Sonic adventurer and musical multi-tasker Mugison kicked off his recording career in fine style with his 2003 album, “Lonely Mountain,” released on Matthew Herbert’s subsidiary label, Lifelike label. A wayward yet compelling amalgam of laptop experimentation and raw songwriting, the album established Mugi as a serious force in Icelandic music
Following up with the even more crafted “Mugimama, is this Monkey Music?” (released in 2005 on Herbert’s main label, Accidental), Mugi cemented his rep as a serious songsmith with a touch of attention deficit disorder.
After many, many months of touring and writing movie soundtracks (“Niceland”, “A Little Trip To Heaven” among them), Mugison is now back with his best project yet – “Mugiboogie”. Ditching the laptop and wonky electronics for a flesh & blood rock & roll band, “Mugiboogie” is one of the rawest, dirtiest, bluesiest and most honest albums you’ll hear this year.
Already a platinum seller in his native country (where it also picked up Album of the Year after it’s domestic release last October), “Mugiboogie” will be released internationally in April/May. On top of writing what’s looking to be one of Iceland’s most memorable rock albums, Mugi has also been busy with his own music festival (run with his father, Papamugs) – Aldrei for ég suður (I Never Went South).
This album is different to your previous projects in that it’s a lot more rock & roll - what kind of specific sound were you after?
I wanted the sound of brutality. I wanted a bit of The Pixies, Elvis Presley in his last weeks, some Screaming Jay Hawkins, Sepultura, Aphex Twin… I wanted that kind of last-minute brutality.
Was the album planned and conceived to be that way from the beginning?
I wouldn’t call it a plan, just a state of mind. The sound just wanted to go that way. One of the big influences I think was that one of the soundtracks I did, the last one, ended up causing me a lot of frustration. I had already started my new album, and then had to take a break from it, and that pissed me off. But the director was such a good friend I couldn’t say no so I just got really depressed.
And the frustration and depression acted as a creative spark?
I think the desperation came through. It’s been three years since I did “Mugimama…” and I really wanted to do an album that could be the equivalent of my all time favourite albums. I wanted to something with an everlasting quality like “Pet Sounds” or “Sgt Peppers”, or “The Black Album”, or “Back in Black”. I wanted it to sound like it could have been made 50 years ago but yet still have the sound of today.
Pretty ambitious. Was it as challenging a project as it sounds?
The level of work that went into it was intense. I redid most of the tracks about a trillion times, and kept deleting them. You make a song and give it lyrics and chord changes, but then you have put emotions into it and work out yet again what it’s all about. There’s a range of sounds there. “George Harrison” is a loving track, and it took me a month to get it right, and caused a lot of frustration. I started smoking again and was totally stressed. I knew it was a great song but I wanted to get it right, to do it justice, not to be too phony, and yet for it to still be a tribute. Then you get to the point where you’ve been hearing it for too long and it’s hard to have any objectivity. The whole point this time was not just to write songs and record them, but redo them until they felt like old friends, until you feel like you’re performing them in Las Vegas…
Sounds like an intense process – how many songs hit the cutting room floor?
I had to throw away so many. It’s easy to spot the fakes. It’s like when you meet a person and you like him and her for the first couple of hours and then you start drinking or sharing a bed, and then spend a couple of weeks with them, maybe make love to them, then realize they’re not so real. That’s what some of these songs were like.
Did a theme emerge as you put the album together?
There’s not really a theme. I just wrote all the songs and they kind of reflect what I was thinking about during that period. All the songs have a lot of love in them, they have a lot of healing, and this album totally saved me. “Sweetest Melody” is like a gospel song or a psalm, which is me thanking music for saving me all the time and changing my mood. “The Great Unrest” is more like that feeling when you’re lying in bed with your loved one, just trying to find peace while being in the state of a nervous breakdown. “To The Bone” is a jealousy track, about frustration and love.
There’s some sex in there too…
Lots of sexual frustration. I have just turned 30, so I’m at the point in my life when sexual frustration is kicking in. Ten years from now could be a dangerous period. I love Marvin Gaye’s sexual frustration in his music, He was impotent but he wrote and sang these crazy sexual songs. I like the contrasts, the shift between emotions. I have a short attention span and with most albums the biggest problem is every song is the same, the same kind of phrases and beats, and I really don’t like that. I wanted to do the complete opposite, where you have extremes of all worlds. So there’s songs about suicide, sex and masturbation and then a song about how love’s gonna save you.
“Jesus Is A Name To Moan” – interesting title for a song?
I heard a story about how women always scream names like ‘God’ and ‘Jesus’ when they come. I wondered about this a bit and made a theory that it was maybe because Jesus’ mum, Mary, is the only woman in history that had a baby without a man, and that maybe put a curse on all women so that they would be screaming the name of baby Jesus. I wasn’t happy until the song had that fast-slow intercourse feeling…it just keeps on speeding up until it can’t go anymore.
It’s a pretty different project from “Mugimama” – how do you feel about the differences?
The theme on “Mugimama” was love and happiness. I had just started with my wife, and was into my relatives and family. This new one is really my take on life for the past 2-3 years, all the ups and downs. Plus at the end of “Mugimama” I was tired of being a one man show and I felt like a phony for around half a year, plying the same kinds of jokes on stage like a circus act, drinking heavily on tours, missing home a lot.
You’ve juggled a lot of work with having a family. Has that been hard?
The soundtracks I did involve a lot of work. I have two small boys and you do feel like a bad father if you are always working. There’s no Sunday off and going to pools and enjoying your family life, but that’s is partly why we moved to the countryside (Súðavík), to be closer as a family and that has helped a lot. I built a studio at home so if there’s a crisis I can take part, and I can read the kids stories and put them to bed before I work.
Mugison will be touring Canada with Queens of the Stone Age in May
More Mugison @ www.mugison.com