Han’S Hip-Hop Report: Dj Muggs’ Dubstep Invasion
Perhaps best known for his work with Soul Assassins and Cypress Hill, the veteran DJ and producer known as DJ Muggs is still blurring the boundaries of musical genres. Speaking to him, it’s hard to believe that he is one of the most successful urban artists to grace the studio. The humility and enthusiasm with which he approaches his work is refreshing, as is his most recent venture into the world of dubstep...
With his forthcoming effort, 'Bass For Your Face', on the horizon, The Wrap Up’s resident hip-hop head, Hannah O’Connor, caught up with DJ Muggs to discuss the joys of experimental production, his attitude toward making music, what it’s like being a member of Cypress Hill, and whole lot more.
The Wrap Up: You must have done quite a few tours in your time, haven’t you? So has that contributed to your love of different musical styles?
DJ Muggs: Definitely! 100%. Travelling and touring definitely plays a big role in the way I produce, especially when I'm doing a lot of DJ tours. I can get in the studio and start producing more as a DJ performer, instead of a producer for a rap group.
TWU: You've always been somebody who has liked to blur the boundaries between different musical genres, but for those less familiar with your background, what attracted you to the bass/ dubstep sound?
DJ Muggs: Just travelling. I've been into that kind of music since Kraftwerk and bass music is LA music, you know? LA has just been known for the 808s because when we were kids, we took the back seats out of our cars and put woofers in – we just figured the more bass and more 808s, the better it was. I was into the jungle scene and I worked with Goldie and Grooverider. I was into drum and bass, 2-step and garage as well. Now it's just bass music, combining hip-hop with it, combining dance, combining rock and bringing all sounds to the game.
TWU: Absolutely and that's always been the case, hasn't it? Cypress Hill's unique sound, which is really gritty but still soulful, is pretty much thanks to you...
DJ Muggs: Yeah, it's really important. I think that whenever you're going to do anything, you can be inspired by something but you still can bring something new to the genre. Bring something different and bring something fresh to it, you know? Not just get in it and be a copycat.
TWU: You've really got nothing left to prove, either as a DJ or a producer, but is there anything else you'd like to achieve?
DJ Muggs: I just want to be inspired and wherever the inspiration brings me, that's what I want to do. I had seen an interview with Miles Davis a long time ago and they were like, 'What do you miss more than anything?' and he goes, 'I miss the inspiration, I miss being inspired.' From that moment on, I made a point to myself that I'm gonna exercise that part of me where the inspiration comes from and if it leads me this way, it might have been something I was against ten years ago but if that's where it is today, then I want to go with it. I'm not going to put up these barriers and say, 'That's not me! That's not keeping it real.' I'm just going to go with the inspiration and where it takes me.
TWU: Between Cypress Hill, Soul Assassins and everything else, you've worked on a lot of different projects with a lot of great people. How has that affected your own style?
DJ Muggs: Well, everybody who comes into the studio brings a different energy and a different approach to the same outcome. So, I just learn from everybody's thing and in my job as a producer, I don't really try to drag people into my world. I try to hang out with people and do whatever they like – be it drinking some beer, smoking some weed, chilling out, making some music or listening to music – for days. While making an album, I like to listen to music, listen to the sounds and then we take it from there. It varies from day-to-day, to be honest with you.
TWU: You've worked on some really monumental projects, particularly in the hip-hop world. How do you feel looking back at some of them now?
DJ Muggs: How I feel about them? Oh, it's all good. I mean, it's the past, I don't really look back. At this point, I'm really too busy looking forward. I already climbed those mountains. I already did that, so I'm like, ‘What's next? How am I going to do this? How do I get to what I want to do next?’ I'm constantly thinking forward, I don't really look back and reflect very often. Usually, when I'm having a drink with a friend in a bar or having an interview, it’s the most time I really reflect on the past. I use a lot of sports psychology in life. You win a championship one year, you don't sit back and go, ‘Oh, we won last year’, you're worried about how we're going to win next year.
TWU: Absolutely. Just because you keep coming with the same moves, it doesn't mean it'll work again, right?
DJ Muggs: Everything calls for something new and something interesting. You've got to figure it out. It isn't always about your talent and it isn't always about the music. There are a lot of other obstacles. You've got to learn to go in and out of obstacles.
TWU: Speaking of obstacles, there are many in this business. So, what keeps you going?
DJ Muggs: I just like doing this. I like it. I don't do this every day. Music is probably a tenth of my life, but it's just cool. When I'm not inspired, I don't make music. If I'm inspired, I'm in the studio every day. Family and love is number one, you know what I mean? Music is something I do for fun. I've been blessed to be able to make music since, well, it's been 25 years now since I put my first record out and I've been blessed to still be here, be relevant and be able to do what I love to do at this level. When I do music, it's serious. I work hard when I'm going on tour; I rehearse five hours a day for a month. When I'm working in the studio, I'm in the studio 16 hours a day and then when I'm done, I'm with the family. I believe in being physically active, keeping good, reading good books, keeping the mind sharp, body sharp and spirit sharp. You've got to have a balance of those three, because if you don't, something's going to lack and you're going to fall.
TWU: By the sounds of it, you read a lot...
DJ Muggs: I read a little bit here and there. I go through times when I read too much and then sometimes I don't read enough. Sometimes, I'll sit down and read a book in two days. Sometimes, I'll just go and buy 25 magazines, then I'll just read magazines for a week – it all depends on how much I can concentrate. When I'm on the road, though, I read books. At home, it's a little harder to sit down and get the time to just focus.
TWU: Finally, for all of our hip-hop heads out there, what is a day in the life of Cypress Hill like?
DJ Muggs: Well, on the road or at home? (Laughs) On the road, man, we smoked a lot of weed back in the day – I don't smoke it no more. In the studio, it varies from day-to-day. Like, some days it’s writing lyrics, some days I'm making beats, some days we're talking and working on ideas. When we did the pre-production of the album, that's when it was that best and we'd join all of our ideas ready to go.
DJ Muggs' forthcoming Ultra Records-released album, 'Bass For Your Face', is out soon.
Stay up to date with DJ Muggs on Twitter - www.twitter.com/DJ_Muggs
Words: Hannah O’Connor (@HipHopSuperhan)
Online editing: Joseph 'JP' Patterson (@Jpizzledizzle)