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Melt-Banana is a Japanese noise rock band that is known for playing extremely fast grindcore styled music and noise music mixed with experimental, electronica and pop-based song structures. The band has released ten albums and toured worldwide extensively.
In 1991, while attending Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Yasuko Onuki started a band called Mizu and, after a short period rehearsing with another guitarist, recruited Ichirou Agata to play guitar in the band. Mizu's original drummer and bass player quit six months after Agata joined, leaving Yasuko to handle the bass and vocal duties until she found bassist Rika. They briefly performed shows around Tokyo without a drummer. Toshiaki Sudoh then joined as the new drummer in November 1992, and they changed their name to Melt-Banana.
In May 1993, Melt-Banana played a show opening for KK Null of Zeni Geva fame, who was impressed enough to immediately offer them a deal with his label, and would later introduce them to Mark Fischer of Skin Graft Records and Steve Albini.
Melt-Banana have released eleven full-length albums and 23 EPs (primarily split releases with other bands, most of which were compiled onto one disc in 2005). In 1997, they created their own recording company, A-Zap (formerly Iguana Coax), and re-issued most of their early albums. Around this time, drummer Toshiaki Sudoh quit. In more recent times, the band has had different drummers helping them on tours and in making albums. They do massive US and UK tours yearly and smaller Japanese tours (the reason for this, according to them, is that travelling in Japan is quite expensive). In 2007 Melt-Banana recorded the song "Hair-Cat (Cause the Wolf Is a Cat!)" for Perfect Hair Forever on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup. The latest studio album, Fetch, was released on September 30, 2013.
They have worked with a diverse range of artists, including Merzbow, John Zorn, Agathe Max, Mike Patton, and Discordance Axis.
Yasuko Onuki - vocals,
Ichirou Agata - guitars, effects,
Rika Hamamoto - bass,
Melt-Banana does not currently have an official drummer. There have been two drummers who were official members, and a number of guest drummers, for studio recordings and live performances.
Sudoh Toshiaki (Machine and the Synergetic Nuts) - Official drummer from 1992 to December 1997. Appears on Speak Squeak Creak, Cactuses Come in Flocks, and Scratch or Stitch.,
Kikuchi (ex-Assfort) - Guest live drummer, one show, early 1998.,
Youichiro Natsume (ex-Multiplex, ex-Force) - Guest studio drummer, early 1998. Appears on Charlie.,
Oshima Watchman (Coaltar of the Deepers, ex-Satanic Hell Slaughter) - Official drummer from February 1998 to 2000. Toured, and appears on MxBx 1998/13,000 Miles at Light Velocity and Teeny Shiny.,
Dave Witte (Municipal Waste, ex-Discordance Axis) - Guest touring drummer, US and Europe only, 2001 to 2005.,
Obokata - Guest live drummer, Japan only.,
Masashi Sakata (324) - Guest live drummer, Japan and ATP UK 2002.,
Takiya Terada - Guest live drummer in 2002, 2010-2012.,
Eiji Uki (ex-Acid Mothers Temple, ex-Monghang) - Guest live drummer, Japan and 2007 US tours and 2008 Europe tour.,
Yasuhiro Inomata - Guest live drummer in 2009.,
Melt-Banana's music falls under what many call "noise rock." Agata plays highly unorthodox guitar with extended techniques. For instance, he overlaps two different guitar riffs, simulates lasers and sirens, and has an impressive arsenal of effects, almost all made through his guitar and large amount of effects pedals. Yasuko O. belts out high-pitched screams and raps very quickly. Rika Hamamoto's bass lines are not subdued like in most bands, but are foregrounded as much as Agata's guitar work. The sounds from the bass provide a distinct dimension to the music not found in many other bands. The drums are usually quite straightforward (however, in their recent albums, they have become more complex), especially on the faster songs, where they beat almost straight through with set cymbal crashes, adding a large amount of energy to the songs. The band describes their recent music (especially Teeny Shiny and Cell-Scape) as pop, but it is far from it, except more accessible when compared to their earlier albums, perhaps. Essentially, it could be argued that Melt Banana's output, (with special attention brought to their more recent songs) is more reminiscent of quirkier indie pop bands, with definite melodies hiding beneath the distortion, effects and sheer speed. Yasuko even sings, as opposed to barking, parts of the track "If It Is the Deep Sea, I Can See You There" on their album Cell Scape. Also of note, most of their albums are intentionally lo-fi, as that is Agata's feeling for the music; however, group members disliked how these recordings sounded on the radio, so they aimed to make their last two albums more hi-fi.
Melt-Banana is known for covering an eclectic selection of songs.
"Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair" (Nina Simone/traditional) - studio,
"Faint Heart" (The Birthday Party) - studio - Release the Bats compilation,
"Fun House" (The Stooges) - live, with Mike Watt,
"Government Flu" (Dead Kennedys) - live, with Jello Biafra,
"GST 483" (The Dogs) - studio - Doggy Style: The Dogs Tribute (Comp),
"Heart of Glass" (Blondie) - live (2007). There were two different versions performed, one faster and upbeat, the other significantly slower.,
"Love Song" (The Damned) - studio - アイノウタ EP (2006),
"Monkey Man" (Toots & the Maytals) - studio - split 7",
"My Generation" (The Who) - live (2002),
"Neat Neat Neat" (The Damned) - studio - Charlie,
"Paint It, Black" (The Rolling Stones) - live and allegedly recorded but not used for a compilation.,
"Showroom Dummies" (Kraftwerk) - studio - Musique Non-Stop: A Tribute to Kraftwerk compilation,
"Surfin' U.S.A."/"You're Welcome" (The Beach Boys) - studio - MxBx 1998/13,000 Miles at Light Velocity. "Surfin' U.S.A." has also been played live, often with an intro of Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way",
"Tintarella di Luna" (Mina) - studio - split 7",
"Uncontrollable Urge" (Devo) - live (2005). A studio version was released on a split CD.,
"We Will Rock You" (Queen) - studio - Dynamite with a Laser Beam compilation,
"White Christmas" (Bing Crosby) - studio - The Christmas Album compilation. The song "Here Comes Santa Claus" on the same CD is often attributed to Melt-Banana, but is actually performed by (Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her), a somewhat similar band from Japan.,
"Wordy Rappinghood" (Tom Tom Club) - studio,
"What a Wonderful World" (Louis Armstrong) - live - US Tour (2011),
As an opening act:
Melt-Banana has toured as an opening act with high-profile bands such as:
Jim O'Rourke and Zeni Geva (1994) Japan,
Mr. Bungle (1995) US,
Melvins (1999) Japan and US,
Fantômas (2004) US,
Tool (2007) US,
Napalm Death and Melvins (2016) US