Melt-Banana is a Japanese noise rock band that is known for playing extremely fast and noisy music mixed with experimental electronica that might be described as new-wave grindcore. They have worked with artists as diverse as Merzbow, John Zorn, Mike Patton, and Discordance Axis. They have released nine albums and toured worldwide extensively.
In 1991, while attending Tokyo University of Foreign Studies Yasuko Onuki started a band called Mizu, which played shows at the University and recorded a demo tape. After several lineup changes, Yasuko recruited fellow students Agata Ichiro on guitar, and Rika on bass. After losing their drummer, only those three remained. They briefly performing shows around Tokyo without a drummer, then Sudoh joined on the drums, and they changed their name to Melt-Banana. In May of 1993, Melt-Banana played a show opening for K.K.NULL of Zeni Geva fame, who was impressed enough to immediately offer them a recording on his label, and later introduce them to Mark Fischer of Skin Graft Records and Steve Albini.
Melt-Banana have released eight 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 all their early albums. During this time, drummer Toshiaki Sudoh quit. Since then, the band has had different drummers helping for tours and recordings. They do massive U.S. and U.K. tours yearly and do smaller Japanese tours (the reason for this, according to them, is that travelling in Japan is quite expensive). Most recently, 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 album, Bambi's Dilemma, was released on April 24, 2007.
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 (this link is current as of 1999; Here is a more recent picture from their 2005 "13 Hedgehogs" tour). Yasuko O. belts out high-pitched screams and raps very quickly. Rika mm's bass lines aren't subdued like in most bands, but are given as much overt influence 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 barks parts of one of the tracks called 'If it is the Deep Sea, I can See You There' on their studio album 'Cell Scape'. Also of note, most of their albums (except the two just mentioned) 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 are known for doing very strange and entertaining cover songs.
Live performances are where Melt-Banana win many of their devotees. While many critics perceive Melt-Banana's recordings to be inaccessible, their sound translates much better live. Yasuko starts every show by yelling "We are Melt-Banana from Tokyo, Japan!" Her rapid-fire delivery and Agata's frenetic guitar riffs infuse crowds with energy. Attendees often mosh or otherwise move in a frenzy during performances. Yasuko O. often wears colorful and/or metallic costumes, while Rika mm' often wears just black. Both wear very high platform boots, on which Rika mm' often bounces, à la Krist Novoselic. Agata usually wears a surgical mask affixed to his face, sometimes with duct tape.