Melt-Banana Proves Experimental Thrash Punk Can Be Accessible

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

Like a front snap punch to the throat, Melt-Banana's erratic noise will shower you with peals of explosive abandon not unlike Foetus' or Drive Like Jehu's. The Japanese noise duo -- Yasuko Onuki, responsible for the band's chirping, hyperactive vocals, and Ichirou Agata, who likes to layer his guitar riffs and funnel them through an enormous pedal board -- formed when the two met at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies in the early '90s.

Nearly 25 years later, the band is still cranking out explosive albums (it's on number 10, as of 2013, with another coming out this month) and seems to tour nonstop. But little has changed, in terms of Melt-Banana's avant-garde approach to experimental thrash punk.

In 1993, MxBx (as it is sometimes abbreviated) was introduced to Mark Fischer of Skin Graft Records and Steve Albini. Soon afterward, Albini (whose work, spanning approximately 1,500 albums, is most notable for producing Nirvana's ) recorded the band's debut album, , in a basement in Chicago. Not a single song is longer than two and a half minutes, while the untitled bonus track is simply all 24 songs played simultaneously. In order to learn more about the band's creative process, we fielded some questions to the duo via e-mail.

See also: Limp Bizkit is Better Than Whatever Crap You're Listening to Right Now

Despite being from Tokyo, Melt-Banana sings mostly in English (not that you can always decipher them). Onuki says she prefers the language because it fits her style of singing better. But her lyrics are typically a word salad of Dadaist nonsense, such as "Mouse is a biscuit" or "Flash cube, or eyeball." Onuki's freeform style of writing is actually liberating, if not disarming. No, you don't have to color in the lines.

In terms of accessibility, most fans note 2003's Cell-Scape as veering toward a more hi-fi sound incorporating electronic instruments. But MxBx isn't really concerned whether you find its tunes listenable.

"Actually, we think our first album was already pretty accessible," Agata says. "But I kind of understand what you mean . . . We care about what we like to do or try more than how people think about what we have done."

Guitarist Agata is easily recognizable by the surgical masks he wears onstage. Originally, the masks were to stop his frequent nosebleeds ("He has a little problem in his blood," Onuki says) but now he says he just feels comfortable wearing them.

She adds: "We always try to write catchy music, and it seems that our latest album, Fetch [2013], was also accepted by many people. When we started the band, we tried to get rid of exact chords or tones, like C or B, when we write songs. And I think it made some people think that our music is not accessible . . . I think music sounds different depending on mood or feeling of people who listen to it. Music is fuzzy, you know."

This begs a question -- would a Melt-Banana by any other name squelch as sickly? To answer that question, MxBx created Melt-Banana Lite, which drops the guitar for a Theremin and drum machine. But for the group's upcoming show in Phoenix, you can expect nothing but full-bodied Melt-Banana. The group will be joined by Rhode Island's Lightning Bolt.

"They are one of our favorite bands since we first played with them in the '90s," Agata says. "This show is the only show we're playing with them on this tour, so we're very excited."

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

9 Tips for Using A Fake ID To Get Into A Show 10 Classic Punk Records That Actually Kind of Suck The 10 Coolest, Scariest, Freakiest Songs About Heroin The 30 Most Disturbing Songs of All Time

Like Up on the Sun on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for the latest local music news and conversation.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.