The enigmatic wolves from Tokyo take a bite and leave a mark while on the road. They successfully completed the North America stretch of their Chasing the Horizon World Tour and sent fans into a feral frenzy with their dance-rock and pop fusion.
MAN WITH A MISSION is known for catchy themes in popular anime—The Seven Deadly Sins, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, and Golden Kamuy and for putting a dent on the charts with ten songs that reached top 10 on Japan’s Oricon single sales ranking. So, it’s not surprising that they have garnered an international fan base and along the way attracted attention from Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy and HOTEI for collaborations.
To say MAN WITH A MISSION is busy is an understatement. A workload that would keep any human busy, yet they found time to answer our questions. We spoke with Jean-Ken Johnny about the new release and where these wolves get inspiration.
This is your first independent tour of North America in about five years. The last few times have been as guests with other bands. What’s the most challenging aspect of touring?
It’s probably the experience of performing just by ourselves in front of new listeners all over the world who have different cultures and different ideologies. Very exciting to do that, and it always gives me new inspiration and reminds me of why I’ve always wanted to do this.
That’s great to hear. And you’re performing here in Dallas for the first time. This region is famous for its barbecues and grills. Have you been able to sample local cuisines on the tour? As carnivores, what is special for you?
Eating steak in America is always one of my favorites. You guys definitely know how to enjoy eating meat in the most simple and delicious way. Grilling it with a bit of salt and pepper. And horseradish is one of my favorites to put on too.
That’s how we roll. Keep it simple with the right cuts of beef. Now that we have made people hungry, there is an appetite building from your fans. Here in America, Canada, and Mexico, they are eager to see you again. When did you first notice the attention of fans from around the world? What was it like having international fame?
I guess it was in France when we first took part in the Japan Expo in 2012, a festival which mainly introduces the culture and entertainment of Japan spreading throughout the world, especially with anime. It was quite a blast and we were really grateful for the reaction. Performing our music all over the world was always one of my dreams so it’s just great to have that opportunity and enjoy it.
And as for music, coming soon is the new CD maxi release, Dark Crow. On it are some amazing tracks, especially for fans of anime. Starting with the title track as the opening theme for Vinland Saga, the series based on the manga of the same name. Did the producer pitch you ideas for the song? And where did you find inspiration for it?
In fact, he did have a few requests, but, thankfully, he mainly left it to us. We were already fans of the original story so all the inspiration came from the script.
And that’s not all, the next track 86 Missed Calls feat. Patrick Stump for the Three Nobunagas movie. This one is a collaboration with the singer, songwriter from Fall Out Boy. You’ve worked with him before, so how did production go this time?
As a fan of Fall Out Boy, it is really amazing to work with Patrick. I remember the production starting from scratch and it was mainly about the lyrics. He started to ask us about our lives, what we went through, and kept on writing down the incidents that were interesting. It was a lot of fun and it kind of made sense, because I do agree that lyrics are powerful when it is something that comes out from the singer’s philosophy spontaneously.
The previous collaboration with him was for Dead End in Tokyo. And that hit song has a very universal appeal where anyone can feel lost in a large city. It seems tragic, but did you want to imply any hope or inspiration in the lyrics?
I guess the tragic aspect and feeling is, indeed, an emotion that everyone in the whole wide world could easily imagine and sympathize to. I did not actually blend hope in the message, but I did want it to have the struggle or discord and conflict that people always feel when they confront the big city dream. Where everything happens and everything ends.
Any other western artists that stand out for you at the moment? Who would you want to work with next?
As a big fan of the trackmakers from the ’90s, The Chemical Brothers are definitely ones that I would like to meet.
Speaking of another trackmaker, earlier this year, you performed with HOTEI on Give It To The Universe. A song that challenges human actions in today’s world. Does MAN WITH A MISSION have hope for humanity? How do we handle these problems?
Difficult question, but I guess it’s all about thinking of the problems, not to ignore them, and just let them be as it is. Who knows what’s happening right now is right or wrong? No one does and no one ever will. We do believe humanity has a path, but who knows if it’s better or worse? All we can do is believe it has a way, carry on and keep on trying. Let us see in time, and hopefully, let us be happy about it.
That is very stoic in a philosophical sense. Which leads to the next question about humanity and times of change. In the song Reiwa feat. milet, is this about Japan entering a new era for 2019? Can you explain what it means to you and the people?
Yes, it is. According to the history of Japan, most of the time the new era begins with the passing of the emperor. But this era started with no loss of life, no sorrow, and the country is filled with renewed hope for this new era. It was a really positive moment, and a lot of people are hoping this era is to become an innovative start and change for the country. We, ourselves, hope this start makes a change in a better way.
And for this new era, MAN WITH A MISSION shows no signs of slowing down. Next year will be a decade of making music, what are your future plans? Another album? Any hints at all?
Can’t say much but a decade is surely a time for us to produce something special for what we have been through. But, at the same time, it’s only ten years. We’ve got a lot more to go, but maybe it will be a time for some news of the band itself. Please keep on watching us and I’m sure you humans will be amazed.
We humans certainly will. Those are fascinating insights into the music of MAN WITH A MISSION. It will be exciting to watch as more come from you in the future. Big thanks to Jean-Ken Johnny for chatting with us. The EP Dark Crow will be released on October 23.