MONO's Taka Goto and Wang Wen's Xie Yugang discuss their new solo albums

Two Asian post-rock titans on their new releases

Behind the Shadow Drops (Photo: Mitja Kobal)
As key members of MONO and Wang Wen respectively, Takaakira ‘Taka’ Goto and Xie Yugang are two of the most important and well-respected post-rock artists in Asia. But this month they’re bringing something quite different to town as they join forces for a tour promoting their separate solo albums. Here, the pair discuss influences and the pressures of balancing side projects with band work

Xie Yugang MONO is one of the hardest working bands I know; it seems like you’re always releasing new albums and travelling around the world. What led you to pursue this new personal project when you’re so busy with MONO?

Taka I write music pretty much every day, but there are songs that are formed completely different to MONO. Meaning there are songs that are not bands' sounds. Behind the Shadow Drops was born from them.

We all have limited times in our lives, you know, so I started to feel like it was time for a new challenge. I wanted to try things like touring by myself and using some visuals at my shows. I wanted to start a new journey and experience new things.

Of course since I will be working simultaneously with MONO, I became the double the amount busier, but it feels very worthwhile. Life is about constructing it yourself, musically and as a person. I think this will allow me to grow further as a human being.

Xie Yugang MONO’s music gives me the impression that it’s absorbed many classical music elements, but Behind the Shadow Drops sounds very open and fuses many different elements together. In addition, there are some differences between each of the songs song on this album; were these works done at the same time or created in different periods?

Taka The oldest song on the album is three years old, but most of the songs were written last year. I write most of MONO's music in the daytime, and for Behind the Shadow Drops I look at night sky and moon and write them late at night.

I wrote all the songs using 'night' as a theme. The basic concept for the album involves many types of nights, from sleepless nights, manic nights, sad nights, merciful nights, longing nights, praying nights, hopeful nights, loving nights, joyful nights and silent nights.

What inspired you to write the Echo Library album?

Xie Yugang It was due to the Echo Library itself. This is a library that my wife Linlin has been running for four years [in Dalian]. Last autumn, I wanted to do some of the music that was right for playing in this library so I moved my instruments and a recording device to a room inside the library and made this album.

But the library was closed due to a variety of reasons in June this year before the album was released, so it is now actually about all the memories from the Echo Library.

Behind the Shadow Drops is your solo band; do you want to continue playing solo?

Taka I want to keep on trying a lot of things. This time, I'll be performing by myself, but I will be using visuals at the shows which were created by Japanese director called Zakuro & Kaka. His visuals are truly amazing. I don't know what I will do in the future yet, but I think having a few other players will be good. I will just decide as I go. I want to express myself freely.

Your album is really beautiful; what do you hope that the crowd feels while listening to your music live?

Xie Yugang I don't know what the music will be like to listen to live. I hope people can use this music as a river or a pool, where they can float and swim freely. Of course, if you can't swim, you can also grab a life buoy.


Taka China has always been so great for us; does living in China affect the way you work and write as a musician?

Xie Yugang You'll always find more negative things when you stay in a place for too long, that’s why we're glad when we visit a new country. Although I know that this is largely a superficial impression, because it’s inevitable that we'll find more problems with a place or country when we've lived there for a long time. So in my place of life, whether it is love, happiness, disgust, hate, all of this has become my work and creative origin.

Taka Both of us have been writing music for 20 years now. How do you look back on your career as a musician? Is there anything you’d do differently?

Xie Yugang In fact, looking back at my musical path, it’s been a learning process – and that’s still the case. It’s always pleasant for me to accrue knowledge, but of course not all experiences are good. I used to work in a shipyard for nine years and I found that I couldn't put my heart into it except to earn a living. Sometimes I also think about what would I do if I did not choose to do music. The answer seems to be very simple: I may not do anything, and I may not be happy without music.

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