Brian Lindgren, a.k.a. Mux Mool, may be a modern musician by all counts (the guy doesn’t think he’s ever made music without the help of a computer or sampler), but when you actually sit him down for a chat, and distill all his random musings and side stories, you realize he’s spouting out hard-hitting, life-changing gems like a present-day Buddha.
Here’s one of my favorites, from a Spinner feature on his latest album Planet High School (2012): “I would like to show people that you don’t need much to be happy, and that the traditional ‘straight and narrow’ path no longer leads to security and fulfillment, it leads to debt and worry. From my personal experience, once I really set all that aside and just worked on what I wanted to work on, that’s how I became happy. Everyone’s got their cart before the horse. It’s not about working your whole life so someday you can have hobbies and relax, it’s about doing what you want all the way through.”
The plain and simple truth. Take it from this Minnesota native, who’s learned a thing or two, having been a “huge, annoying mess, and very drunk” from the age of 21 to 24. “Before fully pursuing music, I was fully pursuing alcohol, drama, and low-paying, low-responsibility jobs. I’ve had so many jobs, been fired from them all,” he states frankly. “One year I was in the hospital three times for alcohol-related injuries. That last time waking up in the hospital was pretty serious.”
So although Brian had already been in rehab once, he decided to give it another try and thankfully, things stuck this time around. He was able to clean up, patch things up with his family and friends, and hold a steady job again. “Then I thought, ‘Well, now what?’” recalls Brian, who had his first taste of music a few years back, banging around on a cheap toy sampling keyboard. “I remember being so fascinated by how much a sound changed when you dropped it down several octaves. So I decided I was gonna devote myself to doing music, and really giving myself a fair shot. And well, here we are.”
“Here we are” happens to be in Brooklyn, New York, with a full-time music career and a steady run of eight albums and EPs under his belt in the last five years.
Not that there’s a standard musician schedule, but five albums and EP releases in two years seems like a lot. How have the past few years been for you?
Have I really put out that much in two years? It really doesn’t feel like all that much. By the time I actually got around to releasing music, I guess I already had quite a bit of material ready to go, and you gotta hit the ground running. Albums are in a weird place these days anyway. I know musicians that constantly have to pump out tracks because their audiences get bored so fast. And when you’re trying to build ‘hype’, releases have in some way just become promotional devices to sell tours. I guess I still see it the old school way, where albums are supposed to be a culmination of genuine experiences, not just more beats for fodder.
Let’s dig into your musical influences a bit more… What are the favorite records in your collection? Top J Dilla tracks? Most played video games?
Favorite records? I don’t typically go for collector’s item records, I prefer $1 records for obvious reasons, but I was blown away by Neil Young’s Trans album when I found it. Imagine if Neil Young made techno and sang with a robot voice, ’cause it’s real. Uh, California 1999 was really cool when I found that. Also, I have a record that is spoken instructions on how to solve the Rubix cube, so in addition to a bunch of ridiculous directions, it’s got some sick instrumental bits in between segments.
Ooh, Favorite J Dilla is tough, but I gotta go with a collab beat: Jaylib and McNasty Filth. That shit is fucking raw still. Most played game is tough, too. I honestly can’t say what I’ve logged the most hours into. I want to say Final Fantasy 7, but once I discovered weed I’m pretty sure I played Tony Hawk 2 for well over 99 hours.
I think it’s pretty interesting that “Mux Mool” was a name submitted to you on MySpace. Were there any other potential names on the table?
I know there were a bunch of names submitted, even though I only had like, 200 Myspace friends at the time. I tried to go back and find the responses but Myspace sucks. A lot of the messages were deleted when people left, and in general, it was just a mess trying to filter through all the spam. Before Mux Mool I wanted to go by Muad’Dib, from Frank Herbert’s Dune, one of my favorite books and movies. I think there is or was a rapper by that name, though. Just before Mux Mool, I was about to call the project Negative Dude, but something about naming myself was just too weird.
Mux is short for ‘multiplexing’, which is the streaming of many types of information through one channel… and Chac-Mool is an ancient Meso-American stature of a reclining man.
Do you remember what you were doing when you first heard Moodgadget was going to include your track on their Rorschach Suite compilation? How many tracks did you have under your belt at that time?
Well, I remember I made the song “Lost and Found”, which was on the comp, actually out of some kind of spite. I had almost given up trying to make beats and some dude wrote me and was all ‘Where’d all your songs go, dude?’—and this was from someone I didn’t like very much. So I was like, ‘Oh, you want a song? Here’s a song!’ I went home and made it and posted it up. A few weeks later, Jakub [Marek Alexander] from Moodgadget wrote me—again through Myspace— asking for the track. It was like, three in the morning, and I wrote him back, saying I would call him the next day and gave him my phone number. About seven minutes later, my phone is ringing. That’s how I met Jakub, and that song went on to be one of iTunes best electronic songs of 2006. Imagine that, my first song.
Do you have a specific starting point for your songs, like say an emotion or experience? And how do you come up with your awesome track titles?
I never have anything in mind when I sit down to work. I do visual art as well—I have actually been drawing a lot longer than I have been making music, and it’s the same way. I definitely have thoughts and feelings, but I let those things work themselves out on the page or within the song. I usually don’t know what songs are really about until people tell me what their experiences with the songs are. Many times when I look back at certain things I’ve made and remember how I was doing at the time, I get it, but it’s never truly conscious.
As far as track names, that’s a tough gambit. Songs with words are easy to name, but naming instrumentals is tough. Most of the time I just make the songs and slap on a cool sounding name after it’s done. I think of cool names and write them down and save them for later. So when it’s release time, I just plug them where they fit. Some names like, “Get Better John” actually refer to real people I know and real experiences, but more often than not, it’s completely arbitrary.
I read that it can take you anywhere from two hours to eight years to complete a track. How do you know when you’re done?
Songs are never done, but done is better than perfect. Again, it’s just one of those things, since my process is one of discovery in itself, you never know how quickly the right pieces will fall into place. In some cases I take a sample, chop it, loop it up for a beat, then scrap the beat, render the loop, and chop it again. Then I’ll save that, and so on ad infinitum. Every little sample has its right place somewhere, and I gotta get them to that place. Sometimes that means messing with some of the same old loops for years, just bringing them up and seeing if they work.
I never throw out ideas. Ever since I started collecting records and samples, I always made sure never to lose my library. My library is like my voice in a way. That’s how my style comes across. A collection of sounds that I personally am attracted to, and using them in interesting ways. That’s the fun.
Your music has been pretty hard to pin down to a genre. Is this something you intentionally do? Is there a common denominator that ties together all your work?
Well again, I don’t really ever know what I’m gonna make when I start, but also I’ve always felt that electronic music is a study in all music. Computer music is unlimited—why would you want to keep yourself within a genre?
I use samplers, I sample records, and I chop the crap out of them. So as far as I’m concerned, whether it’s a dance song, a slow ballad, or some crazy left field drum ‘n’ bass, it’s all kicks and snares and beats. They are all exercises in rhythm and tempo. Most genres have more in common with each other than factors that separate them. I would say the only common denominator among all the songs I make is my attempts at emotional content. Nothing is a filler. It’s all got some kind of feeling.
Your first album Skulltaste had 20 tracks, while you’re latest Planet High School has half that number. How would you say you and your music are now as compared to when you first began?
Well, lemme just say that 20 tracks is way too many tracks, especially for a first album. I think this was due to Ghostly giving me a chance and just putting it all out there and seeing what, if anything, would stick. But it was also my first album—I had no precedent for how it was supposed to go, so when someone said 20 tracks, I said ‘Yep, I got that.’.
But as the saying goes: Quality over quantity. I wanted to do fewer tracks, but to work on those tracks with more intention and skill. I wanted to refine them, and highlight them. Also, Skulltaste was all mixed on a pair of really cheap headphones, often mixed in cars, coffee shops, clubs, etc. I wanted to step up my sonic game for this new release, too. I think that difference is clearly evident on Planet High School.
You mentioned that a musician should be exposed to many music genres and cultures. So what are you into and not into now?
Anyone who calls themselves a musician should study music and it’s history before they drink their first backstage beer. I’ve met a lot of would-be electronic musicians who don’t seem to know their electronic music history. In short, electronic music was not always this popular, it did not always get you laid, it did not always play in clubs, you did not always get good money, and people did not always consider it to be music. Many people paved the way for us to live in the world we’re in now.
Computer music is at another peak right now, and that’s a good thing, despite whatever genre is dominating. And when it comes to that, I’m so anti-genre. As soon as some blogger comes up with some new term, suddenly that’s the new thing, and people want to attach themselves to this thing, it’s ridiculous. Remember when trance was big in the 90′s? I do. I was so into that, and now who listens to trance? That’s the story of genre, if you work that hard to bind yourself with a scene, you will die when that scene inevitably dies. This has happened over and over and over with all fields of art throughout history. My point being: Don’t limit yourself.
We don’t need to have big houses and cars and a nest egg to get along. There’s nothing that says you can’t rent an apartment your whole life and not be happy.
—On his latest album, Planet High School (2012)
As an artist that actually wants to travel and perform more, are there any destinations you have in mind?
Well, this year I’m starting to bring some live visuals with me on some tour runs. I think including live visuals is the next step for me. I just want there to be another interactive level for the audience. Shows shouldn’t be about me being up in front of people, it should be about highlighting the audience. It should be about creating an environment where people can let loose and have fun, and that’s tough when you got me just staring back at you. I’m not very fun.
As far as destinations, I want to play everywhere. Off the top of my head, Japan and Australia are the two biggest places I’d like to play. I’ve still never been to Europe either… would love to get over there. But honestly, I’d be just as stoked to play in somebody’s basement if the mood was right. I’ve also been attempting Ustream shows. Not everyone likes going out, I would like to play for all the people sitting at home too.
It’s been said that you’re constantly on the computer, and you mentioned never making music without help of one. How many hours a day do you clock in front of the screen?
Well, if I’m not staring at the computer, I’m staring at my TV, which is pretty much like a computer screen anyway, absorbing as much as I can from Netflix. And of course, now I have an iPad so I stare at that, and my iPhone, etc. My eyes go almost uninterrupted from computer screens from the time I wake up till the time I go to bed, and I sleep with the TV on. In a lot of ways, my computer is everything. It’s how I create, it’s how I talk to family and friends, it’s how I make money, it’s where I go when I need something, it’s how I take in all relevant information. My computer is more me than I am.
Out of all my favoritest sites of all time, this one is my most visited. It’s just a page that shows the last 50 images uploaded to LiveJournal. I could just hit refresh all day.
As a self-confessed nerd, is there anything outside of music that you’re currently obsessing with these days?
Yes, I stumbled upon a documentary about Macho Man Randy Savage. It was a compilation of his greatest matches intertwined with his life story. I was just blown away by it. I then realized that there are a lot of wrestling documentaries on Netflix. And now I can’t get enough of them. To hear what these guys went through to get to where they are is very inspiring. Within the professional wrestling world, everyone starts at zero. You got guys who dressed up in silly costumes, and went into a ring to perform a choreographed fight with another man in another costume for small audiences and little pay. And they do that for years and years. Why? Because they love it, and they have the courage to keep at it. That in itself is success. So any time I’m feeling blue about what I have or don’t have, I just put on one of those and feel grateful that at least I’m in the ring, doing what I love.
And a personal favorite: