Melt-Banana interview from the online only May issue
Ahead of Melt-Banana’s headlining performance at the Raw Power Festival on the 28th of May, the back pages took the opportunity to catch up with Yako, the band’s singer, and Agata, the guitarist.
Raw Power will be the Japanese duo’s sole UK show this year and comes immediately after an extensive, and at the time of writing on-going, tour of the USA alongside The Melvins and Napalm
Death. For people who have yet to witness the free wheeling, high velocity sonic assault of the band’s live approach, tickets for Raw Power should be high on their shopping lists.
One element amongst many in the band’s unique sound is the use of ultra-fast grindcore style blast beat drumming. The influence of their Brummie touring partners is something that Agata acknowledges.
He said, “It was before Melt-Banana when I listened to Napalm Death for the first time, I was still in school. My friend played it for me and I remember the moment.
“I was really impressed and after that I recorded a song setting my drum machine speed as fast as possible and played it for my friends. My friends just laughed when I played it but since then, I started think about tempo more than before.”
Melt-Banana’s early touring with grindcore bands like New Jersey’s Discordance Axis also rubbed off on them to the point where they co-opted that band’s drummer for a four year stint as a touring musician.
In addition to the extreme speed of their songs, Yako’s high pitched, anarchic singing style also sets Melt-Banana apart from their peers. A multi-coloured riot of ideas flies past as you listen to the band’s albums, something that meshes neatly with Agata’s unconventional, rapid fire guitar work.
One of Melt-Banana’s most high profile fans was the late, great Lou Reed, who managed to book them at the third attempt to play with him at Sydney Opera House in 2010. Yako describes this as a “great” experience.
She said, “We played two days, one was headlining, like normal show, and the other day was with many bands, like a festival. At first, we were supposed to play once at that day and it was very early, then Lou Reed told us to play a second time right before he played his set.”
From 2003’s Cell-Scape onwards, the band has also incorporated synths and samples as key components of their sound. This has led to increasingly sophisticated songwriting without the loss of the extreme aural impact that they’ve managed to achieve since their formation in the early nineties. It’s possible, however, that the shift contributed to instability in the band’s line up.
Melt-Banana’s extraordinary sonic whirlwind almost blew itself out in 2012 when Yako and Agata were seriously considering ending the band. Agata cites the fact that he was “tired of looking of for touring musicians”, a reference to their endless merry go round of drummers and the then recent split with their long term bassist Rika Hamamoto.
Yako explained, “We were thinking that this band has to be a four piece at that time, I don’t know why.”
The solution that they arrived at was to continue as a two piece and deepen their experimentation with electronics. This format of Melt-Banana made its debut at the Shellac curated All Tomorrow’s Parties in 2012.
Agata said that he was “very excited” by this shift. “I felt like we found a new thing to try to create,” he explained.
The band’s 2013 album, Fetch, stands as a triumphant monument to the success of their new approach. Since then they have been busy writing material, although a new album may still be
some way off.
Yako said, “Since we are on our own label, there is no dead line and we tend to spend very long to write music, so I’m not sure when we finish new one yet, but hopefully in one or two years we’ll put out a new album.”
Melt-Banana play at The Dome on Saturday the 28th of May.