As the late Marva Whitney once described them as, Osaka Monaurail are ‘one of the hottest funk bands on the planet’, which is why it’s super exciting for crowds of this year Queenscliff Music Festival who will be able to see the Japanese funk legends in action.
In the lead up to their upcoming tour, I was lucky enough to have a chat to Ryo Nakata, the groups front man, whose last trip to Australia saw them playing at Golden Plains Music Festival.
“Is that the festival where people put up their shoes?” he laughs, referring to the crowd members at Meredith who raise their ‘boot’ if they deem you as their subjective best act of the weekend. “I remember that one, I loved it so much. I didn’t understand why people where putting up their shoes and I found out after the set that it was actually a good thing!
“I met Chuck D from Public Enemy at that Festival. I saw him and I went up to him and said, ‘My name is Ryo and I’m from the band Osaka Monaurail’ and he said ‘I have your record and I play it on my radio show.’ I was like WHAT?! I couldn’t believe it, his voice was almost too deep for me to be able to understand him.”
Although Osaka Monaurail are a funk band through and through, hip-hop is a genre that’s previously found its way into their music, primarily through collaborations in the late 90’s.
“I’m the kind of guy who is always behind what’s happening,” laughs Ryo. “So the first time I went to Tokyo was 1998 and around that time hip-hop was getting bigger than acid-jazz, but it was interesting because all of the rappers in Tokyo started asking me to play with them.
“I didn’t know anything about hip-hop or rap, but they asked us because we could play funk similar to James Brown,” he smiles. “We played with some pretty famous people in Japan. I didn’t know too much about them but everyone always told me how much of a big deal it was to play with people so famous.”
When asked if collaborations with rappers and hip-hop acts is something Ryo still sees Osaka Monourail delving into in the future, he responded, “I would do that any time. In the late 90’s we were getting asked so much that I had to turn some of them down because we didn’t have the time. I’m not too sure why but they don’t ask us any more, but I would do it any time and would love to do more of it in the future.”
With QMF only a month away the excitement is steadily building from both the punters as well as the bands, with Ryo commenting on how eager he is to return to Australia. “I’m looking forward to it very much. Four years ago we had such a great time in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide, so I can’t wait to do it again.
“I know there’s a lot of funky stuff coming out of Melbourne, but this is funky stuff coming along from Japan and I hope everyone likes it!”
When & Where: The Caravan Club, Melbourne – November 20 & Queenscliff Music Festival, Queenscliff – November 23 – 25.