I had the chance to chat with Icelandic musician/singer Mugison last month just prior to his ‘5-shows in 5-boroughs’ awareness building campaign for Amnesty International. Mugison’s post-show reflections (from his MySpace blog) follow this interview.
|From Mugison - Hiro Ballroom, NYC|
BrooklynRocks: How did this ‘5-shows in 5-boroughs’ tour come about?
Mugison: On my last album Mugiboogie, I did a song called “The Animal” which is based on the 2007 Year Report from Amnesty International. As Amnesty “co-wrote” this song without knowing it, my US manager contacted the organization to ask if they wanted to do something with this as I felt I owed them something. This day of shows came out of those conversations.
BrooklynRocks: How did you come up with the idea of a show in each of the boroughs?
Mugison: I think that my manager got the idea from what I had been telling him about the promotional shows I’ve played in Iceland. You run to a shop, play a half-hour gig and then run to the next shop for the next set. I think that my record has been nine bookstores in a day.
BrooklynRocks: How often do you get over to the US? I think the first time that you hit my radar was the show at the Hiro Ballroom about a year ago.
Mugison: I’ve been really neglecting the US – I really want to work more over here. I’ve been making a living off music since 2003 and 99% percent of my time is spent doing stuff in Iceland or Europe. It is just so expensive to come over here with a band as it is such a big country. It is easier to focus on smaller countries like Germany as you can do three circles around Germany in four weeks or something. There are always ideas like moving out to the US for six months or so and really working it. My experience is that you have to come again and again and again to the same places. You start with 10 people in the audience, it grows to 50 and, if you are really lucky, you get a hundred by the third time you are there.
|From Mugison - Hiro Ballroom, NYC|
BrooklynRocks: As Mugiboogie came out last spring, is there any new material or another album forthcoming?
Mugison: Yeah – we toured last year and year was all about touring. This year I started to develop an instrument and we finally finished the first prototype for that instrument. My next album is going to be based around the concept of this new instrument, which is a mixture of…if you go to the dentist on acid and have a Terminator kind of scenario. It is hard to explain. My next album will be more electronic based than the last one that was more Jimi Hendrix influenced.
BrooklynRocks: For your next US release, are you going to stay with Ipecac?
Mugison: I don’t know – they do things on an album-by-album basis. They have been very kind to me spreading the word.
BrooklynRocks: I noticed on your website that you have the pay-what-you-will/free download thing going. What got you going in this direction?
Mugison: I figured I’d try it because people can get it anyway for free. I talked to this girl one evening who convinced me that it would be better if I give the music away and that way I’d get people’s email addresses so there is some value from them downloading.
BrooklynRocks: Now are you still making the hand-made CDs and how many are you making these days?
Mugison: For a $20 contribution, you get three CDs and two of them handmade. We have done 13,000 of the original and 32,000 of Mugiboogie.
BrooklynRocks: I read in an interview that you gave that you have little old ladies from your community in Iceland making the CDs and folding the art. How does that work in the community and what do they think about songs like “Jesus Is A Good Name to Moan”?
Mugison: (Laughs) Those little ladies are old ladies in my village and I’m not sure that they really understand English.
Here is Mugison's blog post on his 5-borough set of shows:
A very BIG thank you to all who came to the shows a few days ago in NY. I loved all 5 shows, it was a musical marathon. I did 45 min shows in each Borough. I started the day in Staten Island at the Jacques Marchairs Museum of Tibetan Art, Me and my gang were all so exited when we where driving to Staten Island, all wondering how the day would turn out.. so it was great to go into the Museum and see all that Tibetan Art. We all knew when we walked in there it was going to be great, we all calmed down.. Man, that place was so peaceful and beautiful. If your ever in NY and want peace of mind go down there and chill out, it’s amazing. Then we went up to Queens and played at Silent Barn, it was a special place, I think 5 or 6 people live there, like a socialistic commune. I used to live in a similar space when I was in London, I felt right at home. It was the hottest day of the summer in NY (so far), I sweat when I play the guitar and scream but in Queens I must have broken a record.
In the Bronx I played at the Bronx river art museum. Jose, the guy running the place, was very friendly, they had snacks and stuff, good stuff. By then I’d drunk 6 liters of water, I’ll have to admit all that sun and singing was getting to my head, making me feel weird in a good way. I was turning into a music junky, could not wait until the next one. We went to Manhattan and had an hour to kill. We got there early and it made me all itchy - i just wanted to pick up that guitar and play. There we played at the City Winery, it was the only kind of normal bar we played in on this funny tour.. a huge place. All went well.. I thought we had to run down to Brooklyn but we met so many friends in Manhattan we got a little bit delayed.. but that was okey.. we made it on time to Brooklyn to Pete’s Candy Store, the place was like a pocket theater.
It got packed, lot..s of icelandic folks which was great.. they helped me out singing some of the songs, great way to end the day in few singalongs. I was waiting all day for my voice to disappear.. cause I’d scream like a pig at all the shows, but it was still there when I finished the marathon, maybe a bit rough around the edges but still there.
The best thing with these gig..s was working with amnesty International. We got them to come along to all the gig..s and helped them promoting their campaign for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi. I did a song called the Animal on my last album Mugiboogie. I made the song after reading the amnesty 2007 year report... I played that song at all the show exept the last one..my head was playing tricks on me.. I thought I had played it.. but then I was told I forgot.. We were selling a poster at the gig..s to support Amnesty, ohh it was an honor for me to work with them, I hope this is just the beginning of our relationship.click here on the link.. You can go here and take action right now,. Every one of you counts, please check it out and fill out a simple form and take part changing the world to a better place.
I want to Thank Amnesty, Jerrod and the team at Gold Mountain for putting this together. Icelandair for the ticket and Aneels grandma for lending us her car..Also, I would like to thank Scott for coming out and filming the whole event.. Please check out his movie www.walkingonmyfingertips.com ..I Would also like to thank and a big kiss to Runa for coming along and sing at some of the shows with me.