MONO’s Kunishi talks
 about life on the road, 
her 53-year-old bass

The Japanese, atmospheric, math metal quartet MONO are road warriors. They’re currently in the midst of a 150-city tour, which is not abnormal for the 20-year-old band. Also, their latest album, Nowhere Now Here, is the first with their new drummer, Louisville-raised musician Dahm Majuri Cipolla. We caught up with multi-instrumentalist Tamaki Kunishi to talk about life on the road, gear and being a multi-instrumentalist.

LEO: With so much time spent on the road and recording with Taka Goto and Yoda Suematsu, the other two founding members of MONO, it must feel more like family after 20 years than bandmates. And sometimes we need a break from family. Do you all have an etiquette or dynamic while touring that helps alleviate stress and helps maintain personal space?
Tamaki Kunishi: That’s true. When I think about it now, I started living by myself at the age of 18, so the 20 years I’ve spent with the band is longer than the actual time I spent time with my family since I was born. We actually don’t spend that much time together in our private time. When we get back to Japan, everyone has their own family and friends, so we spend time with them. Those times allow us to refresh ourselves. During the tour, since I’m the only woman, I think everyone takes extra considerations. Personally, taking a shower after the show and sleeping has become good times for me to reset.

You have the reputation of being a loyal Gibson EB-3 bass player. Is there a particular reason for this and are there other basses you will use?
First, I like how they look, and second, their short scaled neck is the best match for my small hands. They feel perfect. Also, they have the best combination with SansAmp Bass DI, which is basically my bass’ partner. Before joining MONO, I played many kinds of bass, and I still own them.

Given that the EB-3 dropped out of production 40 years ago, do you prepare for any scenarios if an EB is not available; or perhaps do you have a cache of backup EBs?
The one I use right now is the 1966 model, but I also own the 1969 and 1970 models as backups. I got them just in case the current model’s parts become unavailable. Both their sounds are also very nice.

Aside from bass, you play many instruments including guitar, organ and glockenspiel. Do you prefer certain instruments to others, and are there other instruments that you play outside of the ones you use with MONO?
Not so much of organs, but the piano. When I was young, everyone around me was learning piano, but I learned how to play the organ. When I joined MONO, I started to play the piano, and the depth of the instrument is completely different and deep. Even though it’s just one instrument, each range of sound is actually doing their own parts. I also love playing piano songs. I’ve never played instruments outside of MONO, but I definitely want to try some instruments that I’ve never played before. Some countries have their own instruments that exist nowhere else. We have some in Japan, as well. •