(Comrade Aleks has brought us this very interesting and informative interview with Takashi Tanaka, drummer and vocalist of the formidable Japanese death-doom band Anatomia.)
There’s a sort of niche genre – something between crude, quite extreme death metal and death doom. It was set by Asphyx and Autopsy back in the early ’90s, and a good amount of bands carry on this tradition of mixing these sonic elements with brutal lyrics and straightforward delivery. Japan has two main bands of that kind – Coffins and Anatomia. You could see interview with Coffins here in November 2018, and now it’s Anatomia’s turn. Why?
Well, this band always has a new release. Yes, there are only three full-lengths in their discography, but just add to this score 14 split releases and 5-7 releases of other formats and you get a full picture.
Takashi Tanaka (drums, vocals) runs three more bands at the same time, so I believed it was wise to focus only on his Anatomia achievements.
Hi Takashi! So you formed Anatomia in 2002, and seventeen years have passed. Just to clarify my suggestions — were you inspired from the start by bands like Asphyx and Autopsy or was it about something else?
Right, we formed this band when we got together, when we all wanted to play slow, death doom that is inspired by Autopsy and other old veins. The idea was to create/bring back old death metal that is slow and filthy, like Autopsy, the one that we grew up with. We were missing it, and so we wanted something opposed to the trend like new-school brutal death back in the days. There weren’t many bands that played similar stuff back in 2002.
Your first album Dissected Humanity was finished in 2005. How did you write it? You know, I was surprised when I heard the band for the first time — I expected a more death-laden sound, but in your case both death and doom elements are balanced.
We were all involved in the song-writing process for that album, and each of us brought an equal number of songs. I wrote ‘Carnal Mutilation’, ‘Suicides’, and later part of ‘Tortured Bleeding End’, and Jun wrote ‘Drowned in Sewage’, ‘Deceased’, and ‘Morgue of Cannibalism’, and Yoshio wrote ‘Funeral Feast’ and ‘Only Consumed by Dead’. We’re all keen on creating an old death metal sound that is still warm and analog, and a slower doom taste.
How did you record Dissected Humanity? Did you need to set a certain mood in performing that kind of stuff?
It was recorded using an analog multi-track recorder, and by Yoshio our old guitarist. What mood? Well, we recorded separately — like I recorded the drum tracks first, without hearing any guitars/bass. Then later we added guitar/bass/vocal tracks you know. But I think everything went well, as we practiced and played well together beforehand.
Well, but what about the album’s general mood? Is it about focused rage or frustration? Or… or some sort of sublimation of any other feelings?
Well, something abysmal, dark, and deathly depression, with sickening, or vomiting feels when doing vocals.
The album was released the same year as Coffins’ debut. Did you tour together with them? Or was it a problem considering promotion, etc?
Yeah, that’s right. It was about that time when Coffins released their album too, but we didn’t care much about doing a tour after the release. No problem, no hostility with Coffins at all, we are good friends with them! We just did many local gigs instead.
It seems there is its own specific attitude to gore and violence in Japan. Japanese horror movies are quite specific; some aspects of comics culture are specific as well. How do you see the roots of this phenomenon?
Well, probably because Japan is an island and separate from others? Not really sure, but I agree there is something unique here. So many different things come from different places and Japan takes in everything, tries to make something different maybe?
Anatomia – Uncanny Descension
Would you agree that Anatomia is also the product of local culture, not only the Western brutal death doom scene? Probably we may mention the Unit 731 story too, though it’s not such a massive crime in comparison with other war crimes of WW II.
That may be good to write about too. My lyrics are mostly more abstract and nothing specific in certain matters. I get ideas from reading, seeing something scary, and horrors in my daily life, but I use more general terms when I put them into words. Writing lyrics are fun but I make them so they are not much realistic.
What kind of horrors in daily life do you mean?
Like murder, suicides, some weird incidents that come up daily on the news. I like picking up those happenings close in my life and where I live. One example is that a dead body was found floating on the river near my house, only a few minutes away by walk. They found this corpse was at the same age as me, so very interesting.
What’s your attitude to using some social-oriented lyrics? Tokyo is an overcrowded megalopolis with an insane rhythm. I’ve heard about that crazy working schedule in big companies, suicides, shoebox apartments where people can only sleep, and so on. How much of all of this influences your attitude toward Anatomia?
That’s right, there are many weird problems here like that. But I don’t write about society, nor complain, express, or appeal to anyone through lyrics. I sometimes get hints from them but I only write death metal lyrics, just about dying, suffering, and death, both in physical and mental aspects.
Anatomia is a productive band, there are only three full-length albums in your discography, but there are 13 splits plus a few releases of other kind. It seems that you’re always in Anatomia, 24/7. How much of it is in your life indeed?
Well, I have a family with 2 kids, and also playing in three other bands as well, so I’m always pretty busy with job and family, and organizing band things. Usually I work 9 hours a day for 5 days a week, and weekends are full of band activities, and family events. Very busy but it’s fulfilling.
Speaking about splits… How do you choose when it’s time for a full-length album? You could have had probably two more albums if not for scattering songs among splits.
Whenever we have enough songs to record at a time. We could have more albums but we want to do splits too, as we get many offers from bands and labels constantly, and we don’t want to miss the chance. Split releases are fun and something good for keeping it underground, haha.
You have a damn lot of songs, and let’s say that you have a limited range of themes for your lyrics. How do you create new texts? What inspires you?
My lyrics are mainly about death, torture, gore, doom in general, just like others, and also on murders that we see daily on the news. Especially where I live there are many crimes and a district for bizarre murders, so I often use them to get ideas. I usually come up with the topic/story by listening to the song, so that comes from the image there.
Is it such an unsaved place? Do you have a chance to change it to a more peaceful place?
Actually it’s not too bad. My place is in a suburb, an area more sparse and quiet, and so there are more crimes here but it’s a comfortable place, maybe because it’s my hometown, and prices are all lower here. I think Japan is really peaceful.
Your second album Decaying In Obscurity has a rougher, cruder sound. Was it your intention or is it a result of force majeure?
Haha, that’s true, that album is different for sure. We did the recording at a different studio with a different engineer, so that’s why. It wasn’t intentional at all but since Yoshio, our old guitarist who handled the recording of our first album, had left the band, we needed to ask another person. So that’s our current guitarist Makoto who recorded the Decaying In Obscurity album, actually.
The most effective way to promote a new album is to play it live, so how intensively did you push Decaying In Obscurity? Did you play abroad with Anatomia?
Yeah we played in Berlin, Germany when the Decaying In Obscurity album was released. That was the Nuclear War Now! festival that the label organized in 2012, and that’s the only show we did actually. We did a short tour in 2017 though, playing in Sweden and Denmark after the release of the Cranial Obsession album. We didn’t do much promotional stuff like touring or sending promos to media, etc., but just left that up to the label.
But you did work with different labels besides Nuclear War Now! Did all of them offer you equal terms for promotion and releases in general?
We have many splits released by different labels and that itself is a good promotion for us. They’re all good friends who can release records, send us royalty copies, and spread our music and some good words to people around the world. We get an equal level of promotion from all those labels.
Anatomia – Hollowed Cadaver
What are the specifics of organizing gigs in Japan? And what are your highlights in playing domestic gigs?
There are many gigs here today — almost every weekend in Tokyo we have bands playing. Sometimes during the weekdays as well we have gigs by local bands, and overseas touring bands. So it’s very active with live shows here. I sometimes think it’s too much, especially small groups organizing shows on the same day is like stupid. Good things for touring bands seeking bookings though. They organize at cheaper venues like practice studios, rehearsal places, or some small bars which they can use at lower costs or even for no fees. Highlights for me would be selling merchandise and meeting people.
Do colleagues from your work know about Anatomia? Do they or your family support you?
I only told a few of my co-workers about my bands and activities before, but now it seems it spreads around, and some others already know it now. So a person whom I had never talked to before came up to me and said, like “When and where’s your next show?” Hahaa.. And yeah my family is the biggest support for me, always understanding and supporting my activities, which I really appreciate.
Really? Your family supports your tiny harmless hobby of performing such brutal stuff, right? And I believe that recordings cost some money too!.. Hah, my wife is angry if I spend much time interviewing some strange dudes and reviewing their albums late at night. Well, just like in this current situation 😀
I am lucky about that. I can spend time and money for my bands’ activities as I like. I’m good at organizing it, if I may say so.
But back to the music. How do you see the band’s progress on Cranial Obsession (2017)? What new experiences does this release bring you?
We did the recording and mastering by ourselves for that album and that’s a part of progress I think. We have control of everything regarding the recording stuff. The music itself has not been changed much, but it’s darker and more atmospheric, and we see that as progress too.
What’s your most rewarding experience for playing in Anatomia?
Our show at Kill-Town Deathfest in 2014 was rewarding, and that one is memorable to me. We played the last slot of the final edition of this fest, which returned in 2018, and we played in a really good mood surrounded by friends, and the crowd was really nice. Even with the slower songs people seemed to enjoy our set so much. We could hear many good words after that show.
You presented the Hollowed Cadaver demo in June 2019. What’s your plan for the next release?
We’re currently working on two new splits, one with Pazuzu from Costa Rica and one with Mausoleum from the USA. Before them, our 12” split with Ruin is coming out in early 2020 too. And then we’ll record a new full-length album. The Hollowed Cadaver demo was prepared to promote this new album, so the songs will be re-recorded for it too.
Then I should ask you about how far along you are with the new album from the point where you were with Cranial Obsession! Will it still be that thick and dirty doom-laden death metal?
Yes, of course, it will be dark, putrid, obscure, dismal slow death, and in the same vein as the Cranial Obsession and Decaying in Obscurity albums. We have 5 new songs ready and hopefully will start recording sometimes in early 2020.
Thanks for your time Takashi. That was an informative and interesting conversation. Have we covered all important topics concerning Anatomia?
Thanks a lot for the killer interview. Yes we have more and more materials to be released in the coming years, so watch out for the new releases. And also now we’re excited about playing in Mexico in March 2020, at Total Death Over Mexico, a sick festival in Mexico! We’ll keep playing shows abroad, so just keep an eye for our future plans.