Melt Banana have been noise aesthetes spanning the last two decades, with benchmarks at each turn of their records, disseminating 7″s and splits on over 20 different labels, and been slapdashed in aplenty “sounds like” lists. While embodying qualities of a distinctly post-industrial Japan, chaotic and full sensory assaults, collage-effects, an amalgamation of styles apolitical, they have also for a long time stood on the outside. A great interview with them in the Japan Times a few years back first gave the public insight into the differences they feel in being once considered a small, underground band locally versus being a huge export abroad.
Today, Melt Banana gave Bad Sounds a unique guide into their favorite places in Tokyo, and they did confirm that no– they don’t karaoke.
Answers below: Y means Yako, A means Agata answered.
First off, where in Tokyo do you call “home”?
Y: It’s Mitaka, west part of Tokyo.
It seems like MxBx have been on the road for as long as I can remember. How was your recent USA tour, any fun stories?
A: I think USA tour in 2011 was very good, no accidents, no troubles, no canceling shows.
Y: We named it Neko Neko tour, neko means a cat in Japanese. So we brought Neko and walked around the venue. Neko met many people and took more than 1,000 pictures with them.
A: We put most of those pictures on our Facebook page, so you can also check them out, if you like.
Your music has been influenced by punk as equally, noise. What did you grow up listening to? Was there a strong noise scene in Tokyo when you started out?
A: Yes, noise scene was already there when we started. We first started playing shows with those noise or kind of noise bands.
Y: We got very excited when we first played with Merzbow or Incapacitants.
Did you ever meet any artists or bands on tour that directly inspired an album, or to try something new sound-wise?
A: We don’t think about writing music logically, so I’m not sure. But basically we are influenced by bands who we played with, specially from bands we toured with because we listen to those bands every night during the tour.
Are there any specific Japanese artists that influenced your music? At Bad Sounds we just interviewed KK Null; Merzbow also collaborates with many Norwegian artists.
A: We got influenced by Zeni Geva a lot since we saw their show many times and we also learned a lot of things, not only music but also about things we need to know to keep playing music from KK Null.
Y: And he actually put out our first record and took care everything like recording and shows when we first went to USA. If we did not see him, things were totally different.
A: Speaking of Merzbow, we did a project with him called Merz-Banana about 15 years ago. We covered Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart songs. It was one of good experience for us.
Do you have any side projects?
A: I put out my solo record on Tzadik, and thinking to put out 2nd one in near future.
What role has technology had in MxBx’s songwriting? Especially albums like Cell-Scape, when it started to come out as a strong influence.
Y: We started using a computer for the recording along with Tape format from Cell-Scape. Now we are not using tape format anymore.
Your last album, “Bambi’s Dilema” came about when Yasuko hit a deer on tour. Can you tell us how this inspiration/theme led to actually writing songs?
Y: I think hitting deer was just a trigger for me.
A: The tour we hit the deer was very strange tour. After hitting the deer, we kept the tour and another thing happened in Texas. About 30 minutes before we start playing, police or someone from the club came to us asking to come to the van. About 10 police cars closed the road and many horse polices and people were there. We found out one guy was arrested. He hit our van with his car.
How was your experience in Norway? Any plans to return?
A: We had played in Oslo, Trondheim, Bergen, Stvanger, and Bo. I think we played one another city, but I cannot remember the name. I think it’s a small city near glacier because people there told us we can go to see it if we wake up early in the morning before we move to next city.
Y: Landscape between Oslo and Bergen or Trondheim is so beautiful. I also remember bouillabaisse we had in Oslo when we first visited there was very good. We very much wish to play in Norway again.
—–And onto your Tokyo recommendations…
What is your favorite part of Tokyo?
A: Kichijoji, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ochanomizu, Akihabara, Nakano, Nakameguro, Koenji, Asagaya, Shimokitazawa.
A: I usually don’t go to bars in Japan. Izakaya is better for me, if I need to go bar or Izakaya. I don’t drink alcohol but they sometimes have good foods. There is a bar called Rock no Cocoro in Shibuya where some of my friend go to drink. Alcatraz bar in Shibuya was so so fun when we went there with my friends.
Y: I’m interested in Capcom Bar in Shinjuku.
What’s your favorite club in Tokyo to play?
A: I like almost all places that we’ve played in the past, like Earthdom, O-Nest, Kameido Hard Core, Loft, Shelter, Super Deluxe, UFO club, Star Pine’s Care, Bush Bash, Era, Yaneura, K’s Dream…I think there are still more places. Basically people there are very nice and have good sound. If you visit Japan and interested in underground music, probably you can find anything checking schedule of those clubs.
Any other clubs you love– maybe in Osaka or Yokohama?
Y: Fandango in Osaka, it’s a good place. One of our crew is working there. There is new place called Pangea in Osaka, but we have not played there yet. We play there soon in April.
A: Metro in Kyoto, Spiritual Lounge in Sapporo, Crowbar in Tokushima. Chaotic Noise in Kochi is the place where you can see shows and also good record & toy store, it’s fun place.
What’s your favorite record store?
A: Disk Union. You can find disk union in many places in Tokyo area. I haven’t been there but my friend started record store called GHz in Koenji. If you are in Osaka, Time Bomb.
What’s the best place to eat Okonomiyaki or Ramen?
Y: I don’t know good Okonomiyaki place but Osakaya in Shimokitazawa has good Takoyaki.
A: I’m not so much into Ramen but I like Tsuke-men at Aoba in Nakano and Ramen at Kaijin in Shinjuku. It’s difficult to say which place is the best for Ramen. It depends on each person’s taste.
Y: I like Monja-Yaki.
Do you have a favorite restaurant? Are you into fine dining or prefer “mom & pop” places?
A: There was a good “mom & pop” place long ago where I often visited, but they retired. Now, I don’t know good place something like that.
Y: Sushi restaurant.
Do you have a favorite comedian or TV show?
A: I don’t watch tv.
Does Melt Banana ever go karaoke? And if so, what kind of songs would we hear each person pick?
A: We don’t go to karaoke.
Do you have a favorite clothing store? Are you sponsored by any clothing brands or have a special favorite?
Y: Shopping on internet is much convenient for me.
A: Chrome Hearts from Los Angeles is very nice to us. I like their designs and ideas. Once we visited their office and factory and we played a few songs there. It was fun experience. Their furniture looked very good, too.
Does Melt Banana listen to much J-Pop? Ever think about doing a remix or cover MxBx-style of a J-Pop artist, or do you completely hate that kind of music?
A: I don’t hate J-Pop, and I think I listen to J-Pop at the store or on the radio, I just don’t know who they are. I’m not so much into those music compared to other music I listen to but if they don’t exist, that’s sad. We have not covered popular Japanese song yet. But if we got an offer doing a remix, we’ll do it. It sounds fun.
Melt Banana 2012 Cover Illustration for Bad Sounds by Einar Lukerstuen.
Check out Melt Banana’s latest movements below.
A-ZAP Records Web-Site: http://www.a-zap.com/
MELT-BANANA Official Web-Site: http://www.melt-banana.net/
MELT-BANANA Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Melt-Banana/192954987398661
MELT-BANANA Twitter: http://twitter.com/melt_banana
MELT-BANANA myspace: http://www.myspace.com/azapagata