The guitarist of Japanese post-rock veterans Mono, Takaakira Goto, chats to BK about the band’s evolving sound and the inspiration behind their most recent album, For My Parents (2012), ahead of their show at the National Theatre this week (Apr 3).

Mono is often categorized as “post-rock”; how would you describe your current sound?
I just think it’s important for the audience to engage, connect, and decide what the music means to them. At this point, I’m not sure how to define our music. It kind of bleeds into a few different genres now, such as classical and instrumental rock. Music can be a visceral, spiritual experience. It has the ability to communicate a sort of transcendence from the chaos of everyday living. Our music has evolved because we’ve changed as human beings over the years. We’ve developed a certain dynamic as a quartet so, hopefully, we’re willing to take larger risks in composition.

Your last album, For My Parents, featured a lot more orchestration than previous releases; what was the response like from fans?
We knew that the response would be mixed, but felt that it was something we needed to do. Our audience has been very supportive so we are thankful for that. Classical music has been a part of all our childhoods so we were always curious about incorporating more orchestration into our albums. This orchestral sound was something we wanted to create specifically for Hymn to the Immortal Wind (2009) and For My Parents. We'd experimented with strings on earlier albums but didn’t feel ready to take the full leap until Hymn... It has been an incredible learning experience.

The title of your last album, For My Parents, and its track titles, suggest a time of reflection and nostalgia. What was the inspiration behind that?
We hope to leave enough space for our listeners to interpret the music however they choose. But the story behind For My Parents came from the understanding that we all eventually lose the ones that made us. It’s the way of nature. How do you stand by the one that created you? How do you stand next to your home, the place that created you? For this album, we went back to our roots. It’s something that we wanted to do while we still had the chance. I think the earthquake and tsunami in Japan (2011) unexpectedly stirred up emotions about our homeland and families. It made us think about how fleeting, and sometimes fragile, moments can be.

Are you guys working on anything new?
Yes, we are already composing songs for a new album and hope to get started on recording.

Your music often gets compared to film soundtracks; is this something you’ve ever considered working on?
Yes, I think powerful storytelling in cinema has influenced us. I love films that tell epic, poetic stories in subtle ways—films that allow space for people's imagination. We’re always open to collaborating with filmmakers.

In Bangkok you will perform at the National Theatre (a beautiful, old, all-seated venue that usually plays host to classical drama); does playing venues of different sizes and styles alter your performance?
Sometimes, yes. We love playing in places like the National Theatre because it has a history and story. But we love to play live anywhere, whether it’s a small venue or a giant church.

How do venues and audiences compare across the world?
It’s a beautiful experience to play our music on different continents and feel no disconnect between us and the audience. This is the universal language of music. We’re all in a room sharing the energy of a song, and in that space we remember that all humans derive from the same source.

What’s the best thing about touring? What’s the hardest thing about being on the road?
Sharing special energies with our fans is the best, and long drives are the hardest.

You last played Bangkok in 2011; what are your memories of your time here?
It was a really amazing show—the lighting, atmosphere, a lot of good energy...we loved it. We hope to bring old songs and new songs to our show in April. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone again.


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