Hello Taka, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us. Let me start by congratulating you to both of your fantastic new albums! In my review I wondered if "The Last Dawn" and "Rays of Darkness" may well represent the very essence of MONO. Do you think this is true or do you think it's too far fetched?
Thank you so much. it’s great to hear it! From releasing these two new albums, it feels like we earned our tickets to face some new challenges. It also feels like we earned some freedom as well.
Speaking about the new albums instead of one new album: Did this concept of releasing two albums instead of one develop during songwriting or was this planned even before?
The reason for this is because there were two sides of strong emotions crashing inside of me: an absolute darkness and hope.
The darkness wasn’t anything to do with sadness, it was more or less about anger and suffering, like an endless disappointment or an uncontrollable despair. From these feelings, I started writing for a new album. But when you actually start writing based on these feelings, your daily life starts to become much darker and depressing. For example, even when I got out of the studio, my feelings were very rebellious without any thoughts, almost as though I had sold my soul to hell.
So at the same time, I started to compose more songs but in a very different style, not necessarily for MONO but just for the sake of letting my emotions out. I started to change my lifestyle as well, like I almost always composed songs at late nights, but started writing early in the mornings or in the afternoon instead. Eventually, these new songs started to become like medicine for myself, just to live through everyday life.
At that time, I had no intention of releasing two albums at the same time. But as time went on, I started to be able to accept the songs I wrote when I was in a really bad place, the songs which represented the dark side of me, the songs that I didn’t want to go near at least for a while. I then had thoughts about making all these songs as one album but it just did not feel right.
“The Last Dawn” is an opposition album to “Rays of Darkness”. It is essentially an album about escaping from the darkness and seeking the light. At least for me anyway. This is why we decided to release the songs as two albums.
Where do you see significant differences or similarities to your previous albums?
I originally wanted to create something original, symphonic and spiritual like Beethoven but with Electric guitars. So far, we managed to experience so many things, more than any indie band can ask for, like playing with full orchestra in New York, London, Australia and Tokyo. From these experiences, we tried something more complex and classical for our previous album “For My Parents” but at the same time, we started to raise some concerns. During the album’s American tour, we started to feel as our sounds were like a spineless dinosaur comparing to our old sounds. Sure, symphonic music is loud, epic and dreamy, but there is something lacking compare to Rock music, like the pressure and destruction they can bring.
We originally started off as a 4 piece, and even though our concerns started to rise much earlier, we just took them as a required risk to challenge something new. But as we toured more, we started to know for certain that our feelings were right.
Going back to the original root was an easy thing to do, but we also didn’t want to do what we have already done. We really thought about this a lot. There are a lot of instrumental bands out there in the world already, and we needed to find a new style and vision without using orchestra.
Regarding this, I talked to Jeremy from Temporary Residence as well. He’s a really good friend of ours who we have known for over 10 years. I shared some ideas and demos to him, and sometimes cut the songs in half together. Other members helped me write the songs and gave me nothing but their best as well. Their performances got a lot more aggressive, pure and fresh compare to the beginning. Especially when you return as a 4 piece again, the importance of each member’s performance becomes much more valuable.
In cooperation with renowned director Koji Miromoto you presented a short animation promo clip for the new albums. How did this cooperation come together?
Our collaboration with Morimoto was absolutely fantastic. Apparently his producer has been a huge fan of us for a long time, so through her, we got the chance to show our demo version of “Recoil, Ignite”. At the time, the song didn’t even have the title but he apparently got some inspirations from it and decided to create some animation for us.
We had no idea what the final piece was going to be like but he managed to create such a grotesque yet beautiful and evanescence visual of 15 seconds. We were really amazed and excited by such high world class quality. He even said that if he had more time, he would love to create for the whole 13 minutes and 18 seconds of the song.
Not only Morimoto but all the artists who we decided to collaborate with put their full effort and soul into their own art without thinking about business. Everything was just stimulating and we’re very thankful for that.
Considering this co-operation with Mr. Miromoto, the nature of your music itself and also the film project of Mitsuyo Miyazaki, creating a dance movie featuring your music: Would you like the idea to venture further into the world of movie soundtracks? If you were to create a movie soundtrack what kind of genres would you prefer?
We’re hoping to do more soundtracks in the future. If there were any projects that are serious about their art, regardless of what genre they may be, we’d love to collaborate and create something new and unique.
"Rays of Darkness" features a vocal guest appearance by Tetsuya Fukagawa from post hardcore pioneers ENVY. In my opinion this cooperation makes a lot of sense as ENVY themselves have been evolving with their music to a style near your musical style. Are there any more connections between your bands than this?
Personally for a long time, I always wanted to collaborate with Tetsu from one of the bands I respect called envy. He’s been a good of friend of ours for so long so I’m really glad it became a reality. Even during the time I was writing the song, I could clearly hear how his vocals would fit in together.
When we actually collaborated, I didn’t really give him any instructions but he already knew what I was hoping to achieve. The song turned out to be such an incredible piece and we’re all very proud of it!
Speaking of connections: For Europe you signed a deal with the German quality label Pelagic Records. How did this come together and are you content with your decision (so far)?
We already knew a lot of bands that were signed to Pelagic Records, and more importantly, the past a few months we have been working with the owner Robin had been absolutely incredible. He also plays in a band called The Ocean, and we used to run our own label so we know what it’s like to run your own label and also play in a band. We have a huge respect for him. It feels like we finally found our home in Europe and we’re really pleased with that.
You are very often handled as one of the defining bands of the genre "post rock". Do you see yourself in some connection to this term and a certain rock genre or is this something that's just been pushed by the media and which you don't care about at all?
To be honest, we have been focusing on our own art so we don’t really care much about what genre we belong to. But we also don’t want the listeners to be close-minded and miss the energy and outlook of the music by concluding our sounds with the term “post-rock”. We’re constantly on our search to find sounds that are unique and can only be done by us.
Finally, you are currently touring Europe and have just come over from another tour in the USA. Are you content with the reactions of the audience so far? Is there any significant difference between the audiences of all the countries or even continents you are visiting?
All our audiences in general watch our shows seriously and we’re all very thankful for that every day. They make us feel like we’re sharing something important with them and allow us to forget our exhaustion from our extensive touring. We’re really, really thankful for all of you!
That's it, Taka. Thanks a lot again for answering these questions and all the best for the rest of your tour.
Thank you so much!