"Melt-Banana will melt your face off. And melt your brain."
-- from the Melt-banana song "Area 877 (Phoenix Mix)"
Melt-Banana is an intense noise rock band from Tokyo, Japan. Their music consists of almost nonsensical english lyrics, sung at a blistering pace and a very high pitch over equally frenzied drumming and bass, and guitars making noises that you probably didn't think guitars were capable of. Their old labels' web page describes them as "No wave gone gonzo. Guitars that sound like ray-guns and very unique piercing rapid fire female vocals." Melt-banana is two girls (the singer, Yako (formerly Yasuko), and the bassist, Rika), two guys (guitarist Agata and drummer Ohshima) and about 100 kilowatts of energy.
Their live show is unbelieveable. It will truly melt your face off and melt your brain. Yasuko introduces each song in careful, if slightly stilted english, in her girlish, singsong voice:
"This next song.. is called.. Mouse.. is a Biscuit!"
Then, suddenly, the song starts. Yasuko begins to scream into the mic at the top of her lungs. Rika, playing a bass easily bigger than she is, begins bouncing up and down as she plays at manic speed. Agata thrashes at his guitar as if it were covered in yellow crazy ants - after going through the 47 effects pedals all wired to each other in his suitcase o' effects, it sounds like nothing you've heard before. Ohshima pounds away at the drums as if his life was at stake. And then, as your brain processes these images and is just starting to try to make your mouth form the words "Holy SHIT!", the song ends, and Yasuko is saying in her girlish, singsong voice:
"Thank you! This song.. is called.. 'In X Out = Bug'!"
In the early days, before they were Melt-Banana (1991 or so), Agata joined the band Yasuko was then singing in. When the drummer and bassist left, they got a new drummer, and Yasuko picked up the bass. She got tired of playing bass and singing at the same time though, so they got a new bassist - Rika. Shortly thereafter, the drummer left, so they decided they diddn't need a drummer, and played a few shows in Tokyo. In November 1992, Sudoh joined the band as a drummer, and they changed the band's name to Melt-Banana.
In 1993, they got a chance to play with K.K. Null of Zenigeva, and NUX Organization (a label of K.K. Null's) offered to put out their first album. They went to Chicago in July of 1994, to record their first album at Steve Albini's studio. "Speak Squeak Creak" was released that September on the NUX Organization label. Later that year, they put out a cassette album on Chocolate Monk Records in Scotland, called "Cactuses Come in the Flocks".
1995 saw a lot of touring from Melt-Banana - they toured Japan with God Is My Co-Pilot and UFO or DIE, played with Merzbow as Merz-Banana, and toured the US twice, once with U.S. Maple and once later in that year with Mr. Bungle. While in the US, they recorded their second album, again with Steve Albini, but this time with mixing help from Jim O'Rourke. "Scratch or Stitch" was released October 1995 in Japan on merzbow records, and then in the US and Europe by Skin Graft Records in June 1996. They toured the US following its release there.
Melt-Banana collaborated with John Zorn in 1997, calling themselves "Cobra Melt-Banana". Leaving Skin Graft in November, they started their own label, A-Zap Records, and began work on their third album. Sudoh quit the band in December, while they were recording the album, so they borrowed Natsume from Force to finish it up. For live performances, Kikuchi (formerly from the band Assfort) played drums.
Their drummer trouble ended in February 1998, when Oshima (formerly of Satanic Hell Slaughter) joined the band. In september they went on tour in the US with their new lineup, playing 59 shows in 60 days, including a show with Fantomas in Houston and a performance recorded in John Zorn's studio in New Jersey, which later became a live album, "MxBx1998/13,000 miles at light velocity". In October 1998, "Charlie" (their third album) was released on A-Zap.
In 1999, Melt-Banana toured the US and Europe, playing 11 shows in the US with The Melvins and doing a live session with John Peel in London. In September they re-released "Cactuses Come In The Flocks" on A-Zap as a CD and LP.