Interview by Todd Nelson
Translation by Harumi Arita
March 24, 2018
Unlucky Morpheus, also referred to as Ankimo, is a doujin circle band formed in 2008. The band creates original songs as well as material associated with the Touhou Project. All of the band members are active in other projects in addition to Unlucky Morpheus, some of which are very well known. Unlucky Morpheus’ lineup features leader and guitarist Shiren (Denkare, and formerly Yousei Teikoku), vocalist Fuki (DOLL$BOXX, Fuki Commune, ex-LIGHTBRINGER), guitarist Jinya (UNDEAD CORPORATION), bassist Hiroyuki Ogawa (TRICK BOX), drummer FUMIYA (GALNERYUS), violinist Jill (Rose Noire, Hollow Mellow), and vocalist Kasumi (Icarus’Cry).
Congratulations on the band’s 10th year. Unlucky Morpheus has quite a few things planned for 2018 starting with Unlucky Mania – Unlucky Morpheus Official Strategy Guide. It looks very impressive. Can you tell us more about it?
Shiren: Since we’ve only had a few opportunities to be interviewed so far, there isn’t much information about us that is available. For the 10th anniversary of forming the band, we thought that by publishing this book we can provide the full history of Unlucky Morpheus from the beginning, giving anyone the opportunity to learn about us.
You’ve just finished recording your new album. Will this be a full album, and will it contain all original material or will it feature Touhou arrangements?
Shiren: In 2018 we’ll be releasing both an album containing original material and one with Touhou Project arrangements. At this moment, we’re working on an original album. We’re also currently re-recording the Touhou Project-arranged Jealousy album, which was released in 2009.
Jealousy is one of my favorite Ankimo albums, the cover is a bit of a homage to X Japan’s Jealousy correct?
Shiren: Ah, yes it is. “We Are X…Japan!” (laughs)
FUMIYA and Ogawa: (laughing) “We Are X!”
I saw a tweet you made about writing a guitar vs. violin duel — it sounds really exciting. Will this be among the songs on the album?
Shiren: Before releasing our album, we’ll be releasing that song as part of an EP in March. A music video will be uploaded on YouTube, so people all over the world will be able to listen to it in April. The EP will contain 3 songs – 2 new recordings and 1 live track. Our full album will be released in September.
I believe you touched on this earlier — if I understand correctly, Unlucky Morpheus will be re-recording earlier material throughout 2018?
Shiren: Jealousy is the only album which will be re-recorded in 2018. Although a specific schedule hasn’t been set, we intend to re-record Hypothetical Box in 2019.
Can you tell us about the beginnings of Unlucky Morpheus and how it has evolved into what it is today? Did the band start out with Fuki and yourself as the only members?
Shiren: In the beginning, I started the band with just Fuki as a project to record some things. Many fans of our work expressed to us that they wanted a live show, but to do a concert, needless to say, we needed a full band. Gradually, the members of the current group gathered together, little by little. There were no auditions — everyone gathered as friends, people who co-starred at the same events, and so on.
I feel that when we added a drummer, the band changed significantly. It’s difficult to describe. FUMIYA joined at the time we were recording Parallelism.α, and Jill (the band’s violinist) became a member when we made VAMPIR. With Jill joining the band, I feel that the strength of our bond as a band is now complete. I think that the power and sound of Unlucky Morpheus is achieved with our current lineup.
As the Unlucky Morpheus lineup has changed and expanded, how has it influenced the band’s sound?
Shiren: The sound in our early work contains programming for certain sounds and instruments like the drums, for instance. It was cheap and we didn’t have a lot of knowledge about recording at that time. But by going through different steps of creating our songs, we gradually gained more and more knowledge about how to achieve the sound we wanted. As real musicians joined the band, I was able to record properly with a massive sound, and the quality is steadily improving.
It’s a good feeling that the songs we record now sound the way I intend them to be heard. After all, it’s quite important that heavy metal should be performed by humans. Heavy metal must be powerful, and that can’t be accomplished by programming — to truly sound authentic, it needs to be played by humans who can pour their soul into the work.
Kasumi appears on material from time to time. What’s his role with the band?
Shiren: Kasumi and I are in another band named Icarus’cry. The composition of this band is similar to Unlucky Morpheus, but the main difference is that Kasumi is the lead vocalist instead of Fuki. Kasumi joins Unlucky Morpheus in certain situations, such as when we want him to sing in duets. He’s a friend from the time when we were doing visual band activities in the past. He had a desire to perform in a heavy metal act for a long time, but he’d been unable to find an opportunity. Since I like JAM Project very much, sometimes I create songs for dual vocals. I ask Kasumi to participate on songs like that.
Many of Unlucky Morpheus’ works contain classical music elements, and you released a solo CD featuring works of the classical composer Bach. You describe the sound of the band as “technical melodic speed metal”. What inspired the idea of merging classical music with metal?
Shiren: Quite a few musicians have adapted classical music in the history of heavy metal. It’s like much of what we’re doing in our band comes from learning from the methods of these pioneers rather than something totally original. We’re heavily affected by Yngwie Malmsteen, Rhapsody Of Fire, Stratovarius, etc. I learned playing the piano from a young age, and in junior high I was in a wind orchestra club, and played the trumpet with a brass band team. At that time I had no interest to play rock or heavy metal, but once I discovered X Japan, I strongly felt the desire to do that style of music just like them. Perhaps the experiences I’ve had with the piano and brass band club are still living in my songs.
Is the creation of the band’s songs a group effort or is there primarily one composer?
Shiren: When making songs, almost every time I compose all of the music alone at first. I make a demo and play it as a trial for the rest of the band. So for any composing or idea I have, directly I do it by myself. However, indirectly, I may be influenced by performing with the band, doing a live show, or talking about music with them. In other words, I’m the only person who directly produces, but when I work with the band, I can say that I always get opinions from the members. I also take into consideration what other members have shared with me previously when I start writing new material.
What inspires the subject matter of the lyrics? Are they from the Touhou Project?
Shiren: When we make original songs, Fuki will write the lyrics, I talk with Fuki first to determine the tone of the song and what the aim of lyrics should be. We discuss the general image of the song and she’ll take it from there. She freely thinks about it and writes it. Quite often we utilize games, anime, or novels to create the theme, because Unlucky Morpheus originally started from that kind of stuff. We’re a band that was originally influenced by the Touhou Project arrangements, so there are so many things to write with these themes.
The majority of the band’s work is power metal, speed metal, etc. However, on HEAVY METAL BEE-BOP you venture into jazz and fusion as well. Are there any other genres Unlucky Morpheus would like to explore in the future?
Shiren: It’s not as big of a departure as playing jazz, but I’m thinking about trying to make something more in an anime song style such as LiSA, Eir Aoi, or Nana Mizuki. Since I presently have weaker use of my hand, I think I need to add a few softer and more body-friendly songs, because so far Unlucky Morpheus’ songs are all tough and grueling to play.
Who does the artwork for your releases?
Shiren: It depends on the project. Album artwork is sometimes drawn by Fuki, but most of the time it is drawn by illustrator Ogiatsu.
The band will be playing a show New Year’s Eve, and it sold out the same day tickets went on sale. Is this the first time you’ve done a countdown show? Do you have anything special planned in the set to bring in the new year or to celebrate 10 years of Unlucky Morpheus?
Shiren: It’s a great feeling to sell out a concert right away. However, as I want many fans to see our concert, so I’m sort of torn when I think about fans who couldn’t get in.
This will be our second countdown show. We held a countdown for 2011-2012 as well. The set list for this live will be special. The atmosphere will be slightly different from our usual shows. It will be a friendlier feeling, or even celebratory.
The band also released a live DVD this year and the performances on it are amazing. I love the guitar battle and finger tapping intro leading into “Dead Leaves Rising” ending with FUMIYA’s drum solo. Is that something the band came up with during rehearsals?
Shiren: We’re trying to make changes like that which you can get only at our live performances and can’t listen to on our recordings. I’m happy to hear you like it and find it interesting.
One of my favorite moments is the acoustic arrangement of “imagimak”. To me it feels like something out of a fantasy world. Is there a particular song which is a favorite of yours to perform?
Shiren: There are too many songs I like. I can’t pick, but if I have to choose from this live, I think “Black Pentagram” was good. The audience gave us a great response in spite of a brand-new and just-released song, so it made us very happy. Also, I was glad I could concentrate on playing guitar on “Kyobou No Koibito”, due to the members of UNDEAD CORPORATION joining us for the encore — normally I take part with vocals on that one.
Ogawa: For me, “Dead Leaves Rising” — I think this song is fits well in a live performance. However, this song isn’t heavy metal, more like hard rock. I like playing this upbeat rhythm, it was fun.
FUMIYA: “Change of Generation” — The drum playing behind the guitar is very strict and technical, so there’s an excited feeling of tension because the phrases build so continuously. As a drummer I’m always doing pretty detailed or tough things, so I was feeling good because I nailed it.
Whose idea was it to make the “April Fool’s” version of “Black Pentagram” (all the members switched to another band member’s role in the video) and how much fun was it making the video?
Shiren: Shooting the video for the “April Fool’s” version was pretty fun. About 15 years ago, I saw Janne Da Arc (Japanese visual rock band) doing this in a video and thought that I would like to do that someday. So I tried it this time, but it’s not my original idea.
The YouTube video of “Black Pentagram” is quite popular outside of Japan and has introduced your music to a large international audience. Do you think there is a possibility that Unlucky Morpheus may play overseas in the future?
Shiren: Well, it’s difficult to make plans for performances to play overseas by only ourselves, but realistically if there is an opportunity to attend an anime convention or live event where we are invited, we would want to. We are waiting for a chance.
Unlucky Morpheus Comiket C93 goods (shipping service required):
Unlucky Morpheus 2018 Calendar
UNLUCKY MANIA – Unlucky Morpheus Official Strategy Guide
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