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Japan’s wolf pack of rock, MAN WITH A MISSION is unloading a sonic assault with the new album Break and Cross the Walls II featuring Blaze from the anime Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. For over a decade, they have become famous for hit themes in anime such as Log Horizon, The Seven Deadly Sins, and Golden Kamuy as well as a song for the Japanese movie version of Godzilla vs. Kong.

Now, the new single Blaze adds another chart-topper to their list of hits as it reached number one on the iTunes UK World Chart! Recently, we had a chat with Jean-Ken Johnny, guitarist and vocalist, about new music and the world today.


It’s great to speak with you. First off, the new track Blaze is a real banger. Can you tell us more about it? And how did it end up as the opening theme for Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans?
We had a call from the director team of the anime, who asked if we were able to work on this opportunity. Totally available and also willing, we said “Yes”. As it was chosen for an omnibus, kind of a recap episode of the animation, I concentrated on writing something that would describe the whole story and express the energy and the philosophy of the series. Wanting the song to be totally dedicated to the animation this time, I cited some of the lines of the main characters as well.

And this is the second time you have worked with the Iron-Blooded Orphans team. Previously you did Raise Your Flag in 2015, which was quite an anthem! It must be difficult to compose something that will be more anthemic than before?
I guess you’re right because it’s also the song for the very first season of this anime, the very first that kind of determines the image of most people, and that’s a pretty hard hurdle to cross. I tried to avoid using elements and arrangements that might sound too alike. Making it more authentic, the band likes to increase the feel of instinct, energy, and libido. And also tried to make it more dedicated to the story this time.

Have you heard what Gundam fans have been saying about Blaze? What kind of reactions has it had?
So far, I hear that they’re enjoying it and also I appreciate that somebody said that it has everything for the Iron-Blooded Orphans in it.

And this track is from the new album Break and Cross the Walls II, which is jam-packed with 14 songs. Which ones have a significant meaning that you would like to tell us?
Please listen to them all because each and every song has its own significant message. And to add, this album is different from the others, because it was inspired by what we think about the world today. We never have described or expressed something timely in a song this much. I hope you guys listen to the album today for you are the people who share and live together in the same era.

Absolutely! We will post links below so that everyone can get it now. Yet, for the song Between fiction and friction II, you asked fans to send recordings with messages of peace. How did you measure all of those messages for the final mixing?
That’s something you can’t compare. We would like to thank every and each one of you who shared your message and courage and will for the world.

Amazing, and that song has a lot of impact. To which, MAN WITH A MISSION songs are highly energetic and intense. How are you able to get so much into the layers of your music?
We are flexible and always willing to try something new, so I guess that helps a lot in making something hybrid and genre-bending. I believe it also comes from the inspiration and influence we had from the music in the 90s, which was very experimental and also diverse and was really cutting through the era and the music scene.

That kind of inspiration must carry over into live shows as well. On April 23 at the X Games in Chiba, you performed Tonight, Tonight, the events theme song. And what happened during the concert?
The motorbikes were flying in the air as we were on stage. That was awesome.

So cool. And when you were not on stage at the X Games, did you watch?
Yes, we did and it was great to watch the players, especially the outstanding performance of the Japanese skateboard players.

Would you attempt to do a trial of an X Game event, like skateboarding?
I’d love to.

Since we last spoke in 2019 a lot has happened in the world such as the COVID-19 pandemic, have you and your loved ones been able to stay healthy?
Everybody is doing OK, but not to terrify you guys, some caught Covid and recovered. I mean, I believe that’s a really natural thing, anybody can catch the flu, a cold, and also Covid. Not saying that the disease isn’t dangerous, because to some it is, and to some (well most) it’s not. But a lot of information fake and true are mixed and spread these days leading to more chaos and we all are in a way hypnotized by this information not knowing which is truly right or wrong. I’m doing fine and healthy but also pretty pissed off with how this incident changed this world.

I completely agree! It has been some hard times, and good to know you and yours are doing well. Yet, even though you have not toured overseas since the pandemic, you have done some online events. Did you get much feedback from around the globe with online comments?
Yes, we did and that really encouraged us as well a lot. I do hope we can tour overseas as soon as possible. But, also I truly think that online livestreaming has many possibilities and potential too, and was proud that many people enjoyed it.

For sure, livestreams have allowed us to participate as a virtual audience. Though nothing is better than being there live. Can overseas fans expect to see MWAM in person soon?
Of course. I mean, I really hope the world settles down, as a matter of fact, calm down and deal with this incident in a better way.

Right on. So, in what ways do you think music can help people to calm down?
The world’s changed a lot and not only has it changed, but also there’s a lot going on forcing us to change in a way. I’m hopeful that situations settle down and many of what we’ve enjoyed will come back, but I guess it’s up to us. What we choose, as always. Some people are starting to call it “New Normal”. Some are accepting the change and I don’t deny that. I hope it’s something that’s leading us to a better tomorrow but also I hope people are always aware and have the courage to always reconsider their choices. If there’s something that music can do, I believe that it would be to give a hint or maybe the truth of that better tomorrow for us.

So speaking of the future, as a successful group for over a decade now, what are some goals for MWAM?
Can’t think about much right now cause we just finished making two albums in a row. I never have set a goal so I’m not really good at saying something concrete. And maybe that’s the reason I’m still running.

Finally, any additional messages for our readers.
Hi to everyone. A lot is going on all over the world, but I hope every one of you is safe and also enjoying the best of your everyday life. If there’s trouble in your way or if you’re in it right now, we are with you, and I hope our music can help enlighten your way.

Hope to see you guys soon. Thank you all!


Special thanks to JPU Records for facilitating this interview with Jean-Ken Johnny from MAN WITH A MISSION.

CD
  1. Tonight, Tonight
  2. More Than Words
  3. All You Need
  4. blue soul
  5. Left Alive
  6. Perfect Clarity
  7. Between fiction and friction Ⅱ
  8. Blaze
  9. Rock Kingdom feat. Tomoyasu Hotei
  10. Rain
  11. The Soldiers From The Start
  12. The Victors
  13. Dark Crow (Break and Cross the Walls Ver.)
  14. Chisakimonotachi (Acoustic Ver.)
Goods
  • English lyric translations edited by Jean-Ken Johnny
  • Romaji transliterations
  • Video stream VOD code - MAN WITH A MISSION ACOUSTIC LIVE at Miracle Ipponmatsu Hall, Rikuzentakata City, Iwate
CD
  1. Tonight, Tonight
  2. More Than Words
  3. All You Need
  4. blue soul
  5. Left Alive
  6. Perfect Clarity
  7. Between fiction and friction Ⅱ
  8. Blaze
  9. Rock Kingdom feat. Tomoyasu Hotei
  10. Rain
  11. The Soldiers From The Start
  12. The Victors
  13. Dark Crow (Break and Cross the Walls Ver.)
  14. Chisakimonotachi (Acoustic Ver.)
Goods
  • English lyric translations edited by Jean-Ken Johnny
  • Romaji transliterations
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