By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly
Japanese band MONO, an instrumental quartet, combines elements of noise, minimalism, space rock, shoe-gazing, and until recently, collaborations with players of orchestral instruments. The band comes to Seattle’s music venue Neumos on June 24th. Guitarist Takaakira “Taka” Goto took some questions over e-mail.
NWAW: Has the band ever played in Seattle before? What kind of reaction does the band get in Seattle?
Goto: We have played in Seattle more than 10 times. Seattle is actually one of our favorite cities in America.
NWAW: What are the best cities in America for MONO to play in and why?
Goto: Especially New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle. Basically, we love everywhere in America because we have many great friends and fans in each city.
NWAW: What are the oddest and scariest gigs the band ever played? How did you get through them?
Goto: It was in Providence in 2005. Suddenly, the police came into the venue with guns during the show and our show was canceled because another policeman was killed by someone in front of the venue before the show. It was unreal and crazy.
NWAW: “Rays of Darkness” is the first album you’ve had in a long time, to feature no orchestral parts. What led to this new direction?
Goto: It was the time to find a new direction without an orchestra. Also, we’re making darker, heavier music…we just think trying something we have never done before is very important.
NWAW: How has the band grown and changed over the years?
Goto: To be honest, the 15 years went by fast. We traveled the world together every year, and we feel like we all grew up together gradually, as children to adults. Everything we saw was fresh, everything we did was an adventure, with a continuation of facing the unknown, excitement, and setbacks. The whole process was like learning all the essentials of life through our music and travels.
We think all of these experiences made our sounds. Creating a musical bridge is our job, and because of all the people, colleagues, friends, and fans all over the world we met over the years, over the bridge we created, we can continue to do what we do. We are truly thankful for that.
NWAW: How has the rock scene in Japan grown and changed over the years?
Goto: We actually don’t know a lot about the Japanese scene. There are actually few really cool scenes and bands. Everybody is doing really DIY (Do It Yourself) though.
NWAW: What bands, Japanese and/or otherwise, were crucial to the band’s inspiration, and why?
Goto: Envy and Boris are really good friends. They are releasing and touring like us.
We hang out together often when we are in Tokyo.
NWAW: What led you to release two albums at once as an overarching statement?
Goto: The reason for this is because there were two sides of strong emotion crashing inside of me—an absolute darkness and hope.
The darkness didn’t have anything to do with sadness, it was more or less about anger and suffering, like an endless disappointment or an uncontrollable despair. From these feelings, I started writing for a new album. But when you actually start writing based on these feelings, your daily life starts to become much darker and depressing. For example, even when I got out of the studio, my feelings were very rebellious without any thoughts, almost as though I had sold my soul to hell.
I started to compose more songs, but in a very different style, not necessarily for MONO, but just for the sake of letting my emotions out. I started to change my lifestyle as well, like I almost always composed songs during late nights, but started writing early in the mornings or in the afternoon instead. Eventually, these new songs started to become like medicine, to live through everyday life.
I had no intention of releasing two albums at the same time. But as time went on, I started to be able to accept the songs I wrote when I was in a really bad place, the songs which represented the dark side of me, the songs that I didn’t want to go near to at least for a while. I then had thoughts about making all these songs as one album, but it just did not feel right.
“The Last Dawn” is an opposition album to “Rays of Darkness.” It is essentially an album about escaping from the darkness and seeking the light. This is why we decided to release the songs as two albums.
NWAW: Do you have any advice for bands starting out in Japan, or anywhere else?
Goto: Having new experiences and new adventures is most important in our lives. Life is short, we should try whatever we want.
NWAW: What’s in the future for the band after this tour?
Goto: We have some shows in Japan in the summer and will tour in Europe in October and November.
Also, we will tour in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia in December. (end)
Andrew Hamlin can be reached at email@example.com.