Interview with Gallhammer in Liverpool, UK

interview - 12.05.2008 22:00

On their return to the UK, JaME was offered the chance to sit down with the infamous metal trio Gallhammer on March 16th before their live in Liverpool.

Gallhammer uses their enigmatic lyrics and dark make-up to create an image of dour personality. On their return to the UK before traveling to Norway to participate in the Inferno Festival, JaME took the opportunity to sit down with the trio and discovered that there is far more to these women than metal music.

How are you finding the tour so far and which concert has been the most memorable for you?

Vivian: We’ve enjoyed all of them! (laughs) Every place has been interesting and very fun.

Which has been the loudest so far?

Vivian: Everywhere!

This is your second trip to Europe and in particular, the UK. Why have you decided to return at this moment in time, so soon after your previous visit, and what were the outstanding memories of that tour?

Vivian: We enjoy playing in the UK. On our last visit we only played three locations, so we wanted to play more. Also, after this tour we'll fly to Oslo to participate at the Inferno Festival, so now is the best time for us to return to the UK.

Following your tour of the UK, you will be venturing to participate in Norway at the Inferno Festival. What are your expectations for this event and are there any bands that you are looking forward to performing alongside?

Vivian: We'll only be in Norway for the one day before returning to Japan, so unfortunately we won’t have time to meet any of the other bands.

Do you find that European audiences are more accepting of your music than your Japanese fans? Have you noticed a growing acceptance of metal music in the Japanese industry since your debut?

Vivian: We feel that we're popular because we are a band comprised of three girls creating metal music, which is quite unusual. It is different to other groups, which is why we are popular in Europe. I think that in Japan, people can understand our songs better, but we are still a very underground band back at home. There are some people who really love our music and in Japan, there are many all-girl bands because it's a larger part of Japanese culture. We don’t feel that this is the case in Europe and the UK.

What do you think about Europe's fascination with you being an all girl band?

Vivian: I think that European people are primarily interested in us because we are an all-girl band and for them, our music comes second in line. In Japan, that’s not an issue for us because there are many girl bands so the music comes first.

Due to your relative success throughout Europe, are you now expanding your plans to begin touring further afield? Do you plan to take your music to other European countries and possibly branch into the USA?

Vivian: We hope to play there in the future, but we haven't decided definitely yet. We would ultimately like to play in the USA, Australia or France. On our last visit to Europe we didn’t play in those places, only in the north of Europe. So in reality, we’d really like to branch out into the south of Europe.

What are your personal views on the Western metal scene? Do you find the public more accepting of your music than people in Japan, or do you find that opinions are evenly weighted?

Vivian: In Japan, metal music is not popular at all, although a vast majority of people think it's a metal country! I don't think that way at all and think that people in the West listen to more extreme music.

Vivian, you're also in the band Congenital Hell as saxophonist. Have you ever considered bringing this influence into Gallhammer's music?

Vivian: I've decided to concentrate on Congenital Hell after Gallhammer. I've been a part of many bands as either a vocalist or saxophonist, but I had never played bass before starting Gallhammer. I initially started playing music when I was sixteen, so I have taken influence from many bands. Naturally, I love heavy metal, but I am also a fan of punk, new wave, noise and many other genres. I'm inspired by a lot of people musically.

In previous interviews, you have cited "older" bands such as Amebix and Hellhammer as the main influences of Gallhammer's music. Are there any contemporary bands that you admire?

Vivian: For us, Burzum, Hellhammer and Amebix are the most important influences in our work, but we also take inspiration from Bauhaus, Joy Division and Killing Joke. Everyone listens to different kinds of music within the group, so ultimately we all influence each other.

How did you discover Amebix, as they are seen as a relatively "underground band"?

Vivian: When I was about eighteen, I went into a second-hand record store to the heavy metal corner and I found an Amebix record. What first grabbed my attention was the artwork on the cover, it seemed very interesting, so I wanted to hear the album.

At first I wasn't aware that Amebix was crust punk, I thought they were just a heavy metal group. On my first listen to the album I thought, "That sounds really cool!" Heavy metal has very detailed lyrics and Amebix doesn’t have this particular element. They keep to a very simplistic sound, whereas most heavy metal music is different, so it was a fresh sound for me. I started to really like Amebix and the crust punk genre. I also like D.I.R.T., which is a crust punk band with a female vocalist.

You tend to write English lyrics, is there any particular reason for this? Do you find that your themes are conveyed in a more accurate portrayal using English? Do you think that English is more of an emotive language when it comes to creating the dark nature of metal music?

Vivian: Ahhh, this is a common mistake! I write half of the lyrics to the songs in Japanese and then they are translated into English. I change the lyrics to fit the songs, but sometimes I find that English is better for the lyrics because you gain a greater sense of intonation. I also enjoying singing in Japanese because it is my native language and sometimes it is easier to express my feelings in Japanese than English

You were recently featured on the cover of Terrorizer as the first all-female act, how do you feel about this?

Vivian: It was a very strange experience for us! (Gallhammer laughs) It was a great honor, but an incredibly weird feeling.

Do you like the fact that they put you in army uniforms?
(Members laugh.)
Vivian: The army jacket is usual for me but a helmet isn't! (laughs) That's unusual.

How do you feel about your success so far in the UK?

Vivian: Strange! Incredibly strange for normal people like us (laughs). We've spent a long time in Japan and we all have to make a living, we're very poor!

Risa, before joining Gallhammer you were the vocalist of an avant-garde band, would you like to play more of that kind of music in the future?

Risa: I would like to if I had the time.
Vivian: At the moment she looks like a metal singer, but outside of that, Risa doesn't really seem the type to be in a metal band!
Risa: I don't think I've really changed my style that much, I still listen to what I like and vocally, I haven't changed a great deal.

Your lyrical themes cover topics like "despair and hopelessness," "emptiness" and other observations of intense negativity. Where do these influences come from?

Vivian: They mainly come from my mind and my negative thoughts. They may initially seem positive due to my drinking, but in fact, I am not such an optimistic person.

Before you formed Gallhammer, none of you could play instruments, how much of a challenge was this for you and how long did it roughly take each of you to master your instrument?

Vivian: We formed Gallhammer in 2003 and only one month later we played our first gig! To be honest, every live performance that we do is actually a chance to practice our instruments! Naturally we also practice outside of our performances.

Your album, "Dawn of..." featured several reworkings from your previous demotapes and albums. What were your reasons for this at the time, do you feel that they now have more potential?

Vivian: It was Peaceville's decision to release this CD, we weren’t particularly happy with the idea as we didn't like the songs as they were at the time. We asked them if we could release a DVD, but they didn't like the idea of that at the time! In the end we came to a compromise and worked on Dawn of…

Mika, you were also a vocalist before joining Gallhammer, how did this band come about and what bands did you take influence from?

Mika: Vivian invited me to join Gallhammer in 2003, I had never heard of black metal before. Obviously I had never heard Amebix, in my spare time I listen to more "happy" music, particularly punk. I especially like The Offspring and our music took influence from that. Before I joined Gallhammer, I had never used the type of vocals that I do now!

Nocturno Culto of Darkthrone mastered "Ill Innocence," how did it feel to know that someone of his reputation was part of the recording process of your album?

Vivian: It was a very strange experience for us, to know that someone like him was possibly interested in us. Aside from that though, it was a great honor to have him work alongside us.

Do you currently have any expectations for your next album release that you can tell us about?

Vivian: We have been thinking carefully about Ill Innocence and how we can evolve from there. Next time we would like to experiment with feelings that are external to the body in comparison to taking inspiration mainly from my internal emotions.

Do you have any messages for your fans?

Risa: Please continue to support us and keep being our fans!
Vivian: Many thanks for supporting us and please continue to appreciate our music!

JaME would like to thank Gallhammer, Cristiane Richardson and Junji Ogawa for making this interview possible.
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Gallhammer 16/03

Liverpool - United Kingdom
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