Formed of five members in 2012, VII ARC is German alternative rock and industrial metal band. They released their album ATONIA -THE VOIDS OF TARTAROS- on September 22, and you may recognize their name as they supported for MORRIGAN’s European tour. Readers well versed in visual kei will notice the inspiration they have drawn for their visual identity, and this interview will explore the band’s roots and how Jrock has helped path their beginnings in rock music as well as their process in creating the band and fun tour stories. Readers can get a copy of their latest album exclusive to JROCK NEWS!
Please introduce yourselves to our readers and tell us about how you came to pick up your respective instruments/sing.
KAY: Hello, my Name is KAY and I’m the vocalist. I chose to sing, because it felt the most natural to me, to express myself throughout my voice. Furthermore, I’ve been always admiring vocalists anyway.
Bena: Hey, I’m Bena! I play the guitar and some of the shouting vocals. I always say that “everybody should do what they can the best”, so in my case, it was playing guitar and screaming into a mic.
Fu: Hey, I’m Fu on lead guitar. I initially started to play guitar because hide of X Japan was my idol in teenage years
GRAZEL: Hey, I’m Grazel, I play the bass. Before joining VII ARC, I was mainly a guitarist but I loved very low tunings. I always enjoyed composing and listening to melodious bass lines the most anyways—playing the bass feels very natural now!
Z’ev: I’m Z’ev on drums and I’ve been playing since I was 13. Singing and guitar wasn’t my cup of tea so I tried drumming and had a lot of fun with it. Some friends had a band back then and that inspired me to make music myself.
The band was formed in 2014, so next year would mark your 5th anniversary. How did the band members come together?
Fu: I always wanted to have a band and create my own music so I started to play casually with some friends, but it never worked out. As I entered university I got to know KAY—we soon became friends and the idea to start a band together formed in my mind. KAY wasn’t familiar with any musical instrument at the time but he always enjoyed singing and I figured he would be a great frontman.
I convinced him to form a band together. After a month of working on some songs and creating the base for VII ARC, we asked Bena to join in. We kinda knew each other through the internet and after some meetings, we were sure that us three would be a great team. We had some gigs together and released our first demo. A bassist and drummer were still missing and I knew Grazel from some Jrock and visual kei concerts, so I approached him and asked him if he would be interested in joining our band. He was as it turned out. At this time he was playing guitar but he switched to bass since we already had two guitarists. Finally, we found Z’ev through an online advert and he really liked our concept and joined us at a support drummer at first and now he’s officially part of VII ARC.
You released a new album titled ATONIA -the Void of Tartaros- that came out on September 22. Please tell us about the ideas behind this release.
KAY: We’ve been working on that for over two years and it was a crazy trip for sure. I took a while before we decided to release it the way we did in the end.
Grazel: ATONIA -The Void of Tartaros- is the first part of our ATONIA double album. We plan to release the second part in 2019. We want to keep it a bit mysterious for now, but it felt the most natural to us to split and oppose these two parts of ATONIA into a black and a white release.
Bena: This album and its follow up is the conclusion of all the inspiration and feedback we gathered after the release of our first Album DOXA. It perfectly represents the creativity of all the members because everybody was involved in the creative process.
Which song would you recommend for new listeners and why?
KAY: For me, it’s really hard to choose only one, because each song is very different in its own way. So you have at least to listen to the whole album.
Bena: For a first impression, listen to our Song NIL. It has a music video, too. Usually, Fu, Grazel or I create the basic structure of a song on our own and then the others adjust a few things, but in this song, we worked from start to finish together as a band on the composition. Also, this song is the one we worked on the longest.
Grazel: NIL – it will haunt you!
Fu: I can’t decide on only one either but I guess nothing is wrong going with NIL first since it’s our first single and music video from ATONIA.
Z’ev: I’d second the rest and would say NIL because together with the video it truly shows VII ARC. Performance and visuals are a big part of the music.
If you could have a track on this album remixed by any artist, who would you pick?
Bena: Oh shit, I would die for a Skrillex Dubstep Remix of Impelled!
Fu: I’m with you there Bena! [laughs]
Grazel: A smooth, funky, jazzy version of Kurage by Toshiki Kadomatsu!
Z’ev: I’d like to hear a synthwave version of IRA by Scandroid or The Midnight.
We’ve read in your previous interviews about the songwriting processes, performing at conventions and we understand functioning as a niche genre band that is abroad is difficult. What’s your aspiration as a band at the moment?
KAY: For me, the one and only thing which forces me to keep pushing to reach more people with our music and play live in front of hot enthusiastic fans to have a fucking great live show.
Bena: We will focus to gain more attention on the internet so that more people come to our live shows. Producing music and shooting music videos is fun but nothing beats playing in front of an enthusiastic crowd!
Grazel: I want to become a better composer, arranger–I want to us to produce the best we can and I need to push myself for that!
Fu: Spreading our music to reach more people and playing in front of a huge crowd that enjoys our music, that would be a blast!
Z’ev: Playing live is the best to do with a band. Therefore playing before large crowds or festivals would be my biggest goal for the band.
You mentioned that visual kei is dead in the local area, so what is the driving factor behind your visual look?
KAY: Visual kei is what made me want to create music in the first place. So before it all started, I decided, that we must be a band with a strong visual aspect. I like this visual aspect quite a lot. Maybe I’m not able to express myself without the strong visuals in an authentic way. But I don’t believe we’re a visual kei band. We’re just too “visual” to be a normal metal band and not Japanese to be a “real” visual kei band. If that might be even possible. We’re just a metal band who is strongly influenced by those bands from Japan. So when people call us fake for not being Japanese I’d get really angry. They should criticize us for our music and not for not being something we’ve never pretend to be. In my teens, there were so many people who love visual kei bands and the tickets for concerts sold quite well. This changed a lot with the appearance of Kpop.
Grazel: We intend to be authentic with our music and our visual style and performance combined. Replace one of those three aspects with something generic or “normal” and VII ARC would not work!
Bena: To keep it simple, I’ve always liked going on stage with makeup, crazy hairstyles, and extravagant fashion. I don’t care what trends are hot right now in the local area.
Fu: Without visual kei, there wouldn’t be VII ARC, that’s for sure. But we are not a visual kei band in that sense. I always loved that these band put on a great live show and are basically great entertainers. Music and live shows can be an escape from your daily life and the visuals just add to it and help dive into another world or mindset for a moment. Bands who just look like everyone else you see on the street are hella boring if you ask me.
Z’ev: Okay, I’ve played in “normal” bands before and didn’t really care about visuals. Just grow some hair and shake it to the beat whenever possible seemed enough for me. But with VII ARC, I had to fit the rest of my mates in order to make the visual part of the band work. It was really new to me, but also kinda fun to do. Being one of the only guys sitting backstage and putting some makeup on is really funny. Also watching disturbed members of other bands.
In your opinion, how has visual kei changed and evolved over the years?
KAY: I think the internet has quite an impact on the global scene in general. Japanese artists got influenced by western bands and so the music changed because of that. It’s really sad that this not the other way around most of the time. I think it’s really awesome that we now have visual bands with metalcore inspired sound.
Bena: I always listened to the more heavy bands in this scene and I noticed that around 10 years ago the heavy VK Bands had a nu-metal sound to them. Now the heavy scene is dominated by bands like NOCTURNAL BLOODLUST, DADAROMA, and JILUKA that uses elements of the different core genres. Also, they use more and more electronic Sounds in the Production. I really like this change.
What’s your outlook on rock music’s future on the whole?
KAY: As long as there are young people who strive for music which is loud, crazy and performed by strange people, rock will never die. But the whole music business and the consumers are changing through streaming a lot. But I’m not sure where that change might lead us.
Grazel: Genre and musical style are not the issues, I think. A lot of people think that rock music fails to reach people nowadays and is becoming extinct. The fact that we could motivate and inspire a lot of young people to listen to our music proves them wrong and makes me very happy! But it reveals the responsibility that musicians have—to be authentic in order to be relevant!
Z’ev: I think rock music, in general, underlies trends that change now and then. One day thrash metal is en vogue and the next day progressive rock will take that place. But in the end, rock will stay present and even grows like the Wacken Festival, for instance.
Towards the end of 2017, VII ARC alongside BatAAr played support for MORRIGAN, what was that like?
KAY: To be honest, it was one of those “a dream come true” experiences. It was the first time that I shared the stage with a band I admired for a long time. The whole event was so awesome and I was like “Whoah, it seems like we’re musicians for real”!
Grazel: Our best show so far! The concert was super well organized, MORRIGAN showed us a lot of respect and watched our soundcheck, BatAAr were super friendly and the audience resonated with our performance–we prepared a lot for this concert and it all paid off!
Bena: For us, it was the first concert outside of Germany! It was so cool to share the stage with bands within the visual scene and the audience did all the typical visual kei hand choreography and headbanging to our music. We’ve never experienced something like that before.
Fu: Yeah It felt like our first “real” concert in a way because of that. Definitely a great experience!
Z’ev: The best stage, sound, and environment for us I guess. Everybody felt that this is the “real thing” and that is worth a lot. The crowds were also very cool!
What’s your favorite tour story to tell?
Bena: We were asked to play at a garden party for a resident group of children who didn’t live with their parents anymore. Age ranged from 5 to 14 years old. We weren’t sure if we fit into that event, but we gave it a try and went to it. There awaited a barn that represented the stage, accompanied by chickens and sheep that chilled next to it. We thought “damn this will be so embarrassing…” and then we started like always our setlist at full energy. These kids headbanged, jumped and screamed the shit out of our heaviest songs! More energy in the crowd than most metal events we played at. This was very funny and heartwarming at the same time.
Z’ev: Definitely the gig on the truck trailer in front of very few people and very poor equipment on stage. Every time the guys jumped on that “stage” my drumset was moving like hell! But in the end, it was very funny and memorable.
What’s your earliest memory when it comes to music?
KAY: It’s something trivial. My mom often sang to me before I went to bed when I was a little kid. Back then, I tried to sing along, even if the lyrics were in English. The song Que sera, sera is the one I remembered and cherished the most.
Grazel: Asking my mom if she allows me to play my JRPGs on PlayStation but she said “…We have to take your piano lessons first!”
Bena: I rocked to Rammstein’s Engel with a toy guitar in front of the TV. I was 5 years old at that time.
Fu: That’s a tough one but I used to entertain my parents while performing to my favorite songs (oldies, rock, techno,…) as a kid on a regular basis. So maybe that was already a foreshadowing. [laughs]
Z’ev: Listening to The Triumph of Steel by Manowar at the age of 11 or so. It really blew my mind and got me into metal. Metal is forever!
As the Tokyo Olympics will be coming up in 2020, we would like to ask some related sports questions. Do any of the members play any sports?
KAY: I’m the sporty enthusiast in the band. I play soccer for like 20 years and tried out a lot of other stuff like badminton, cycling, squash, basketball, inline skating. For about three years now, I’m hitting the gym 3 times a week to get healthier and physically strong for live performances.
Bena: I’m not that into sports. The only sport I do is skating with my longboard. I love that.
Fu: I’m working on my fitness to stay healthy but I was never that much into sports.
Grazel: I grew up doing Shotokan Karate for about 7 years! I tried many martial arts during the meantime but could never really commit to any. Most recently, I did JUGGER–a team sports where I fenced with sword and shield. Right now, I am interested in boxing–there is a gym nearby.
Z’ev: I did Jet Kune Do for 4 years in my teens. Drumming is physical enough to not have to train in addition to it I guess. In my free time, I’ll try to go running or swimming with Fu or do some Freeletics in my flat.
What is your favorite event to watch at the Olympics and why?
KAY: I’m one of those people who would watch almost every discipline on the TV during the Olympics. For the summer Olympics, it would be any ball event. I love team sports. But right now I’m totally into figure skating because of Yuzuru Hanyu. I’m even going to attend the Grandprix in Helsinki to watch him live.
Grazel: I haven’t watched any Olympics so far, but I would like to watch boxing and MMA. I would love seeing JUGGER at the Olympics one day!
Z’ev: I’m not into the Olympic games or any other sports events, except watching FIFA World Cup.
Many people would be visiting Japan in 2020 as part of the Olympics festivities. If you could go to Japan right this moment, where would you go or do?
KAY: I would attend a concert of some visual artists and eat ramen.
Bena: I would go to all the music events and do sightseeing at old traditional japanese villages.
Fu: Attending concerts, some sightseeing, exploring nature especially off the beaten path, and of course most importantly enjoying some fine Japanese food!
Grazel: Looking for a tattoo artist, seeing Japan’s nature, like the bamboo forest!
Z’ev: I’d love to see Japan some day. A collegue from work was there and showed me some pictures. I was really jealous. I think most of the time I would spend in Tokyo experiencing the Japanese way of life.
If you could collaborate with any band/artist in the world, live or dead, who would you pick?
KAY: I would like to collaborate with HYDE because he is my greatest idol as a talented artist and a vocalist with a unique and beautiful voice.
Bena: I would love to collaborate with EVE who is the former Drummer of Lycaon! His works influenced me the most as a teen. Second to that, I would love to make music together with Korean Producer M2U.
Grazel: Nobuo Uematsu the composer of Final Fantasy! He sparked my passion for music. Regarding his health issues, I pray for his recovery. Another artist would be Tsutomu Nihei, the mangaka of BLAME. I think he is the master of Cyberpunk and dark Sci-fi aesthetics. From his works, I draw a lot of inspiration for the music and sounds I imagine.
Fu: Playing with X Japan, Luna Sea, Kiyoharu, Buck-Tick–and all these icons of Japanese rock and visual kei live once, even if it’s just for a song would be a dream!
Z’ev: Since I’m not that much into Japanese music, because I don’t understand what they’re singing about, I’d choose Dirk Verbeuren from Soilwork–but only to learn to drum from him. I’d like to do something with an orchestra too.
Anything you’d like to say to our readers?
KAY: After this, I hope that you know us as people and musicians a bit more and give our music a try. That would mean a lot to me.
Grazel: Thanks for paying attention!
Bena: Please give our music a listen. Every year we grow bigger as a band and don’t intend to stop activities soon! Our goal is to put out more and more music that people can enjoy. We hope to see all of you guys someday at a live event. We are very responsive on social media.
Fu: Since we want to open a Patreon for our international audience very soon, it will be easier to get in touch with us and to enjoy our content, so please look out for that!
Z’ev: It would mean a lot to us, to hear what you think about VII ARC. Join our small community on our discord server and get to know each other!
We’d like to thank VII ARC for spending their time with us. Please do check out their latest releases to support the work they do.
ATONIA – The Void of Tartaros –
Buy on VII ARC’s official shop