Interview: MONO

Japanese post-rock gods return to tout ethereal new album

Takaakira Goto, Hideki Suematsu, Tamaki Kunishi and Yasunori Takada have been creating epic, sweeping instrumental rock soundscapes for the best part of two decades now, establishing MONO as one of post-
rock’s leading lights and seeing them hailed as gods of the genre. If their records are deeply absorbing affairs, their live shows are almost cult-like experiences, with audiences suspended in awe as the songs roll over them in waves. Often playing their instruments sitting, when the members of MONO stand to add extra emphasis, the motion sends a euphoric ripple through the crowd and it seems like more than pretentious hyperbole when Goto talks of their music as ‘emotions getting released from inside’.

Such is the nature and reputation of their live shows that tickets for the Tokyo quartet’s visit to Shanghai this month will likely sell out quickly, despite them having played here relatively frequently in recent years. China has become the standard opening leg for MONO’s globe-trotting tours and that’s the case again this month as they kick off a series of international shows touting new record Requiem for Hell.


The five track album sees them reunited with the legendary Steve Albini for the first time since 2009’s Hymn to the Immortal Wind and features the return of a strong string element to their recorded material, something that was previously a hallmark of their sound (to the extent that the band often refer to their music not as ‘post-rock’ but as ‘modern classical’). ‘Collaborations always come from strong trust between the two parties, so we never felt like we made a mistake, ever,’ says Goto, and clearly the band have a bond of trust with Albini, this being the third LP that they’ve worked on together in just over a decade.

The album is MONO’s ninth and they’ve been together for 17 years now, but Toko seems unconcerned with the passing of time. ‘Instead of getting softer as we get older, we hope to continue being more and more punk as we get older,’ he says. ‘We’ve never thought about the future. We’re always doing everything we can do in every single moment at the time.’

And this is particularly the case when performing live and touring, he says. ‘It feels like every night is our new goal, and every morning is our new start. We have limited time in so-called life, so we believe and focus on how we felt and lived every single moment, and leave people with our music.’ It’s certainly music that makes an impact; even if you’re a post-rock sceptic, a MONO show is something to be experienced.

MONO play MAO Livehouse on Saturday 15 at 9pm. Tickets are 260RMB; 220RMB (presale). See full details below.

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