Since forming in Shibuya back in 2010, MAN WITH A MISSION has become a worldwide punk rock phenomenon, selling out mammoth stadium shows in Japan and performing at rock festivals across the globe. Returning for the first time since their tour with Zebrahead last year, they now have set their eyes on their first London headline performance as part of their short 2016 European tour. We caught up with guitarist Jean-Ken Johnny to find out more about the band and their time in the UK.
How does it feel to be playing your first ever London headline show?
It’s only our second time here in London but everybody’s support made this happen and we’re really excited to go for it.
Last year you toured with Zebrahead and performed at Download Festival. It looks like you’re starting to become regulars here in the UK. How are you finding playing around these parts?
It’s exciting and always full of fun to play in other countries. I’ve always dreamed about playing in the UK, also still dreaming that we can do a lot more too.
Is there anything that surprised you playing here for the first time?
The venues are so cool, and I heard about how much colleges and universities in the UK are open and welcome for bands to do live shows and they have their own kind of connection with the music scene!
2015 marked the band’s 5th anniversary, and in those five years, you’ve become a huge powerhouse in the rock world. When you were created did you expect a gang of wolves would get so far so quickly?
We’ve always imagined and dreamed about what we can reach, but also had blurry yet somehow solid confidence, so I guess the picture isn’t that much of a surprise for us. But of course we are grateful for where we are today and still dreamin’ on to go for more.
What has been the highlight moment of your music careers thus far?
Probably meeting and joining the stage with Dave Grohl on the Foo Fighters stage, while they were playing.
Who/what is the guy who joins you on stage during live shows? A shaved wolf?
He’s our supporting guitar. Great guitar player and capable of many skills. Quite a mysterious guy cause he doesn’t talk much, but I’m sure he’s human. He’s a great guy and by the way he loves curry.
If the world ended tomorrow, what would your last show on this planet be like?
It’ll be just like the other shows and make the world move again.
I always thought wolves were picky eaters. What do you eat on tour?
Actually we eat everything. But we always love to choose to try some traditional domestic food of each country.
Otherwise sticking to Italian or Chinese is what we were taught to do if you don’t have something in mind.
You’re massive in Japan, but you were found frozen in Antarctica. So where do you call home?
Antarctica was too cold. No way that’s gonna become our home. Perhaps right now, it’s safe to say Japan is our home. It is indeed a beautiful and unique country.
What era of music inspired you the most when created MWAM? Are there any particular artists that influenced you?
Each member has their own different taste, but talking about myself, the music that inspired me most would definitely be the bands in the 90’s probably categorized as “Alternative Rock”. Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, REM, Dinosaur JR, The Pixies, Sonic Youth and so on. But I was also a huge fan of mixture rock such as RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, Asian Dub Foundation, and also a huge fan of UK music such as The Stone Roses, Oasis, radiohead, The Chemical Brothers. Sorry, I could go on and on! I believe we are kind of influenced by many elements from a lot of artists.
The band is very close to Sid from Slipknot and has worked/performed with him in the past. How did the relationship come about?
We just met in a bar in Japan which the owner was a mutual friend to us. Drank a lot of beer and just introduced each other, and that’s it. We told him that we’re a big fan of him and of course the band. First it was a joke when we said we’d love to have him play in one of our songs, but he was totally into it and it just happened.
So you’ve collaborated with a number of bands from across the globe, are there any bands in particular you want to work with in the future?
It’s always exciting to work with other artists. But I would definitely love to work with bands from the UK such as I mentioned above. Just because I’m a big fan of them.
Earlier this year you released your 4th album The World’s On Fire, what was the concept for the album?
It was a new challenge for us since we decided to collaborate with many new people like Don Gilmore, Shaun Lopez, Zebrahead. We really wanted the album to be simple but strong, both message-wise and sound-wise. The music inside the album, just like our other albums, shows you the many phases of music, maybe life, but contains a solid message in each song. Please check it out!
What would be your favorite track from the album? Which best delivers the band’s message?
My own favorite might be the title track ”The World’s On Fire”. It was the first time we actually sang about something really directed towards the world, but I think and I hope it is what we all have in mind. Tracks like “Give it Away”, “Survivor”, and “Raise your Flag” might be a great introduction for the main style of the band.
As you prepare for your first London headline show, do you have any words for your UK listeners?
It’s so great to be back in the UK. Thank you guys and your country for giving birth to all the great music and artists through time. Talking about our show, I’m pretty sure that it will be the first time for most of you guys, but we’re gonna show you all that we got so don’t hesitate to show us what you got. Looking forward to meeting all of you in UK!
MAN WITH A MISSION
The World’s On Fire
Release Date: 10/02/2016
Get at: CDJapan
Words by Charles Shepherd