Mugison - Return Of The Mugician
Mugison Live @ Drake, Toronto 10. March 2010
Mugison makes music that ranges from gentle laptop pop to heavy, flamboyant rock. He started recording songs on his laptop in 2001 and in 2003 released the experimental glitch-pop album "Lonely Mountain", which was released on Matthew Herbert's Accidental label.
That same year Mugison and his father (Papamugs) founded the Aldrei fór ég suður (AFS) festival, and Mugison recorded the soundtrack to Friðrik Þór Friðriksson's 2004 film ”Niceland” in a church in his hometown, Ísafjörður.
In 2005 he released "Mugimama, Is This Monkey Music?", which won five Icelandic Music Awards that year (including Album of the Year and Song of the Year for "Murr Murr"). For his next album, "Mugiboogie", Mugison traded the whimsical electronics for more bandmembers and a bluesy rock & roll sound.
As the 7th installment of AFS looms on the horizon, we catch up with the Mugi Master to talk about the festival, self-made instruments and a new solo album…
Interview with Mugison by Iceland Music Export (IMX):
Where are you right now and what did you do today?
I just arrived in Toronto today, and I’m doing this event to promote Icelandic culture and food with a company called Iceland Nature. I’m having a lot of fun with the chef, Þór. We’ve done two shows at the Drake Hotel here.
What have you been doing since the release of Mugiboogie?
Well I’ve done a lot of shows. 2008 was pretty much packed. 2009 was about spending time with the family, doing a few gigs and working on a new album. Oh, and I made a new instrument too.
Did all the touring with Mugiboogie take your career to new levels in some ways?
In some places of the world it got me further. For example Germany was a territory where not much had been going on before, but it is a bit now. On the other hand places like France don’t really like the rock & roll, I used to be relatively popular there, then started fading out. Recently I’ve been doing some one man shows and again it’s easier! It’s all ups and downs.
What were the highlights and lowlights of your time on tour in 2009?
The highlight for 2009 was playing Five Burroughs in one day in New York. That was in August and I felt more like an athlete than a musician, but it was great fun and I met a lot of really nice people. I was very proud of that. The lowlights – I probably played a few shows a bit too drunk maybe, but I can’t specifically remember which ones…
Were the Stateside dates good times in general?
I like playing the States. It’s a territory I haven’t concentrated on so much as it’s huge and you need a lot of money, but myself and Davíð Þór and my producer Biggi drove through America a bit and we loved it. It was such an experience to do a gig a day like that, sometimes driving 20 hours to play in front of only 20-30 people…it’s a lot of work but an amazing thing. It was probably one of my favourite trips ever, being with the boys and having fun. But really it needs more work and money if its gonna happen properly. You need PR people and planes. People need to know you have a show there, and that just costs money.
You've just released a live album - what can you tell us about that?
At the beginning of last year I realized that the band I was playing with, which was five of us, was coming to an end. We were done playing the Mugiboogie shows and I wanted to capture our thing before we went out own ways. So we went into the studio, had some good food and a few beers and jammed for a bit. I’m really happy we captured it, it’s good to have it as a document. That combination of loudness, sweat and eye contact can be a great thing.
You've also been busy with other musical projects in the last few months – what’s up the Mugi sleeve!?
There are a few things. I’ve made this instrument with a friend of mine, a great artist and a sound maniac. It took a long time but it’s ready and we’re going to make an album with it. I’ve also been doing this side project making some Icelandic songs for an Icelandic album. And myself and Davíð Þór are also working on an album, a soundtrack to no particular movie. The idea is to have an album’s worth of music that indie filmmakers with no budget can use without having to clear the rights and pay lots of money. There’s more but it’s probably not wise to say too much now, as some things take time.
Is the line up fixed for Aldrei? Any anecdotes about this year's preparations?
I’ve been touring since November, including Iceland and Europe last December and February 2010, and also the States this month (March). So I’ve only sent in my request list and it’s really in the hands of other, good folks like Kristján Feyr from Reykjavik!, my dad and the Rock & Roll Chief who’s kind of in charge. The list I saw recently had lots of good, popular bands and some very interesting newcomers. We’re really excited.
Have any Icelandic artists made a big impression on you in the last few months?
I like some of the tracks on a compilation called Weirdcore. I also like this band Foreign Monkeys, their album is good.
How do you describe the event to folk who have never been to Iceland or heard of the festival before?
It’s an interesting festival in one of the most remote parts of Iceland. Very few tourists bother going, so it’s only a special type of person that takes the time to check it out. Usually people are amazed. The festival is over Easter too, which makes it even harder to get there, because of weather and stuff. If you can make it, it’s special. We have a few funny rules, like everyone plays for 20 minutes and now more; there are no sound checks; it’s free admission; no one gets paid; and everyone is welcome. The crowd is really from 7 to 700 years old. It’s a great little secret we've got up there.
What do you personally love most about AFS?
I love it when it all clicks, when the music and people all work…there’s a togetherness about it I can’t describe. A lot of hard work is put into it and there’s this joy…we don’t have the concept of money there, and when you take money out of any equation you get fun.
What other plans are there for 2010?
I want to spend time with my kids back home, finish the new album. If I finish it mid or late 2010, then maybe I’ll do some touring.
What’s your biggest wish for 2010 in general?
I want people to have opportunities and to be safe in Iceland. The crisis has been scary here. The majority are safe and some are happy but it seems like our politicians are blocked and I’m scared that the health and education systems will be harmed. I hope our politicians will grow up, take some responsibility and kick some ass - show what they’re made of and at least take a step towards the future. Half of me is a hippy so I also want peace and happiness for everyone in general.