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Interview I conducted with DJ MUGGS...

4 posts in this topic

DJ Muggs is a legend… over 20 years in the game and he’s still hungry as ever. Experimenting, creating new sounds, pushing musical boundaries whilst still giving us the raw straight up Hip-Hop that he’s known for. I had the opportunity to speak with Muggs about his recent projects as well as his series of Muggs Vs… albums, future projects and a lot of other shit too… Hope you enjoy the read!

Interview conducted by Pattch82 (pattch82@gmail.com)

Interview Date: May 3rd 2013


PATTCH82: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me…

DJ MUGGS: Yeah no problem, how’s everything?

P82: Yeah good man, how are you…?

MUGGS: Yeah good day today man, good day.

P82: Cool, cool. I wanted to start off by asking about one of the recent projects you’ve put out, the Cross My Heart Hope To Die EP…

MUGGS: Yessir…

P82: How did that collaboration come about…? You seem to have your hand in so many different projects…

MUGGS: Yeah that came about around two years ago, I was going through some music and I found some tracks I had done. I found some leftovers tracks from the DUST album and my boy Andrew Kline from Strife, the guitar player was here and we were talking and he knew this singer. And I was like hey man; you know what would be dope, get this singer chick you know on this here, lay the vocals down for me and work on it and let’s do a project together. So you know, if you do projects with people it isn’t so much of just your time so then I can still do my other things you know what I’m saying? It takes a lot of the pressure off man and he works hard like me. So we recorded some demos, we probably did about sixteen songs. So the songs were done then we stopped, I went on tour, he went on tour. Then we came back and were like, let’s finish the EP.

P82: So are you planning on putting out more releases under the Cross My Heart Hope To Die Banner…?

MUGGS: Well what we did, we started the group and our boy Sean Bonner is in the group and Sean handles a lot of the multi media stuff you know, he started off the Hackerspace club in LA. So he brings this whole other element to the project where being a member, he isn’t really a physical music maker; he brings the whole visual side and the technology side to the group. We got a lot of street art. We got these boxes, they’re all around the world right now, it’s like audio street art and you just go and plug into it and it’ll play you our songs. We started that about a year ago. We all came together to create a project that was more of an interesting way of finding music, so people are going to find this music through the technology side or through the art side because of all the other layers of it and what we’re trying to do with it. The live shows that we’re working on is crazy, it’s fun for all of us man.

P82: I was going to ask about the singer… her vocals are crazy! Especially on that Wild Side track…

MUGGS: Yeah her name is Brevi, she’s out here in LA. She works with a lot of Hip-Hop artists and stuff, she’s worked with 50 Cent, damn a lot of people man, she’s probably on like ten different records that you know. When she works with me, she’s more umm… it brings out another part of her personality. She’s really good at writing from that space man. Like when I first heard what she wrote to my shit I was like unnnhhhh that shit is bangin’ and she sounds haunting. She’s got her own sound, even lyrically. But I got a lot of songs, like blues shit, really bluesy shit, like ten to twelve more songs, we’re recording new stuff now and we’re gonna put another EP out in like four months so I’m just gonna take my time and let it unfold.

P82: You have also put out two Electronic/Dub Step EP’s recently as well as the Bass For Your Face album. Is that still where you’re at musically right now…?

MUGGS: Yeah well I’m doing a lot of projects man, I’m probably doing like five things but part of me, the Bass For Your Face is definitely where I’m at right now. I have about 20 beats, right as we’re talking right now I’m putting all the beats together and I’m going to listen to them over the weekend and then make the next EP, another 5 songs out of those. So yeah, definitely do that. I made that record because I DJ all over the world and I like playing music and in the electronic scene I just wanted to be able to play more of my own music. You know, I was doing remixes for other people and stuff, the first one I took a real Hip-Hop approach and made stuff I could play more at Hip-Hop parties. The stuff I’m working on now is a little different, it’s fun. But on the flip side I’m working with Meyhem Lauren on a project you know, Action Bronson is on a few joints we got a few people on some joints so we got that over here in the cut. When I make a beat that sounds like something else I throw it in a folder, then I start making these sub-folders which eventually become other projects because they really don’t fit with other shit.

P82: I wanted to ask a few questions about your previous Muggs Vs… albums. They are discussed quite a lot on forums and blogs but not a lot is known about how these collaborations came about... I’m assuming the Grandmasters album with GZA/Genius came about through the tracks you did together on the two Soul Assassins albums…?

MUGGS: Yeah yeah working on the two Soul Assassins records together and doing some stuff on one of his other albums (‘Luminal’ from Legend Of The Liquid Sword) and just building a friendship over the years. Everybody always told us y’all should work together y’all should work together. So I was like, shall I make another Soul Assassins record? But the climate started changing in the business. When we did the first Soul Assassins records it was before the explosion of the mixtape game. Once mixtapes started happening, pretty soon it was a lot easier to make a mixtape than it was to make a compilation album because everybody wanted to get paid on an album. But on a mixtape people will just do it for you, and you can use any sample and just put it out. So that became a lot easier and then the problem I had was touring, I couldn’t tour the Soul Assassins record. So I said you know what, instead of making a third Soul Assassins record, you know what would be better, I should just start doing it with one artist. So it’ll be like when you used to see Batman Vs Superman and you would always wonder who won. You know like when we were kids and we’d be like what would happen if a tiger fought a lion and shit like that. So that’s where it came from Muggs Vs GZA and you know, coming together, GZA is big into chess, what’s the highest level you can reach as a chess master? I think we’ve achieved it where we’re from, so that’s a Grandmaster, so that’s where the title came from. I put the chess theme because that’s GZA’s personality so when I work with these cats I try to put their personality across so whether it be Cypress with weed or House Of Pain with the Irish stuff and GZA with the chess, whatever their personality calls for I try to produce their album like that.

P82: I heard that you originally wanted to do this project with Inspectah Deck…?

MUGGS: Yeah that’s true man, we talked first about doing it and I made a bunch of tracks but we just never linked up for whatever reason you know, our schedules never linked up. So I finally got GZA and he was like yeah I’ll come out there. He came out here for a few weeks and we pretty much did it all in two weeks man, his part anyway.

P82: Did you set out to create a Wu-Tang sounding album…? Obviously with all of the chess references and the Wu-Tang guest features it has a heavy Wu vibe…

MUGGS: You know, you got GZA dog so anything that sounds dark… GZA picked the beats. Some beats were done… I guess... I never really thought about it like this… GZA needs a dark record you know what I’m saying? You play him a bunch of dark beats and he’s gonna pick what he likes. I played him a couple of hundred beats, some I wanted him to use, some maybe not but you know, the rapper does what they want.

P82: The next Vs album was with Sick Jacken and Cynic. It’s by far my personal favourite of them all. Can you tell me a little about how that album came about…?

MUGGS: Well Jack is the homie you know. Once the GZA record came out, a lot of the homies were saying we need to do a Vs record but I always check Jack and throughout the years man he’s just gotten better and better, he’s one of my favourites now. He works hard as fuck so we went in, me him and Cynic and we really banged a bunch of shit out and Jack again picked those tracks. I love working with Jack because Jack would pick shit that I would pick if I rapped. He picks shit like ummm... God’s Banker, that beat was just some African war drums and a fuckin’ sick ass fuzz guitar and he just killed it. I would pick that kinda shit and I got so many beats like that but rappers don’t pick shit like that no more, and I guess it’s probably hard when you’re making a single but when you’re making an album you can pull four beats like that and it makes your record better. You ain’t gotta put all these singles on it and a weed song, a love song, one song about the hood and the barbeque you know you don’t need all that bullshit to make an album.

P82: The theme for the Jacken album was conspiracy theories. Going back to what you said before, did you create the theme to go with the MC’s personality or was it Jacken…?

MUGGS: All of us. Umm the GZA record was more like I had a bunch of ideas and I gave him my ideas. This record it was everybody, Cynic brought a lot of ideas to the table, he’s deep into that shit, he’s on the internet everyday. I brought shit, Jack brought shit, everybody brought shit… and we put it all together.

P82: The God’s Banker track is a classic… how Jacken tells the story of Roberto Calvi. It inspired me, and probably a lot of others, to research the topic further…

MUGGS: You wanna know the crazy part about that song dog… it is about that, but at the same time… you know when you see those pictures and you’ll see Einstein but if you move over six inches or look at it a different way matter of fact, you’ll see Marilyn Monroe, you know what I mean? This track, it’s about what you just said plus it’s about like a head mafia boss in prison sending instructions out from prison, making things happen and making money. So if you listen to it, he’s telling two stories at once.

P82: Was it part of the aim of the album to try and get people to go out and read into these conspiracies/topics more and find out the facts for themselves…?

MUGGS: Nah that’s just Jack man, that’s just Jack… You can tell when motherfuckers did some research and worked hard on some shit you know what I mean? Jack kills it man, he’s a witty fuckin’ writer man. And you can’t go, oh he’s just a Mexican rapper because Jack is just a sick fuckin’ rapper period.

P82: Was it a conscious decision not to feature any guests on the album other than Cynic…? It makes the album so cohesive…

MUGGS: Yeah it was definitely a decision we made man, we just wanted to keep it us. Something I always admire, probably because of where I come from, like who’s on Rakim’s album? No one. Who’s on the first EPMD album? No one. Who’s on Run-DMC’s album? No one. Who’s on the LL Cool J album? Nobody. You know, all these early records, who’s on the Public Enemy records? Nobody until Big Daddy Kane and Ice Cube on like the fourth album or something. So we was like, no man, make a fuckin’ record about you. It’s your vibe. People can be on the remixes of the singles or maybe put a couple of dudes here and sprinkle it but I know cats that can’t hold a record down without a bunch of guests. They’re just not that interesting, to hear two verses or 15 three minute songs… they’re not that interesting, they’re not that good songwriters, their personality ain’t that so they sprinkle it with this other shit and it makes it dope because it’s just enough. So that’s why I always say, if you got a group you can make each other sound better just because of the tones in your voice so that when you come back in on the record… you sound ill.

P82: You then did the Pain Language album with Planet Asia…

MUGGS: I love Asia… Asia is a sick fucker…

P82: How did you two hook up…?

MUGGS: My boy Chace Infinite from Self Scientific was like yo you need to get in with Asia. Me and Asia had met each other but Chace really got us in. Me and Asia got in and Asia started picking beats… A lot of those Asia beats, in fact a lot of beats on all three Vs albums were for the original Inspectah Deck record. GZA picked a few of those but then he picked some other shit too, then Jack picked a few of them and Asia picked a few, Ill Bill too and I still got more, there’s a few more floating around that haven’t been used. It’s funny just watching how people react to them over the course of eight years… some motherfuckers are like yo I’ve been looking for this shit nobody makes this kinda shit it’s ill… haha.

P82: Some of the beats on the Asia album are really epic sounding… tracks like All Hail The King and Shadows Of Hell especially. What kind of sound or vibe were you going for on that album…?

MUGGS: Asia’s album I wanted to make a psychedelic rock record. The first song we did was 9MM. So that’s kinda where the whole record started from, I wanted it to be kinda psychedelic. But Asia pretty much picked the beats so with Asia’s thing… Asia is a freestyler man, Asia raps about a lot of shit right. You can’t just say Asia is this or Asia is that. So with me, what each song was about I tailored the beat to the song as opposed to making a whole thing for the album. The album was Pain Language and it was just about pain, punch you in the face Hip-Hop, just like bring the pain you know what I mean?

P82: Cool. So then last of all we had the Kill Devil Hills album with Ill Bill. You previously worked with Bill on his The Hour Of Reprisal album. Can you tell me a little bit about the making of the Kill Devil Hills album…?

MUGGS: Bill was kinda just out here working with the homies and I ran in to him and ran in to him, and we clicked and talked about doing a record. What’s dope is how Bill works man. It takes a lot of time and dedication to make a fuckin’ album and I like making a lot of music so if you’re a rapper, I gotta really want it and you gotta really make it important for me to wanna go spend my time away from other shit I gotta do and my fuckin’ family because at this point I don’t need the damn money and we ain’t making no money off these damn records anyways you know what I’m sayin? So you gotta really want to be in there. And Bill is just a good fuckin’ human being dude, he picks really good music and he writes good and it was so much fun being in there because he interests me, he makes me wanna make a record and he just chills. And we’d go through beats and he’ll go yo I like that one… so when he liked something I just started working on it, I’ll get like a nice skeleton of a beat and pull the samples up and place them, then keep working on it. I get a nice skeleton of a beat for him to rap, to work on, then he spit all his lyrics, he went home and I finished up the music. Then he laid a couple more songs in New York after but it was pretty much two weeks sitting in my studio, just coming in here every day sitting here 12 hours a day type shit.

P82: Have you recorded all of the Vs albums that way, with you and the MC in the studio at the same time…?

MUGGS: Yes, every one of them right here in my studio… right here.

P82: Again the conspiracy theories played a big part in the theme of this album, did that come from Bill…?

MUGGS: Yeah Bill, a lot of the stuff on that album was Bill. Bill is very hands on dude. He made it really easy for me because I’m busy as fuck man and usually with my records I’m 100% hands on with everything from the promotion, to the cover to everything. But Bill made it very easy for me man, he went and got the cover done, he had a lot of interlude ideas, he gave them to me and I went and built them. He got the cover done and we had similar tastes so it was easy, no head buttin’. I don’t think we had anything that we didn’t agree on, on some nahhh I ain’t fuckin’ with that kinda thing. So we’ll be working together some more…

P82: You’ve continued to work with Bill too… you had a track on the Heavy Metal Kings album and also a track on his latest solo album…

MUGGS: Yeah I’m wondering what to do next man, a Heavy Metal Kings album, another solo record with Bill, a solo record with Vinnie Paz…

P82: There were talks of a Muggs Vs Heavy Metal Kings album. Is that still in the pipeline at all…?

MUGGS: Yeah that would be dope! I wanna do everything with these guys because they’re cool as fuck, Vinnie is cool as fuck. It’s the timing sometimes man, there just isn’t enough fuckin’ time to do everything. Plus we live far away you know. But I think we’ll make something happen very soon, you’ll be like oh shit I never seen that coming!

P82: You recently mentioned possibly doing an EP with Vinnie Paz also…

MUGGS: Yeah we talked about it you know, we talked about it. I thought it would be dope to bang it out cos we could do it in a week. So I just gotta get back with Vinnie probably after the summer man because I’m booked pretty much right through August now.

P82: And then there’s also the Meyhem Lauren collaboration that you mentioned earlier. Can you speak a little more on that…? Is it close to completion…?

MUGGS: We got some shit dog… Muggs & Meyhem. We got about … ummmm… about say 15 songs. There’s 11 that I like a lot, it’s some shit… matter of fact, you wanna hear something dog? I know you do…

P82: Hell yeah!

Muggs proceeds to play a snippet of a track from the Meyhem Lauren collab…

MUGGS: So that’s that shit man, you heard it?

P82: Yeah yeah! DAMN! Meyhem spittin’ hard on there…

MUGGS: Haha I like it a lot man. We gonna work on it some more man because it could be amazing so we’re like ok we banged a bunch of shit out in two weeks now we can just go back and start working on it now.

P82: So is that something for the later part of the year too…?

MUGGS: I mean I work on it whenever I’m home… I’m gonna take the rest of the week to organise all my files. I start working and every month I just stop for like two days and just reorganise because I got too much shit and I can’t find shit sometimes. So that’s what I’m doing today. I’m laying all the bass lines down… and doing interviews in between.

P82: Between the Grandmasters album with GZA and now, have there been any other Vs projects that you tried to get off the ground that never happened…?

MUGGS: No there hasn’t been… ummm let me think about it… nah there hasn’t been nothing. After Asia we threw out the Intermission record, and then Bill then I started working on the Bass music. And now we’re getting back to a bunch of Hip-Hop shit and everything is smooth right now. I want to work with some new artists and do some different shit. I got some other projects, I don’t even wanna talk about the other projects yet because we’re focussed on these and this is plenty to talk about but there’s about four or five other projects I got crackin’ so that’s why a lot of shit is coming out soon. I got more shit coming. I went a whole year and a half last year you were probably like what’s crackin? Doing all this shit…. The next five years is gonna get ugly! Haha.

P82: Would you ever consider making a second album with GZA, or Jacken, Asia, etc…? Like Grandmasters 2…?

MUGGS: Oh for sure…

P82: I read online that there were talks or plans for a possible Muggs Vs B-Real album…?

MUGGS: Yeah I think we’ll just do a Cypress Hill record instead. That’s what that is going to be like basically. The Cypress machine is too huge.

P82: What kinda time frame are you looking at for the next Cypress album…?

MUGGS: I got some tracks done, but we’ll see what happens….

P82: Will it be back to the old Cypress formula, with you doing most of the production…?

MUGGS: I don’t know yet, I did a bunch of tracks, I’ve got about 20 tracks but we haven’t laid no songs yet so I’m just gonna see how it comes out. It could be good man, it could be really dope.

P82: You also mentioned a while back about possibly putting out unreleased material from the Temples Of Boom era…?

MUGGS: I got a gang of that shit. Ummm, I’m not planning on anything at all, just holding on to it. There’s no reason to put it out right now.

P82: A few years back there was a track on the Intermission album, the P.C.P. track with you, Jacken and Necro…

MUGGS: Yeah you know what; it just never got off the ground man. Everything can’t happen you know. Necro is incredible man that would have been great to do…

P82: Was there more P.C.P. tracks or just that one…?

MUGGS: I think me and Necro recorded about five but Jack only rapped on that one. He didn’t rap on the others.

P82: Do you think you will ever make another Soul Assassins type album…?

MUGGS: I don’t know, it would have to be different. I’d have to come up with the right idea. I’ve got a few ideas you know, but I don’t think it’s time yet.

P82: I often think that the careers of yourself and RZA are quite similar. You are both producers that started out in group settings; you both went on to produce solo albums and then went on to do work on movie scores… Is the scoring of movies something that you enjoyed…? Would you like to do more of that…?

MUGGS: I would love to do more. Here’s what I would love to do to be honest with you, I would prefer to do an independent film next time because I’ve done studio stuff and a lot of the time they just don’t know what the fuck they want. The director knows what he wants, so you make the director happy but then the studio don’t like it. Or then the studio like it but the director and the producers don’t like it but the problem is that must of them don’t know what the fuck they want. They don’t know. The director might know and I’m usually talking to him trying to make him happy you know what I mean? And the director gotta fight for what he wants on there but a lot of the time they know and sometimes they don’t know and I’m just like wow! So I wanna do an independent thing and I’m talking to a few people about something, we just working it out.

P82: Do you have any aspirations to direct a movie at all or would you rather stick to the soundtrack/score…?

MUGGS: I would have to take my time man. I’d have to do what RZA did but I would have probably done a couple of independent art films first instead of going straight into a big film. When I’m ready to do something like that I’d have to stop doing the music because I get so obsessive when it comes to things I wouldn’t do nothing else I would just do that. I’d be making movies and practicing because I know how much time and energy it would take man, it would take me a year just to learn the basics.

P82: That’s pretty much everything I wanted to ask… thanks very much for your time and speaking with me man…Is there anything else you’d like to add before we finish…?

MUGGS: Nah man I think we’re pretty good bro… Thank you too for your time brother and for calling me man I know it’s late as fuck over there. If you ever need anything just holler at me man. Respect bro.


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