The Japanese doom scene is nothing short of legendary as far as I’m concerned. The crusty death-doom of Coffins and the avant-everything of Boris are widely respected across the musical press, but there’s a real hidden gem to be found in the psychedelic stoner-doom of Church of Misery. Mixing vintage ’60s fuzzy tube-driven boogie with lead singer Hideki Fukasawa’s ungodly death howl, and with lyrical themes inspired entirely by serial killers, they’re a group that invokes headbanging and foot-stomping in equal measure from audiences around the world. Fans of both early proto-metal like Blue Cheer and modern stoner-doom like Sleep and Electric Wizard are certainly familiar with their unique psychedelic retro-doom sound, and if not, they should make themselves familiar. Once you’ve seen Tatsu Mikami’s blues-meets-Burton bass solo that opens “Killfornia,” or withstood the hellish jams of “El Padrino” and “I, Motherfucker,” you’ll undoubtedly be hooked by their riff-minded brilliance.
I had an opportunity for interviewing the band on the fourth day of this year’s Maryland Deathfest, where they swung through on their first ever North American tour and performed to an incredibly receptive crowd who could not help but be engrossed by the band’s psyched-out stoner grooves. The original plan was to interview their guitarist Tom Sutton, the only member of the band who spoke fluent English, but their merch was in such unexpectedly high demand that he had no choice but to man the tables. Luckily, I was rooming with two excellent human beings who had spent extended stays in the Land of the Rising Sun and knew enough of the language to translate my questions into Japanese for their lead singer Hideki Fukasawa and drummer Junji Narita. Somehow clambering over the language barrier, we were able to ask the two of them about the band’s feelings on touring the States for the first time, what their ideal music festival would look like, and what’s next for the band in the interview below.
Metal Blast: Church of Misery have become well known in the underground metal scene. How would you explain your sound?
Hideki Fukasawa: Don’t think! FEEL! [laughter]
MB: What is your ultimate goal?
HF: For me? Pure sound.
MB: Feeling, or just sound?
MB: But not too much thinking, eh?
HF: FEEL. [laughter]
MB: What inspires you? Why did you choose to play heavy music?
HF: I love it. It feels good!
MB: Who are some of the artists you look up to?
HF: Black Sabbath, of course.
Junji Narita: Yes, Black Sabbath.
HF: Sleep, Saint Vitus. The Grateful Dead! Jefferson Airplane, The Doors.
MB: Ah, 1960s psychedelic music?
HF: Yes, and German Krautrock.
MB: Have you thought about writing songs about something other than serial killers?
MB: Why are you so interested in serial killers?
HF: The feeling!
MB: How is your first U.S. tour going? How’s your hotel? What do you think about American culture?
HF: We love it!
MB: How’s the food? Too fatty?
HF: Great, but the portions are huge. The people are fantastic!
MB: Ah, yes. Japanese people applaud politely, but Americans SCREAM! Do you ever get weird looks while playing onstage?
HF: Sometimes, but most people seem to really enjoy it. Overall, it’s been good.
MB: How does it feel to be performing at MDF?
HF: Amazing. We can really release ourselves!
MB: What other bands are you excited to see at MDF?
HF: Saint Vitus! Also Electric Wizard, YOB, Suffocation, everyone who’s playing today.
MB: Are there any bands you’re sad to have missed?
HF: Yes, Morbid Angel.
MB: If you could organize your dream festival, who would you have on the lineup?
HF: Personally? Janis Joplin, The Doors, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Joni Mitchell, and as headliner…The Grateful Dead, of course.
JN: Or maybe Jimi Hendrix.
MB: What’s next for Church of Misery? Will you record a new album?
HF: A new album – and our next American tour!
MB: AWESOME! Any last words for your fans?
HF: Don’t think! FEEL. And have fun – life is too short.