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Honestly," laughs Mindless Self Indulgence frontman Little Jimmy Urine, "I'd rather fuckin' be drawing a comic strip like Garfield and have it be syndicated. I'd just draw one joke every day and collect giant wads of cash. That's my dream!"
For now, though, that dream will have to wait, as Mindless Self Indulgence's steady trawl through the working-class echelons of success has kept Urine and the rest of the MSI gang plenty busy. Originally falling together rather casually around Urine's circle of friendships in the mid-'90s (Urine doesn't divulge exact dates), the New York City band comes to town with its fifth album, If, a couple of weeks old. While If sees MSI continuing to work with the frantic, stylized, punk/electronica hybrid style that first turned heads, the album also reflects Urine and company's continued search for growth.
An excitable, outspoken guy famous for penning songs like "Bitches" and "Faggot" and drinking his own piss onstage, Urine (real name: James Euringher) erupts with enthusiasm at the suggestion that his true aspiration is to relive the popular '80s sitcom and Ted Knight vehicle Too Close for Comfort. But don't get the wrong idea: It's not that Urine doesn't like music. He just isn't very fond of musicians (in case that wasn't clear from the band's song "I Hate Jimmy Page") or what he sees as the cliched lifestyle that so many musicians adopt. He feels they tend to take themselves too seriously.
"I would much rather see Bette Midler than Interpol," Urine explains, "because I know Bette Midler's going to have a show. There's going to be singing, girls are going to be dancing; it's entertainment. Sammy Davis Jr. was an entertainer. I don't give a fuck about noodling on a goddamned fucking guitar. If the song calls for a noodle, then, yeah, let's put a noodle in there. But with a lot of bands, it's like 'Here's the song, here's the chorus, here's the noodle-on-the-fucking-guitar part, here's the next song...' And it never stops."
"Maybe," he offers, "I'd feel different if I knew how to noodle. Maybe that's it. Maybe I'm just suppressed because I don't know how to noodle on the guitar and I take it out in a jealous, Hitler-type way."
Noodle envy, perhaps?
"Yeah," he laughs. "I have very big noodle envy."
To listen to Urine tell it, you might not realize that MSI actually places a high value on craftsmanship and song construction, which are both apparent on previous work and arguably more so on If. Once again, the band is allowing itself to play longer songs than in the past. Urine, who is generally averse to songs that go more than two minutes, concedes that the newer material benefits from letting the ideas play out more. Before, he would have preferred to parlay inspiration into "30 little songs" over one lengthy song with a bunch of changes in it. But Urine concedes that he wants airplay.
"I'm tired of shooting myself in the foot," he says flatly.
Unabashed since day one about wanting to make a buck, MSI still feels no need to sacrifice its aesthetic standards, which Urine insists are high. He explains that the band takes a heavily collaborative approach to everything from T-shirt designs to backdrops to video concepts.
"We're so hands-on," he says, "it's very helpful that we get along so well. We're all very creative people. We've all been in art school, so we all know what looks good. So if somebody's like 'This has got to be red; it's got to be red!' and then we make it in purple and everybody looks at it and goes 'OK, the purple does work.' Songs are part of it. But the artwork is also part of it; the look is part of it. You can noodle on stuff as long as you give some fuckin' entertainment."
In order to entertain, Urine says, ripping people off is perfectly fine — as long as you put your own new spin on things, something that MSI has been adamant about from the start.
"You just have to be a good thief," he offers. "Prince is a brilliant thief. So is David Bowie. I don't think Interpol is, or Gym Class Heroes. Puff Daddy decided to pay for samples, but people like the Bomb Squad were very clever about the things that they sampled. You just have to be clever about what you steal. Because people are always taking two things and nailing them together that have never been nailed together before and going 'Here it is.' Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. But put a little effort into it. You don't have to be Wolfmother and be a fuckin' Led Zeppelin cover band. You could've taken that and turned it on its head a little bit more. Most inspiration doesn't come from 'Well, I was a really big fan of Led Zeppelin.' It's usually, 'This didn't exist, and I wanted to see it.'"
For Urine, this means making unorthodox gear choices.
"In electronic music and programming," he explains, "everybody always uses the newest equipment. I use all outdated equipment that no one will ever be able to find and put together. I'll buy an old Speak & Spell and have it modified or an Atari computer and use it with programs that no one would ever want to use or Commodor 64s and stuff like that."
Urine goes on and on about how unoriginality rankles him. And he can afford to talk, as MSI possesses the ultimate peanut butter-chocolate combination (a comparison Urine wholeheartedly concurs with).
"It's been bugging me lately. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club sounds like the Jesus and Mary Chain; the Sound sounds like Blondie — and I could keep going on and on — except without the songs. It's like they've studied one band and said 'Let's rip off the sound they have, but let's not have any good songs.' I think the press are really the one to kill on that, because the bands are probably just like 'I really like Blondie,' but the press is all of a sudden like 'Oh, they're geniuses coming from another world.' And I'm like, 'Yeah, a world of, like, ten years ago — what, did you fuckin' sleep through it?' I'm sorry, but I still listen to my Joy Division records. I still have those 12-inches, and I'm going to sell them on eBay at one point."
"I think," he chuckles, "I'll get them signed by Interpol!"