Melt-Banana's Agata: "Something in My Mind Changed After the Earthquake"

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By Brad Cohan

"I wanted to name the album using a word that was cute and started with 'F,'" says screeching vocalist Yako about the impetus behind fetch, the first album in six years from legendary Japanese noise-makers Melt-Banana. That happy-go-lucky vernacular is no shocker considering Yako and guitarist/partner-in-crime Agata have spread skronk-happy, bubble-gum punkazoid glossiness over 10-plus records and 20 years.

While Japan has blessed us with Boredoms, Zeni Geva, Merzbow, Ruins, Boris, and Acid Mothers Temple, it's been Melt-Banana's noisy funhouse inciting the pogo riots with a face-ripping splattering of grindcore, prog, and metallic insanity. fetch is pure fire-breathing avant-noise trippiness, topped by Yako's piercing yelps and skronktastic blasts set to stop-start whiplash rhythms and propelled by sick bass grooves and animalistic drums.

It all came to a sudden halt in 2011, when Japan suffered the devastating Tōhoku earthquake. The pair could barely summon the energy to complete what would ultimately be fetch as they dealt with the aftermath of the calamity. But an epiphany occurred when Melt-Banana toured the States and played the All Tomorrow's Parties festival: They felt renewed and returned to Japan to finish fetch.

Now the noise-rock legends have hit the road after a lengthy absence. We chatted with Yako and Agata via email to catch up.

Where were you and what were you doing when the Tòhoku earthquake hit?
Yako: I was at home getting ready to go out to see the Melvins' show in Tokyo. The area where I live didn't get much damage, but the kitchen in Agata's flat was totally messed up. He said everything on the shelves fell over and the floor was totally covered in debris.

How did the event affect your mindset?
Yako: After that earthquake, I feel that something has been changed permanently in my mind. It is difficult to explain exactly what, though.

Were you working on fetch when the earthquake hit?
Agata: We already had the demos done in early 2011, and we were about to start the real recording. But after the earthquake, I could not concentrate on writing music and recording for some time, for reasons I couldn't explain.

fetch is Melt-Banana's first album in six years. How is this one different from previous Melt-Banana records? The songs are definitely way longer.
Yako: I feel that what we do is always the same. I mean, we always do what we want to do and write what we want to hear at that time.

Both of you have been doing Melt-Banana for almost 20 years. How did you two meet originally? What records or bands were you listening to back then that influenced you in Melt-Banana?
Yako: We attended the same university. I got a lot of inspiration from a compilation album, No New York. When I listened to it, I was really shocked; this album made me start to think that I wanted to make music which was unique and immediately identifiable.

Melt-Banana is one of the best band names ever. How did you think of it?
Yako: You think so??? I am very happy to hear that! We wanted a catchy name.

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