Features

SiM’s track-by-track guide to latest album PLAYDEAD

From songs you can “dance your heart out to”, to the band’s work on TV anime Attack On Titan, MAH reveals all about every song on SiM’s new album PLAYDEAD.

SiM’s track-by-track guide to latest album PLAYDEAD
Words:
MAH

Wanna know absolutely everything about SiM’s sixth album PLAYDEAD? Vocalist MAH unpacks each song on the record, track by track, and tells us about paying homage to nu-metal classics, female vampires, and impressing his wife…

1PLAYDEAD

“I want you to close your eyes and imagine a music venue. Slow and steady, SHOW-HATE makes an appearance and starts with the guitar. Then enters GODRi with the drums. Add on SIN with his deep bass. Then boom! I enter with a shout – an explosion. And with that image of how the show starts, so too does the album begin. The explosion of melody on the guitar is from a nu-metal band SHOW-HATE and I were in before joining SiM that didn’t quite take off, JANE Doe. With its beauty, unable to determine whether the music is bright or dark, it expresses the heightened excitement and anxiety you would feel if you were to step into a new realm. As for the lyrics, similarly to the music, it’s a song about the sheer excitement of us taking our first step into the world as a band and at the same time, expressing that inevitable surge of anxiety.”

2RED

“Straight-up, this is a song that encapsulates the whole album. There’s a heavy riff that could fit perfectly in Korn’s Untouchables, or the guitar riff in Evanescence’s Going Under with some spice added to the verse. I wanted a structure that took influence from Papa Roach’s style of rap. I see no shame in writing honestly about the roots of my work. They are the originals, the pioneers after all. We are just mere followers, and hiding it could be seen as blasphemous to our predecessors. However, we’re not talking about simple copies – our output has the early 2020s filter. There are songs that morph into reggae style halfway through, and our distinctive approach, like the manipulation of tones on the synthesiser, ultimately produces music that is undeniable SiM. We prove that our love isn’t an ‘either/or’ but a ‘both’ with equal measure.

“The song’s title, RED, literally refers to the colour of blood. In this age of social media, I’ve become exasperated by such division, and there’s this mindless provocation by those who affirm or deny a point – even though we all have the freedom not to post – to seek implicit agreement from others and feeding their own selfish desire for approval. It’s all so silly, stupid, distasteful, and quite simply an unhealthy culture.”

3HiDE and SEEK

“In HiDE AND SEEK, the equivalent Japanese phrase Mouiikai by the seeker is ready or not. But the following response Madadayo, meaning not-yet ready, doesn’t exist in the English version of the game, suggesting that the demons will come looking for you regardless of whether you’re ready or not. That’s scary.

“The lyrics of the song are tiresomely narcissistic. You and I are different! It’s that feeling of being troubled with this one-sided situation. The combination of the rhyme and melody in this song is truly enjoyable and it has a great feel-good factor when singing it. I would encourage everyone to try it for karaoke.”

4SWEET DREAMS

“The combination of drum’n’bass and ska is without a doubt, SiM’s specialty. It’s a song that started with the desire to create a ska phrase that free-flowed between lyrics and vocals, like Operation Ivy’s Sound System or Freeze Up. ‘God doesn’t play dice with universe’ is that part. Albert Einstein’s quote ‘God does not play dice’ is intriguing, though as someone without a deep understanding of theoretical physics, it’s difficult for me to fully grasp. Nonetheless, it’s a fascinating concept.

“In the background of the ska section, the shaker cuts a precise rhythm that sounds like ‘chiki, chiki, chi!’ These tone colours produce that perception of drum’n’bass and it sounds totally new, but in fact, it’s one of the typical rhythm patterns of ska and it’s usually one that’s carved by the hi-hat cymbals or the ride cymbals. It’s amazing how just changing one timbre in music can create something completely different.”

5DIE ALONE

“In the ’90s and 2000s, punk rock songs tended to have simpler guitar phrases than the more intricate riffs of hard rock and heavy metal. They were ideal for learning when I bought my first guitar, yet they still sounded so cool. I remember learning the riffs from Bad Religion’s American Jesus, blink-182’s Dammit, and The Offspring’s The Kids Aren’t Alright, and there’s no greater feeling of satisfaction as a learner when you play a few simple notes and people around you instantly recognise the song you just played. With SiM’s music, though, of course it can’t just be a straightforward punk number.

“The song is about how the concept of justice changes with the times. With the height of harassment issues in our consciousness today, to take the world of sports as an example, training methodologies have changed from the theory of gut instincts to the more scientific, evidence-based theories, and progress is being made to revise and change the rulebooks for how the games are implemented.”

6TOO LATE

“The inclusion of emo and popular culture’s influence in its change in meaning is the point with this one. Musically, there are many similarities to punk, but some parts are more intense, there’s heavy use of melancholy scales, and it’s more the melodic music than the lyrics themselves that lends itself to this. When SiM formed in the 2000s at the height of emo and screamo, a new fashion genre was created with emo hair, mouth piercings, long fringes, black skinny jeans, tight-fitting short sleeve T-shirts. Even the black panda make-up I wear around my eyes was one of the trends of the emo.

“Such words that are derived from music genres will eventually become obsolete in the music industry as the genre itself declines. And then someone somewhere picks it up and starts using it within a completely unknown context. It’s just so fascinating.”

7KiSS OF DEATH

“It starts with a hard rock style riff, interspersed with reggae, trap, through to pop-punk. A song that can only be SiM. Those of you who’ve read the Japanese translation may be sharp enough to have noticed that the hook, ‘play back, play back’, is a parody of Momoe Yamaguchi’s Playback Part 2, a masterpiece in Japanese pop music. There’s no particular meaning to that, I just thought it might be fun for our overseas audience to somehow have a link to Momoe Yamaguchi through SiM – so I added it in.

“The song’s title, KiSS OF DEATH, is a reference to the famous story of Judas Iscariot betraying Jesus Christ. He becomes the symbol of betrayal. But my version of the KiSS OF DEATH also refers to Rougela’s Devil’s Kiss (Akuma’s Kiss) from Pokémon (laughs). Being smooched will send you to sleep! Too scary!

“The lyrics describe a scenario where you are walking and suddenly a female vampire appears and gives you a Devil’s Kiss, causing you to fall asleep while she drinks your blood.”

8SAD SONG

“No deep bass, no ferocity, just sheer sadness. This is our version of a ballad. The words, ‘How are you feeling? Anything to say?’ just simply came to mind without any hesitation. It’s the notion of asking someone how they are, when it’s clear they want to say something. The resulting title SAD SONG came at the end. ‘Life will end.’ Just three simple words. And yet there’s nothing that has a heavier meaning than these words. The end is a certainty, but how you reach it will vastly differ.”

9BBT

“Abbreviation of Bloody Boring Time. This song has had major transformations since its demo recording. The initial image was more MC5, that sort of garage punk. From there, the scent of punk rock further strengthened the catchy chorus. Then breakdown, and landing on UK ska-punk… well, this is one of my specialties after all.

“I think the phrase ‘Don’t know what you mean, don’t know what you think’ was inspired by Otoboke Beaver’s PARDON? This and the pun that follows ‘king and queen they don’t give us a wink’ are my all-time favourites. The song is inspired by The Specials, and repeats the title words ‘bloody boring time’. To match The Specials, instead of using the ‘f’ word from the original chorus, I switched it with ‘bloody’, a commonly used slang in their homeland, the UK.”

10DO THE DANCE

“I started composing this song by working on the two-beat ska section of the verse and then adding the lyrics. It was here that the words, ‘If you really want to know how to dance’ came instantly to me, so I went ahead and decided to make a song you could dance your heart out to. For that reason, I reverse-calculated the intro and chose rave metal, which will cause chaos at our live shoes.

“‘You, you look like John Lennon biting a lemon.’ I just totally love this phrase and the image it conjures – the usually tense-faced John Lennon, biting a lemon. Well, that’s got to be a terrible face. It makes you feel like, ‘Don’t look at me with that face!’

“There’s no doubt that spiritualism and meaningful messaging form the basis of SiM. But sometimes it’s okay not to be bound by all of this and have songs you can just say, ‘Shut up and dance!’ It’s that type of song. Of course, the aforementioned lyrics are puns. And for the record, I have no intention of mocking the great John Lennon himself.”

11NOT SO WEAK

“When I was in a local youth baseball team, there was an amazing player called M who was a year older. He was one of those kids who would hold the title of the longest batter at every game he played. As an adult, I never found out what happened to this young superstar baseball player; no stories of any successes at middle school, nor news of getting to the acclaimed high school baseball.

“As you become an adult, you start to understand how things work. How many of those players are likely to achieve anything in life? It pains me to think how many of those teammates actually make it pro? M, who was the hero among us, whom we were sure would become a pro, has probably been sucked into the vortex of life.

“This is of course just one example, but if you pursue strength in whatever road you take, there’s always someone or something bigger and better, and even if you beat it, you’re likely to be swallowed within an endless loop. So rather than that, maybe it’s more realistic to bring things closer to home and get in to the mindset of thinking, ‘I’m not going to lose to this guy.’ At least then you’ll have a clearer goal, and you’ll have a better understanding of where your weaknesses are. Or at least, that’s how I’ve lived my life.”

12UNDER THE TREE (FULL VERSION)

“This is the full version of UNDER THE TREE which was produced as the theme song for the TV anime Attack On Titan The Final Season Final Chapter (Part 1). The Rumbling depicts the screams of the main character, Eren Yeager. The song expresses the terror of the titans and utter despair. The story of the anime also starts with the annihilation of the world, so the timing of the work couldn’t have been better synchronised. While bearing in mind that this is the prequel to the final version, I felt the need to sing about the torment of the other main protagonist, Mikasa Ackerman.

“In contrast to The Rumbling, UNDER THE TREE starts with the dark and heavy piano. Then Mikasa begins singing quietly as if lost, expressing her evident frustration. She tries and talk to Eren, and tries chasing him, but he slips away, and she tries to find any way of holding him closer. Then she’s hit by a realisation, and she vows to keep waiting under that tree. As this is just Part 1 of the anime, I decided only to sing up to this point.”

13THE RUMBLING (ORCHESTRA VERSION)

“This is the full orchestral version of The Rumbling which was produced as the opening song for the TV anime Attack On Titan The Final Season Part 2. It gives me the feeling of listening to a movie soundtrack, and to think how far my own songs have come, I blurt out, ‘Wow, amazing! How did you do that!?’

“When the chorus melody ‘if I lose it all’ was completed, in all honestly, I couldn’t stop the goosebumps. I remember my wife, who heard the sound emanating from the home studio, coming in to say, ‘This song is a killer!’

“There have been many amazing songs that have been created in the Attack On Titan series so far, but they’ve always been drawn from the perspective of the human side. By using SiM’s unique deep bass and shouts, I create songs from the perspective of the titans right from the outset.

“There are many opinions of the lyrics ‘All I ever wanted to do was save your life / I never wanted to grab a knife, I swear.’ As fans, we complete the story with our own imagination and by filling in of those parts. In all honesty, I didn’t expect this song to have so much acclaim overseas, and the response far exceeded my expectations.”

Check out more:

Now read these

The best of Kerrang! delivered straight to your inbox three times a week. What are you waiting for?