Before the grand finale of MONO's massive 2019 world tour in London, guitarist Takaakira "Taka" Goto shares his thoughts on their 20th anniversary and latest works.
As they've celebrated their 20th anniversary this year, instrumental post-rock band MONO haven't slowed down one bit. Their 2019 world tour has been incredibly ambitious, with over a hundred shows booked in countries across the globe. Ahead of the tour's finale, JaME was able to get bandleader and guitarist Takaakira "Taka" Goto's thoughts on MONO's 20th anniversary, their latest album and a set of special curated shows in London that will bring this leg of the tour to its grand conclusion.
As this year marks MONO’s 20th anniversary, are there any moments that you are particularly proud of when you look back on your career?
Taka: We're really glad we could welcome our twenty-year anniversary. We don't think our music is easy to listen to. The fact we can continue doing what we do is because of our fantastic fans and trusted supporting partners throughout
the world who understand our music. We're very thankful.
We feel pure and endless happiness when we're working on our music, more than anything in the world. The fact we can devote ourselves like this is truly the most satisfying thing on such a deep level. Of course, it is important to be able to achieve
some sort of a result, but simply being able to forget time, focus and work on music is the most irreplaceable and precious thing.
Even now, we have the same hunger as when we were young. "This is not enough", "we want to explore deeper" and "we want to keep on moving forward" are our most important motifs, not just for music, but to live.
You will be playing a special 20th anniversary show with an orchestra at the Barbican in London on December 14th and curating two other shows that weekend. Why did you choose London as the location for these shows?
Taka: Ever since I discovered rock when I was young, I’ve always wanted to play live in London because like all other musicians, I was influenced heavily by British rock. So in all aspects, it’s always been a special place.
As part of the 20th anniversary, we’ll play live with an orchestra in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and London. London will be the final show of this year’s very long world tour. We’re really looking forward to it.
How did you go about choosing the acts for the curated shows? Is there any particular theme or an atmosphere you wanted to create?
Taka: All these artists are truly pure. They create unique and original music that does not exist anywhere in the world, which is also the most important element out of anything. On top of it all, they're the type of artists who try
to express and communicate human emotions and psychological experiences through their music to other people, unlike techno music or DJs, which can't do that.
Over the years – even just over this past year – you have toured all over the world. Is there a particular location that really resonated with you either personally or as a musician?
Taka: Last year, when we got to play as one of the headliners together with My Bloody Valentine, Nine Inch Nails, Mogwai, Deftones and more, at Meltdown Festival curated
by The Cure's
Robert Smith, I was really happy. We received an email directly from Robert who had been my hero ever since I was young. I couldn't believe it. This was also the time when our new drummer Dahm just joined
the band as well. It was just like the beginning of a new chapter.
How would you describe the sound of your latest album NOWHERE NOW HERE?
Taka: I always want to portray the hope and light you need in order to live, because I think music is a special thing that surpasses languages, countries and histories. I think in order to portray true hope, you need to portray the darkness
at the same time as well because anger, sadness, fear, indignation and more are something you can’t avoid in life.
Life is like walking through a long dark tunnel. No matter how difficult it gets, if you believe in yourself and continue to walk, you'll start to see a very small light and eventually find an exit with a big light. I want to portray these things
Where did the title for the release come from?
Taka: NOWHERE NOW HERE became a musical trail of all the troubles we faced as we walked towards our new chapter.
In 2017, because of our troubles and termination with our Japanese management and label, as well as our drummer’s departure, we were in a state of not being able to take one step. We didn’t have any part of our schedule locked and we were all in the
mood of "if this was a regular band, this is when they’d disband". We were really in the dark and couldn’t see anything ahead. We were in a crucial time of needing to decide whether the band should be reborn or stop its activity.
As a result, I left a story about regenerating from the pitch-black darkness which felt like “nowhere”, then through dawn, welcoming the new chapter “now here”.
The song Breathe from the album is your first to feature vocals from Tamaki. What prompted you to add her vocals to this track?
Taka: With Breathe, there was something I really wanted to tell with words. In recent years, as the band grew and more people got involved, we started to have annoying business issues which are completely far away from creativity,
and because of their egos, we got really tired to the point of not being able to breathe. From such an out-of-control situation, we wanted to express our determination "we're going to cut the past and move towards the new surface" with a song and lyrics.
When I told Tamaki that I wanted her to sing, she was very surprised, but I was convinced that she would be the only one who will be able to properly express these words by singing. As a result, her singing was more beautiful
than I imagined. I feel that it turned out to be something that really echoes in people's hearts.
French director Julien Levy directed both the video for Breathe and a short film based on your song After You Comes The Flood. How did that collaboration come about, and what was the process for creating those videos like?
Julien is a film director from Paris who lives in Tokyo. I found the way he portrayed Tokyo interesting. The feeling was chaotic, lonely like there is no true place for yourself, and you can't find what you believe in and deep inside your
heart is screaming. It may be hard to imagine but Tokyo now is really like that. Everything is shallow, everyone’s consciously avoiding communications and unrealistically empty.
This time, instead of releasing After You Comes the Flood as just a single’s music video, we decided to release it uniquely, as a collaborative short film.
What’s next for MONO? Is there anything new you’d like to try as a band, if the opportunity arises?
Taka: Actually, we can’t think about anything right now. Usually, we’d start thinking about the new album between tours and write songs. Right now, we’re just focusing on the 20th anniversary tours and events.
Do you have a message for JaME’s readers?
Taka: We’d love for you to come to our 20th anniversary show in London. It’d definitely be an unforgettable, beautiful night. Thank you and see you soon!
JaME would like to thank Taka and For The Lost for making this interview possible.
MONO's special 20th anniversary events in London will include two curated shows they won't be performing in, but instead allowing their friends to take centre-stage. The first will be held at Oval Space on December 13th, and it will see Japanese acts
Boris and envy perform alongside Arabrot and Svalbard. The second will take place at Village Underground on the afternoon of December 14th and will feature performances by Nordic Giants, Jo Quail, A.A. Williams and Floating Spectrum. The
final show of MONO's 2019 world tour will be a special performance with The Platinum Anniversary Orchestra and
at the Barbican on the evening of the 14th.