Incredibly, Japan's Melt-Banana has been making a hell of a noise since 1992. The band's experimental take on punk rock is made even more bizarre by the vocal antics of Yasuko Onuki. Shrieking in a maniacal sing-song manner, Onuki yelps out her English lyrics like a banshee randomly choosing words from the back of a cereal box.
Via email and in anticipation of Friday's show at Dada, Onuki was kind enough to answer some questions from DC9 about the difference between audiences in Japan and America and what the band learned from touring with Tool.
My son wants to live in Japan. Is it the dream of many Japanese young people to live in America?
I am not sure if ordinary young people dream of living in America, but I 'm sure that most young people who play music in bands are interested in going to America to tour.
Your music is incredibly fast. Is it exhausting to play live?
We are not trying to write fast music; and compared with bands that play fast music, we are not that fast. Our music is not exhausting to play because it is natural tempo for the songs and how they should be played.
You cover songs in a wide variety of genres. What makes a good cover song for Melt-Banana?
We play songs that we like.
You have toured with The Melvins and Tool. Were those audiences accepting of your sound?
When we toured with the Melvins, it seemed that most of the audiences enjoyed our music. I guess they had listened to various kinds of music. And what was the best is that we could see the Melvins' show every night very near the stage. When we toured with Tool, we got a lot of boos. I understand that not all people accept and enjoy our music, but it was not pleasant to be booed. But it was a great opportunity to play in front of such a big audience and display our music. And of course there were some people in the audience who enjoyed our music. Touring with Tool was a really good experience for us. We could see how those big bands tour and we could see Tool music every night. We learned many things.
What are some differences between the American and Japanese audiences?
These days the American and Japanese audiences are similar. Both are very energetic and I enjoy watching them having fun. I think the American audiences talk a lot compared with Japanese audiences. They are loud.
What is your favorite food to eat when touring America?
Good hamburgers and Vietnamese food. Years ago, when we first toured America, I had a hard time with foods because I eat totally Japanese when I am home. But these days, I know what to eat, so I am able to enjoy American food. We don't have much Vietnamese restaurants in Japan, so it is nice to have it when we are in America.
Seeing that your sound is experimental and harsh, are you surprised by the positive critical response to your music?
I am always happy to hear that people enjoy our music. I think our music contains some noise and is sometimes too experimental for some people. Basically our music is catchy.
Seeing that you have always claimed your early albums were done in low-fi, is your new album, Fetch, a hi-fi album?
I hope so. And we always would like to make hi-fi recordings.
Your singing style is very unique. Is that something she learned to do or is that the way you have always sang?
I have not learned how to sing. If you feel my style is unique, I guess it is because it is English written by a Japanese person and sung not by a native speaker.
What is the worst stereotype Americans have about Japan?
I have no idea. By the way, my father is not a Samurai, and my mother is not a Geisha. But my grandfather's grandfather's grandfather was a Samurai.
What surprised you most when you first toured the USA?
Most of the shows are at clubs that are not all-age and we had to show IDs to enter and see live shows. We are also still surprised that there are so many places to play shows in America and there are still many places that we have never been to.
You have been making music for over 20 years. Could you continue for 20 more?
If I live another 20 years, yes, I can continue. I believe it is what I am here to do.
Where did the name come from?
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When we named the band, we wanted something catchy. So we picked the word banana thinking about the artwork of Warhol. Then I put melt in front of it. It just popped in my head.