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. >>>