Interview With Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence
Mindless Self Indulgence is a band that requires no introduction. For almost two decades, they’ve been touring the world, spreading their eccentric electronic-infused punk to the masses. We got a chance to sit down with front man, Jimmy Urine, on their most recent tour, to talk about the past, the present, and the future of MSI.
SOS: It’s obviously only been a few days so far, but how’s the tour been going?
Jimmy: Fantastic! It’s been going great.
One of your most successful social media campaigns to date was the Kickstarter campaign you did in 2012 to fund your latest release How I Learned to Stop Giving a Shit and Love Mindless Self Indulgence. You described it as “holding the album hostage” which was pretty unorthodox, but obviously successful. Did you have any hesitations about using Kickstarter as a way to fund the album?
Jimmy: No actually. Before Kickstarter was ever in the public conscience, Steve had that “hostage” idea before. We had always thought “well that’s a good idea but there’s no way to do it,” because, you know, what if it doesn’t happen? Paypal? How the fuck do you do that? When Kickstarter started, we looked into it and were like “this is the platform to do it with,” because it’s all or nothing. Even if your goal is like $100, if you don’t make that, all bets are off, you get nothing. The person doesn’t get paid, nobody makes anything. It’s almost like a promise or a pop-up shop. When we got on there, Kickstarter was sort of a pain in the ass. They’re not very helpful. I think with a lot of those sites, it might be a tax thing, but they call it “crowd sourcing,” and claim that you’re “making a pledge” to whoever, but really it’s a pop-up shop. If I put up a web store for the record, people would just buy it and they wouldn’t be like “HOW DARE YOU, $150,000?” It’s not like I asked for $150,000 for one CD. All that money comes in and we manufacture stuff and yes we keep a percentage of that for ourselves but it wasn’t enough to go on like a fucking vacation. I mean I paid my rent for a while and that was great. Most of that money went to making stuff and also shipping, which is expensive as shit. You’re getting rid of all of these middlemen and taking the burden and responsibility upon yourself. Which I think is cool, but it can lead to problems. There are times when people, not us, but people who do things that are outside their realm of experience, like “I’m gonna build the world’s greatest pen!” or “I’m gonna build a refrigerator,” or something like that, and then they don’t know how to do it. Everyone is like “I want that new…item!” and they’re like “Well we just don’t know how to do it.” But we’re in the realm of things that we knew. We know how to make t-shirts, we know how to make CD’s. We had stuff that our fans wanted. It’s also very good if you have a fan base. You don’t really care if someone who is in to some other band buys something on Kickstarter. You’re honing in on your fans directly. People are like “oh I’m a fan of them I want that,” and I look at other Kickstarters in much the same way. Kitty loved Veronica Mars and when the Veronica Mars one came around, even though people were like “oh tish tosh, how dare you? Warner Brothers have millions of dollars they don’t need this!” But Kitty was like “Awesome!” You know you get a phone call from Veronica Mars, a poster, a script, whatever. She was a fan of it and she bought it.
What were some of the difficulties you mentioned you had with Kickstarter?
I mean nobody was giving us money for nothing. We weren’t just like “oh give us a dollar,” no, we gave them the whole fucking record. Kickstarter was just really unhelpful through the process. We were like “oh we wanna do this” and then nobody would pick up the phone. So we were on a mission to make like, number one, two, or three so we could be automatically on the front page. Also staff picks were the most ridiculous shit. I’m like “you don’t have to like me but you’re gonna get a percentage of this so you might want to put it as staff picks or on the front page.”
Do you think crowd-sourced funding is a good path for bands that don’t want to be tied down by record labels?
It’s like anything else, there’s YouTube, Facebook…it’s available to you, if you want to use it. Do I think it’s “the future?” Do I think it’s going to make your fucking career? Probably not. Some things are lightning in a bottle. Amanda Palmer on Kickstarter was lightning in a bottle. Justin Bieber getting discovered on YouTube was lightning in a bottle. Those things can happen on smaller levels but you know people look at that and go “oh my god he was discovered on YouTube, that’s what we’re gonna do!” and then all the people are like “Oh I’m gonna start a Kickstarter because she made a million dollars!” She made a million dollars because she put a fuck of a lot of weird work into it, and she did things that other people will probably never really achieve. You know OI think that it’s the current state and it’s good and it can help people out. Are you gonna make a million dollars? No, you’re probably going to make what your fan base is into and what you can make as a product that people want to buy. People don’t want to buy it because it’s who are, people want to buy them because they’re cool items. We didn’t make shit and go oh “ehhhhh buy them, we’re Mindless.” We made some nice items and people wanted a new record so it was the perfect time. It’s not something I pulled out of my ass for like no good reason.
So crowd-funding is probably not something that is going to render the music industry obsolete any time in the near future, you think?
The music industry is always morphing into this, that, or the other thing. Who knows what it’s gonna be?
When it came down to actually recording the album, I know you did some of the production yourself along with Rhys Fulber. What was the recording process like?
Usually I do a lot of stuff. I’m a laptop whore and I just work all the time on things. When we started the Kickstarter I had only gotten a couple of the song ideas because I didn’t really want to have to make them if it didn’t go through, or use them for something else. I didn’t want to start something and then have to pull the plug on it because it’s a hostage. But once we hit the goal I was like oh shit I’ve got 2 months to get this done. Usually I’d bring things in there like 90% done. I like working with Rhys because he has a good ear for both electronic and live instrumentation. A lot of times some guys are really good with electronics and don’t know how to mic up the band and vice versa. So I’ll bring it to Rhys and Rhys is the kind of guy who will kind of dial in my sound. He’ll be like “ok you’ve got a kick drum that’s fuckin blaringly loud, gotta dial it back.” He takes care of all of the stuff that I’m not as tight on, like someone like Rhys who has been around for a long time.
You guys have had a little over a year now since the record has been out. What do you guys think of it with time to look back on the album and touring cycle?
It’s been great. I was very surprised how many people just genuinely liked it. Even people who are like “ah I’m over this band,” or “fuck this band” or “I hate this band, but I gotta say that one song was really catchy” or “I really like this record.” We got a LOT of that this time. Obviously people who love it, love it. People who were on the fence about it or people who hated it were just kind of like “ok I’ll give it a thumbs up, it’s on my top picks.” That was fun.
After this tour you guys are taking a hiatus. You’ve made it very clear that the band isn’t breaking up, so what are you planning on doing during your hiatus?
The main thing about the hiatus is that we’re not breaking up, but it’s more of a heads-up because people are really stupid. A good example of this is like tonight, I’ll tweet something like “Coming to Ram’s Head, get ready Baltimore,” and then I’ll get onstage and do the show, and as soon as I get back to the bus, someone on twitter will be like “when are you coming to Baltimore?” So it’s like you have to pick up people’s hands and put them on the button and like, make them press the button. They’re kind of lazy and weird, so it’s just a heads up like, “Hey, I know you’re used to everything just happening the same way all the time but we might not be back next year.” We might not be back the year after, who knows? What if I get hit by a fucking bus, you know? Who the fuck knows? If god strikes me down with lighting, I may never come back, so if you want to see it…”I don’t want to hear you bitching about it,” is really what the quote is.
I’ll probably be doing family stuff on the hiatus. I’m definitely gonna do a lot of work on projects like I did on the last hiatus, which was an unannounced hiatus, we just went away for fun. But you know, I did like, Lollipop Chainsaw. I did the soundtracks and stuff like that but I have some other side projects with people that are in the works. That’s the kind of stuff I’m gonna do and I think everyone else is pretty much the same, just doing family stuff.
Are there any projects you’ll be working on that you can tell us about?
Not right now, no. Right now everything is still being discussed.
Obviously you guys have been around for almost two decades now. I’m sure since you started the band you guys have changed a lot not only on a personal level, but you guys have also gotten married, had kids, and so forth. Your lyrics and music in general have the ability to raise the hair on the back of the necks of middle America. How do you stay true to your music and your style while explaining it to kids, in-laws, and family?
Well you know there’s a very big difference. A lot of people who do things that are “outrageous” as a band are one-dimensional. They wear one uniform and they’re like “it’s crazy! Rock and roll! We’re shock rock!” or whatever. Shout at the devil! Whatever the fuck you want to do… Our whole thing has been that we don’t care what the fuck you think. In the sense of, if I am hanging from a chandelier, or pulling my pants down onstage or writing songs about fuck machines, that’s one angle of it. If those same people who love that see me, in a video, at home doing a crossword puzzle and fucking petting a long-haired dachshund, I still don’t care if they’re like “oh well fuck you why aren’t you hanging from a chandelier?” Well it’s because I don’t choose to at this second. And that’s how I feel all the time. Sometimes when I’m on the road I want to have a fucking crossword puzzle or do something really sedate. I really don’t give a fuuuck what anyone else thinks. I’m not just out to piss off straight-laced middle America. I’m here to take the piss out of everybody. Everyone’s a target. I think that that’s not a very American thing. You see a lot more in the UK and Australia, where they’re more about taking the piss out of everyone. They get the jokes a lot because you can be very subtle and they enjoy it. Like, “oh you just took the piss out of me, that’s really funny.” Where in America, people are like “I don’t know why the fuck he’s saying that crazy shit onstage” And the people who do get it are the kids who line up at shows. It’s interesting. For me personally I wanna do a… have you seen the documentary A Band Called Death? I wanna do it like that. When I have a kid they don’t know that I was Jimmy Urine, and I’ll just lock all of my stuff up in an attic somewhere. My kid will go to school and his friends will be like “Hey man, did you hear this ‘Frankenstein Girl’ song?” and he’ll be like “Why didn’t you ever tell me dad? What the fuck?”
It would probably be easier that way than having to explain everything. I can imagine the look on a young child’s face, learning your lyrics…
The thing is, if you just change the lyrics on it, kids love it. It’s super catchy and very like… adrenaline filled. Very good for a four-year-old.
Speaking of kids, that brings me to my next question. Tell us a little bit more about the anime-style video you guys released for “Fuck Machine” recently?
I’m a huge fan of anime. Usually whatever we’re big fans of, by proxy, our fans are also fans of the same things we like. So like, if our fans like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, we probably also do. So I wanted to do like an anime TV show opening with the band as the cast and characters. Pulling from who we are and all the stuff that we make. So I looked around and found this awesome company called MoreFrames. I had seen some of their animation, so I called them up and I’m like “I wanna do an opening, like Thundercats, crazy, stuff, based on cool anime stuff like that,” and they were like “Oh we know who you guys are, we think you guys are great, we’d love to do it.” I said “great” and then I got this girl who we know, Bitey The Villain, and I was like “Ok I know what I want the characters to look like, I just need someone to help me draw them out. I can draw OK but I want a nice character design.” So I worked with her for a couple of weeks and we nailed all that down, and then I sent that and an animatic of how exactly I want everything to go, you know like “I want Kitty to do this, and we’ll burn Lyn-Z at the stake,” and so on and so forth. I sent it to them and they threw it together and sent it back to me in almost like a month and it was almost perfect. I was like “oh that’s exactly how I envisioned it!” They took the notes almost perfectly and there was hardly anything to change. When they sent me the final copy which had the anime and just had “fuck machine” on it, I was like “it needs…less music and more effects.” So I took it for about two weeks and laid more foley and made it more like a cartoon opening and less like a “music video.” Because most music videos that are animated…not all of them but like when somebody doesn’t really think about it because they’re really shitty. It’s always a band, animated, playing music, dancing, and singing, which are like all things that look really retarded when you do them in animation. So I wanted it to be more like as if it were a real show. So I put in all of the real effects when people would hit things and squids would die. I spent two weeks doing it and pulled the music back a lot too. I sent it to them and MoreFrames put it all back into the thing. The great thing is that everyone got all of the references that I put in there. I figured that they would because like, we like all of the same things, so they got all of it like “oh I see a reference to Bleach or I see a reference to Fullmetal Alchemist.” There’s also a lot of subversive stuff in there that not a lot of people have gotten yet, but like only we would get.
Would you ever consider turning it into a continuing series of cartoons?
Oh yeah 100% I’d love to do it.
So we’re jumping around a bit here, but given that you guys have been around long enough to influence a whole new generation of musicians, could you tell us what some of your first shows were like as a band?
Well first off it was never like I put an ad in the paper for somebody. I had this idea of things I wanted to do and started talking to my friends. We kind of found each other, because we were all friends who played instruments. It didn’t matter at what level. We were just like “can you play drums” and Kitty is like YEAH! She has a thousand great ideas. It was more like an art project as a band that we wanted to see in the future. Then when we started doing gigs we realized that our vision was so fucking ahead of its time and bizarre. We were anti a lot of things that happened at the time, like no guitar solos and no ballads. We didn’t like scenes. We just didn’t like the automatic camaraderie of people, like “everyone who’s punk rock gets to hang out and they all have a place to play.” I mean it’s great if you wanna be punk rock and you wanna be in that uniform. The same goes for metal people and you know, hardcore people. So we were like “fuck every scene,” we’re just gonna be us and do our own thing and just do that. That’s kind of how we’ve always thought about it for other people. You know, whether they’re people who want to play with us or people we want to play with. I was just like “do your own fucking thing.” You know we had to go through shit to get to where we were so you go through the shit. You’re not going to learn how to do it unless you go through the shit. It’s helpful, you don’t want to open for a band that’s gonna beat the shit out of you. We just had a very lone wolf mentality though, we just never liked scenes to begin with. We definitely don’t like them now. The fact that we maybe have influenced a bunch of people…I kinda feel bad that they don’t have the opportunity to become a doctor or a lawyer or some shit anymore. Now they have to become some shitty band.
It’s gotta be hard playing outside of the scene mentality though, because a lot of bands use that to get ahead.
Yeah well they have like a collective, so they have a place to play. I get that , it’s just never been our thing. I want nothing to do with it, I don’t care about it.
Do you think it may have made it more difficult, not having an automatic group of fans every time?
It made it different. What helped us is the same thing that hindered us is that we were so unique. That was a draw but at the same time our uniqueness was a problem for people who were like “oh this goes right onto rock radio,” they were like “what is this?” Especially, I mean now you can kind of understand it. But you gotta think when we first came out it was 99. First of all we’re jumping all over the place like a bunch of morons. Jackass wasn’t even on TV yet. There were girls in the band which is always a problem with people. Like now you have a lot of girls in the audience but at the time if you wanted to do anything heavy it was all dudes. So you have all of these dudes that were like “what the fuck? Show us your tits,” and we’re just like “oh for fucks sake!” We have tons of electronics too. We hate keyboard players. We’re not gonna have some guy up there with a keyboard like dancing around. We have all of this stuff that we’re not gonna change that at the time people didn’t know how to react to, they’re just like “ahhhhrghh!” So on one hand that also helped us because, my thought was that, if you go to someone’s house and look at their CD collection, if they like punk rock, it’s not gonna be all punk rock. They’re gonna have a Wu-Tang CD and a CD from The Cure for when they’re feeling sad. It’s the same thing if you go to a goth girls house. She’s got a Wu-Tang CD and a fucking Slayer CD. All of these people, even though they’re wearing all of these different uniforms, like all of this music. I was like “but I want to hear it all at once” so that’s where the sound comes from. All of it at the exact same time. And it works. People are not that surprised by glitched out, fucked up beats. There’s dubstep in fucking Kraft macaroni and cheese commercials.
Looking back, do you think there have been any moments in your career that you thought you couldn’t possibly top?
There were definitely some great things, looking back. Half of us met our husbands or wives on the road which is fantastic. One of the best things about it in a non-making money, non-playing music thing is that it’s a free trip around the world. That is fantastic. Whenever you get to go to these places, especially once you get to go like, three, four, five times, then you get to know the place. I definitely know New York, because I’m from New York, but I definitely should not know my way around Sydney, Australia. But I do. Whenever we go down to Sydney, I’m just like “alright, later guys” because I know where I’m going. In Amsterdam, I know where I’m going. Kitty knows her way around Tokyo. That’s fantastic. I can’t really top that. If I wanna go somewhere, I know exactly where I’m going, how to get there, and what to do.
You’ve said flat-out that you don’t think your band will ever be breaking up. With that in mind, what does the future hold?
I don’t know. There’s definitely going to be Mindless stuff while we’re off the road. It’s just touring that’s a hiatus. I’m gonna release probably some older stuff, maybe some newer stuff under Mindless, and probably some stuff that’s not under Mindless. Like Lollipop Chainsaw was me, obviously not Mindless. If I write a song with the band on it, it’s Mindless. Or if it’s an old record that we want to re-issue like Tight. It’s all on the table.
Check out our exclusive gallery of images from the show, shot by Alex Messick