Jimmy Urine talks MSI, ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ role and previews new albumApril 26, 2017
[Photo credit: Steve Agee]
Although Mindless Self Indulgence remains on hiatus, musical mastermind Jimmy Urine has been keeping busy. On top of landing a role in Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. II, Urine is set to release another facet of his creative output via The Secret Cinematic Sounds Of Jimmy Urine, which touches down this Friday via your musical outlet of choice, but you can hear it first here at AltPress. Urine chatted with AP about how his enthusiasm for video games, comic books and cinema helped shape his creative endeavors.
What prompted you to put together this record during your hiatus from MSI? There are a lot of interesting sonic throwbacks throughout The Secret Cinematic Sounds, older electronic music and “chiptunes” inspired by eight-bit video games immediately come to mind.
JIMMY URINE: This was the stuff I grew up with—video games and chiptunes. As far as soundtracks, some of my favorite composers include John Williams, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, stuff like that. I remember buying a John Carpenter soundtrack before I even bought my first rock record. It formed what I started to do with programming [synthesizers] and would eventually lead to Mindless Self Indulgence years later. But at the time, I was a teenager with a synthesizer doing live versions of John Carpenter soundtracks, Blade Runner, and stuff like that. That's how I learned how to play keyboards and program and get my equipment. For me, this was a chance to revisit the classics of electronic music. When you mention to someone “electronic music” these days, they immediately think “EDM,” not Jean-Michel Jarre or Tangerine Dream. You mention those to a kid and they ask, “Who?” Then I have to say, “Like in Stranger Things.” Then they respond, “Oh, I get it!” Some people think electronic music is something new, but it's been around forever, just like the classic horror movies.
Do you feel like a little bit of you wants to restart Mindless Self Indulgence and tear things up? Or have you been comfortable with the time on hiatus?
I like doing both. Mindless is just on hiatus. We still talk and hang out. Both are fun, but they're two different hats. There are guys who can get on the road, do the show, get back on the bus, then write [songs]. But I can't write while on the road or on the bus because Mindless Self Indulgence is such a live act. We're jumping around like maniacs at the show, so when you're done with that, you're out of breath and dying. So when I'm home, I get into studio mode where I don't bounce off the wall. It's nice because when I do Mindless, it's strictly Mindless all the time. When I'm home I'm not running around, I'm very much focused on getting a perfect kick drum sound in a mix. It's nice to take one hat off and put ano,ther on.
There are a lot of things going on with your record but nothing feels too out of place. What were some of the ideas in your head that you wanted to explore when you were making the record?
As I said, I grew up with a lot of soundtracks and a lot of synthesizers. Some of these songs were already released. Some of the later tracks were made in California; people bring stuff to me all the time for various projects. Some of these fall through the cracks and get stopped for whatever reason. I had a lot of music laying around and really wanted to release some of this stuff.
A track like “Patty Hearst” is very reminiscent of Kraftwerk.
It definitely has a Kraftwerk feel to it. It also is based on the Patty Hearst abduction tapes. When she was abducted, the kidnappers would send tapes of her talking. I took those tapes, sampled them, sent them through a vocoder. I didn't want it to be obviously her talking, so I pushed the vocoder as to max it out so you couldn't understand it. But it actually is Patty Hearst talking.
You mentioned video games as something you enjoy immensely. What was the first memorable video game moment you can recall?
I must say first that I am old, but look great for my age. [Laughs.] But basically I was there from the beginning. The first video game I saw was a tabletop version of Pong. Growing up in New York with upper middle class parents, they'd go play squash, and leave me and my friends with a bucket of quarters and we'd play all day. Arcades started popping up in New York, then there would be one or two arcade games at a little shop here and there, like a pizza shop or an Optimo cigar shop with one or two games in the back. You learned which places had good kids that just wanted to play the games and the places with bad kids that would roll you for change. There was a Twin Donut shop on the way home with a Donkey Kong machine that we'd have to just run past because we didn't want to get jumped so someone else could get money to play. It's great memory though.
Then obviously there was the Atari, Intellivision. Eventually, when I started doing Mindless stuff, I would buy old video games for obsolete systems and take the audio from my old TV straight into my sampler. I would play the games, then sample the sounds I liked as I played through. All of the Mindless records have sounds from those games. Now you don't even have to do that, as there are chiptune plug-ins that get you the same sounds it took me hours and hours to get every little blip that I wanted.
Do you have any moments where you heard a video game's background music and thought, “This is too good to be on a game?”
The first one that really blew my mind where I was focusing on the music was Mega Man, particularly Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3, where everything looked and sounded bigger than they actually were. The melodies were amazing, they really stood out. You'd play each level and it had its own theme. When you weren't playing the game, you'd find yourself humming the melody while on the way to school. While I did find music that I liked in games, Mega Man was where I went, “Wow, I want to emulate that.”
You landed a role as a Ravager in the upcoming Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. II. How did you come across the role?
I'm friends with the director James Gunn. We'd been hanging out for at least 10 years, and he was searching for interesting-looking friends of his to play standout Ravagers that had very specific attributes. The cool thing was most of them were people I already knew. So going to set was fun; I wasn't nervous because I already knew a lot of the people. It wasn't until I went home from the set for a couple of weeks that I went to see Captain America: Civil War that I realized, “Holy shit I'm in one of these movies!” It was really fun, and I'm super-thankful that James Gunn thought of me and allowed me to become part of the Marvel universe. That's like every kid's dream. I grew up reading Marvel Comics. I loved Marvel more than any other comics [publisher] because it took place in New York and I grew up in New York. For me, it felt like real stuff that could take place nearby.
[Photo credit: Steve Agee]
Any particularly memorable moments while you were on set?
My favorite story from the set was when I went in for the camera test. I went hair and makeup and they asked if they could shave my head. I just said, “I don't care, I'm up for anything.” Everyone was all, “Great, good to know.” So they'd do the makeup and put a wig on me, and I'd go with it, as it's not my film and if this is what they want I'll give it to them. So in a camera test, they put you onstage and have cameras zoom in on you so James and can say, “This guy needs a bigger gun, this guy doesn't need a jacket” and so-on-so-forth down the line. When they got to me, James was going, “I don't know about this.” I then said, “Just let me shave a line down the top of my head.” He asked, “You really want to do that?” I said, “Yeah I'll do that! I'm not an actor that has to go do a commercial after this. It's like a punk-rock haircut, I can go crazy with this. It's like the character's trying to lobotomize himself.” I told the hair and makeup lady just to take the clippers, start from the front of my head and go all the way to the back of my head right down the middle. It looked great. When you watch the movie, that's my real haircut and I had to keep that haircut for almost seven months.
That must have earned you quite a few looks from various strangers.
Yeah, I'd sign for a package at the front door of my home asking, “Why is the mailman looking funny at me? Oh, it's because I have a line shaved straight down the middle of my head.” [Laughs.] alt