“It’s been a long 17 years, filled with constant learning and new experiences.” Japanese post-rock band Mono have recorded eight albums and connected with people from all over the world. Formed in Tokyo in 1999, they rose to prominence through near constant touring around the globe before signing to respected indie label Temporary Residence. Their music lies somewhere between experimental rock and shoegaze, whilst drawing influence from both classical music and noise rock – but it is almost entirely instrumental. We caught up with guitarist Takaakira ‘Taka’ Goto ahead of their show at Leicester’s O2 Academy this autumn.
Mono’s last record, 2014’s double LP The Last Dawn/Rays of Darkness, was a departure from their previous efforts in some respects. Where the band is known for their use of orchestral instruments (which still played a large part in The Last Dawn) they took a completely different and darker direction with Rays of Darkness. Taka is somewhat cryptic when asked about the record’s meaning; “We originally had no intention of splitting them up into two albums… I’ve been saying that Rays of Darkness is black and The Last Dawn is white. When I was trying to portray black, we ended up needing white in contrast. Those two are both important elements in our lives, and it feels like having both sides of the coin when you combine the two.”
These Songs Saved me.
But what makes a band decide to strip their music of one of the things that has defined them for years? “I was confident that we could portray Rays of Darkness without using any complex orchestration, by just using our sound as a band. So we decided to try and create a new form of rock.”
That also meant that for the first time in the history of the band they decided to use vocals, collaborating with Envy’s Tetsu Fukawaga. “I’ve known Tetsu for a long time and he’s been a great friend of mine whom I have always respected as a vocalist.” says Taka. “The lyrics in The Hand That Holds The Truth are about a man seeking the truth, much like seeking the light in the darkness. While writing the song, I started to hear Tetsu’s voice in my head, so I ended up sending him the demo. When he sent it back with his ideas, I was quite surprised. It was exactly what I had imagined, exactly the same as what I had been hearing in my head.”
One would wonder where the band gets their inspiration to keep creating music after all these years. “Not that long ago, I got deeply depressed because some things in my private life didn’t go as I had planned.” says Taka. “I felt extremely lonely and got lost in darkness. I faded away in the sea of night. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get away from the sadness and hopelessness, so I decided to compose music based on those feelings. All of a sudden, all the melodies started to burst through my head and I ended up writing a few songs based on those feelings. These songs are filled with regret, pain, and a small amount of hope and light. These songs saved me.”
We wanted to know what made a particular show special for the band, and it’s clear that their 2009 shows with The Wordless Music Orchestra in New York were a landmark for them. “All the shows we’ve played so far are unforgettable. We always feel like we have had a perfect day whenever we manage to connect with the audience and share something overwhelmingly special, yet simply indescribable. And even though I’m sure we’ll continue to witness many more miracles, those two shows in New York were just exceptional. So many people came and supported us, I don’t think I will ever forget that.”
Mono are definitely not thinking of quitting. “We’ll be releasing a new record this fall, and it will be our ninth album. People say that as you get older you get softer as a person, but in my case, it seems to be the complete opposite.”
Mono play O2 Academy 2 Leicester on 11th November as part of a co-headline tour with Alcest.