Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with DJ Muggs

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with DJ Muggs

He has been associated with names like Cypress Hill and the Soul Assassins and has produced some of the biggest tracks of my generation. He has his fingerprints on tracks like “Check Yo Self” from Ice Cube, the House of Pain hit “Jump Around”, and the unforgettable “Insane in the Brain” from Cypress Hill. Now he is working with Ultra Music and is releasing his own artist album. The album is called Bass For Your Face, and he will also be touring this summer in support of the new release. If you like bass, then this album is for you. This isn’t the typical sound we have all come to expect from Ultra Music, but you can hear some electronic dance music notes here and there. I will warn you, when you listen to this album you will want to turn your speakers all the way up. When asked about the album, LA Weekly said, “Prepare for your head to explode.” After hearing the album, I have to agree. This is what bass is all about. This man is such a legend, he really needs no introduction. But it is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to DJ Muggs.

Your real name is Lawrence Muggerud. I assume that is where the name DJ Muggs came from?

Muggs is a derivative of my last name. The DJ, well… I’m a DJ. My football coach gave me that nickname in the 5th or 6th grade. Usually coaches give everybody a nickname. They just chop up your last name.

You are involved with a lot of projects, but Cypress Hill is a pretty big name. “Insane in the Brain” might be their most popular release. Do you still play that track when you perform live?

“Insane In The Brain” is on the Black Sunday album. I don’t always play that live. Sometimes I do. It depends on the venue. I play remixes that I will make for different kinds of genres. Maybe 50% of the time I will play it.

LA Weekly said, “Prepare for your head to explode,” when asked about your new album. Tell me a little bit more about Bass For Your Face.

Just a lot of bass. A lot of energy. High adrenaline. If you’re a fan of bass, this is definitely something for you. Being from LA, it’s a bass culture. It’s a car culture. With a car culture comes everyone trying to fill the trunk up with bass. We have always been big bassheads. Anything that has to do with bass, I put on this record.

I had homies that had speakers; you couldn’t even hear the vocals. No mids, no tweeters. It was just bass. As long as you could hear them from two blocks away, they were happy.

Speaking of that album, Chuck-D raps on the album. What was it like working with him? I know he was a big influence for you as you were growing up.

Chuck was a big influence. Not only was I a fan of their music, but I got an education listening to them. I learned a lot. I didn’t get to be in the studio with him. There was a scheduling conflict, but it came down to mail it to him or don’t do it. I was going to get this done anyway possible.

Hip-hop has changed over the years. You have been in the scene for quite some time. From personal experiences, how has the scene changed for the good or the bad? What do you think is next for the industry?

Like everything that lasts, it’s going to go through changes. It’s going to have an awkward stage. It’s just like a kid growing up. Once it got popular, and people started being able to formulate it, it developed for a few years. Then it became about the hustle. First of all, this is an art. There is no hustling. You do that in the street.

There was a time I was really bored with everything going on, and but now I think in the last few years, these kids for some reason they are able to coexist. It reminds me of the early 90s when you had artists like Slick Rick, Public Enemy, NWA, and A Tribe Called Quest all able to coexist. They were all able to coexist in the same venue while being polar opposites of each other but related to the same fan base. I got away from that. But now there is a lot of creativity coming to the game. That is exciting. Everyone is getting along. There is no beef.

You have worked with Ice Cube. Are you two friends, or is it strictly professional between you two?

We’re cool. I mean, we aren’t going to each others house for a BBQ or nothing like that. We’re cordial, and if I see him I’ll talk to him, have a beer… it’s cool on that level.

When you sit down to produce a track, what is your process? Do you have an idea of what you are going to produce before you head to the studio?

It depends. Sometimes it starts with the drums. Sometimes it starts with the bass. There are times when I have a new piece of equipment, and I will go in there with the mindset of not making anything. I will just go in there and mess around with the new equipment all day and end up making something. There are so many ways it comes.

Explain life on the road. What is like being on tour?

It depends. If I am in the studio a lot, I don’t really like to go on tour. I will just do Friday and Saturday shows in the United States. If I go on tour, I will go out for a few weeks. I will hit Europe a few times a year. I also hit places like Australia, South American, and Canada. Tour is work, man. Go out and work, take care of your business. Tour is a lot of traveling and not a lot of sleep. That is what they are paying me for. The show is the easy part. I would do that for free, but the travel is what you pay for.

Where do you find inspiration for a new release?

From everything. I am a big fan of instrumental beat music. I am a fan of all forms of bass music. I’ve been travling and DJing a lot. I usually do all remixes when I go out. The songs have an original flare, but they are still remixes. I wanted to make my own records, and a lot of that came from being a fan, traveling, and playing. I like being exposed to good music, and going out trying new things.

Tell me a little bit more about your experience on Saturday Night Live.

They kept telling me, “Don’t light that joint. Don’t light that joint.” I had no intentions of lighting the joint until they told me for like the fortieth time. I was like, “I am going to light the joint.” It was in my ear the whole time.

How did you meet B-Real?

I met him through a friend of mine named Julio G. He was making a tape and brought B-Real in.

Tell me about your relationship with Ultra Music.

When I decided I was going to do a record like this, I figured I would go with the best label for this branch of music. What I am doing isn’t exactly what they are doing. They are heavy on the dance side. My record comes from more of a hip hop spirit with sounds of different forms of dance music. The guy that owns the label managed DJ Premier for a lot of years. He had Payday Records, so he knows hip hop. He is well aware of what I do. It adds a little diversity to his label, and gives it an edge. There is a distribution link for me, and a knowledge of the staff that has connections. I think it was an advantageous business decision on both of our halves.

Some guys DJ and some produce. Is there a difference between the two? Do you prefer one to the other and can you be one without the other?

For me they are way different. It’s two different worlds. I highly work on my skills as a DJ, and respect the craft in the years of hard work it takes to master it. Production is a different thing. When I am DJing I will produce a lot less. There are times where DJing will inspire me to produce. They kind of feed off each other.

What’s next for DJ Muggs? Any chance we will see more work from Cypress Hill this year?

Yes, we are beginning a new album in a couple of weeks.

What are your plans with the new album? Are you going to be hitting the road to support the new release?

I am finishing a few album projects right now. I am in the studio finishing these up. Then I will be heading out. I am working on a rap album with Mayhem Lauren out of New York, and then another project called Cross My Heart  am working on. I will be hitting the road this summer and will stay out through winter. In the meantime I have some remixes I am going to drop, and plan to record some music videos. I plan to really work it locally while I get out there.

In all of the interview I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.

There are no boundaries in music. There are no limits. It’s all about sound, mixing and mashing sounds. Don’t ever categorize anyone. Living a singular existence is a horrible existence, whether it’s eating the same food or never leaving the same city; music is free. Experiment, try different things, and let it come out sounding like yours.

Cypress Hill – Insane In The Brain

House of Pain – Jump Around