Thunder from the East .... Minoru Niihara Speaks Out

Japan's premier metal band 'Loudness' are no strangers to the world of Heavy Metal, having formed back in 81 by guitarist Akira Takasaki along with former drummer Munetaka Higuchi who sadly in later years passed away. Akira met up with front man Minoru Niihara and bassist Masayoshi Yamashita.

They recorded several albums together such as 'Thunder in the East', 'Hurricane Eyes', 'Disillusion' and many more, and in later years Minoru returned to the band after his departure in 91 only to return back in 2000. The band are stronger than ever now and in recent years recorded the likes 'Eve to Dawn', '', and 'The sun will rise Again' in 2014.

Last year I had the pleasure of interviewing Minoru for the 1st time in Germany at 'Headbangers Open Air', so after working as their drum tech last year at 'Hair Metal heaven' it was time to catch up with Minoru once again and to talk about the new album 'Rise to Glory', here is what he had to say t the following question.

Well it's good speaking to you once again Minoru, we last did an interview last year at 'Headbangers Open Air; in Germany, what memories do you have from the show and festival?

"Well since it was the 1st time for Loudness to headline 'Headbangers Open Air' I was very nervous about playing the show, this was because Germany is the place to be for Heavy Metal and when lots of hard core fans turn up my nerves had gone when we played the 1st song because the crowd went really wild and I had the time of my life."

How long where you in Germany for last year? did you play some small clubs and other festivals?

"I remember playing 3 shows in Germany, it wasn't a long tour at all."

I understand that you are coming back to 'Headbangers Open Air;' once again this year for the anniversary of 'The law of Devils Land' & 'Disillusion' albums, are you looking forward to playing again and playing songs form those albums? Also are you doing any more takes in Europe that may include the UK?

"Yes I am looking forward to playing songs from those album, we will rehearse hard for this. We are look at the dates as we speak, there are a few dates that have not been confirmed yet so I can't say too much at this moment, we want to play the UK again."

Moving on, I would like to be you're drum tech once again this year fr the European tour, I did hear that Masayuki had a stroke, how is he doing since his illness?

"Yes we would love you to tech for us again Jason, contact our manager. With regards to Masayuki he was feeling unwell in early February of 2018 then his right side of his body was immobile and he was taken to hospital and after been checked out they found he had some brain problems and it is not critical and he is still in hospital and he is getting medical help. He will come back to the band, but it will take some time for him to recover. 

We are on tour at the moment and for the show we did last night we have a friend who is standing in for Masayuki, he is called Ryuichi Nishida is standing in for him whilst he recovers from his illness. Ryuichi he plays in a Progressive band called 'Novella' and he has been in the band for many years now. He did a lot of studio work too and he is a brilliant drummer."

Moving on let's talk about the new album 'Rise to Glory', why did you choose this title for the album and did you have any other titles for the album?

"Well there is a link to the the last album which was called 'The sun will rise Again' which was released right after the Japanese earthquake in 2011, so 'The sun will rise Again' was about hope for Japan. On this occasion the band were ready to take the next step and take action with 'Rise to Glory'. (Ed: so it is a positive message?) Yes the album is very positive and very optimistic and it is the bands why of been very optimistic.

Well there is a song on the new album called 'Massive Tornado' and Arika had suggested that the album should be called 'Massive Tornado' because they had 'Thunder in the East', 'Hurricane Eyes', so we thought we could make a weather forecast trilogy."

So who came up with the title for this album?

"The title for the new album was proposed myself and the rest of the band throw their ideas in as well. I got the title from a race horse in the UK. The idea for getting album titles from race horses came from either Max Norman or Eddie Kramer suggested that if we were stuck with an album title we should name it after a race Horse."

Just how long did it take to record the new album and where was it recorded and are you happy with the end results?

"Well Akria was writing and coming up with ideas in the last few years were the band got together last March 2017 and it took us seven months to record , mix and master the album. 

In the 7 months it wasn't a fully 7 months of intense recording because we had to tour Europe and Japan as well, so we were in the studio on and off for 4 months. We started the recording in early March and finished it in November 2017.

You could say that Arika produced the album as he came up with the musical ideas whereas the lyrics done by myself and a few friends that I had worked with."

What songs from the new album stand out for you and why?

"Well I like 2 songs from the new album in particular, one is called 'No Limits' as it is very dramatic and the other song is 'Rain', which is kind of a ballad and these are my 2 favourite songs. We performed the song 'Rain' on stage last night for the 1st time and there is a very impressive riff right at the beginning and there was a good sing a long from the audience and we felt it was the right song to play live."

How do you see this new album as a progression from your previous albums?

"The way we made this album was completely different from last time, because Akira was very perfect how I would sing to the details of the last album or the one before the last one. He would give me advice on how to sing certain lines and this time around it was 100% about vocal melodies and how they had the phrasing. 

It use to be like that back in the 'Disillusion' days but more recently I was more free to do my own stuff but this time around Akira gave me instructions how to sing the songs.

Now that the album is completed I am very happy getting the instructions from Akira and he wanted me to sound at times a little husky at times and now that the album is complete I am very happy."

How many label s are the band signed to world-wide?

"Well we are signed to Ward records in Japan and in Europe Ear Music."

How long is your deal with the labels? Also are you happy with your labels?

"For this album we are signed to Ward Records and the Japanese staff are very much behind the band, very enthusiastic and I am very surprised to see how much work they have put behind the band. We charted in Japan really well and metal magazines the album is still high in the charts in Japan."

How many promo videos has the band recorded for this new album? 

"So far we have only done one promo video for the song 'Soul on Fire' and maybe we will do another one after the tour is complete."

Do you plan on doing a live DVD on this tour or when Masayuki makes a recovery?

"Well we may do one but the chances are very slim right now for this tour because Masayuki needs to make a recovery and we need him to be on the live DVD, to complete the full line up. We will see what will happen."

When we last met I was drum teching for you at 'Hair Metal Heaven', what memories do you have from that festival?

"It was a good festival, the staff and crew worked very hard including you Jason, you did a great job for us thank you. The fans were incredible and were very enthusiastic and I enjoyed the show very much. (Ed: I remember Akira coming on stage with Seb Bach's band and doing 'Crazy Nights' once again for the second time around. Why did he play that song again on the same night?). Well that was a very interesting experience for me because it was the 1st time I had heard an English native speaking person sing that song live and I felt very proud.

It was Seb choice to sing 'Crazy Nights' and maybe if the band could decide on which song to jam with Seb Bach maybe they would of picked another song."

Just how big are Loudness in Japan right now do you still have the following?

"I am not too sure how big we are in Japan but we have a history and we still are well known in the Japanese metal scene. We have fans young and old who come to our shows and many fans like 1000's still turn up to our shows we are still very happy about it."

Minoru do you have any side projects that you would like to do?

"Now that the album has been released I cam concentrating on Loudness for the time been, but when the time arises I may do a project with different vocal directions when I have time before I am 65.Maybe it will be folk songs."

Well thank you for the interview Minoru, all the best to the band from me, and get well wishes to Masayuki from me and Hi to Kazz from me too. Do you have anything o say before we finish the interview? I hope to work with you all again this year in Europe.

"Yes we are looking forward to coming back to the UK and Europe. We want to thank the UK fans at Hair Metal Heaven for their support and we hope to be doing a full UK tour this time. Thank you for your help Jason and for the interview. Take care."

Thank you to Minoru & Loudness, the label and management for the interview