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In Extremis

"We're Obviously Cursed": An Interview With Mugstar
The Quietus , November 17th, 2010 10:44

Jamie Bowman talks to Mugstar about krautrock, cursing Bo Diddley and their new album Lime

When the Arch Drude himself, Julian Cope, describes your music as "driving motorik Litmus-style instrumentals which streamline all the best late Lemmy-period Hawkwind into a tougher and more speed-freaked out version of top flight La Dusseldorf," you know, as a band, that you're on the road to something very special.

The band in question is Liverpool three piece Mugstar, who released their third album of brain-frying drone, Lime, last month and appearing at Supersonic festival.

Since emerging in 2002 from the ashes of guitarist Peter's fondly remembered Kraut rockers, Kling Klang, Mugstar have toured tirelessly with fellow noise compatriots that include Mogwai, Acid Mothers Temple and Faust.

2010 is turning out to be something of a vintage year for Peter, Jason, Steve and Neil, with Lime following their first dipped toe into the world of film soundtracks and proceeding the release of a new Hawkind tribute album.

Any fan of continuous, expectant grooves, bludgeoning riffs and pastoral psychedelia need look no further then entering Mugstar's orbit.

Typical titles of your songs include 'Technical Knowledge As A Weapon' and 'She Ran Away With My Medicine'. Where did the idea of new album title Lime come from?

Peter Smyth: We wanted a change from the long titles and I've always liked the Jesus Lizard albums which all had four letters. I also like the idea of it being a single colour like the Beatles' White Album or Metallica's Black Album.

Jason Stoll: It's quite a challenge for us think up titles because we don't have any words in the songs. We try to think of titles that encapsulate what we are all about like last album …Sun, Broken. We have a stock pile of titles we write down and hopefully they'll fit the mood of a song we write.

Steve Ashton: On the second album we had a song called 'Dinger Diddley'. It had that Bo Diddley shuffle beat and sounded a bit like Neu!. Problem was, within a few weeks of us releasing it, they were both dead. Don't get your name in a Mugstar song because we're obviously cursed! We were actually pretty upset and changed the title to 'Klaus and Bo' as a tribute.

How has your music changed since you began? You always seem to love playing live and the songs often change from the album counterparts?

JS: The biggest progression for us is in how we record. Early on we did everything separately but now we are trying to replicate what we do live far more. We rely a lot on eye contact and I think we've become a lot less restricted. Live songs can last five minutes or eight minutes and time itself has become quite an interesting concept for us and how we experiment with it. There's four songs on the new album which is 40 minutes long.

SA: We never know what the end product is going to be and that's the exciting part. We are not one of those bands who have a vision of what are want to make. We don't sit down and talk about things much. My approach comes from my background in free improvisation and I suppose there's a tendency to be influenced by a jazz state of mind.

Time for the ubiquitous influences question. Being an instrumental band I imagine krautrock features heavily?

JS: When we started out we never knew we were going to be an instrumental band as originally Pete was doing vocals. I always remember seeing the advert on the wall in Probe Records and it mentioned people like Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine. Another band we all agree on is Mogwai.

PS: Krautrock did emerge as the key influence and we started developing that, that's when the band really stared to change. Kraut Rock brings in so many different types of music – ambient, metal, psychedelia and so on. We saw an affinity with it because we wanted to be a melting pot of influences. Some band's influences are obvious and some aren't so obvious. I guess ours are pretty obvious.

Can you tell us about the film soundtrack you've recently performed?

SA: We've written and produced the soundtrack for a film called Ad Marginem and recently premiered it at the Bluecoat venue in Liverpool. We use visuals a lot and we wanted to take that further and and have a full length film which Neil wrote the script for. We got some filmmakers involved and met a guy called Liam Yates who has been working with Echo and the Bunnymen's Will Sergeant. He had access to the lights and camera and it took about 4 months to make. We're hoping to release it as DVD box set with the soundtrack. I don't want to give too much of it away but it's about a cult. Not the occult - or, indeed, The Cult.

Playing live seems to be so important for you. A few years ago barely a week went by without you playing in Liverpool.

PS: We really try to make our gigs events. We've calmed down the playing in Liverpool now and are looking to do more gigs outside the city and abroad. There's a definite circuit out there for what we do. Bristol seems to have a kinship with us and there's one record shop in San Francisco which seem to love us. We've sold more records there than anywhere else! We've certainly got a following in the US but the label can't really afford to take us out there and everything we make goes back into our recording costs.

Mugstar's new album Lime is out now