Who is Melt-Banana? What do they do? Answer: they are one of the greatest bands working today and they make loud, fast, incredible music that draws its influence form hardcore, punk, Japanese noise, and hip-hop, mixing them up with to create something truly unique. They are known for their incredible live shows where they have often covered classic songs from Devo, the Beach Boys, and the Dead Kennedys, just to name a few. I was lucky enough to get their lead singer, the lovely and talented Yako, to say a few words about the band, their sound, and her favorite food.
NT: A lot of attempts have been made to describe your band. How would you describe the sound of Melt-Banana?
Yako: Roller coaster with laser beams.
NT: Teeny Shiny [A-Zap] is a bit different then the previous records (I love it!). Is this a new direction for the band?
Yako: When we make an album, we usually try to find a new point of view of our music, like using rhythms that we are interested in. So Teeny Shiny is one of the views and possibilities of our music.
NT: You have worked with a lot of great musicians, from Mr. Bungle to John Zorn to Merzbow. Any plans to ever release a collaboration?
Yako: We have not done collaborations with Mr.Bungle or John Zorn. It would be interesting and we would love to try, though. And we have collaborated with Merzbow, but there is no release of it, unfortunately. We have done collaborations with Yoshihide Otomo, and also with Elliott Sharp & Zeena Parkins- those have CDs out. About 4 years ago we collaborated with Godco, but not sure about a release plan. Maybe someday.
NT: How has starting your own record label (A-Zap) helped the band?
Yako: Doing our own label, we can see how our money goes to where, and also we can put out what we want. Since we are also a band, it is kind of hard to do both things, and since we are a small label it is hard to backup the band when we tour. But right now we are doing OK, and we feel comfortable being on our own label.
NT: Is A-Zap solely a label for Melt-Banana or do you plan to put out other bands music?
Yako: We would love to put out other bands, but to tell the truth we are now too busy to put out other bands. Maybe in the future.
NT: How would you compare the audiences in Japan to America or other countries?
Yako: These days, not much difference. Audiences are different depending on what kind of show we play, I mean what kind of show the organizer makes or what kind of clubs we perform at. Like in Tokyo, when we play with hardcore/fast core bands at a punk club, many punk kids come and they enjoy music, moshing around and stage diving. And also in Tokyo, when we play with noise bands or alternative bands, audiences are much more like standing and listening to music. If an audience enjoys our music, any kinds of audience is welcome and we enjoy playing.
NT: How do you approach the writing of your songs?
Yako: These days we make a demo tape first and record songs arranging them in the recording studio.
NT: Your lyrics are always printed in the inner sleeve. Is it important that people know the words?
Yako: (We reprint lyrics) just in case there are people who get interested in lyrics, like "is she singing in English, or Japanese, or Hindi, or what????"
NT: What are some of your favorite bands or influences?
Yako: Cypress hill, Suicidal Tendencies, Joan Gilberto, De la Soul, Corrupted, D. A., Destiny's Child, Shellac, RC Succession, the Locust, Grave Diggaz, Fugazi, etc. etc. etc. It is too hard to pick just some! I think I got influences from all music that I have listened to in my life so far, even Japanese folk songs, and also classical music.
NT: Any new recordings coming soon? How about an American tour?
Yako: Split 7' with Damien Frost in Ireland and split 7' with Dynamite Anna & the Bone Machine were out in the fall. And in 2002, we are thinking of touring in USA, and are now scheduling.
NT: What are your favorite foods?
Yako: Sushi, of course.
NT: Iíve read that when you were recording in my home town, Chicago, Illinois, that you spent a lot of money at a store called "Uncle Fun." Do you like to collect toys and gadgets? If so, can you tell us some of your favorites?
Yako: I'm not that big of a collector. I just like nice toys or figures, like cute but mean looking things. There is so much so-called junk in my room!! But I'm happy having these things. Small Tonberi from FF7 is standing on the corner, raccoon head with telescope eye hanging on the wall, small tapir on the table, 50 lizards staring, big iguana on computer monitor, etc. etc.
NT: The first time I saw you play was opening for Mr. Bungle in 1995. (Guitarist) Agata had on a surgical mask. Did this have anything to do with his medical condition? (Agata, so Iíve read, has an extremely rare medical condition where he could die at any moment.)
Yako: At that show, his nose was bleeding so he needed to wear that surgical mask. But after that tour he found out that it is comfortable wearing a mask on stage, so he kept it. And also he hates cigarettes, so he can protect himself from smoke.
NT: What is the weirdest thing that ever happened to you while on stage?
Yako: Playing shows on stage with a dog.
NT: Japan is home to some great punk, hardcore and noise bands. Is there anything about the Japanese culture that breeds this kind of music?
Yako: I think it depends more on each bandís situation. I think there are many good bands in the US and other countries also, so it is hard to say. Yes, there are many good bands in Japan, and we are based in Tokyo and we are happy to be in the music scene with such good punk/hardcore bands and noise bands. I got many influences from bands that we have played with, and I think we influence each other and grow.