Mono interview (12/2019)
|With:||Takaakira "Taka" Goto|
|Conducted by:||RaduP (e-mail)|
Mono were always one of my favorite post-rock bands, as well as one of my favorite Japanese bands. It wasn't the first time I saw them live, first time having seen them opening for Alcest, coincidentally in the same city, but in a venue that was right next to the one in which they played now. I wanted to interview them in person, but schedules were mixed up and this part of the tour was so tight and busy considering that they had to perform thousands of kilometers away the very next day with only a few hours of sleep. I was understanding, and to my surprise even on so little sleep they managed to deliver an absolutely amazing performance. Promptly switching to an email format, a hopefully well-rested Taka answers our questions.
Radu: This has clearly been an important year for Mono, celebrating your 20th anniversary, with so many releases and tours. How do you feel about that?
Taka: We had planned to release our 10th album and do our 20 year anniversary tour since 2 years ago. We haven't counted the number of shows we've done this year but it'd be close to 150 shows I believe. Every city we visit, we strongly feel that we're truly supported by so many fans. We're very thankful.
Radu: Let's get a bit into detail about each of those. Nowhere Now Here, your tenth album, and the first since your first actual lineup change. How did the lineup change or the expectation of it being such a celebratory album affect its creation?
Taka: Nowhere Now Here became a musical trail of all the troubles we faced as we walked towards our new chapter.
In 2017, because of our troubles and termination with our Japanese management and label, as well as our drummer's departure, we were in a state of not being able to take one step. We didn't have any of our schedule locked and we were all in the mood of "if it was a regular band, this is when they'd disband". We were really in the dark and couldn't see anything ahead. We were in a crucial time of needing to decide whether the band should be reborn or stop its activity.
In result, I left a story about regenerating from the pitch-black darkness which felt like "nowhere", then through dawn, welcoming the new chapter "now here".
Since Nowhere Now Here was our first album creation with our new drummer Dahm, I feel that it turned out to be an album filled with freshness like a debut album and initial impulse. Right now, the band feels that we finally found that one answer we've been looking for a long time.
Nowhere Now Here
Radu: It's also the first Mono album to have a song with vocals from a Mono member. Why is it just now that you decided to incorporate vocals into the mix? Is it something we can expect in the future, maybe from other members as well?
Taka: With "Breathe", there was something I really wanted to tell with words.
In recent years as the band grew and more people got involved, we started to have annoying business issues which are completely far from creativity, and because of their egos, we got really tired to the point of not being able to breathe. From such an out of control situation, we wanted to express our determination "we're going to cut the past and move towards the new surface" with a song and lyrics.
When I told Tamaki that I wanted her to sing, she was very surprised, but I was convinced that she would be the only one who will be able to properly express these words by singing. As a result, her singing was more beautiful than I imagined. I feel that it turned out to be something that really echoes in people's hearts.
Radu: 2019 also marked the 10th anniversary of the release of Hymn To The Immortal Wind, something you celebrated with a remastered re-release. What can you tell us about that and how do you think the new version stands up to the older one?
Taka: We've been working with Bob Weston of Shellac for the recent few albums' mastering and we're really fond of his work, so as a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the album, we've decided to ask Bob to remaster the album.
I think it got closer to the ideal sound we're after now even further. They're organic yet powerful and turned out to be very beautiful sounds.
Hymn To The Immortal Wind 2019
Radu: Is there any reason besides its anniversary that you decided to review the album instead of any of your other ones?
Taka: Simply to celebrate its 10 year anniversary.
Radu: Probably the most outright celebratory release of the bunch is Before The Past, where you performed some of your oldest songs in a revitalized version. What can you tell is about that?
Taka: Between our last European and North American Tour, we took one day off and recorded at Steve [Albini]'s studio in Chicago. We recorded 3 songs live, like always and just like that. Since we had a month-long North American tour from the following day, we couldn't join for mixing but instead, Temporary Residence's owner Jeremy mixed together with Steve for us. Mastering was also done by Bob Weston from Shellac, like always.
The 3 songs are from the 1st and 2nd albums which were written close to 20 years ago. They were also originally recorded before we met Steve. Especially the main 16-minute-long song "Com(?)" is one of Mono's heaviest songs and since it was performed before the time of YouTube, so it became like a legendary song for our fans.
Our new drummer Dahm joined the band so in order to move onto the new chapter, we decided to release it like putting an end to our past. It became considerably intense.
Before The Past
Radu: And coming quite soon [it was, at the time I sent these questions], coincidentally on my birthday, is your collaboration with A.A. Williams. It's been quite a while since you've done an outright collaborative record, since 2006 to be exact. Should we expect more of those and how did you decide to do one again?
Taka: We were introduced to A.A. Williams by our European booking agent. When I heard her music for the first time, my heart got heavily moved. The flow towards our collaboration was very natural; like we were both getting drawn to each other by something.
It was really enjoyable doing a new creative process that was neither Mono or AAW.
Exit In Darkness
Radu: Speaking of collaborations, a while ago you posted a picture of you with Envy and Boris, captioning it with "Making a new plan". Was it just planning for the Barbican show or do we have any reasons to be excited beyond that?
Taka: We always discuss if we can do something new and interesting that no one else has done, every time all of us 3 bands meet. We can't say much about it right now, however.
Radu: We are a month and a bit away from celebrating you performing as a band onstage for 20 years. But even so 2019 has been an amazing year for Mono live performances, with you performing with Jo Quail and Wordless Music Orchestra and Platinum Anniversary Orchestra. There's the Barbican set, the two Roadburn sets, the Electric Castle set. Any chance of seeing any of these in recorded form?
Taka: We can't also say much about this right now but we do have a few plans. Please look forward to it.
The grand finale of the tour
Radu: When was the last time you performed live in a new place and what are some countries you haven't toured in yet but want to?
Taka: The new most recent country we visited was India. It was an amazing experience. We've so far performed in 59 countries. We've never been to South Africa so we'd love to visit one day.
Radu: Snow and winter appear very often in your music and its artwork, is there a reason for that?
I grew up in a small village where snowed often. Ever since I was little, I've been listening dimly to my sister playing Beethoven's piano sonatas while looking at the snowscape. I think that is one of the bases of me.
Radu: Which do you prefer, Akira Kirasawa or Yasujiro Ozu?
Here's some pics I took at the show:
||Posted on 20.12.2019 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.|
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