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"...Ningen Isu has existed since 1987, and something makes me think that this band really deserves more exposure with it's unique and passionate approach to heavy music."

Interview with Ningen Isu.
"What do you know about the Doom scene of Japan? I believe that there's not much besides Church of Misery, Corrupted and Eternal Elysium. But Ningen Isu (人間椅子) has existed since 1987, and something makes me think that this band really deserves more exposure with it's unique and passionate approach to heavy music. The band creates a blend of Doom Metal and progressive Hard Rock, you may call it Proto-Doom it works well for me. One of the main features of Ningen Isu is lyrics written and performed in their native tongue that makes their songs something strange and fresh today. The band has 18 full length albums, about 18 records of smaller format and they're just finishing a new full length! Inspired by Buddhist traditions, Japanese literature, H.P. Lovecraft stories and horror movies, they always have something to offer. Ningen Isu's singing guitarist Shinji Wajima was kind enough to answer a couple of my questions and abate my curiosity."


Today's interviewee: Shinji Wajima.


Hail Shinji! I'm glad that we have an opportunity to talk about your band and spread the word further. The band was founded in 1987. Do you remember what drove you to create such a unique combination of this music with original lyrical conception?

We love rock music of the '60s and '70s. We copied many songs of this era and thought that we want to make original songs like this era. Especially, we thought that we want to make compositions which have heavy guitar riffs such as Black Sabbath. With respect to lyrics, we thought that it is better to use Japanese which is our mother tongue than to use English. Because we thought that we could write the words from bottom of our soul and construct our original world. Of course, we know that rock music is culture of western English speaking world. But we thought we would love to express the rock music in Japanese way!

Ningen Isu has a long history and 18 full-length albums in its discography, and your music varies from Hard rock to heavy Doom metal. What are your main musical influences? How does it change from album to album?

The most we are influenced is British hard rock and progressive rock in the '70s. Our basic policy has not changed through making albums as we have been slightly influenced by rock scene of each era. At last we may realize our current heaviness after we had a chance to review our originality which we really want to play.


Ningen Isu: Kenichi Suzuki (Bass, Vocals), Shinji Wajima (Guitar, Vocals), Nobu Nakajima (Drums).


The band's discography is really huge: from which album would you recommend to start acquaintance with the band for new listeners? Do you have most distinctive albums in your career?

This is a very difficult question. But we think we are the rock band that concept is very clear. So from that point of view, our first album 「人間失格」(en: No Longer Human) is the one that we recommend most though the sound quality is not so good. We also recommend listening to our best of album.

Japanese culture is deep rooted in Ningen Isu's albums, how much of it you do absorb in your songs?

In case that someone plays metal music, we think that religious outlook must be the problem. Though the Christian religion has already become widespread in Japan, Japan is a country of the Shinto religion in our roots (i.e. it means the Shinto is not monotheism.) and also the country of Buddhism (i.e. All things are in flux and nothing is permanent.). Most Japanese cannot imagine the war between God and Satan, The Last Judgement and so on. Though we also have that kind of sense, we thought it is interesting to play rock music from that kind of view. We think European clothes don't fit to Asians because of their body shape. There are few Japanese who wear Japanese-style clothing. But we made up our mind to wear Japanese style clothing on the stage as expressing our identity.

Ningen Isu 'Rashomon':


It's said that Ningen Isu's lyrics deal with "Japanese literature, Buddhism, humour, eroticism and history". Can you comment on the role of each of these themes in your lyrics?

Japanese literature - We made up our mind to adopt ideas mainly from Japanese literature. Because it is easier to construct the worldview of compositions by adopting ideas from literary works already exist like Mountain from Baudelaire, Iron Maiden from Edgar Allan Poe and Metallica from Lovecraft.

Buddhism - All things are in flux and nothing is permanent as we mentioned. We also think that it is fantastic Buddhism denies every fight. The end of the world will come after 2500 years from the death of Buddha. Now is the time that the dharma is lost. So we think we should adopt Dharma teachings of Buddaha to our lyrics.

Humor - We like to write simple lyrics which is for example to play with girls. But in the lyrics of rock music, we can write intelligential and difficult lyrics like Pete Sinfield in the world of rock music. We think that Humor is one of the expression of intelligence. So from this point of view, we adopt humor in our lyrics in addition to darkness.

Eroticism - We think there is no one who is not interested in sex. But simple description of sexual activity cannot be the art. Because the eroticism is just an idea. Human being is the only creature on earth that can feel this idea of eroticism. The eroticism makes us bring an image of death which is we think at the opposite end of the eroticism. We think this must be the materials of lyrics.

History----We are not interested in the only chronicle or the facts of history. But we have an ambition to describe mind-boggling past and memory of previous life that is to say mysteriousness concerning concept of time.

By the way, Japan is known for its specific horror movies, and as we know horror movies are one of most popular inspiration in metal genre in general (Black Sabbath approves). Do you take something from the local cinema?

Of course we love to see horror movies and are influenced from them mainly from American and Italian horror movies. Among Japanese horror movies, we are influenced by old ghost or specter movies rather than recent Japanese horror movies.

I know that you're much influenced by Buddhism's teaching. How can you combine its virtues with passionate rock music?

In addition to the previous reply about lyrics, we feel Buddhist terminology itself is cool. As Buddhism came to Japan by way of ancient China, there are so many original Chinese character readings. It is very cool to adopt the readings in lyrics.

Shinji, you and Kenichi Suzuki have been the core of Ningen Isu since 1987. How do you work together and how often do you have lineup changes?

Me and Suzuki met when we are about 14 or 15 years old. We formed a band when we were high school students because we love rock music. We completed to form current style of the band by making original songs together when we were about 20 years old. We could not help changing members every several albums. There were various reasons in every each album though. About ten years have passed when Nakajima joined Ningen-Isu. He is the longest drummer who belongs to our band.



Speaking about the amount of Ningen Isu records... I just wonder where you constantly find such inspiration to write so many songs! Really, don't you ever have an "artistic crisis"?

Of course it is our great joy and pain to create new songs. There has been a hard times when we could not create songs so well. But we believe there is nothing better than creating songs in our life. When we were in poverty, we realized that joy of creating new songs rescue us from the poverty. Though this may be an effusive comment, our creative mind must be immortal if human nature is our soul that doesn't have physical even if our bodies vanish away.

Ningen Isu 'Akuma no Temariuta':


Your last full-length album 'Burai Houjou' was released in July 2014. And reviewers admit that you grow and develop as musicians even after so many years in the band. How do you see your evolution as songwriters and performers?

We have come to know the technical point of making songs and stage performance for a long time. The biggest point is that we have been able to deepen our consciousness to the art as we told previous question. And our listeners have been increasing and we have been interviewed from various overseas media more than before. We are encouraged by them very much!

Can you tell a story of one song from the 'Burai Houjou' album?

We recorded a sound of metronome to express that human beings are bound by time and money in the song "Reijuu no sakebi". When we began to record the sound through the microphone, the metronome could not keep a constant rhythm regardless of its high quality. In the end, we had to adjust the rhythm on the computer.

You've also released the collaboration record 'Jigoku Aloha', in May 2015 through Tokuma Japan Communications, is it a sort of split-album of two bands? How did you work over this record?

We and King-show who we collaborated with this time have been friends from our debut. We felt very good when we did a joint live several years ago. They offered to us to make a single together. Of course we accepted the offer. We talked about the idea of songs together and finally "Jigoku no Aloha" was made.



I see that you also have a new video: you shoot video pretty regularly, but do you have official video clips? Is it possible to see Ningen Isu on TV in Japan?

We don't have so many official video clips. You can see the video clips on YouTube. We seldom have an opportunity to appear on TV because we are not pop artists. But we have had a few chances to appear on TV these days.

The video also includes the song 'Uchuu Kara no Iro' ('The Colour Out of Space'). Is it inspired by Lovecraft's story? Can you tell about this song?

This is a song which was made to be inspired by H. P. Lovecraft as you said. We think dark and stoical impression of Lovecraft may fit to heavy metal music very much. We also created songs inspired by "At the Mountains of Madness", "The Dunwich Horror" and "The Shadow out of Time"

You also did a short song for an anime soundtrack, what is it?

We enjoyed a lot to make this song. Because it's for soundtrack. We made this song heavy very consciously as we Ningen-Isu are and not suitable to anime soundtrack on purpose. The content of the song is that rain which ruins our health keeps on falling.

The band has an unbelievably huge discography, how do you promote your music? How do you work with labels?

We have been producing and promoting for ourselves for a long time. We are getting a lot of assistance from the label Tokuma Japan Communications in promotion.

Ningen Isu 'Shinagawa Shinjuu':


And where is it possible to buy Ningen-Isu records?

You can buy our CDs at CD shop and by mail order (amazon and so on) only in Japan. Regarding "Brai Houjou" album and "Best album", you can buy them on iTunes Store overseas.

The band's Facebook and official site are both in Japanese: don't you feel a need to do an English version to reach more listeners abroad?

That's what we feel the same! They are in preparation now.

By the way, did you ever play abroad with Ningen Isu?

No, we haven't. It's because we thought after we had succeeded in domestic market. However, we feel now is the time when we should play abroad.

Once I did an interview with your countrymen Eternal Elysium and (if I remember it correct) Zaki told that sometimes bands must pay for the opportunity to play gigs in Japanese clubs. How do you organize gigs?

We think it is interesting to organize gigs with a hard rock band that plays earnestly, countercultural band and so on. But we want to organize gigs with a certain theme in each one-man gig.

What are your plans for the next album?

We will release next album on February 2016! The title is "Kwaidan- Then Death and Eros". If you listen to this new album, it is our supreme delight!

Does Ningen Isu have some general message for it's listeners?

Don't be a mediocre person! We believe there is actually non-existence of the ordinary. We want everyone to live in highly individual style with treating yourself and others.



Thank you very much for this interview! It was pleasure to discover Ningen Isu, the band with such unique and original approach to Doom Rock music. I hope that we'll have a chance to talk in a future, but that was the last question for today. Arigato!

We are sure that you will see our performance in the near future. We want to do a performance in front of the audiences who live in Western world where is mother land of rock we were influenced and let us enjoyed a lot. Language is different. But we are sure they could feel same rock spirit. Let's excite and tremble with fear together. We Ningen-Isu are going to keep on playing and performing spooky and horrible music!


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Visit the Ningen Isu bandpage.

Interviewed on 2015-12-13 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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