Q&A: Mux Mool on Videogame Music and the Limitless Possibilities of Laptop Production
Tim Saccenti Mux Mool.
Intentionally or not, some electronic musicians -- like Daft Punk, Deadmau5, Eskmo, Tobacco, and Tycho -- come off as spectral, detached figures. Mux Mool, whose real name is Brian Lindgren, is not the shadowy type. He portrays himself as the sort of guy you could invite over to your place for barbecue and Nintendo, and would actually stop by. The Brooklyn-via-Minneapolis musician is a videogame enthusiast, a Star Trek: The Next Generation devotee, and a musician willing to bluntly describe the disappointing, drunken mess that was his first show. The gamer aspect is especially relevant to Lindgren: a promo video for his new album, Planet High School, cheekily mashes up footage of Lindgren with classic games like Contra, Mortal Kombat 3, and that "Winners Don't Use Drugs" PSA that came on a gazillion arcade games. Plus, "Get Better John," a solid Mux Mool primer off 2010's Skulltaste, boasts a flavor as sweet and infectious as any 16-bit tune. Before he plays 103 Harriet on Friday with Eliot Lipp, Heyoka, Shigeto, Knight Riderz, and others, we spoke to Lindgren about music business obligations, album cover symbolism, and brand loyalty.
You've been making songs on computers since you were in 10th Grade. How did the experience of making electronic music compare to your impression of how people get started in rock bands?
Well, obviously it's a much different learning curve. People criticized the piano when it first came out because you don't even need to learn how to play the notes -- they're all just there, they're all just perfect. But of course, we widely accept the piano now because everybody realizes, well, yeah, the piano doesn't do anything on its own if you don't know how to play it. It's the same with the computer. You don't have to learn all the instruments you can control with a computer, but what you do with that control makes a lot of difference. That's been the learning part for the past many, many years, but it's changed quite a bit.
How has it changed?
I'm really fortunate that I've always known computers very well and have had access to computers in some way, but going from the hardware it used to take to make electronic music to what it takes now is fascinating. Now, everything can basically be supplemented with a standard laptop. Any sort of normal laptop over-the-counter comes with enough software to make anything you could imagine.
What attracts you to using a MPD or a computer to make music instead of a guitar or drums?
It's so open. There is no limit to what you can make. I kind of find it funny when people limit themselves or choose to limit themselves to making one specific type of music when using a computer, when it's completely limitless. You can make anything of any quality and make it sound like it was recorded at any time in history using a computer and a little bit of imagination, so why would you want to only do one thing? I've always liked electronically made music -- synthetic noises and synths, and obviously videogame music is a huge part of it as well -- but I also like having the control. I don't want to work with a band. I don't know how to be a good collaborator necessarily. You get to make all the parts yourself. I really like that.
What was the first videogame soundtrack that really moved you?
Ooh. I would say Chrono Trigger. The Chrono Trigger soundtrack was the first conscious memory I have of really being into videogame songs. The 600 A.D. theme to that game, I could just go to that region of the game and just put on the song and listen to it.
You were a Super Nintendo kid and not a Genesis kid then, right?
Of course. Coca-Cola, Super Nintendo, and McDonald's -- that's my affiliation.
What was the first instance of videogame music shaping the music you make versus something you just enjoyed listening to?
I think ever since I started, it's always been there. The use of arpeggios and also the use of sound fonts they had to create for videogames is real similar to the limitations that I always had. You only have so many instruments you can use for a song, or so many tracks. That's a heavy limitation that producers of videogame music have always had to deal with. Also, videogame songs serve a function. There's menu music and dramatic music and happy music -- all that kind of stuff within a videogame that one composer has to make. I definitely make a lot of different types of songs. It's not all hip-hop, it's not all dance. Some of it is honestly just better as background music. That's fine for me.