MONO and MONO. It does seem fitting for the Tokyo-based trio to use a brand with its namesake. The instrumental band formed in 1999 and it’s been hard to classify their music into any one genre, with their sound blending orchestral arrangements and shoegaze guitar noise into a highly-experimental sonic experience. Considered as one of the most internationally successful bands in Japan, MONO’s music has been labeled by British Musical Magazine NME as “music for the Gods”.
We spoke to Takaakira ‘Taka’ Goto, lead guitarist and main composer for MONO and got to find out more about his approach to music, inspirations and plans for the year.
So tell us, how did you come up which such an awesome band name?
We chose the name MONO to express one thing that surpasses nationalities, languages, cultures and histories, through music.
Do people ever confuse your bags for band merch!?
Haha, of course. We live in Tokyo but we often bump into people who have MONO cases. We also use them ourselves so people often get confused.
It’s clear from your website and Instagram, that you have a strong connection with visuals and imagery, can you tell us about that?
We generally just follow our inspirations and write songs that echo inside our hearts, without knowing what they’re expressing.
After the songs are written, we try to give them titles and appropriate visuals or design with our trusted colleagues and share them with the people in the world.
You have a really interesting approach to music, it feels almost like a soundtrack to life. Where do you start when creating music like this?
I think music is something that can express things you can’t simply with words.
For me, music is about going deep inside your heart and putting a light in that pitch black darkness. While that is a very dangerous thing to do and if you make a mistake, you yourself may get sucked into that darkness and madness, but without doing so, I don’t think you can express any true hope.
I believe the music that comes out of that process can pull out dignities from people as human beings, that surpasses nationalities, cultures, histories or languages.
Do you ever get tempted to lay a vocal over any of your music?
Sometimes, yes, but generally, I always want to create art that can change perspectives on life without using words, like after finishing some brilliant films or books. Beethoven and Aphex Twin are also instrumental.
For me, they’re both extremely high level and miracle-like music that can move one’s subconsciousness unconsciously. I really feel that music is a special gift given to us by God.
Who is your biggest musical inspiration?
I’ve learned a lot from countless great musicians and composers but if I had to choose, Beethoven and My Bloody Valentine are my heroes. They’re both the pioneers of their genres. They’re both the brilliant artists that created a new form of music that never existed till then.
Where are you right now? Like right now?
I’m currently in Studio Forty-4, my own studio in Tokyo. I was writing songs today too.
Do you have any exciting things happening this year?
Our first show this year will be at After Hours over in Shanghai and Taiwan in June, which is the music festival we organise ourselves.
After that, we will perform at Meltdown Festival in London as a headliner, which this year is curated by Robert Smith of The Cure. We got a contact from our European booking agent that Robert Smith gave us the offer himself.
We’ve been fans of The Cure from many years ago so we were all very surprised. The fact that the artist who you’ve been heavily influenced by since you were young, listens to your band alone is a great thing, but receiving an offer like this is such an honourable thing.
In summer, we will be recording our 10th album with our new drummer and Steve Albini. We’re very excited for it.
Tell us about life on the road.
We’ve so far travelled 56 countries and made many friends throughout the world. We feel that we’re just earthlings with no relations to nationalities.
There is nothing more important than loving, helping and respecting each other. It’s really unfortunate that even to this day, this world is
constantly arguing and about to start a war.
I believe art can change situations like that because we have many important colleagues and fans throughout the world that we can share our art with.
Tell us about your MONO gear?
We’ve been using MONO guitar cases for many years now. They’re all light, tough and easy to use. On top of it all, we like how they look cool.
This time for the new album’s tour, we decided to recreate our guitar and bass system using MONO‘s latest pedalboards. We felt that they were perfect because we’ve been searching for something light and tough to tour the world.
Do you have any cool artists you could share with us?
Nils Frahm is exceptional. I feel that the level of his music is just spectacular.
If you had an opportunity to blow us away with one of your tracks, which one would you choose?
Right now, my head is full of the new album’s compositions. I’m certain that the next album will be our best in our discography. Please look forward to it.