By Ryan Meehan
Melt-Banana is a Japanese noise rock band that is known for playing extremely fast grindcore and noise music mixed with experimental, electronica and pop-based song structures. The band has released nine albums and toured worldwide extensively. In May 1993, they played a show opening for KK Null (Zeni Geva), who was impressed enough to immediately offer them a deal with his label, and would later introduce them to Mark Fischer of Skin Graft Records as well as Steve Albini. Melt-Banana have released ten full-length albums and 23 EPs (primarily split releases with other bands, most of which were compiled onto one disc in 2005). In 1997, they created their own recording company, A-Zap (formerly Iguana Coax), and re-issued most of their early albums. Over the years they have been known for some of the most inventive and unique music groups to come out of the Far East. Lead singer Yako was cool enough to be our guest this Friday in 5 questions.
FOH: How did Melt Banana come to be, and what were your original intentions in forming the band? How would you sum up the band’s initial vision?
YAKO: First I wanted to do something that I could express myself, and I decided to start a band because music had been always close to me, and it was quite natural thing to start a band. It was the first time for me to play in a band, so I had been just happy and having fun. Playing a few years with this band, I started to get more into music and think about what we were to make and play, like I wanted something original and definite that people could recognize who we were if they just listened to our music. At that time, the band was about to fall apart, so I reformed the band and it became MELT-BANANA.
FOH: When discussing language, you once stated in an interview that “When I first started singing in a band, I was singing in Japanese, but I changed to English. I thought that English would fit more to my style of singing”. Is that solely because of the lyrics or does it have anything at all to do with the speed of the music?
YAKO: It was not because lyrics and it was not because of the speed either. Sound of language, I guess.
FOH: What was the overall experience of working with Mike Patton like? Would you work with him again in the future if given the opportunity?
YAKO: Mike is really a good person and it is always fun to see him and watch him play. He works very hard and we enjoy what he makes and there are many things to learn. It is always great to see him and it will be great if we will have an opportunity.
FOH: What does the future hold for artists who fall under the category of “noise-rock”? And which would you rather be classified as “noise rock” or “experimental”?
YAKO: We don’t think about so called genre or category when we make music, and we don’t care much about it. It is not that important thing to us. So if someone thinks that our music is “noise rock” then he can call us “noise rock” band. If someone thinks that our music is “experimental” he can say our music is “experimental”. I think it depends on taste of people who listen to music. Whichever is fine.
FOH: Melt-Banana is known for covering an eclectic selection of songs, including but not limited to “Heart of Glass” by Blondie, “Surfin’ USA” by the Beach Boys, and the holiday Bing Crosby classic “White Christmas”. Of all the cover songs that you perform live, which has been the most fun to perform? Which gets the best response from the crowd, and does the answer to that question tend to depend on what country you’re performing in?
YAKO: It is fun to cover songs by other artists. Once we covered “Government Flu” of Dead Kennedys and when Jello came to see our show in USA he came up to the stage and sang it with us. It was really, really a great thing! And he was so cool. And I also remember that people went crazy when we covered “Uncontrollable Urge” of Devo in Cleveland because Devo is from Ohio. Also, when we covered an Italian pop song in Italy, people sang loud with us, and one of the audience kept back-flipping diving from the stage.
FOH: What’s next for you in the twelve months to come? Any big plans in the works that we should know about?
YAKO: We are working on an album which has been delayed for a while to release. We would like to finish it and release it next year, and tour in USA and Europe.
Official website address http://www.melt-banana.com/
Video for “Green Eyed Devil” : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpAXBwM_VMc
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