Metalcore heroes – an interview with Crystal Lake’s Ryo
This interview was arranged back in 2017, when Crystal Lake played its tour final in Vienna on the 30th of October, wrapping up its first ever European tour. So, well, yeah, it definitely took me some time to type it in and publish it, sorry about that, but still, I hope it’s gonna be an interesting read, especially as there aren’t many English language interviews with this incredible band online. Forming back in 2002 they were part of Japan’s first big generation of metalcore bands and they are one of the few acts that’s still been going strong ever since then. Over the years the band went through a couple of line up changes and around the time their new singer, Ryo joined they started to change musically as well, going for a more diverse sound and they also started to release their albums internationally (in Europe thru JPU Records). And it was Ryo who sat down with me before their show to chat about the band, their music, lyrics, side projects and influences and also about the Japanese metalcore scene. So, read on and for a live report and photo gallery about the show click over here.
Let’s start with your latest album… first, what does the title True North refers to?
Ryo: It means that no matter how the circumstances change, we will not change our style and what we are doing. There is a sentence in the title track that goes like “This is the way we are, this is the way we die”, which is a metaphor of what Crystal Lake has been doing since the band formed.
True North is a bit different and more melodic musically compared to your previous albums. Did you have this musical direction in mind when you started to work on the album?
Ryo: We were just doing what we wanted to. We did not decide about an actual concept, but we wanted to do a… more Japanese thing, you know? And by “more Japanese” I mean using more authentic melodies, different dynamics and a more Japanese way of constructing a song. There is a word, “wabi-sabi” that describes these kind of Japanese aesthetics, but it is very hard to explain in English.
And what about the lyrics, what topics do you usually deal with?
Ryo: All our songs are about the ways to get through hardships in hard times. About how to deal with pain, conflicts and the like.
Your two latest albums got a worldwide release. How was the international feedback?
Ryo: It was good, there was a lot of feedback and I got so many new followers on Instagram and Twitter from all over the world, so it’s been good, really good!
Tonight is the tour final of your first ever European tour, so, how did it go so far, how was the European audience?
Ryo: It’s been really nice, the European crowds are soooo amazing! I think they might be even better than the Japanese crowd! They are wilder!
They do, definitely, but actually I saw some very, very crazy crowds in Japan as well…
Ryo: Yes, they can be crazy, but sometimes they just try too hard to act cool. And here, in Europe it is different.
When Crystal Lake formed back in 2002 it was part of a huge wave of new generation metalcore acts, such as Endzweck, Loyal To The Grave, FC Five and so on. How much did the Japanese hardcore / metalcore scene change since then?
Ryo: Yeah, everything changed! Well, not the hardcore though, it stayed the same I think, but metalcore is getting bigger and bigger and bigger. And I think we helped to start this metalcore scene back in the days.
When you joined Crystal Lake in 2012 the band’s sound went through a very drastic change. Was this mainly because of you or the band wanted to change its musical directions anyways?
Ryo: The band wanted to move towards that kind of sound, but it was also partly because of me, so it was the combination of the two actually. But we are not the kind of band that’s like “yeah, we want to do metalcore and this and that kind of sound and get harder and harder!”, we just do what comes naturally.
You guys are involved in some very interesting genre-crossing collaborations and projects. There was a dubstep remix on your latest single, there is the beatdown hc band Doggy Hood$ and the hip-hop / hardcore crossover group Ozrosaurus…
Ryo: Oh, the bands are actually all YD‘s (aka. Yudai Miyamoto, the guitarist of Crystal Lake) projects, he is in Doggy Hood$, Ozrosaurus and also in Super Structure…
But you did a track with DJ Baku, which was also very different musically from what you do in Crystal Lake. How did that happen and what kind of music you guys usually listen to besides metalcore?
Ryo: We all love every kind of music, we are big fans of EDM and stuff like that. As for DJ Baku: one day he came to see us and he told me that, he thinks that I am a really good singer, so he wants us to do something together. And I was like “Oh wow! DJ Baku wants to work with me!!” (laughs) So, then we did that song together (Neo Khaos) and the feedback was really good!
Are you planning any similar collaborations?
Ryo: Nothing at the moment, but if there is an opportunity I would like work in different styles.
What bands were your initial influences when you started to play music?
Ryo: As for me, it wasn’t metalcore, more like death metal and black metal. Bands like Morbid Angel, Suffocation, Entombed, Dismember, so really old-school death metal and also black metal bands like Mayhem or Darkthrone. I am a big fan of that kind of music, but I also love nu-metal and screamo as well and from the more recent ones, bands like Stray from the Path. As for the other members, I think for them it was more new school hardcore, like Shai Hulud, Earth Crisis, Hatebreed and some new music like The Ghost Inside or Parkway Drive.
And any more recent Japanese bands, that you think are really good and that you would recommend to people?
Ryo: Oh, there are several great bands like Shadows, The Bonez, VVorld or Palm.
As for the band name, I guess Crystal Lake originally came from the Friday The 13th movies…?
Ryo: Partly yes, but actually it also came from Romancing SaGa. Do you know it? It is a Japanese game by Square, that is similar to Final Fantasy and in the game there is a place called Crystal Lake. But I am not part of the band from the beginning, so actually I am not sure which was the name’s real source.
Speaking of games, what else do you like to do besides playing music?
Ryo: Well, I like watching movies and I am also interested in fashion, while recently YD is totally crazy about surfing!
And the usual last question: What’s next for Crystal Lake? What are your plans for the near future?
Ryo: We are planning to start working on a new album in 2018 and we are preparing a US tour, but we would like to return to Europe as well!