“We need more provocative people”—the elusive Dos Monos, who makes the ordinary extraordinary, wraps 2021 up (part 2)

Read Part 1

In the first half of this interview, we caught up with Dos Monos about their music in 2021. In the latter half, they discuss their diverse range of collaborations and their thoughts on “an extraordinary that transcends seduction.”  

On transitioning to pop: “We need to reveal our true selves and put ourselves on display.”

――Zo Zhit, you and the other members of the group are constantly doing the unexpected, collaborating/talking to all kinds of interesting people rather than only musicians. Time and time again, you’ve made efforts to soften rigid values. As a result, I think Dos Monos listeners’ have come to expect a lot from the group. It’s like you’ve established yourselves as characters that set up glitches all over the system and shake up people’s thinking, and in a way, I think people are starting to sense a certain pop quality from that. Is that just part of Dos Monos’s personality, or is that something that everyone in Dos Monos is actually trying to do?

Zo Zhit: Everyone says that our work is interesting. We get that reaction often, especially in the industry, and in and of itself, it’s a good thing. But to become pop, we need to reveal our true selves and put ourselves on display.

―― What exactly do you mean by “reveal your true selves”?

Zo Zhit: At the end of the day, when an artist talks about their work, it’s them saying, “This is how I’d like people to see it.” But I think you become a real artist when you go a step beyond that, and people are almost making fun of you. Like, “Sure, that’s what the artist says it is, but this is what it actually is.” Even respected film directors start being grilled about their shortcomings as human beings. Like—Denis Villeneuve worships women too much, to the point where it’s not even feminist (laughs). The game truly begins once the audience can see through the artist’s struggles. When an artist is still able to hide that, they may seem happy, but they haven’t entered the ring as creators.

I mean, people admire Denis Villeneuve in a way that’s too psychoanalytic, so I don’t really like that (laughs). But still, in a way, it’d be nice if people dug a bit deeper and saw the things that we didn’t want them to see. Maybe that pop quality comes from whether an artist is worth teasing. So instead of, “They do cool stuff,” people are talking candidly about it, like, “Something about them is annoying.” (laughs) But we haven’t gotten anywhere close to that point yet.

Botsu a.k.a NGS: Even after Futa*, no one really said anything bad about us.

*An experimental program that suddenly aired on a late-night slot on TV Tokyo in September 2020. The program featured new Dos Monos songs and music videos as part of the group’s collaboration with the program),

Dos Monos – OCCUPIED!

Zo Zhit: Our usual fans had zero reaction to Futa. They were completely silent. But a different group of people got riled up. It was great that it enabled us to take on a completely new audience. Plus, it was a great move in terms of changing our path. Going forward, we have to go down the path rather than just building it.

Botsu a.k.a NGS: Even after Futa*, no one really said anything bad about us.

*An experimental program that suddenly aired on a late-night slot on TV Tokyo in September 2020. The program featured new Dos Monos songs and music videos as part of the group’s collaboration with the program),

Zo Zhit: Our usual fans had zero reaction to Futa. They were completely silent. But a different group of people got riled up. It was great that it enabled us to take on a completely new audience. Plus, it was a great move in terms of changing our path. Going forward, we have to go down the path rather than just building it.

The hopeless feeling of being bored with yourself: “Music should be more compelling.”

――As you mentioned, Dos Monos fans who watched Futa already had an idea of what Dos Monos is like, so what’s important is the reaction of people who listened to Dos Monos for the first time via Futa. Did you hear anything about their reactions?

Zo Zhit: There were a lot of people analyzing Futa. I’m not sure how I feel about people who fundamentally need something they can analyze, like a twist or foreshadowing. Maybe it’s none of my business to say that—because they’re just watching for pleasure. I’m not going to suddenly become a critic and say something antiquated like, “That’s why the critics are so admirable.”

So I think the only necessary path is to discover true pleasure while analyzing the work. The “if you know, you know” sort of thing said by people with cultural capital has its value, but we want to break through that. We want our work to truly awaken just a few of the people who analyze it.

――I see. So it’s about the extent to which you’re able to awaken those people.

Zo Zhit: But in reality, some people said things like, “I had fun analyzing Futa, but I lost interest once I realized it was promoting a hip hop group.” I think almost every encounter is like that—sadly, nothing comes of it. That’s just life. Isn’t that how it is with most encounters? Nothing comes of them, and pleasure is all that remains. But amid all these encounters, there’s a small probability that something amazing will happen. For that to happen, to some extent, you need more traffic. I want to keep a more constant flow of traffic while making sure we stay true to our concept and non-negotiables. After that, it’s just a matter of probability.

TaiTan: As we rack up more work, like collaborating with Audrey Tang or making an ad using a DAW, our reputation as the kind of group that does stuff like that is solidified. I had interest in that until recently. So in that sense, Futa was a success. But if people start to expect that kind of stuff, then it falls into the category of the expected. I’ve already started to feel like I’m at risk of getting bored of myself.

――Somehow, I had a feeling that you’d started to feel that way.

TaiTan: I want to see more bizarre work from other artists too. I want more flashy surprises. There are people like us who aren’t signed to a label and barely have any funds, yet, they’re able to do all kinds of things based on their ideas. But there are people out there with more resources. As a listener, I feel like it’s not enough for people with much bigger budgets than us to just go through the motions of writing songs and making music videos. I’m not judging them, but I’m personally always looking to discover new ways of doing things. I think it would be great if someone who does crazy stuff—like Kanye West—came out of Japan. I want people like that to mess with me more often.

Zo Zhit: I want everyone to start a festival together, because we’re truly powerless on our own. Even if an artist is cool, it doesn’t matter if only a few enthusiasts are happy. Unless there are larger powers at play, you can’t create a culture that gives back to society. Some intellectuals don’t like that, but I disagree. I want to create more with everyone.

TaiTan: Recently, I’ve really been feeling that music should be more compelling. People who make music should absolutely hate when everyone follows the same routine of making songs and shooting music videos. Isn’t that so boring? That’s always left me feeling bored and craving more. Music should be more compelling. That’s why we want to link up and keep scheming with people from all kinds of areas who have the same goals.

――It’s about time that people who are interested in Dos Monos go beyond just being interested and work with you guys to make something interesting, isn’t it?

Zo Zhit:Since I was a teenager, I only thought ofexchange in terms of culture. I thought it’d be nice if cinephile culture and club culture could link more deeply, or if I could link the two. I think in a way, we’ve been quite successful in doing that. But that’s still just cultural exchange, and we haven’t linked up with the economy, for example. We haven’t been able to create jobs. At the end of the day, if I think hard about culture, I reach that conclusion. I’ve been able to see that more clearly recently because I didn’t think that way at first.

How each member approached the new single for Documental in their own way

――Your new song, “ŌBO,” was a collaboration with HITOSHI MATSUMOTO presents Documental. This was another unexpected development.

Zo Zhit: Documental initially approached us about using one of our existing songs. But we offered to make them a new song because thought we could make something that worked better.

TaiTan: We wouldn’t grow at all if they used an old song. And we wondered what we could present to them for an interesting collaboration.

Zo Zhit: TaiTan and I added some comedic elements, but Botsu didn’t. I wrote about comedy in Japanese culture, and TaiTan went a bit deeper into the inner perspective of the comedy struggle.

TaiTan: Mine was basically a love letter to the team who made Documental. (laughs)

Zo Zhit: Right (laughs). I took a step back to write mine. And in between, there’s a hook, and then Botsu wrote about something that has nothing to do with comedy. But for Botsu, he thought that if he wrote with his usual attitude, his lyrics would have a bit more range, which would be interesting. In the end, each of us thought about what we wanted to do rather than just giving it back to the client within a set framework. TaiTan and I looked at it through a professional lens and wanted to make this client work even more interesting than they expected. And in a way, Botsu decided not to do that as the ultimate form of amateurism.

Botsu a.k.a NGS: My music normally goes beyond the framework, so I feel like I didn’t have to go out of my way to do something meta. I think if the music is cool, then it’s cool. Personally, I like music videos, and I’m a person who consumes them. I think Dos Monos brings out that interesting side of me. 

Zo Zhit: It’s all about balance, isn’t it? When you put our opinions side by side, it looks like they’re at odds with each other. But if we skillfully balance those opinions, Dos Monos becomes better as a whole.

Botsu a.k.a NGS: I was always conflicted though. Now I understand the fact that we’re balancing [our opinions].

Zo Zhit: Botsu is a guy who is always conflicted and in turmoil. About a year ago, I was more assertive, but recently, I’m just a guy who makes songs. (laughs) TaiTan and Botsu are the most radical —on opposite ends of the spectrum—and I’ve decided it’s okay if I just make good songs. (laughs)

Dos Monos hopes that 2022 will be “a year where tricksters toy with the world.”

――Amid that standstill that we’re seeing today, I think Dos Monos’s activities are a good reference — not only for the music industry but for all kinds of industries. Don’t you feel like everything has become a template these days?

Zo Zhit: Everyone can just say what they think they’re supposed to. Works aren’t compelling unless that raw human element comes out, but people just let pretty things be pretty. I guess that’s fine if that works well. But I think that raw human element is the foundation. There needs to be a seductive foundation to begin with. And I don’t mean seductive as in sexy. So much out there is very sterile—if people added even a little bit of personality, I think it’d become incredibly seductive. So first, if you at least have that seductive element, the work will probably be interesting. I think 99% of interesting things out there have that.

――It’s completely different if you can pick up on that raw human touch.

Zo Zhit: To take that even further, that can only be great to the extent that humans can be great. I think that the remaining 1% of amazing things have a godliness that exceeds humans. An extraordinary that transcends seduction. When I consider that, I think that rather than connecting with people who like Dos Monos, it’d be more amazing to connect with people who don’t like us at all. Maybe our greatness would truly be tested for the first time. For example, comedy and baseball are two of Japan’s most local cultures. So we need to become like [Tsuyoshi] Shinjo, who is a trickster within those two cultures.

Botsu a.k.a NGS: Shinjo is unbelievable. TaiTan: Everyone was too satisfied with Otani. (laughs) I’ve been waiting for someone who is more provocative, someone who can bluff. So Shinjo [becoming the manager of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters] was the best news of the year. I think next year, he’ll do something that reinterprets professional baseball. Like, even if they become the lowest-ranked team, they’ll still do well financially because they put on a show for fans. I want [2022 to be] a year where tricksters toy with the world. Otani is an amazing superstar, but people will discover that being a superstar isn’t all that’s amazing and that there are other perspectives out there.  

――And it’s interesting that Shinjo does all that in the old-fashioned world of baseball.

TaiTan: That’s why I want to work with people like Shinjo. I want to connect with [people who have] that sense. Why is it that when some people slip up, they can pull it off? I could watch that forever. There’s something godly about it. And on the flip side, Tatsunami will become the manager of the Chunichi Dragons next year, and he’s talking about banning long hair. Shinjo vs. Tatsunami will be worth watching. Will Shinjo’s values—which somehow work thanks to his absurd Showa-era trickery—prevail, or will traditional Showa-era values make a comeback? If Nippon Ham finishes at the bottom of the rankings, I think that’s still a win for Shinjo in a way.

Zo Zhit: At the very least, next year’s professional baseball will be more interesting than Japanese politics.

Dos Monos
Dos Monos is a hip hop crew comprised of three MCs from Tokyo. The mastermind producer, Zo Zhit, approached TaiTan and Botsu, his classmates in middle and high school, and founded the group in 2015. Before their debut, they played live at Summer Sonic and then got signed to Deathbomb Arc, an LA-based hip hop label home to the likes of JPEGMafia. After performing abroad, they released their first album in March of 2019 titled Dos City. In July 2020, they released their second album, Dos Siki, and on the same day the following year, they released Dos Siki 2nd Season, the reinterpretation of the previous album featuring black midi, Soushi Sakiyama, Tomomi Oda, SMTK, Qiezi Mabo, and JAZZ DOMMUNISTERS. In September, they released Larderello and Dos Siki (1st & 2nd Season) on CD.
YouTube:Dos Monos

Photography Kana Tarumi
Edit Ai Iijima
Translation Aya Apton Aya


Tsuya chan

A culture writer,they write various essays. In January 2022, published a single-authored book, "I Decided to Do Rap: A Critical Theory of Female Rappers. https://twitter.com/shadow0918 https://note.com/shadow0918