Okay, Maybe "Love" Isn't the Right Word
Officially, Church of Misery plays doom metal. In the Japanese quartet’s case, this means they dig deep into the bluesy roots of metal for raw material to build into mammoth, filthy riff beasts scarred by raw, raw vocals. As if that wasn’t cataclysmic enough, every single song is about a serial killer or mass murderer, save for the odd reinterpretation of an early proto-metal classic. They’ve been doing this for more than fifteen years.
What kind of band does this? Is it brilliant joke taken too far? Deep cover conceptual art? Four characters escaped from an unpublished Haruki Murakami story? Just before embarking on their first US tour, bass player and songwriter Tatsu of Church of Misery took some time to answer our questions via email. We learned the short answer was none of the above. The long answer was more interesting than any of our guesses.
Can you describe what led you to form a doom metal band with songs about serial killers and mass murderers? Are you more fascinated or horrified by them?
Both. It’s horrible but fascinating. I never worship serial killers. I’m just interested in their process, from an ordinary citizen to a gruesome murderer. Church Of Misery … if you do a word association game … “church” is a symbol of Christianity. And Christianity is the basic belief of the western people. So, Church Of Misery means “miserable western world” and “decline of.” All of our songs are related to serial killers and I use this horrific image as its (the western world) icon. And, yes, Church Of Misery is a very negative band name, ha, ha.
Do you do a lot of research for the songs?
I’ve really liked reading books and watching videos of serial killers ever since I was young. So it’s not research, it’s just for fun.
Of all the killers you have written about, whose story do you find the most disturbing?
Andrei Chikatilo from Russia. He was called the “Master of Over-Violence.”
You’ve been together since the mid ’90s and yet you have only one song about a female serial killer. Do you have any plans to correct this oversight in the future?
Yes, I have written songs about Aileen Wuornos. Female serial killers, there are not so many with the same kind of impact like others (males). It’s not an oversight. I have a plan to write songs about more female killers like Lizzy Borden.
You also have no songs about Japanese serial killers. Why is that?
Japanese serial killers, there are not so many with an impact like the overseas serial killers. But one case of muss murder that I have a plan to write about is the Aum cult. They organized to terrorize Japan’s subways by unleashing a poison gas attack. Totally Psycho Cult.
What is your favorite Black Sabbath record and why?
The first album (Black Sabbath) is the best. Besides the heavy, doomy guitar riffs, this album includes all elements of ’70s heavy rock like bluesy guitar solos, jazzy rhythms and long improvisations. BEST.
Covers are a tricky thing, but you do so many of them. Have you ever had a big disagreement about covering a particular song?
Totally No! All C.O.M. fans like all of the covers I’ve chosen. Sometimes I get mail from fans requesting our next cover like “Hey, you should cover “A, B or C” for your next release !” It’s artists like High Tide, Jerusalem, Dust and so many other ’70s bands. To tell the truth, there are a few songs we’ve tried to cover, but have given up. “Futurist’s Lament” by High Tide and “Ethiopia” by Jericho. They’re too difficult to play and we’ve given up. Ha, ha.
Do you feel like you fit in well in the Japanese metal scene? Does doom have a good foothold in the underground there? What bands do you play with in Japan?
First of all, there is no doom scene here in Japan. Maybe you don’t believe this, but there are only two doom bands — Church of Misery and Eternal Elysium. No other doom bands have emerged since I formed C.O.M. in 1995. So, we’re still a “new doom act” in the Japanese doom scene, ha, ha, ha.
We are just heresy in the Japanese underground scene. But we have tons of our fans in Japan. They really enjoy our shows. They crowd surf, stage dive and mosh. We play doom but our shows are like a thrash or death metal gig. Totally violence! We played with bands like Witchcraft, High On Fire, Blood Farmers, Ogre, Orange Sunshine, Revelation, Raging Speedhorn, Kylesa, Saviors and more here in Japan as support for their Japanese tours.
What bands outside of Japan do you feel the strongest affinity with?
EYEHATEGOD! We toured three weeks in Europe with them last year. We really had a good time and they are all good guys. This is the best tour in our history.
What are your hopes for your American headlining tour?
We have already toured Europe seven times. But this is first our US tour. We are really looking forward to playing and to communicating with our fans in the US.
If you get tired of writing songs about serial killers will you have to break up the band?
Don’t worry, we’ll never break up. There are so many serial killers all over the world. We can make more than 10 new albums! Ha, ha.