“I have to tell the story to the rest of the world”—Crossfaith’s Kenta Koie talks new album
Osaka, Japan’s Crossfaith spent much of the last five years bringing their heavy metalcore-EDM hybrid to every corner of the globe. Returning with their fourth full-length, Xeno, the quintet have boldly introduced new elements while honing their songwriting skills, making for a truly anthemic collection—at the risk of potentially alienating some of their fans. Speaking from his hometown following their first headlining run of the new record cycle, vocalist Kenta Koie is thoughtful and soft-spoke—unlike the wild, energized frontman who whipped crowds into a frenzy on this year’s Warped Tour—and he is clearly very happy with where his band stands as 2015 edges toward its conclusion.
What's the reaction to Xeno been like?
We’ve had a great reaction from a lot of people. I checked the comments on YouTube and Twitter, and there’s a lot of positivity in there, but at the same time there have been a lot saying this doesn’t sound like Crossfaith, because this time we included a lot of clean vocals and our musical style is different from our first album. But it’s definitely been more good than bad, and when we’ve been playing the new songs live, people have been going crazy for them, which gives us a lot of confidence.
When you decided to include a lot more clean vocals were, you confident that it was something you definitely wanted to do, or were you unsure about how people would react?
Both. It wasn’t easy, and I’m still really learning how to use my voice when it comes to clean vocals. Performing them live is very different from tracking, and I’m finding that very difficult. But, this is what we really wanted to do, and despite how difficult it is, I’m enjoying singing, and I think most people see this as a good element in our sound right now. It was important to us that we evolve with this record, but at the same time our main priority was to be Crossfaith. Last year, we tracked a single called “Madness” with David Bendeth [Of Mice & Men, Paramore] and that was not an easy process. He's a great producer—and he taught us so many new things about making great songs and the American music industry—but our style and his style just didn’t fit together. He has his own theory when it comes to writing music, but we have one ourselves. He has very strong opinions, so we fought many times over how we should do it. I do love the song, but we really were not satisfied with how it came out, and in my heart it just didn’t feel right. So, before we started Xeno we laid out a blueprint for what we wanted to do, because we were going to make sure we all felt good about the record when we finished it up. Starting from the point of justing being Crossfaith we built it up from there.
What themes are you exploring on the record?
The themes of life and death and metamorphosis really inspired the title track. It’s a narrative with two chapters: one from the point of view of a main character, Xeno, and the other from the perspective of a cyber-brain. The cyber-brain wants to know about human beings, and Xeno wants to end the world because he thinks it's been so fucked up by human beings, and it’s cool because we released a web comic telling that story. The first time I sat down and read it, I loved it. It was amazing, and it’s so cool that we did something really different for us. "Calm The Storm” is directly linked to that song, while the other songs have different concepts. “Wildfire" is about a party—and is the only song on this record about partying! [Laughs.] And then “Ghost In The Mirror” is about me fighting against myself, so there really is a lot of different things going on.
On your last album, Apocalyze (2013), you sang about the nuclear disaster that followed the 2011 earthquake that struck Japan. In the West we don’t really hear much about the aftermath anymore—is it still a major issue to you?
It is, yeah, the problems stemming from that are still going on. Yesterday, we were in Sendai City, which is very close to the Fukushima Nuclear Plant that experienced the meltdown, and people are still living there. Some people care about it, but I think a lot of people have forgotten about it, maybe on purpose, but that doesn’t mean the problem has gone away. I hope things get better, but realistically it's going to take a long, long time. It’ll be more than a hundred years before the radiation is no longer an issue, and I just hope that it doesn't affect too many people.
You’ve been quite critical of Japan in your lyrics on past records—is it important for you to be able to voice your concerns overseas?
Yeah, definitely. I’m a guy from Japan and I have to tell the story to the rest of the world, and let them know what’s going on there. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to travel around the world, and I think because of that we experience more than “normal” people, so we see the contrasts a lot more. I feel like we have to tell these stories, like it’s a responsibility.
Do you take any flack in Japan from people who don't like the fact you’re doing this?
Right now, maybe not, but if we get big like the Beatles the government might try to kill us! [Laughs.] But at the end of the day, we’re just a rock band, and every band probably tells negative stories alongside the positive ones, and everyone knows that we’re a band that loves to party! [Laughs.]
You missed a chunk of dates at the beginning of this year’s Warped Tour because you couldn’t get into the States—was that just a visa issue?
Yeah, and it was bullshit! Total bullshit. The problem came from the place that issues the American visas. Basically the system server was down and they couldn’t process them and get them to the people who needed them, so it had nothing to do with us. A lot of bands had the exact same problem: Loz [Taylor] of While She Sleeps couldn’t get in, and some of our other friends, and we were just really unlucky it happened when it did. We missed 12 shows, I think, which sucked, and there were some big ones in there. But, once we actually got there and started playing, we had a lot of fun.
You went skydiving in Las Vegas on an off-day. How was that?
It was—oh man, I can't explain with words! [Laughs.] It was fun, but it was crazy. I think I screamed pretty much the whole way down, convinced I was going to die! I’m glad we did that, but I don’t think I’ll start doing it every single day. Pretty sure I’ve had enough of that! [Laughs.]
There are many bands around right now blending metal and electronic music in the same vein as you. When you look around at these other bands, are you happy to see this or do you think it's getting a little cluttered?
It’s a good thing, in some ways, but, there are so many similar bands, and I can’t find that many that mix the two styles together in a way that really flows and makes sense. There are a lot of bands who do this very unnaturally, I think, and I find that quite hard to understand a lot of the time. We know it's very hard to mix electronic music and rock music, and it means a lot of work every time we want to write new material. That's why we took so long writing the new record. It’s difficult. That said, there are a few bands doing it who are amazing, such as Enter Shikari. They have so much originality and write incredible songs, but in the US music scene, it seems like there are so many bands throwing in a breakdown and then lurching into EDM almost for the sake of it.
Do you have any plans to do anything outside of music, whether it’s in film or starting a clothing label or anything else along those lines?
Right now we are very, very busy and all we’re really thinking about is touring, touring, touring, and that’s a great place to be. Someday it would be nice to have some time to think about things outside of the band, but I'm enjoying my life. I'm very happy, and there’s no reason to be looking into getting into anything else when you’re having this much fun.