“The band’s sound has the dynamic, driving and harmonious energy of Iron Maiden meets the extravagant fusion of Dream Theater…”
Interview with Seiji of D_Drive Andy Rawll 20th May 2019
Andy Rawll spoke with Seiji from Japanese instrumental sensations D_Drive recently on the eve of the release of their debut international album, ‘Maximum Impact’, which is out via Marshall Records on Friday 31st May.
The album release coincides with D_Drive’s first ever UK dates, Marshall Live in Milton Keynes Stadium on Saturday 1st June, Camden Rocks on Sunday 2nd June and Camden’s Dr Martens Boot Room on Tuesday 4th June. Tickets for Camden Rocks are available right here and tickets for the incredibly good value-for-money Marshall Live are available right here.
Here’s Seiji’s insight into D_Drive, an act whose future is very bright indeed and who are surely heading right for the very top.
Three of you have been in the band from the very beginning. How did you first unite and what has kept you together for ten years?
“I formed the band with Yuki, a student of mine at a local music school, and Chiiko, who was a graduate of the same school.
“Our strength and unity comes from our hard teamwork when making music and touring across Japan. Every success we had along the way made our relationship stronger, and of course we cannot forget the support of the fans at every venue we have played at over the past decade.”
Toshi replaced Shima on bass a year ago. What qualities does he bring to the band?
“As a bassist, Toshi brings a lot of variety to the songs and can add his own unique touch to all of our music and made the songs sound better than ever. His natural ability on the bass and fresh approach to the songs made all of us up our game and now we sound better than ever.”
Just like your band name, you describe your music as ‘Driving Rock’. Can you expand on that and define what your music sounds like, as if you are explaining it to someone that has never heard your music or seen you live before?
“Imagine you are driving a car on the motorway at the speed of sound. D_Drive gives you that feeling. That’s ‘Driving Rock’!”
Do all the band members have similar influences/favourite musicans? If so, which ones?
“For me, I would say streamlined, hyperspeed instrumental melodic shred Metal. In particular, I hear a mix of Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Tony MacAlpine in Yuki’s playing, and the band’s sound has the dynamic, driving and harmonious energy of Iron Maiden meets the extravagant fusion of Dream Theater.
“We are influenced by such a variety of musicians, yes we do lean towards the heavier and more melodious sounds, but we take inspiration from a range of artists. For example, I like Michael Schenker, Yuki likes Steve Vai, Toshi likes TM Stevens and Chiiko likes Munetaka Higuchi of Loudness. The music of D_Drive is made up of a mix of all of our influences.”
How did you come to sign to Marshall Records?
“Shige Ushizawa, who is the Asia and Oceana Region Manager of Marshall Amplification, is an old friend of mine and longtime supporter of D_Drive. He often features us on his Japanese ‘Marshall Blog’ which caught the attention of Marshall Records. They checked us out through social media and our previous albums and liked what we are doing. Shige is an expert of music with a varied taste and we are lucky to have caught his eye and for his help on our journey.”
‘Maximum Impact’, out Friday 31st May
Is the new album, ‘Maximum Impact’, the first time your music has been released for a worldwide audience?
“‘Maximum Impact’ is our worldwide debut album. We had three albums released just in Japan that were also available via social media, YouTube, our website and at our live shows, but yes, this is our first official worldwide debut album.”
This album is a compilation of tracks from your three previous Japan-only releases (‘Something To Drink’, ‘Accelerator’ and ‘R’). How did you choose which tracks to include?
“We discussed our songs with Marshall Records and Shige so we could decide on what the best ten songs were to include on this album, thinking about what our favourites were but also what songs are popular with our fans in Japan that come to our live shows and engage with us on social media.”
The album includes longstanding fan favourites like ‘Screwdriver’, ‘M16’ and ‘Mr Rat Boots’. Were there any other personal favourites that you weren’t able to include on the new album, for example ‘Russian Roulette’ and ‘Peach Fuzz’.
“I wish we could cram all of the D_Drive songs onto this album! All of them are our favourite. I knew it would be impossible to do for our first international album, so we felt it was best to save some for the future.”
Did you re-record, re-mix or re-master the previous recordings to get a consistent sound on ‘Maximum Impact’?
“We used existing recordings for the bulk of the album, and Toshi re-recorded the bass parts. We wanted to keep the D_Drive sound that our fans know and love, but also feature Toshi’s excellent playing. We then sent the tracks to be mixed by New York based engineer Akihiro Nishimura and mastering was done by Christian Wright at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London.”
The cover art for the album is very striking. It seems to depict Yuki as a Samurai Warrior; it’s a brilliant image. How did you decide on that picture?
“We were looking for a special sleeve design that would work for an international album. We asked Marshall Records for advice on this and they suggested Daniel Seekings, who is the guitarist of our label-mates Bad Touch.
“It is certainly created with a western eye and is different from what you would see from a Japanese artist. It is a change in art direction for D_Drive, we love the look of it and our fans reacted very well.”
Listen, see and feel the music…
The album includes the excellent ‘The Last Revenge’, which was a successful single in 2016. I was surprised that this is track number nine, as it’s one of your best songs, so was it difficult to sequence the tracks on the new album?
“We are predominantly a live band, so we referred to how we structure our live performances when deciding on the tracklisting. We felt that it serves to provide a boost at the final stages of the album.”
Do you have any other favourite tracks on the album that you would recommend to a first-time listener. Personally, I really like the fusion of ‘Lost Block’ and the languid power of ‘Unkind Rain’.
“It is very difficult to choose the songs in term of recommendation and/or favourite because D_Drive regard the songs in the album as one story. We would like the listener to appreciate all songs through the album.
“It is very difficult to recommend individual songs because we regard the songs on the album as one story; we would like the listener to appreciate the album as a whole.”
Your last album of original songs, ‘R’, was released in 2015 and the single, ‘The Last Revenge’, in 2016. Do you have three years of new song ideas? Now that you are signed to Marshall, are you already thinking about recording your next full album?
“We have some songs which are already completed but not released, alongside loads of riffs and new ideas that we are still crafting into songs which would be great to include in our next album.”
Feel the energy at Marshall Live on 2nd June…
You are known as a high energy instrumental rock band. Did you ever consider adding a full-time vocalist?
“I’ve never thought of adding vocals to our music. We always try to make our guitars sing like a vocal melody. It would be a difficult thing to introduce into D_Drive, but maybe someday we would be up for the challenge.”
On your ‘Live In Tokyo’ album Tetsuya Kanmuri sings on two tracks. Would you consider involving guest vocalists in the future, live or in the studio?
“I wouldn’t want to break the core of D_Drive being instrumental rock, but I am always interested in collaborating with like-minded artists and having guest vocalists.”
You are coming to the UK to play at the home of Marshall in Milton Keynes in June. How does it feel to be coming to the UK and what can we expect from your performance?
“We are very excited to perform live in the UK, which is the home of rock for us. We look forward to showing our unique style at Marshall Live and Camden Rocks in June. We are working on special performances for our UK shows, so don’t miss out.”
You are all in-demand demonstrators and endorsees of equipment, for example ESP guitars, and also for other brands such as Sony and Lambourgini. Do you enjoy these collaborations and how do you find the time?
“We are grateful for the opportunities to work with such established companies, and the opportunities for these collaborations have increased year by year. It is an honour to be invited by the companies to work together and I think it is our positive attitude, live performances and social media presence of the band and our members that help drive this, along with promotion from Shige’s popular ‘Marshall Blog’.”
Live in Japan earlier this year…
Did you attend NAMM this year and, if you did, how was it?
“We did not participate in NAMM this year, but we did demonstrate at the booth of a Japanese guitar manufacturer in 2013. We had an excellent response from the guests there and we love being involved in such events. Hopefully we will get the chance to go there again.”
Following your UK visit, what happens next? Touring plans? Follow-up studio album? Live album?
“When we return from the UK, we have a run of shows in Japan throughout June, July and August and we will be performing at Music China in Shanghai at the Marshall Amplification booth in October.
“We would love to get back out to the UK, Europe and the USA to play some more shows, along with Singapore and Hong Kong. We do not have a specific schedule for the rest of the year, but we would like to get some more recording done.
“And a live album? That would be great!”
And finally, do you have any special message for your fans in the UK?
“You do not just have to listen to enjoy D_Drive, you can listen, see and feel the music. We want as many people as possible to come to Marshall Live and Camden Rocks to experience D_Drive for themselves. We hope you like ‘Maximum Impact’.
“See you in June, thank you very much!”
D_Drive just released a new video for the first single from ‘Maximum Impact’ which you can check out here. You can find out much more about the album right here and pre-order in multiple formats right here.