September 2nd 2015
Revisiting the past, but without any Back to the Future drama, Jimmy Urine talks with ReGen about the beginnings of Mindless Self Indulgence, showcased on the upcoming album, PINK, along with his casting in Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival.
An InterView with Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Intentionally belligerent, often offensive, and always boisterous – just as any ordinary punk band should be, but Mindless Self Indulgence has never been an ordinary punk band. For nearly two decades, MSI has straddled the fine line between punk and electro/industrial, with elements of hip-hop and even pop through in just to completely keep audiences unable to pigeonhole the group and above all, unable to sit still. Having gained a large following thanks to the band’s unbridled energy onstage, MSI stands in a class all its own.
With the upcoming “lost record,” PINK, MSI founder and vocalist Jimmy Urine reaches back into his youth, culling numerous demos and unreleased tracks from the miscreant early days before the band was ever called Mindless Self Indulgence. Complete with an audio diary recorded at the age of 22, a ‘picture anatomy of what you need to make a Mindless song,’ and the revelation of the band’s origins, along with covers of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” and Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film,” PINK is not just for MSI completists; the album is a marvelous insight into the origins of one of modern music’s most singular entities.
Now, Jimmy Urine took some to speak with ReGen about the year-long odyssey of dealing with archaic and retro technology, recovering these tracks and piecing together something new, while also touching on his partnership with his wife, Chantal Claret, and their shared roles in the upcoming horror/musical Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival.
As the album covers material you recorded between 1990 and 1997, along with some other oddities (an audio diary, a ‘picture anatomy of how to make an MSI song,’ the band name’s origins, etc.), after nearly two decades, what made you decide to release PINK at this time?
Urine: People were selling the old self-titled record on eBay for like 500 bucks and I was not seeing any of that money, goddammit! Also, fans knew almost everything about PINK, but no one but me had ever heard it and I figured since I am going back in time and we are being all ’90s retro, I might as well give them some insight into that time period and the formation of Mindless Self Indulgence.
Why… PINK? Why not purple or any other color? What does the color signify that you felt it the appropriate title? Or would that be reading too much into it?
Urine: I love the idea of PINK for a crazy outrageous band – it’s girly, it’s gay, it’s pretty. It’s everything you’re not supposed to be according to the world, so I thought what a great, sweet name for such an outrageous sound. What a pretty way to tell you to go fuck yourself – PINK.
Having been developing MSI’s sound and style for so long, what was it like to revisit and produce this material after so many years? Did you make any significant changes, and if so, what were they?
Urine: As Jimmy Urine in his 40s producing Jimmy Urine in his 20s, the main thing I did was clean up sounds and edit down the length of the songs. The song does not have to be five minutes long, Jimmy! We do not need to hear the bridge twice, Jimmy! The intro does not need to be 30 seconds, Jimmy! And I made sure I kept all the songwriting and sound design super ’90s retro.
How much do you feel this material fits in with your original conception of MSI and what MSI has now come to be?
Urine: It’s really all about 1996. That is when I did the ‘Bring the Pain’ cover and that was the blueprint for the Mindless Self Indulgence sound. Everything before that song was abandoned as soon as I did that. That is why PINK is a lost record, but you do see the progression of the sound in it. You see shit get faster and weirder, etc. The songs on PINK are not in chronological order, so I put the years written next to each song so you can understand the progression up until ‘Bring the Pain.’
Having revisited the audio diary of yourself as a 22-year-old, if given the opportunity to meet that younger version of yourself that created the material on PINK, what would you say to him given your experiences over the last 25 years?
Urine: Fuck that Back to the Future shit. I do not want to create a butterfly effect.
I love how everything turned out. Fuck 20-something little Jimmy Urine; he has got to figure it all out for himself. And he does.
You and your wife Chantal Claret are appearing in Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival. How did you first come to be involved in this production?
Urine: Darren (Lynn Bousman) and Terrance (Zdunich) reached out to us looking for two people to play the Translator characters, which are like Tweedledee/Tweedledum, Keystone Cop type of characters. And my wife and I love to work together and this was a chance to act together and be goofy and sing, so we were like, ‘Absolutely count us in!’
As the music for Alleluia! was written by Terrance Zdunich and Saar Hendelman, how did you find yourselves adjusting your usual styles of performance to fit in with the characters?
Urine: The hardest part was memorizing all the lyrics. The song we did was a super tongue-twister with crazy detailed words and we had to finish each other’s sentences in the song. So that was hands down the hardest part. Everything else was so fun and easy.
Conversely, how do you feel the characters were adapted to fit you?
Urine: I think their vision and what we brought to the characters just happened to be the same thing. When we showed up and we were like, ‘We are going to play it super ’30s, his girl Friday, like a cartoon weasel,’ everyone was like, ‘Cool, we love it!’
Being involved with such a large and distinguished cast of theatrical performers, screen/stage actors, and musicians from the goth/industrial/metal scenes, what was the most memorable aspect for you in being part of Alleluia!?
Urine: Aside from working with my wife, which was fun as fuck, and working with such a laid back and cool and professional crew, it would be getting to hang out with such insane cult personalities – from Tech 9 to Barry Bostwick, from Ted Neeley to The Hoff.
Despite the abrasive humor, you have a rather dedicated (one could perhaps even say rabid) fan base; does it ever concern you that you may not be pissing anybody off at all anymore? Or to put it another way, does the success you’ve earned ever bother you to the point that you’ve actively tried to anger your audience?
Urine: I always offend someone because I always say what I want and I always like to be myself. What the fuck do I care what anyone thinks about me, good or bad? We are all going to be dead one day anyway, so why get stressed out about bullshit now?
Musicals perhaps once had a stigma about them of being family-oriented and lightweight, while in more recent years, we have Sweeney Todd and The Devil’s Carnival, which are more esoteric and subversive. In relation to the previous question, do you find that there’s a greater acceptance for these ‘weirder’ and edgier things, and does it ever concern you that people are getting into it who probably take it more as a ‘cool’ or novel sort of thing?
Urine: There is always going to be a cult scene for certain things. And it will always get diluted, then fall out of fashion, and then become retro and hip 10 years later. As well, there are always going to be people who are part of something and feel this is our thing, stay away. But you were also a virgin to it once like everyone else before and after you. No one is born cool. And who knows what’s going to be cool in three years, 10 years, etc.?
Is there anything I’ve not asked – about MSI or PINK – that you wished I’d asked, and if so, what would your answer be?
Urine: Yeah, ‘What was the procedure you had to go thru to make this record Jimmy?’ Thanks Jimmy, that is a really great question, Jimmy. Let me give you this prepared statement, Jimmy…
This was the hardest record I ever did. It took me about a fucking year to do it and here is why:
Step 1) Find all the original 24-track and cassette tapes from the ’90s.
Step 2) Listen to them all to find out which songs and B-sides you want to use (I had 35 songs and cut that down to 19).
Step 3) Bust out all the original equipment, original disks, original synths, original drum machines from 25 years ago.
Step 4) Log and write down every sound with all pertinent info in a notebook for easy reference – you will need this definitely do it.
Step 5) Transfer all the original sounds from early ’90s equipment to early ’00s equipment, then into early ’00s computers, and finally into modern computers and DAWs .
Step 6) Transfer all the MIDI into modern DAWs.
Step 7) Quantize and clean up all original sounds and MIDI painstakingly track by track and sound by sound.
Once you have done all this for 20 or more songs, you may now start to do production, sing any missing or unrecorded vocals, do mixing and mastering, artwork, business, press, etc. Whew!
How about non-MSI/PINK related? Now’s your chance to talk about anything you want and I have no choice but to read it.
Urine: Here is what you can write on my tombstone: I LOVE MY WIFE, SHE’S THE BEST, WE HAVE GREAT SEX, FUCK THE REST!