Japanese rock icons MONO last week released his latest album, Pilgrimage of the soul Going through Pelagig Records.
We rarely publish Q&A interviews at HEAVY but with the language barrier a little difficult to overcome, we gave in on this occasion, with the guitarist Taka answer a few questions by e-mail.
HEAVY: Mono is releasing your 11th studio album, Pilgrimage of the soul September 17th. Tell us about the album musically and what you wanted with it.
TAKA: The band was completely reborn when new drummer Dahm joined them; he joined before the recording of Nowhere now here and we completed a year-long world tour together, including a special 20th anniversary orchestral performance set. We felt we were doing the most satisfying live performances and as a band we could accommodate the best time. His drum was like a gift from the universe.
It was the first record I have written since Dahm joined Dahm. I was able to write very freely by imagining his drums. Even though we incorporate beats or electronics that we’ve never used before, I feel like we can sound just like us. The range that the band can express now has grown exponentially.
I think things will continue to evolve more and more. I am really looking forward to it.
The album presents more recent instrumentalisation and electronic textures. Was it a writing and recording goal to add these elements?
I always want to continue to evolve. Of course, I trust the music I wrote and am happy with it, but I want to pursue music more and more. The feeling of wanting to write even better music hasn’t changed since I was young.
At all times, I am always looking to create new, unique and original sounds that no one has ever heard of.
At the experimental stage, like adding electronics, as a band, how do you know how far to go without changing the sound too much for longtime fans of the band?
I felt we managed to record everything we did and wanted to do on the live album Beyond the past released this year, so I think I had a strong desire to try a different method of expressing myself.
In saying this, I never force myself to do anything. For example, all of these songs recorded on the new album were written between January and February 2020, and it was the smoothest and easiest process I’ve ever done.
It was very nice to express love and gratitude for the world and all of our 20 years of travel, much more than expressing the anger that resides deep in your heart and the darkness that you can’t see.
It also features faster tempos influenced by disco and techno. Can you explain how this fits into the music?
On this album we have incorporated various rhythms and beats. I think it’s because Dahm’s drums inspired me a lot when I was composing. We really like his drums.
J-Pop is huge in Japan, does that sometimes seep into your music?
You released the singles against the current and Innocence. Are they a good representation of the album as a whole?
I always write a story for the whole album like a movie. This time, we decided to release these two singles in two short films because we could collaborate with the Spanish film collective Alison Group.
The collaboration with them was really like a miracle. These shorts were exactly what I imagined in my head; it was almost like Alison was looking inside my head.
Through these short films, I think we can connect with each listener more deeply and more specifically.
The title, Pilgrimage of the soul, is quite deep. Can you explain the meaning?
When we finished our 20th anniversary show in London, due to the excitement still, maybe I couldn’t fall asleep for a long that night (it was also the last day of our yearlong world tour in 2019).
It was then that the last 20 years suddenly returned and I felt that one of our journeys that we continued to relentlessly take had just ended.
The trip was like a pilgrimage, like the main character in The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. That’s when I thought about describing our last 20 years on the next album.
It was recorded at the height of the COVID pandemic in Japan. How did this affect your writing and recording process?
At the time, we weren’t even sure we could enter the United States to record. We also looked at this in depth, but no one was able to give us a clear answer.
Although many people around us recommended not to do it, we didn’t seriously think about it. If we can get in we’re lucky and if we can’t, we can just postpone – we were relatively optimistic.
But despite all these feelings, we had a strong desire to record. All the songs were done before the pandemic, and we had also just successfully completed our 20th anniversary world tour, so our motivation was very high.
Since our drummer Dahm lives in the US, the rest of us practiced together in Tokyo and communicated with Dahm from a distance. Then when we got to Chicago, we all met, rented one of Steve’s studios, rehearsed for several days, and recorded.
We had some issues, of course, but in the end everything went well as planned, luckily.
Mono started in 1999. What was the musical climate in Japan that gave birth to the group and where did it fit into Mono?
The opening track Riptide is about how we felt when we first formed the band; to be trapped in an artificial cage called society, and to come into conflict and escape its rules.
I wanted to express that regardless of the magnitude of the risk, we will continue to move forward on the paths we believe in. Back then in Japan nobody wanted an instrumental group like us and we couldn’t easily put on a show..
Sthe panish film crew Alison made a fantastic musical film for us based on this theme. We are very satisfied and grateful. The film portrays the exact feeling we had at the time.
How have you changed and adapted over the years?
I feel like we spent a lot of time trying to find our own style, it’s a fusion of classical music like Beethoven and Ennio Morricone, and beautiful guitar sounds like My Bloody Valentine, which were all our influences. It was like trying to mix fire and water.
Instead, I started to feel like I wanted to find something that doesn’t just feature an orchestra like guests, but rather something that the whole sound itself could be a new sound or genre. .
Do you find that you have had to change your approach to attract markets outside of Japan?
For us, music is everything. Either way, we can’t lie to the music or compromise. Of course, I understand that there is a commercial side to it, but I would never bend over to sell, gain popularity, make money, or become famous because if you do that you yourself will start to fade away and fade away. become nothing.
Even though it can be a difficult road, we want to express emotions in life that we simply cannot express in words across. music our way. It is the voice of our heart that has not changed since we formed the band.
The group has also made a name for themselves as a composer of film music. Can you give us more details on this?
At the moment, we are working on a soundtrack for a Japanese documentary film. Release details have yet to be confirmed, but when it does, we hope to share it as an album.
13) How is it different to write music for a movie than for an album?
Writing for an album comes from your own point of view, whereas for films you have to understand what the director thinks and wants to express, so it’s a completely different approach. Both are creative work and I really appreciate them.