Japanese half man, half wolf hard rock act MAN WITH A MISSION chats to us during the Singapore leg of their Asian tour. The five piece act from Shibuya, Tokyo has been making waves in the Japanese rock scene with their high energy stage presence and quality musicianship. And we must not forget their unique wolf personalities! Made up of members Tokyo Tanaka (vocals), Kamikaze Boy (Bass), DJ Santa Monica, Spear Rib (Drums) and vocalist/guitarist Jean-Ken Johnny, MAN WITH A MISSION has been topping the Japanese music charts and has a regular presence in the Japanese festival circuit. We chat with Jean-Ken Johnny about the story behind MAN WITH A MISSION and their latest album The World’s On Fire.
MAN WITH A MISSION welcome to Singapore! Since you have not played in Australia before my audience may not know you. So firstly, tell me the story behind MAN WITH A MISSION?
As you can see it looks like we are wearing wolf masks but its not a mask. This is what we are. A long time ago we were made by a mad professor – his name was Jimi Hendrix – we’re not sure if he’s still making music… he was great with guitars! So he made us – five wolfs and back in the day we had nothing to do with music. We were used by evil people back then to do evil deeds. So one day the professor thought we went too far and decided to put us in ice in Antarctica. It was bitter sweet memories for us.
So how did you get involved in music in the first place?
Whilst we were frozen in Antartica we were able to listen to what (music) was played all over the world. Any age, any era. It really moved our hearts to listen to the music that was been played all over the world. We dreamed that when we got out of the ice we should do music by ourselves. So six years ago in 2010 we just happened to escape from the ice. Thanks to global warming and climate change the ice melted enough for us to get out. So we got our chance to play music.
Given that this is the first time you are on an Asian tour what are your thoughts and expectations?
I’m sure some people in Asia know about us already by listening to our music online but we’ve never had a chance to perform in Asia. As this is our first time here its always great to explore a new country, new people and a new audience. Its really exciting to play for people who have been waiting for us a long time.
We understand MAN WITH A MISSION performed at Fuji Rock Festival recently. What was your highlights?
We performed on the Green Stage at Fuji Rock Festival in Japan. We understand the festival is really famous around the world with many international artists coming to play. The Fuji Rock site is a really beautiful place to play and the Green Stage is a very special place for us as it was our first time performing at the festival. We were so excited to perform.
We have heard each member of MAN WITH A MISSION has a special skill. Can you tell me what they are?
Our bass player Kamikaze Boy he drinks a lot! He drinks more than any human being on Earth. At the same time he doesn’t suffer from a hangover! As for me Jean-Ken Johnny, my name comes from the traditional Japanese game of rock, paper, scissors. I’m good at that game!
Do you win all the time?
I say so but its 50-50.
MAN WITH A MISSION has released four studio albums since 2010 and your latest album “The World’s On Fire” has again gained great success on the Oricon charts. Can you tell me what are the themes you are projecting on “The World’s On Fire”?
This is our forth album and this time around we worked with a lot of producers from overseas such as Don Gilmore who produced Avril Lavigne and Linkin Park. Nine of the thirteen songs on “The World’s On Fire” was made with an overseas producer. This was because musically we wanted make a new sound and make music that could spread internationally. We had a great time making this record because the new people we were working with really stimulated our minds. To be honest, we listen to a lot of different music but to make music with different ideas is really welcomed. We’re really proud of “The World’s On Fire”. Its a strong rock album with a direct message.
How has the sound of MAN WITH A MISSION evolved over the past 4 albums?
Our music have always had a backbone. What I mean by that is our core sound have been influenced by a period at the time. In the 90s, genres like alternative rock, guitar rock, hard rock was always that essence that is at the core of MAN WITH A MISSION. But we always strive for something new to keep our listeners excited every time. I’m not sure if evolved is the right word because its always the same music as it comes from us. I’ll be interested in hearing from our fans how they think our music as changed over time?
You said you listened to a lot of music. Who would you say is your biggest influence?
For me personally, I was really influenced and inspired by the music in the 90s. Bands like Nirvana is my hero – they are legendary to probably everybody! Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine and Asian Dub Foundation. The music from that era really inspired me.
Do you think MAN WITH A MISSION can influence the hard rock scene internationally?
I’m not sure – I hope so! I don’t normally think of MAN WITH A MISSION as influencing somebody else. Visually we do look different to other bands. Musically I hope we are making music that shakes the world and gain their attention. We’ve always wanted to be a band that plays on the main stage at international festivals. It doesn’t matter where it is. We love the feeling of the crowd going crazy when we hit the stage. And everyone having a good time. Everybody together – all nationalities, all races – all having a great time together bonded by music. That is so cool.
When will we see MAN WITH A MISSION come to Australia and perform a concert? How do you think an Australian audience will react to your show?
Although Australia is a long way from Japan we would love to come to Australia. Soon. Really! Please help us come to Australia. Next year! We’ll come to you anytime you want!
For more information on MAN WITH A MISSION check out their official website.
Special thanks to Amuse Entertainment Singapore. Photos courtesy of Amuse Entertainment and MAN WITH A MISSION.