You know DJ Muggs as the producer extraordinaire who essentially created his own sound through his work with Cypress Hill and his Soul Assassins compilations. What you may not know about Muggs is that the bass in hip-hop tracks isn't the only kind of bass he's interested, and proficient, in. This summer Muggs will be releasing Bass For Your Face, a decidedly thumping album that, although still having Muggs' hip-hop ethos, will be most at home at underground dance clubs. The album is going to be on Ultra Records, home of some of the biggest electronic music acts in the world, and we caught up with Muggs to find out how this relationship came to be. Muggs also revealed why no one will mistake Bass For Your Face for a pop dance record, why he's never used his ethnic background as a selling point, and the extreme amount of pleasure he gets from racing exotic cars across the globe.
Adam Bernard: You are gearing up to release your upcoming album, Bass For Your Face, on Ultra Records. I know you must be getting this question a lot, but how did you end up on Ultra Records, and why did you choose them over a more hip-hop oriented label?
DJ Muggs: This is a bass music album. It's a hip-hop record, but it has a lot of components of electronica, dubstep, dub, glitch, anything with bass, this record is all about bass.
AB: For fans who've appreciated your work in the past, is this another side of you?
M: Yeah, it's definitely got my energy, but nothing but big 808s, big bass lines, wobble bass lines, big synth bass lines.
AB: How did your friends react when you told them you were joining the label known for being the home to acts such as Paul Oakenfold and David Guetta?
M: Oh, I've been making this bass music for a while. When I DJ out I've been playing it for five years, and we've always played electronic music from all the way back to when we first started getting into the game. To put this out, I could have gone to a lot of labels, but I need to go with the right label. Like if you want to put out a hip-hop record in the early 90s you go to Def Jam. If you want to put out an electronic album you go to the right place to put it out, so they know how to put it out right, so you don't just put a fuckin record out and you're like "damn that record was dope, what happened?"
AB: So for you it was a perfect fit, but when you went to Ultra were they like "we don't put out Soul Assassins albums?"
M: Yeah, but when they heard the music it was like "oh shit, this is bangin."
AB: Do you sense that you're being promoted differently than you've been in the past?
M: Oh definitely. I've always had a foot in the rock world, I've always had a foot in the hip-hop world, and I've always had a foot in the... fuck I don't even know what that other world is. This time I notice it's a lot more electronic based and a lot more eclectic things for this type of record. I'm definitely seeing coverage in some places that I normally wouldn't get with a Soul Assassins record.
AB: Electronic music is where pop music is going right now. Do you see this album as having some mainstream appeal?
M: My stuff is hard, underground shit. If they get some remixes and the remixes crossover, so be it, but the core of this record is hardcore bass.
AB: When you see an artist like Skrillex blow up doesn't it show that the landscape of pop is totally different from what it used to be?
M: Skrillex is, it's a funny thing about Skrillex, we can say pop, I don't really know what the means, to be honest with you, but Skrillex don't make pop records, he don't have song structures, he don't have big hooks, his shit is off the wall, his shit is kind of more rock n roll driven. Now you see these kids coming out that really couldn't get into electronic music, whether it was the tempo, or the culture, because it was a lot of glow sticks. Dubstep, I'm noticing hip-hop kids like it, rock n roll kids like it, plus the ravers like it, plus there's this other fan base that just likes it. Is it the aggression? Is it the tempo, because the tempo's 140, but a lot of it's slowed down double time, so is it the tempo they can finally get into? I don't know exactly what it is, but I'm noticing that this is music that hip-hop heads and rock n roll kids are getting into.
AB: It seems every year for the past 15 years we've heard electronic music is going to make it here. Now it finally seems like that prediction has come true.
M: It depends on what kind you like. I've been into electronic music since I was a kid into Kraftwerk. They were the first ones to come over here, but I'm not into a lot of the bigger artists. I've never been into the dance side of it. I've never been into techno. I like old school New York funky house from the 70s. I like jungle because I'd be in Europe a lot going to jungle clubs, but it's all gangster Jamaicans over there, it ain't fuckin glow sticks. Now there's more access to everything and kids are growing up with more stuff than they ever have. I grew up with hip-hop and rock, and that was a strange mix at that time. Now that's nothin. Now it's electronic with hip-hop with rock with techno with house with drum and bass with dubstep. Kids are into all this shit and now they all got their computers, their own studios and they're just inventing music.
AB: All that said, ya gotta have a soft spot for the glow stick. Ya gotta love it once in a while.
M: My daughter likes the glow stick when she goes to Disneyland.
AB: Ha! OK, moving on, you've always had an ability to produce for just about anyone. With that in mind, how difficult was it choosing which artists to work with for this project?
M: It wasn't at all, man. I'm doing my thing, I'm not trying to fit in, I'm not trying to be accepted, I'm not trying to fit in anywhere, I'm just doing my thing the way I do it. The artists I've brought into it so far are Rahzel, Roc Marciano, Chuck D from Public Enemy... I don't think he's done a song with somebody in a while, and Dizzee Rascal from the UK.
AB: Being of Latin descent, and knowing how few Latins get put on in hip-hop, and I know this is a bass album, but does that give you the inspiration to make an extra effort to find a Latin emcee to work with?
M: No. I find who's good. I don't look for Latin, I don't look for Black, I don't look for White. Whoever's good and whoever vibes with us and whoever clicks with us and flows into our world, we work with em. I never looked at Cypress as a Latin group. We never came out wearing that shit on our sleeves. We came out just making good music. People found out we was Latin, they figured it out.
AB: It wasn't tough once you did a song called "Latin Lingo."
M: No, but that's wasn't our first look. What we noticed in Los Angeles, a lot of the Latin groups came out and their whole thing was I'm Mexican, or I'm Latin, and that was their schtick. Now that's a great thing, but what they did is they pigeonholed themselves and they put themselves in a box, where a lot of them never really got work outside of the car show circuit. We saw that and we said we're not gonna be stuck in the car show circuit. When I first heard the Beastie Boys I didn't know they were White, I just knew I liked the music. When we came out you just heard "How I Could Just Kill a Man," you heard "The Phuncky Feel One." You didn't see our faces on the first record. You accepted it because it was good music. Then you saw it was Latin, but nobody was rammin it down your throat as our theme, as our schtick. You just have to come out with good music. Let the music speak for itself. People will accept you, just don't try to ram some other shit down their throats.
AB: Moving to a non-musical topic, as a member of Cypress Hill everyone knows how you feel about weed, so please hit our readers with the best weed you've ever smoked and where you found it.
M: It would have to be California Kush weed. The Kush weed in California is the best weed in the world, the OG Kush. We used to go to Amsterdam back in the day and they would have some really good AK-47, but now the best weed in the world is in California, hands down.
AB: Finally, in 2009 you participated in something called the Gumball 3000.
M: Yeah, I've actually done it for four years and I'm gearing up to do it again this year. It's a car race. Last year we went from London to Istanbul, two days in Monaco for the Monaco Grand Prix, through Bulgaria, through Spain, through Paris. You drive 3,000 miles in five days, driving 150-200 miles an hour in exotic cars with a bunch of Russian billionaires, sheiks from Dubai, all kinds of people like that.
AB: And you're driving one of these cars?
M: Yeah, last year it was me and Bun B and Estevan Oriole, we were driving partners.
AB: Is it even possible to sleep in the back while someone else is driving?
M: No sleepin. Well, sometimes people jump in the back and take a little nap because if you have a 400 mile drive that day you take a nap, but it's fun. It's the most fun I've ever had in anything I've done in my whole life.
AB: How did you get involved?
M: I got invited. Estevan hit me up because homeboy Cartoon didn't want to go, so they were like "who can you sit in the car with all week and not get sick of?" He was like, "call Muggs." They hit me up and said you wanna go on this Gumball thing? It was from LA to Miami that year. We killed it, and the next year was London to New York. They flew the cars over in big military style planes. This year I believe it's from New York to LA.
AB: Who are you riding with this year?
M: I'll be with Bun B and Estevan again. We're a team now. Me and Bun usually do a bunch of the parties. I'll DJ, Bun will perform.
AB: So in addition to driving you'll do shows?
M: Yeah, we'll do New York, we'll do LA, we're gonna go through the Indianapolis 500 this year, so we'll probably do a big Indianapolis 500 party while we're out there.
AB: Maybe you can pick up Peyton Manning and drive him to his next time.
M: You know what I mean? Where do we bring him? Out to the Raiders?