A great many things have changed - not only heavy metal but the music world in general - since 1981. But one of the factors in metal that has blessedly remained a constant for almost four decades now is the legendary Japanese metal band, Loudness. The very first Japanese metal group signed to a major record label in the United States, Loudness took the music world by storm and has never ceased in attracting a loyal, worldwide following. Now, thirty-seven years since their formation, Loudness has just released Rise to Glory, their twenty-eighth studio album, and continue to march on - fists pumping high in the air - and alongside even the trendiest sounds in music today.
AXS recently had the opportunity to speak with Loudness frontman, Minoru Niihara, about the new album, and how life just isn't as bad as some may think...
AXS: Congratulations Minoru on the release of your new album, Rise To Glory!
Minoru Niihara: Thank you very much, I hope everybody will enjoy our new album.
AXS: After such a long and prolific musical career now it must be nice to have true creative freedom and be able to do whatever you guys want - whenever you want?
MN: Luckily the freedom of our creativity has never been restricted since our debut, we have been doing things as we like for 37 years. We are proud of every single album we did.
AXS: Tell me a little about how the songs on this album came to be...
MN: Basically all of the ideas on the songs were made by our guitarist, Akira Takasaki. About a week before the recording, we jammed together based on those ideas in a rehearsal studio and assembled them into the songs. Even after the recording had started, we threw in some new ideas to complete the songs. Usually, the vocal melodies are written at the very last moment. This time Akira wrote the detailed melodies for 11 songs and I wrote for "Let's All Rock." I started writing the lyrics in Japanese after all the vocal melodies had been finalized. Then three native English speakers helped me put them into English. It required as long as 7 months to finish up everything, it sure was a very fulfilling recording experience.
AXS: You have described this album as a combination of aggression, melody, and positive vibes - which is a great balance for a metal album! Did you go into this project with those kinds of themes in mind, or does that happen organically during the writing process?
MN: As far as the lyrics go, I had an idea to make it have a positive outlook theme even before I started writing them. I don't like talking about my age, but I'll be 58 this year. Having experienced a lot of things, I wanted to tell people 'Life isn't as bad as you may think.'
AXS: If you had to pick one song from the new album as your personal favorite which one would it be and why?
MN: I personally like "No Limits." It's a very dramatic tune and I do enjoy singing the melodic vocal lines on this song.
AXS: And of the 13 Loudness classics that were re-recorded and released on Samsara Flight, which of those songs is your favorite to perform still and why?
MN: "To Be Demon," which was originally on the debut album, is an aggressive song with a very 'Loudness-structure.' I like it a lot.
AXS: Loudness will be doing a lot of shows in 2018 - what are your favorite things about touring at this point in your life and career?
MN: Of course having a good time in every corner of this world is a great thing. Also meeting people and their cultures in the rural places of the countries where you usually do not go to is a precious experience.
AXS: Are there any places in the world that you haven’t played yet but would like to?
MN: I have never been to South America. I'd love to be there in the near future as metal is very popular over there.
AXS: The new video for the song "Soul on Fire" exactly meets your description of the new album - it’s aggressive and melodic, fun to watch and uplifting. I’m sure making videos can be tedious however at times - do you enjoy this part of the process?
MN: It is true that making videos sometimes can be tedious like long waiting time, doing the same things again and again, etc. But we leave it up to the professional video shooter, we have to listen to what he says. We go to specialists for the best results.
AXS: You’ve been around the world and have built a very successful career that’s spanned over three decades now, what would you say is the most important lesson that you’ve learned in life so far?
MN: Persistence pays off. The key to success is you should not give up until you finally succeed. I wouldn't say we've succeeded though. [laughs]
AXS: Loudness aside, do you have any other passions or goals that you would still like to accomplish in life?
MN: Living a healthy life and making people from all over the world smile. That's all.
AXS: And is there anything else that you’d like to say directly to your fans here in America?
MN: I'd love to tour the U.S. as soon as possible! Enjoy our new album Rise To Glory! And thank you very much for your support, see you at our gigs!