MAN WITH A MISSION have been extremely busy. Latest album Break and Cross the Walls II has seen the band on the cover of ROCK SOUND Magazine, a new track from it featured in one of Japan's most famous anime series, Gundam, and their music and likeness put into a Final Fantasy game. They've been performing at festivals nearly every weekend, including representing Japan at extreme sports tournament X Games', and been up and down the country promoting the album, which has also been released overseas.
We caught up with guitarist and vocalist Jean-Ken Johnny to see how's he feeling now the album is out and the majority of promotional work is over. “The feeling is... like finally we’re done. It was a big challenge for us both technically and mentally but anyway we’re more than satisfied of what came out.”
With so many achievements under their belts over the years, and more seemingly added every day, we tell Jean-Ken Johnny that it feels like it's only a matter of time until they play on the moon as there aren't many thing left that MAN WITH A MISSION hasn't already done. “I appreciate your compliment,” he replies. “Keeping on making good music, I guess we all want it that way and it’s a problem every artist faces, but right now I’m done with making two albums in a row so I’m not gonna think about it.”
This new album is part two of Break and Cross the Walls (the first part was also released through JPU Records), an album that came about, as far as we understood it, because of the pandemic. An album to keep spirits high in a world where live music was suddenly taken away. “Not only the COVID situation,” explains Jean-Ken Johnny. “I believe that many problems and issues kind of popped up again due to this incident.
“The album was meant to be a big gift for those who couldn’t enjoy music as the way it was and also a message from us about the world and this time of era. The world’s changed a lot and not only it changed but also there’s a lot going on forcing us to change in a way. I believe it’s settling down but the most I got from this period is to be suspicious and aware of information cause I’ve seen so many people getting hypnotized in various ways because of this chaos.”
For further words from Jean-Ken Johnny on the album's tracks, how each track has its own unique message, and what it's like composing anthems for anime, check out JROCK NEWS' MAN WITH A MISSION interview.
With festival season well underway in Japan, and the band set to headline the Mountain stage at this year's Summer Sonic Festival, how did it feel to finally hit the stage again after so long away? “It was great. Still we have to take care of some regulations, but I believe everybody was enjoying as much as they can under this condition.”
Last album saw MAN WITH THE MISSION feature Patrick Stump (best known for being vocalist of Fall Out Boy) on the track 86 Missed Calls. This time they feature legendary guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei, who featured MAN WITH A MISSION on his track ‘Give It To The Universe’. “It’s a pleasure and honour working with the legendary man and I really appreciate and admire him treating us as an equal colleague and artist collaborating together. So when it comes to music I don’t feel the pressure and step back cause if you do that’s dishonouring your companion as well.”
MAN WITH A MISSION are always one to surprise, and Break and Cross the Walls II is no different. For us, the surprise comes with the album closer: ‘Chiisaki Monotachi’. The track was originally part of the INTO THE DEEP EP. As we told JKJ, the track now is so so cute and charming, we love it and had to listen again to the original to check it was the same song. “Thank you very much I’m glad you like it. As a message for peace and diversity I wanted the song to sound at first childishly but minimal and persuasive at the same time. I thought making the orchestra too big and rich might lose the magic and the true aim of the song. Making it minimal with less performers makes it sound close and warm and decent, giving the listener a more straight message.”
The band perform the above version of ‘Chiisaki Monotachi’ as part of their MAN WITH A MISSION ACOUSTIC LIVE at Miracle Ipponmatsu Hall, Rikuzentakata City, Iwate set. They perform acoustic arrangements of six tracks, and can be watched as part of optional video on demand content for Break and Cross the Walls II.
They're also no strangers to performing overseas, with numerous appearances and tours in Europe and America, including a spot at Download Festival in the UK. They even lost a member in France during a recent European tour (read the full story in their interview with Rice Digital). “All the shows overseas are always wonderful and amazing. I guess the first thing I do is check where the coin laundry is on Google Map. It’s a long trip, you gotta make sure where the laundrette is.”
Personally, everyone at JPU Records cannot wait to see the band back on tour and playing shows outside of Japan again. Until then, we have plenty of new music and content from MAN WITH A MISSION to dig our teeth into, we hope you enjoy it as much as we do! Break and Cross the Walls I and Break and Cross the Walls II are out now from JPU Records on CD with additional video on demand content available. Both versions include lyric translations and transliterations, as well as English liner notes, all edited by Jean-Ken Johnny himself!