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MAN WITH A MISSION Interview with Jean-Ken Johnny on Playing Arenas in Japan, Touring with Jimmy Eat World, and Seattle’s Music Scene

To learn more about what’s ahead for Japanese superstars MAN WITH A MISSION, we had the pleasure of speaking with vocalist/guitarist Jean-Ken Johnny.



There are many distinct things about Japanese rock band MAN WITH A MISSION. For starters, its five members — vocalist Tokyo Tanaka, bassist Kamikaze Boy, vocalist/guitarist Jean-Ken Johnny, DJ Santa Monica, and drummer Spear Rib — have unique stage names. But more notoriously, all five musicians wear wolf masks on-stage and in their music videos. Stylistically, the quintet also stands out by combining hard rock and dance-pop, making a sound that is simultaneously heavy, energetic and digital. On top of that, the group sings in English.

To date, MAN WITH A MISSION has released four studio albums and all four have sold more than 100,000 copies in Japan; two of them charted in the top five on the album chart, while the group’s five Wolf Complete Works DVDs have all hit #1 or #2 on the Oricon chart. All of its commercially-released singles have charted, while MTV Video Music Awards Japan nominations were received in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Not content to just be popular in Japan, MAN WITH A MISSION has also toured overseas consistently in North America, Europe and Taiwan, having shared the stage with Jimmy Eat World, Slipknot, MxPx, Stone Sour, Cash Cash and Steel Panther.

“My Hero” is the latest single by the Japanese superstars, and earlier this month the group played to nearly 40,000 fans between its two shows at the Saitama Super Arena. To learn more about what’s ahead for MAN WITH A MISSION, we had the pleasure of speaking with Jean-Ken Johnny.

Check out the the gang’s new “My Hero” music video.

Don Broco will be opening at upcoming arena shows. How did you choose Don Broco to be your support act?
Jean-Ken Johnny: We were looking for a support act for the shows in Tokyo and someone sent us Don Broco’s music. We loved it so we asked them straight away to join us and they said yes!

Did MAN WITH A MISSION ever serve as an opening act in an arena?
Johnny: Of course we have! But not yet overseas, so we can’t wait to do that.

Do you have a favorite song to perform live?
Johnny: Every song is our favorite, but if I chose one maybe “Dive.”

Your band has toured the States alongside Cash Cash, Jimmy Eat World, Slipknot and Steel Panther, four bands that could not be any different from each other. What has been your favorite tour of the United States?
Johnny: Every tour was memorable for us, but if I had to choose one, it would be the one that we recently did with Jimmy Eat World. They were such great guys and they brought us a cake which had the message “Best Tour Ever” written on it.

Any plans for another U.S. tour?
Johnny: Definitely. Please. Can’t wait!

Watch the music video for the single “Raise Your Flag” here.

You have a touring musician named E.D. Vedder and have recorded a few Nirvana covers. Was the Seattle music scene one of the reasons you started playing music?
Johnny: It was definitely one of the most influential music scene. The vibe, the energy, the whole 90’s alternative music going on is all in my blood.

What was the first concert you ever attended as a fan?
Johnny: We’re wolves and aren’t allowed to go into the crowd.

As an arena-level band with top-selling albums and singles, is there a major career goal that you are working towards?
Johnny: Ever since I chose to play music, performing at the biggest festival as a headliner was always my dream. I just love the vibe of the festivals and the crowd that is waiting for the artists. It’s such a beautiful atmosphere.

When not busy with music, how do you like to spend your free time?
Johnny: Reading Japanese manga — comics. They’re so full with innovative ideas and stories.

Finally, Jean-Ken, any last words for the kids?
Johnny: Everybody out there in the world, the wolves are coming for you. Get ready for MAN WITH A MISSION, and get ready to have a blast!

You can peep the guys’ “Dog Days” video here. Go on now!