Prefatory remarks: Unlike some FAQ's (e.g., The Fourth World: an online Heavenly Creatures FAQ), this FAQ is not intended to serve as an exhaustive resource for its subject. I merely wish to answer some easily answered questions that actually do come up a lot when people talk to me about Melt-Banana.
Q1. Is that a male or a female singing?
A1. That's Yasuko Onuki, a female.
Q2. Why does the guitarist (Agata) wear a face mask?
A2. Because he has an illness and, as Yasuko said in an interview, "he has to protect himself from any virus."
Q3. In what language are the lyrics?
A3. English. The style of the singing and the disconnected nature of the lyrics make them pretty hard to decipher.
Q4. How well can the members of the band speak English?
A4. Pretty well. As the interviews and lyrics reveal, they have a good grasp of spoken English and good vocabularies (this is most evident for Yasuko, as she writes the lyrics and is the most interviewed member of the band). But at live performances, Yasuko speaks in a very slow and stilted voice. My guess is that this is just the band having one over on the audience.
Q5. How did the band members meet?
A5. Rika, Agata, Sudoh, and Yasuko all met while attending the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, where they studied foreign languages. Rika and Agata studied Thai, Sudoh studied Urdu, and Yasuko studied Italian (this is evidenced in "How to Parlare" from the split with Stilluppsteypa and the "uno due tre quattro" countdown to their cover of Kraftwerk's "Showroom Dummies"). Their current drummer, Oshima Watchma, was formerly in the band Satanic Hell Slaughter.
Q6.What kinds of effects does the guitarist (Agata) use?
A6. His guitar setup can be found at this page at www.guitargeek.com.
Q7. What covers have they played?
A7. When a band has a zany style, its covers are even more entertaining, and Melt-Banana has obliged. I can't verify each of these, but to the best of my knowledge, past covers include:
Devo's "Uncontrollable Urge" (with the intro from Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way?")
The Beach Boys's "Surfin' USA"
The Beach Boys's "You're Welcome"
Kraftwerk's "Showroom Dummies"
Bing Crosby's "White Christmas"
The Damned's "Neat Neat Neat"
King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man"
Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama"
Dead Kennedys's "Government Flu"
The Rolling Stones's "Paint it Black
The Monkees's "Daydream Believer"
Yes's "Owner of a Lonely Heart"
The "Spiderman" theme
Q8. What music do the members of Melt-Banana like?
A8. Each member tends to have his or her own tastes, but an album that always comes up when discussing Melt-Banana's influences is the No New York compilation. Other influences include Aram Khatchaturian and Pink Floyd. Here are some artists and styles that each member has mentioned as a favorite (thanks largely to this interview): Yasuko - Cypress Hill, Public Enemy, Gravediggaz, French chansons; Agata - Locust, DJ Def Eddy; Rika - Mr. Bungle, Devo, Charles Mingus; Watchma - Steve Reich, My Bloody Valentine. Also, voyeurs can look at this list of music stolen from Melt-Banana's touring van in November 1996 (courtesy of Smelly Mustafa's tour diaries).