Mux Mool has made a name for himself as a proprietor of some of the most unique, forward thinking hip hop around. His latest record, ‘Appetite For Production’, speaks for itself and is well worth checking out. We were lucky enough to chat with him about his early life, overcoming addiction and plans for the future.
Could you tell us a bit about the scene you grew up in and how you got involved in music?
But seriously…’scene’…I don’t know that I grew up in a scene as much as I grew up on my own- sometimes on purpose, sometimes because I was just moving around. I always found myself going with what I liked. My initial attraction to electronic music stemmed from video games. I always liked video games and I felt the music was far better than it’s intended purpose and what it was actually used for. My dad used to make my brothers and I just listen to music…we listened to the ambient show on the radio every Sunday in Minnesota, and he exposed me to a lot of stuff. I had no idea it would benefit me later.
I’ve realised that all my favorite songs lead with a synth. I decided to follow that.
What was the initial focus of your work? Did you adhere to a particular genre or idea?
Well yeah. On my 18th birthday I took mushrooms that my brother gave me and listened to “Homework” by Daft Punk over and over and over again. Fatboy Slim, Justice, things like that. That said, I didn’t want to take drugs for the sole purpose of opening myself to things per se, because I always heard the people that did that talk about nothing but that. I first wanted to start making house and trance, and make a whole room move. I remember recognising music and not understanding where it came from and wanting to learn how to do that. Everything I’ve done is self-taught. It keeps being exciting. When I first started, I used Acid 3.0 and just combined layers of loops; and that was the most exciting thing in the world. I’ve strayed from that now, but that’s definitely where I started.
Nothing really serious came together until I quit skateboarding. That was NOT getting better… so I decided I wanted to move into this. I started leaving dance music when I couldn’t get the drums right, I couldn’t get the samples to flow with what I really wanted to do. Then I found myself playing in Minnesota hipster coffee bars and my computer music was not well received. I didn’t get serious about it until after rehab, and I decided I wanted to be sober and just create something.
The long and short of it is I had no idea that there was a “live” aspect to the whole electronic music thing when I started. I thought I was just getting to sit in my bedroom and make tunes for myself.
What was your first 12” record? Was it of any particular inspiration to you?
It’s hard to say. I guess I would say my first vinyl that I found and bought for myself was “A Guide to Solving the Rubiks Cube”. No matter how fucked up it was, no matter where the colors were, this record would help you solve it. It also ended with this sweet disco sample. I found it inspiring because it made me feel like- that was the whole world. I was so blown away. It was really cool to see something like that come together. I certainly don’t think there’s a plot to the whole world or even my life. It’s just putting together the pieces.
I listened to, literally, only Weird Al up until 8th grade, and I’m still working with some of the very first things I ever sampled.
When I visited record stores, I also loved the soundtrack section because there was no vocals and very significant moods- people trying to tell a complete story.
For you, what was the biggest catalyst or motivator toward becoming a producer?
Bah, terms. They’re definitely used to identify, but man, they’re also definitely used to limit.
But seriously, a lot of it had to do with being sober after my second round of rehab. I came back to the tiny apartment I was renting with no bed, and all I had was my monitor hooked up to – literally – a boombox. I started feeling that I needed to have things that were new, and to be a part of creating those things. Being far away from everything and everyone that I knew before that point was important. It was like escaping for me.
I went to a hotel once when I was touring with Eliot Lipp and I had this huge moment of recognition. Everything was so set up and useful and functional. And I wanted a part of that and I started feeling that creating music lead me to feeling that way.
How have you found the rise to recognition? Did it all happen really quickly? How do you balance life and travel?
I did not balance it. There was only travel, and there was no life. I loved what I was doing, and it fed me. I didn’t need anything else.
I also did not feel like it happened fast. It happened slowly, like many good things should. If I had been successful at 21, I would have stayed drunk and I would not have appreciated success.
I do think the rise to recognition question is funny. I mean, I am pretty tall. I don’t know why people have the view of me that they do. I’m not sure that I really have that much recognition.
Your latest release ‘Appetite for Production’ seems unconcerned (in the best possible way) with the direction of other contemporary hip-hop, do you pay much attention to what goes on in the scene or does everything you make come from within?
Some people believe that the best art is made completely in a vacuum, without the influence of any art ever. I don’t really believe that. Everything is influenced by everything else and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I’m susceptible to it too, but Appetite for Production is what I always envisioned myself making- hard hitting hip hop rhythms. I do pay attention, for better or worse, to things in the hip hop scene- Jel, Prof, Kanye, whatever- and I do like to take things I do and don’t like about each and create something from that.
What is most important to you as a producer? Do you set rules for yourself?
I don’t really have many personal rules or restrictions because I think that makes it more difficult. I can do whatever I want and it’s surprising that I haven’t gotten more done. I find myself basing my experience on very malleable concepts, such as making music that is “genuine”. Whatever that means to the user. I think it’s more important more than ever in a new and changeable music industry to not make quick and flippant decisions about what your music is, how you want to make it and the image you want to portray yourself. There is always a company smarter than arrogant drug-addicted artists, waiting to pounce on the industry, and those flippant decisions are what lead to a lack of artistic integrity and industrialisation of an art form.
Could you go into a bit of detail about your track making process? What DAW do you use? Do you use much hardware? What’s your favourite plugin?
I use Ableton, because that’s what everyone uses and it works. Stability is all I look for; Ableton does a lot of things pretty well. It’s a fairly well-rounded program. I started with Reason and used that for about three years, though. My process is very software based. That said, there is no hardware, software or plug-in that will make your music better. I don’t use many plug-ins anymore. I do happen to like the clip window- it’s Ableton’s best feature and I keep seeing people who don’t even know what it is. I can get a song together so fucking fast! It’s so useful. Arrangement is always last-minute for me. Songs are just different little patterns and this feature absolutely helps create that.
Any tips for up-and-coming producers out there?
If you’re a DJ and you’ve been a DJ for 10 years and you think that maybe it’s time to produce…don’t. It would have happened by now.
Watch out for everyone who offers you anything. You don’t need an agent, you don’t need a manager, you don’t need the record label. Not at the beginning. I have never, ever, had a manager who really worked for me. Don’t believe the hype. There are no cheat codes. Everyone who offers you something for free wants something for themselves and if your music is strong enough to stand on its own, you don’t need any of it.
What is on the horizon for you in 2014?
Mux Mool- The Legend Continues.
Everything has been developing like a sleeping tiger. To be a fresh face I had to disappear for a while, right? I’d like to see a renewed influx of my belief in myself, in making music, and playing more shows. I plan to hand in a new album to Ghostly International before the end of the year, but that probably won’t actually appear on the market until next summer.