Posted September 25, 2012 in

Having just released their sixth full-length album, For My Parents, and on the eve of the Salt Lake City stop of their current U.S. tour, Japan’s instrumental powerhouse MONO were kind enough to take a few minutes to talk to SLUG via email to give us some insight into the band, their new album, and everything in-between. Questions answered by guitarist Takaakira"Taka"Goto.

SLUG: The band initially formed in 1999 and first performed live in 2000. What has changed about the band, if anything, since its inception?
Goto: It's so hard to believe that over a decade has passed. There was a time when touring internationally just a dream. We are very grateful to still be making music together. I think it was natural for us to evolve because our lives have been changed and shaped by all that has happened in those years. There have been tragedies, miracles, and wonderful people who have inspired us. Now we are more comfortable as a quartet and we're more confident about taking risks in our music, which is why we tried integrating more orchestral elements into our songs. It's something we've wanted to try for a long time.

SLUG: How has your growing list of influences—everything from Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine to Beethoven—changed the band’s approach to songwriting and/or recording?
Goto: I think we'll always stay curious and wiling to explore unknown territory in songwriting and recording. We now have a clearer vision as a band, but we'll always have an open mind and heart because we never know how inspiration will spark.
Great music can connect to the subconscious of a listener. I've been inspired by the many great composers and predecessors (like Beethoven and Rachmaninoff) who knew about this and how they tried to find out the best way to make that connection. It's almost like building a big church using many bricks, one at a time. Imagine our body: each organ has its own purpose and is connected perfectly—this is why we can live. I think it's the same with music. We have to be a scientist of music if we want to share emotion with someone. Each melody, each crescendo has meaning and serves its purpose. 

SLUG: MONO’s newest album is entitled “For My Parents,” and the press release states, “We hope that this album serves as a gift from child to parent. While everything else continues to change, this love remains a constant throughout time.” Can you expand on this statement and/or explain why the band chose to record an album essentially dedicated to their parents?
The story behind our new album, For My Parents, is simply this:
We all eventually lose the thing that made us. It's the way of nature. I was inspired by the idea of a young boy spending a lifetime growing out of his childish ways, and learning how to embrace his parents as they became elderly and frail. Even when their bodies perish, they live on in the life of their child.
After years of exploring, searching ourselves, and composing pieces, we found ourselves with more questions than answers. When we could not find these answers in the outside world, we were bound to turn inward. And so we went back to our roots.
The new album, For My Parents, is something we wanted to do while we still have the chance. Also, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe expressed that the strongest mind does not fight tragedy or sadness. Instead, it embraces it and lets it run its course. I wanted to make an album that resonates with these words.
SLUG: For My Parents is the first MONO album in quite some time to not be recorded with Steve Albini at Electrical Audio Studios. Can you explain why the band chose to record elsewhere, with different recording engineers?
Goto: We thought it was important to try something unfamiliar and challenging, even if it was risky. Steve Albini has been so amazing to us on our last several albums, and it just felt like the right time to push ourselves with something different. After I finished composing the songs and the orchestral parts, I immediately thought that we should collaborate with the wordless Music Orchestra again. Then we started to look for an engineer and recording studio near NY.
Actually many people helped us for this album: recorded by Henry Hirsch, mixed by Fred Weaver and mastering by Bob Weston. We are very thankful to them and we are very happy with the new album.
SLUG: The band embarked on a gargantuan Asian/North American/European tour beginning in August. What are the band’s feelings towards touring, both positive and negative, and especially about long tours as opposed to short tours?
Goto: We love our live show more than anything because of the energy we receive from the crowds. It's such a powerful, exhilarating feeling to connect with the people who come see us play. At the same time, touring can become difficult due to tight schedules and lack of sleep. We try our best, though.
What has the pre-release feedback been for For My Parents? Negative? Positive?
Goto: I think it's been a mixture, which we expected. Naturally, there will be people who prefer the darker, louder side of Mono. But, at the same time, I think there are people who are ready for what we're doing now, too. This is just our progression as a band, and we are so thankful that there are people listening to our music.

SLUG: Has digital music sharing/downloading/piracy affected how the band releases music? Do you have any opinions on file sharing, either positive or negative
Goto: While I do understand the digital music culture, I hope people continue to want CDs and vinyl too. We've been so lucky because our label, Temporary Residence Limited, is so dedicated to releasing CDs/vinyl that incorporate splendid artwork.

To date, what is the band’s all-around favorite release?
Goto: We don't have one particular release. Each album has been a stepping stone, a memorable experience, and hopefully, with each release, we are getting closer to whatever it is we are trying to say without words.

SLUG: What can you share with our readers about the overall recording/songwriting experience for For My Parents? Was there anything different about writing this album than any of the previous albums?
Goto: In the beginning, it was challenging to write because I only had the time in between tours. It was difficult to keep starting and stopping so we finally took some time off and devoted a year to songwriting. For this album, I just tried to think less and feel more. I trusted that the songs would come naturally. The album is different because it was inspired by different emotions. A lot of change happened since Hymn. There have been miracles, tragedy, growth and loss.

SLUG: MONO has played Salt Lake City a handful of times in the past, and is playing here on Sept. 28 at the Urban Lounge, where the band has played before—does the band have any memories of being/playing in Salt Lake City, or have you had any particularly interesting things happen to you when you’ve been in town in the past?
Goto: Nothing particularly strange or out of the ordinary has happened to us in Salt Lake City, but maybe this is a good thing! Will Sartain and everyone at Urban Lounge have always treated us very well, and we enjoy playing there on our tours.

As stated above, Mono is playing the Urban Lounge in Salt Lake City on Friday, September 28th with special guest Chris Brokaw. If you haven’t seen them live before, don’t miss the opportunity.