Archive for the ‘Envy’ Category

Interview: MONO

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

MONO are about extremes. Loud and quiet, comforting and crushing, uplifting and heartwrenching — the Japanese quartet have built a career on polarities. On their most recent releases — the companion albums The Last Down and Rays of Darkness — MONO fully realize the duality of their sound, from gentle piano melodies of “Kanata” to the post-hardcore flurry of “The Hand that Holds the Truth”. Before their upcoming Australian & New Zealand tour, MONO guitarist Taka discusses the band’s orchestral roots, their sonic polarities and channelling the sound of Japan.

You released Last Days / Rays of Darkness over year ago now. After playing that material for the last 12 months, how has your relationship with the songs changed?

It worked a lot, especially “Recoil, Ignite”, “Where We Begin”, “Kanata” etc. They made wider worlds and also made our new visions.

Those two records are companion albums – The Last Dawn is more akin to your uplifting orchestral work, and Rays of Darkness explores dark and somber territory. MONO’s music has always been about contrast. What draws you to that idea of duality in music?

The main human emotions are divided into positivity and negativity, and let’s say that they’re both 50/50 to begin with. If we have even 1% more positive emotions, everything will start to lead towards the light. To simply put, for The Last Dawn, in a minimalist approach, I wanted to express that regardless of your current situations or emotions, if you accept everything as it is and find more positivity, you will eventually be able to overcome all the negativity.

On the other hand for Rays of Darkness, I wanted to express that if you have even 1% more negative emotions or thoughts, the chaos will eventually spread and drag you down to darkness without you noticing about it. I just started to think that even everything is in disorder; there is something that’s always in order. I really wanted to express that to the world as art.

The two albums ended up representing the counter points in life. Light and darkness, hope and hopelessness, love and loss, the emotions which can’t be expressed, pain which you can’t put into words, happiness which you can’t simply measure. We also at the same time felt and hoped that they could be something to exceed the darkness.

Unlike your previous work, Rays of Darkness featured no orchestral compositions. What inspired that decision? Was it a challenge to yourself to see how you could write with just guitars, bass and drums?

I originally wanted to create something original, symphonic and spiritual like Beethoven but with electric guitars. So far, we managed to experience so many things, more than any indie band can ask for, like playing with full orchestras in New York, London, Australia and Tokyo. From these experiences, we tried something more complex and classical for our previous album, For My Parents, but at the same time, we started to raise some concerns. During the album’s American tour, we started to feel as though our sounds were like a spineless dinosaur comparing to our old sounds. Sure, symphonic music is loud, epic and dreamy, but there is something lacking compare to rock music, like the pressure and destruction they can bring.

We originally started off as a four-piece, and even though our concerns started to rise much earlier, we just took them as a required risk to challenge something new. But as we toured more, we started to know for certain that our feelings were right.

Going back to the original root was an easy thing to do, but also, we all didn’t want to do what we have already done. I really thought about this a lot. I needed to find a new method that could show my current emotions, and I truly believed that will allow us to see a new world.

Tetsu Fukagawa of Envy provides vocals on “The Hand that Holds the Truth” on Rays of Darkness. How did your relationship with him come about, and what led to that collaboration?

Personally for a long time, I always wanted to collaborate with Tetsu. He’s been a good of friend of ours for so long so I’m really glad it became a reality. Even during the time I was writing the song, I could clearly hear how his vocals would fit in together. When we actually collaborated, I didn’t really give him any instructions but he already knew what I was hoping to achieve. The song turned out to be such an incredible piece and we’re all very proud of it.

A lot of the Japanese musicians who gain attention around the rest of the world work with extremes – Merzbow with noise, Boris with their mix of sludge/slude/doom/noise/metal, MONO with cinematic and emotional post-rock. Why do you think those sensibilities resonate so strongly with audiences all over the world? What draws you to personally to that type of music?

I don’t know about other bands (we have good relationship with Boris though) but Japanese music scene is very conservative, and it won’t be changed forever, it makes us feel very uncomfortable. We have to trust own music and own art, probably this mind is making much stronger music.

I really love the dramatic, spiritual, cinematic and emotional music like Beethoven and Ennio Morricone especially. If I were to borrow Beethoven’s words, I think music is something that ignites fire in men’s heart and bring tears to women’s eyes. (And of course, vice versa). Every individual reflects their own life through music like spiritual travels, like every cell in your body getting triggered unconsciously. After experiencing fantastic movies, books or art, there is a power that allows you to see and feel new values of your life which you didn’t really notice. We really hope we can create the same kind of experience to people.

Those bands talk a lot about the influence Japan’s cityscapes and environment of Japan on their music. For Boris, their music channels a way of channeling the chaos of Tokyo and its surrounds, but MONO have never been about chaos. How have those surrounds inspired MONO’s song writing process?

We were seeking a sound that’s original and unique, not something that has already been done or try to copy them for that matter. We felt that we should create something that’s like a language globally accepted over countries, history and cultures. I think music is a very special gift given to us to tell a story or show something that you can’t simply describe with words. Sure, it might sound arrogant but as a composer, I write music that would save me, and also allows me to think and look for the meaning of life. And from that, I also hope to give the strength to continue and live to other people in the world.

You’re more than 15 years and 8 studio albums into your life as a band. What’s next for MONO?

We have a plan to record and release new album on next year.

MONO play Australia & New Zealand on the following dates:

Perth — Rosemount Hotel — December 4
Melbourne — Corner Hotel — December 5
Sydney — Newtown Social Club — December 6
Sydney — Newtown Social Club — December 7
Brisbane — Woolly Mammoth — December 8
Auckland — Kings Arms — December 10 — Presented with Under The Radar

Tickets on sale now from, Oztix, (NZ only) and venue outlets.