February 21, 2014 by Jason Pettigrew
For close to 15 years, coed wiseguys MINDLESS SELF INDULGENCE have been twitching the synapses of listeners with their jittery electro-convulsive rock action. It’s been a year since the release of the band’s fifth album, How I Learned to Stop Giving a Shit and Love Mindless Self Indulgence, and they’re hitting the road again to get you to part with your merch money. Jason Pettigrew chatted up ringleader/goofball savant Little Jimmy Urine about MSI’s unlikely sphere of influence, the idea of the “visual hook” in anime, and the band’s next plans—if there are any. See, earlier this month, Urine posted on the band’s Facebook page that the other high-spirited wiseguys and gals of MSI—guitarist Steve, Righ?, bassist LynZ Way and drummer Kitty—will be going on a significant hiatus. Anybody who knows anything about how MSI operate are well-aware that this band don’t answer to anyone—yes, that means fans, too.
What have you learned about your fans this far in? MSI has worked in a lot of different ways. The idea of the band being, at this point, a gateway drug for other things, whether it was animation, weird electronic music, old-school industrial rock, or video game media…
LITTLE JIMMY URINE: It tends to open up, like, I didn’t realize how much of [our personal] influences and things we like end up going into the music and then end up influencing kids to listen to that kind of stuff. It’s very interesting to have an influence that’s not necessarily musical that you’re applying to stuff, where it’s like based on movies, or animation or books or stuff like that. That can kind of be a sign for people to be like, “Oh, I’ll totally check out that crazy whatever.” Whether it’s a movie or Slaughterhouse Five or some thing [we] were talking about in an interview. I love that now. That’s interesting. That’s totally not what I expected.
It seems like MSI have turned into a weird cultural force, where people are checking out more weird, underground, left-of-center crazy things. You once spoke of fans who had Frankenstein Girls Seem Strangely Sexy playing on repeat and now they’re serious video game designers.
Yeah, there was a lot of that. That just comes with time: Some kid listens to it and the next thing you know, 10-15 years later, he’s gone through his whole thing, and he is now somebody else, like a giant, world-class DJ, or he’s in a band, he makes a movie or he designs a video game and I’m like, “Holy shit, I’ve played that video game!” That’s crazy; that’s very roundabout. It’s definitely a very new feeling over the last couple of years, because you wouldn’t feel that in the beginning of your career, you would feel that towards the middle, you know?
So, MSI are just a bunch of jerks who turned into some weird underground cultural force?
It’s the joke that’s gone too far. [Laughs.] which, is kind of weird. It’s very interesting to have sort of a “fuck it all, let’s just burn it down, we have nothing to lose” [mentality]—which nobody ever does when they start. Then 15 years later, like, how many times do you have nothing to lose? Instead of following the norm, it turns into something where it’s cool that people actually gravitate toward shit that doesn’t follow the norm.
What was your vision with regards to the “Fuck Machine” anime video?
I love animation, and I’ve always wanted to turn my music into a cartoon. I was getting frustrated with videos in general. People have a very specific idea of what a video should be: “Okay, you guys are playing, and this crazy shit’s going to happen and we’re going to film this, and then it’s going to cost you this shitload of money.” Why spend a shitload of money on that, when I could spend it on animation and do whatever the fuck I want? I’ve always wanted to do that, but I wanted to do it in a way that wasn’t a three-minute video. Screw the song—it’s more about the visual.
That’s how it is these days, as far as I’m concerned. If you turn on your computer and go on YouTube to watch a video, if you don’t dig what’s going on in the first 30 seconds, you’re probably going to turn it off, even if you fucking like the band, you know what I mean? There’s a totally different age of video; it’s all about looking and getting some kind of a viral hook from something right away. My whole thing was that I love animation, and I could do whatever the hell I wanted. I wanted to do an animated TV show opening—not like the band as animated characters playing instruments—just like we had a TV show. I just cold-called a bunch of animators, and one of the [places] I came across was this place called MoreFrames. They called me back and were like, “Oh shit, we totally know who you are. We’re big fans and we listen to your music.” I was like, “Well, great! Now I don’t have to try to explain what kind of craziness I’m all about.” It was very specific to the fans. Those are the people who will really get it, and I think those are the people who it’s really for. It’s not necessarily for some person who doesn’t give a shit about Mindless. And that’s how the whole year has been, whether it’s been the Kickstarter, the tours or anything like that. It’s all very much “Are you a fan of Mindless Self Indulgence? Well, you’re going to love this,” you know what I mean?
I never thought of a video as a hook, similar to how radio-programmer vermin operate. Color me “schooled.” I hear MSI are significantly changing how they’re doing things on this March tour.
We’re going to have some randomization so that every set is unique. We like having sets where they’re really tight. You have three or four separate sets when you start out, and then you get down to it and are like “Oh, I like set three,” and then you just play the shit out of set three. But this time we are going to put in some randomization by having four blank spaces in the set, and those spaces are going to be band choices. Let’s say we play “Shut Me Up” and then we play “Stupid Motherfucker” and then we have a space. That space on the set list will be marked “Steve’s Choice,” and then we will all turn to Steve and say, “What the fuck do you want to play?” And he’ll pick something off the top of his fucking head. He might even want to play something we just played, or, you know, whatever the hell Steve wants to do. He can pick a song I fucking hate, just to fuck me up. It will be completely his choice. Then it comes around a couple more songs, and then it will be Kitty’s choice and so on and so forth, so that way each set will have a very unique feel to it for each city.
I saw you in Buffalo with Death Spells last March. Did you notice anything special about MSI’s audience? Not necessarily familiar faces, or the makeup of the crowd, but the whole vibe of it. Are the audiences crazier now? Are they easier to bum out?
It’s always gotten a weird Rocky Horror thing, where it doesn’t matter how young they are, how new they are, or if they’ve been a million times, they always kind of go with the same shtick. I don’t know what these kids are into anymore. It just felt like it’s always felt.
I’d say that there was a big dividing line, and I think that was crossed in maybe 2007, around the Projekt Revolution tour. Before that, it was more like being in the band Fear: a lot of antagonizing, back and forth from the audience, where maybe somebody was a fan of Clutch or some shit, and then we would yell something nasty and they would yell something nasty and we would zing them and then maybe their friends would be like, “Hey I kind of like this. I like Clutch, but these guys are really cool and I’m going to start coming to shows.” But then after Projekt Revolution, we started noticing these were the kids who were younger brothers or children of people who were into nü metal. They had given birth to these kids who were much more open to the entire experience without even blinking an eye. They were like, “Okay, girls in the band? That’s awesome. We’re girls and we love it” or “Oh, there’s not a guy on fucking keyboards jumping around, but there are synthesizer sounds and samples. Cool, we don’t give a shit. Oh, it’s glitch? We kind of dig it.” That’s where that line turned, where it didn’t matter if we were playing at a festival and it didn’t matter if we were playing at our own show; people really just dug it. Nobody was really aggressive anymore, which is very interesting.
Back in those days, there was a Dark Age mentality, when people didn’t know how to take you guys.
Yeah, they didn’t know how to comprehend it. They would be like, “Why is he wearing pink, and what the hell is he screaming about, and why are there chicks onstage, and what the fuck’s going on? They got a song called ‘I Hate Jimmy Page?’ I’m going to murder that motherfucker,” you know? It was very, very different. But we would get people out of that. It has always been an interesting crowd that likes us, usually people more open to everything, whereas back then, we would go in, everyone would go into a fucked-up nü-metal concert, get shit thrown at us and everything, and get those couple of fans who were like, “Hey, I not only like all this Korn crap, but I also like you because you’re doing something really different and bizarre and dancey and freaky and all that kind of shit.” Now, people are like that. Their musical tastes are a lot more three-dimensional. In pop music, it’s all very one-dimensional, but in bands it seems like people want something kind of freaky.
I noticed you are playing the second night of South By So What?! and it’s funny, because you are the veterans in the middle of heavy acts like Bring Me The Horizon—who you’ve toured with—and billed above some of the bigger Christian metalcore bands.
It feels absurd for you to be playing this, but really, it’s still business as usual for Mindless.
I don’t book [the gigs], I just play them. [Laughs.] I mean, I love being in between wacky shit. It’s really good. It’s just so much fun. You can piss somebody off. If somebody’s Christian, look out. They’re just too easy.
Fish in a barrel. I was wondering if there was a bum-out factor, how people would just totally become offended. Is it at the point now where you can’t offend an audience?
Oh, no: I can offend people very easily. It’s funny; I end up offending people a lot. It doesn’t seem to be a group; it seems to be that everybody’s up for everything as a whole. I might offend one or two people in this audience; I might offend a bunch of people in that audience. I mean, I definitely do a great job of singling people out or coming up with witty shit and stuff like that, but there’s always going to be something off the cuff, where it’s the right time, right place. As much as I could have planned it, I couldn’t have planned it better. Someone will say something, and I’ll say something, they’ll yell something, and I’ll nail them. I can always tell when I get it good if I look over and Lyn-Z has an “Oh my God,” face, while she is cracking up, or Kitty does a spit take. Those are the best, because the whole point of me talking is really just to give everybody in the band a break for five seconds, and Kitty will usually be having some water. If I look back and she’s spitting it up, it’s like, ”All right, I had a good one.”
It’s good you four are still enjoying that camaraderie this far in. So let’s talk about the elephant in the room. You taunted your fans on Facebook saying this might be the last time they could see your band. What’s going on?
Well first off, in no way have we broken up. That’s the No. 1 thing: We’re not breaking up. It’s literally just a hiatus from touring. It has nothing to do with any future releases or anything else. I want to work on some side-project stuff, and people want to do some family stuff. Last time we took a hiatus, we weren’t exactly sure what was going on, only because everyone was getting pregnant at once and having kids. So does that mean if you’re a mom or a dad you can’t be in Mindless Self Indulgence? We didn’t know, so we were kind of a little bit like, “Let’s just go have babies and we wont tell anybody anything. We will just sort of, like, relax and enjoy ourselves and see if we want to do this in the future.” Everybody was happy to get back and have fun on the road and stuff. We were gone for, like, two-and-a-half years, something like that.
We definitely have the luxury of putting down our own schedule. We don’t have a manager. We don’t have a label; we call our own shots, so if I’ve got something to say in 2009, when we released If and then I have nothing to say until 2013 when How I Learned To Stop Giving A Shit comes out, then that’s good. A lot of bands just, that’s their strategy: Go on the road for a year, get off the road and get in the fucking studio and write the same fucking rap and go back out on the road. We just follow what we’re in the mood for, so as far as a hiatus is concerned, we are going to take some time off. I don’t know how long that time is going to be, and the main reason we are saying you better fucking come see a show is, I might get hit by a fucking car. Who the fuck knows what’s going to happen? If you don’t see it now, maybe I’ll go on a vacation to Panama and never come back. Who the fuck knows?
We’re going to keep releasing things and having fun. I want to do other things, like some side projects like I’ve been doing for the past couple of years, like more video games, soundtracks and weird stuff. Everyone’s got to do family stuff, and maybe there will be some more babies, who knows? I don’t know how frisky everybody is; we’ll see where we are in a couple years. But I can’t guarantee you’re going to see us relatively soon, so I don’t want anybody to miss out if they are like, “Oh they will be back again next year.” They better fucking do it.
The announcement is also because I don’t know what it is with this day and age, but you have all the social media and all the stuff and literally we will go into a town play the town, go to the next town and someone will be like “Why don’t you play my town?” and I’d be like, “I just fucking played your town!” And they’ll say it on Twitter! Like, you don’t fucking look at my Twitter? You’re telling me on Twitter, “Hey, why don’t you come to London?” when I just played London? It’s on you, like, look at your fucking stuff! We’ve got all this shit; I didn’t invent Twitter or Facebook, but just look at it—it will tell you when I’m coming to town. I don’t know whether people are stupider lazier or are like, “Oh, I didn’t know,” you know? There is definitely a black hole between the Internet and the sort of downsizing of press. There’s become a very weird black hole. Like, it doesn’t matter how many posters you put up of shit, or how many billboards you buy, or how many articles you get written about you, or how much online presence you have, there’s a fucking lot of people who have no clue what you’re doing until after you’ve done it, which has become this really odd thing.
What was the best outfit that somebody showed up in on the last tour? I know you’re big on having people dress up.
Well, on the U.K./Euro tour we just did… there was a Pikachu at one, but that’s par for the course. Nobody got naked, which I’m a little bummed about. Usually there’s some sort of naked guy who gets onstage at some point. I don’t think they dressed up as much in the U.K. and Europe. Over here, we get full mascot outfits and shit. In America, it’s a lot more specifically for our show. You’re not going to go dressed as Monsters, Inc.to a to a country show. I didn’t see anything that really stood out more so than America. America’s great: You get a fireman, and there’s a guy from Monsters, Inc., There’s Pokemon, or Sailor Moon stuff or whatever. I didn’t see any Doctor Who [at the U.K. tour], so I was kind of pissed about that. But then Doctor Who dresses like an English person, so maybe they were all dressed like Doctor Who.
Given how the members of MSI conduct themselves and the relationships they have with each other, do you think Mindless Self Indulgence would ever come to an end?
I don’t know. We love each other, and that’s very different in a band. Most bands meet later in life, and they don’t really know each other. They haven’t really grown up with each other; they’re not friends. They’re just like, “I needed a guitarist. I met this guy, and he plays wicked guitar, and then we wrote the greatest song ever, “Welcome To The Jungle,’ and now we fucking can’t stand each other.” That’s usually how it goes, and it makes perfect sense, because you don’t know who this fucking guy is, you know? He could be the greatest guitarist in the world, but he could also be the greatest fucking heroin addict in the world or the most bipolar guy in the world.
With this band being an art project, it was really like, “I want to make an art project with my friends,” and that’s how it started. We were all friends to begin with and then made the art on top of the friendship. That’s brought us closer, and we have always modeled the band and how we work on the road around being comfortable. So we’ll never come to an end based on any personal relationship.
The only thing I could tell you is that how long… I mean, I look fucking fantastic for my age, I’m not going to lie about that. I look like I might be 30, but I’m actually 44. But I don’t know if I can—or really want to see—Little Jimmy Urine jumping around onstage when he is in his 50s, you know? Again, I might be completely wrong. I might be 50 and [say], “This is the greatest, I love it,” but I might also be like, “Ouch, this fucking hurts.” I’ve gotten, like, cartoon-hit in the face with basses, bottles and everything and still bounce right back and never had a problem. The last European tour, I actually felt something, because some kid got onstage in Germany, got behind me—I didn’t even see him—and when I turned around, he was there, and he pushed me off the stage. I flew backwards and landed on the floor on my back, and oh man, that killed. For the next couple of shows I was actually like, “Oh, this is what it feels like when you really have an injury and you have to play a show,” like jumping off of drumkits and landing and feeling the impact in my back. Oh my God, it felt like every time I hit the ground, somebody was knifing me in the back. Steve did full tours with a broken back. Lyn-Z did shit after having a busted lung. I don’t know how the fuck they did that shit. I don’t know if I want to do that in my late 50s-early 60s, but unfortunately for me, I didn’t make a band called Pink Floyd, where I can stand there and sing these songs. I made a band that’s all about the action, jumping around and going crazy. alt