a hustle, I got booked quite frequently and modeled for different designers you know…
No wait… Where did you get that information from? Maybe you know more than I do… Hmmm… I wouldn’t say no though. Any designer/shop which is interested? XD
09. You’re clearly the most outgoing and “out there” member of the band. Does this make it easier or harder for you and the rest of the band to decide on the visual aspect as a group? Are you the one who brings suggestions to the table first, or do you adjust to the wishes of the other members?
Bena: Well, many first suggestions actually come from KAY. Fu also gives me some inspiration on styling. I think that if those two wouldn’t slow me down I would look and act way over the top, haha. But for the visual aspect of the group it’s mostly KAY’s influence.
10. The other members have mentioned some “oldschool” visual kei artists that they’d like to work with, but you’re more in the direction of cyberpunk. Is that a difficult preference within the band? Do you often have to adjust to the musical wishes of the majority?
GRAZEL: We always want to do what works best for the songs and our performances for the band. I think there is a lot of musical value in atmospheric sounds, and that serves the atmosphere of our songs very well! In fact, we all share a lot of music each of us listens to, but every one of us has a different approach towards it – in the end, that makes our songs very unique!
11. You’re the one who has made the biggest adjustment to fit the visual part of the band. Do you still feel like you’re literally putting on makeup to be someone else, or are you happily “playing along” with the act like it’s the most normal thing ever now?
(Since this interview was partially done in person and partially through email, Z’ev wasn’t able to answer this question due to his busy schedule.)
12. The audience coming to the shows of visual kei /Japanese bands in Europe is getting smaller and smaller (or not, depending on which band is on the stage, DIR EN GREY attract quite some audience still, as does the GazettE…). Do you guys like to go to these shows as well, or do you prefer to just stick to the concerts in Japan released by the band themselves?
GRAZEL: Less and less Japanese bands are coming overseas, but I got the impression that bands like NOCTURNAL BLOODLUST were received very well. We all went to the concert in Cologne back in 2016, and from what I remember that was a sold out show. With a more open-minded mentality and more bold advertising overseas bands such as キズ (Kizu), JILUKA, DIMLIM, DEZERT, THE GALLO and Arlequin should be able to have similar success! And they should come more often…
KAY: I visited quite a lot of Japanese concerts since 2006, and I am really sad that almost no bands are coming here anymore. I’m totally hyped for the GazettE in June and even more to tour with Jupiter from Japan before that. So I am able to visit some concerts this year. xD
Apart from that I watch a lot of concerts of visual kei bands on YouTube and I get a lot of inspiration from them.
Furthermore I hope that “newer” bands try to make the step towards the non-Japanese market because I think that there are still some people who would this kind of music even now. If good bands that are hyped well come, people will get interested in the scene and style again no matter how strong the impact of K-Pop is.
Bena: I will go to the GazettE concert too, and it’s on my birthday! Whenever there is a cool band from Japan coming to Europe we will be there. When possible even as a support act, hehe.
Fu: I’ve been to quite a lot of Japanese concerts back in the day, but since there are less and less bands and bands I’m interested in coming these days I rarely visit a jrock/vk concert anymore. I would love to go to some lives in Japan though. And yeah, I’m going to see the GazettE too.
13. Since you have been inspired by Japanese music so much, have you ever been to Japan yoruselves? Either to see some of the artists you like, or just to see the country? If no, would you want to?
GRAZEL: I’ve not been in Japan yet. I dislike heavy tourism spots, so I would try to visit more rural and natural areas, but visiting Tokyo would be very interesting to me too!
KAY: I’ve been to Japan and visited Tokyo together with Fu in 2009. We’ve been there for two weeks and since then I’ve really wanted to visit another time, but money and time are rare. But, my dream to play a show in Japan still lives deep inside my heart.
Fu: I can only second what KAY said. I would love to play a show in Japan and also attend some shows as a visitor as well.
Bena: I’ve never visited Japan, but I really want to. There are many other places I want to visit too, and Japan is so far away and expensive that it was never a chance for me up until now. But it’s definitely on my list!
14. And as a last and final question: is there anything you’d like to say to the people reading this interview?
GRAZEL: If you’ve never heard of our band VII ARC then please give us a chance, watch our videos, and if you can, come to our live shows. Because it is then you really get to experience what VII ARC is instead of the internet version. We’d be really happy if you gave us a chance and let us play music for you!
KAY: Please come to our shows because we can express ourselves a lot more through the live shows instead of just the music. If you come to the shows you can see the real version of us, you’ll have fun, you’ll get hit by the spark and you’ll really enjoy it and have a good time!
Z’ev: Just like ordinary, crazy people.
GRAZEL: I think we’re something for the ordinary people too, but it’s very hard because we’ve got positive feedback from all kinds of directions. Kinda, but there are people who aren’t open to our work. Watch our music videos because they have lots of effort in them and are very artistically made. We are also on Spotify, and on Discord we have a very large server with over 100 members right now. So “komm dabei” (join us!) and chat with us too! We also reply to messages on Instagram, and we just like to have a good time.