Tokyo’s Melt Banana are renowned for their unique squeaky, jack hammering, zero-attention-span rock music. The distinctly piercing vocals combined with the frenzied, effect-charged guitar playing has captured the imagination of punks, metalheads and art-snobs around the world.
The Melt-Banana story begins in 1991, when vocalist Yasuko Onuki had an itch to start a band. She started practicing with a few friends, and after a quick round with another guitar player, hooked up with Agata who quickly joined the group. The band was christened MIZU, and the foundation of what would become MELT-BANANA had been laid. As fate would have it, six months after Agata entered, the drummer and the bass player quit. Another drummer joined and Yasuko handled the bass and vocal duties until she found bassist Rika Mmm’, who remains with the band today. The band practiced and practiced, but it was not long until the band would again find themselves without a drummer. Refusing to give in, Yasuko, Agata and Rika decided to carry on as a guitar, vocal, and bass trio. It was during this time that the MELT-BANANA sound began to ripen.
They played their first shows in Tokyo, and in November of 1992, drummer Sudoh joined the band. Newly energized, the band changed their name to MELT-BANANA. In 1993, Zeni Geva’s K.K. Null offered to put out the bands first album, “Speak, Squeak, Creak” on his Nux Organization label. Previously Null had sent a tape of Mizu to Skin Graft’s boss Mark Fischer, who was quick to embrace the band’s dynamic sound. Null made arrangements for the Melt Banana to record their first album in Chicago with Steve Albini. For their first trip to the United States, Mark volunteered to set up some shows in town. They would also play in San Francisco courtesy of Mason Jones at Charnel Music. While the first record was still being recorded, Melt-Banana, Null and Mark agreed to release their next record on Skin Graft. When the band returned to Tokyo, arrangements were made to record their debut Skin Graft single with K.K. Null.
Also in 1994, the Japanese label Mom ‘N’ Dad released their compilation album “Mi Caballito Chulo…! Como Lo Quie Ro…” which featured the Melt-Banana song “Pignight” with Steve Albini and Mark Fischer on opening vocals! Late in the year, Melt-Banana did a short tour of Japan with Jim O’Rourke, Zeni Geva, and Space Streakings when Jim and Mark flew to Tokyo. Skin Graft began an ambitious promotional campaign and months after the release of their first CD on Nux Organization, SkiN GRAFT released the “ItÕs In The Pillcase” 7″ and comic book set.
In the summer of 1995, MELT-BANANA returned to the United States once again for a two month tour, playing many of the shows with labelmates U.S. Maple. During this time, they recorded their second album, “Scratch Or Stitch”, again with Steve Albini at the controls, though this time they had Jim O’Rourke mix the results. Jim also applied his “Brise-Glace” razor blade to one of the tracks. “Eye-Q Trader” is a grand mal O’Rourke rearrangement of a bunch of fragments of the band. Melt-Banana made a quick return to the United States when they received an invitation from Mr. Bungle to open up their latest American tour.
During their stay in Chicago, the video for “Sick Zip Everywhere” was shot with director Tony Ciarrochi. Though it was rejected by MTV in the states, it was honored as one of the best videos of the year on MTV in the UK. “Scratch Or Stitch” was released in the USA and Europe in the summer of 1996 in conjunction with a co-headlining European tour with U.S. Maple. In the United Kingdom, Skin Graft had been able to arrange Peel Sessions for U.S Maple, and Yasuko and Agata joined in on two of the tracks. The oft-talked about U.S. Maple “Banana-Peel sessions” have never been released.
The “Scratch or Stitch” album was released on CD and as an elaborately bundled limited edition vinyl LP. The LP was limited to 2600 copies, packaged in a full-color silk-screened rubber jacket, accompanied by a lyric booklet, poster and a special MELT-BANANA temporary tattoo. On the strength of the release, MELT-BANANA made another swipe of the US, touring as a headliner for one and a half months in September of ’96 and headlining the second night of SKiN GRAFT’s OOPS(!) indoors festival along side Lake Of Dracula, You Fantastic! and Mount Shasta. During this period, Melt-Banana released a staggering amount of split releases with a multitude of labels.
Late in 1997, Melt-Banana started their own label, A-Zap records. Sudoh would quit the band a month later. A series of drummers would follow until OSHIMA (ex.Satanic Hell Slaughter) joined in February 1998. MELT-BANANA released their 3rd album, “Charlie” on A-Zap in October of 1998. Their fourth and latest release is “Teeny Shiny”, also out via A-Zap.