MONO Interview Part One

MONO has the rare ability to meticulously build sky scrappers of sound and then, without hesitation, tear them down with a single swift blow.  Listening to this band is like watching a science-fiction film; before you know it, you’ve transcended both time and space in a matter of light-minutes.  Upon returning to a renewed state of consciousness, you realize something remarkable has happened. Traveling to the center of the universe and back tends to have that effect.

Taka, guitarist/songwriter from MONO, stopped by The Calcutta to give us some insight on their new album and the band.

MONO - Photo by Teppei

MONO - Photo by Teppei

Can you give us a brief bio of yourself? Where you grew up, when you first picked up an instrument, if and where you went to school, etc.
I grew up in a small town in Western Japan and stayed there until I finished high school.  It was a really boring town that was not interested in music.  But fortunately or unfortunately, my brother used to play guitar.  He never taught me but having them there influenced me to start acoustic guitar.  I was into folk, punk, rock, and metal.  Then I started to play electric guitar and joined small bands until I moved to Hiroshima, then eventually Tokyo, to pursue music.  I’d never learned guitar or music but I was always searching for members who I knew I could work well together with.

From our understanding you worked as a solo guitarist before joining with members Tamaki, Yasunori Takada, and Yoda to form MONO. When did you meet each of them?

Takada and I were friends and we played a show together once before MONO.  I knew Yoda from the music store he was working at and I had asked him to introduce me to a guitarist.  That’s when he told me that he also played guitar.  Then, a mutual friend introduced us to Tamaki because we needed a bassist. I’m lucky to have met each of them, one by one.  It’s like fate because we all work well together and share the same vision.

When did you start playing together?
We started playing together during winter of 1999.

Your 5th album Hymn to the Immortal Wind is set to be released in March of this year. Where did the name of the album come from? Is there a story behind the name?
I collaborated with someone who shared the same vision as me for this album and she wrote the short story that became Hymn to the Immortal Wind.  The album and story are based on each other – sharing the same emotion about what transcends time, life, and death.  In this story, wind symbolizes that which we cannot see but we know exists – traces of memory left in the soul, traces of the energy and movement of the universe.  It is like what people can feel but not understand, and do not question until the moment of death.

MONO always has interesting song-titles.  How do you go about naming your songs?
I think our songs and albums are all loosely or closely based on a story.  So we try to originate a title from whatever scene or moment that particular song depicts.  Sometimes it’s just an image in our minds.

Do you find your music to be cinematic?
At times, yes.  But I don’t think “cinematic” alone defines our sound.  We recorded this album with an orchestra, so that might give the album a more cinematic approach.  However, there is still a lot of noise and heavy guitar.  During the song writing and string arrangement process, we made sure that we’d be able to perform these songs with just us four on the stage, because that was our intention since the beginning.  I think we want to find a way to continue our own music style even as it evolves with time.

Can you define poetry?
Perhaps it is saying something without having to actually say it.

Where do you practice as a band?
We practice in a rehearsal studio in Tokyo

Can you talk about how your 4-track EP Hey, You came about? Also, how did it get picked up by the independent label Forty-4?
Forty-4 records is our first own label that we started before we began Human Highway Records. We needed to start Forty-4 records at the time because no one else was interested in releasing Hey You. Hey You is a very young record but it was a stepping stone for us.  We recorded it 6 months after forming MONO.  These four songs were the only ones we had.  A good friend of us suggested the title Hey You as an introduction.

How do you go about writing songs? Do you have a specific place you prefer to write?
Occasionally, I’ll be able to write something while on the road. However, almost all of the songs are written at home in Japan.  The inspiration comes from the outside world and then I lock myself away for the actual process of writing.  My writing environment is not special – it’s just somewhere I will not be interrupted.

What does “COM” stand for from the album One More Step And You Die?
At the time the song was written (around 2002) I guess we had been thinking about the progression of war and technology.  The word “com” just became a symbol of modern technology culture (like dot com) and the (?) stands for the unpromising uncertainty of the future.  Like “What next?”

If you like time travel, come back tomorrow and guarantee your spot in The Calcutta time travel machine.

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