Jimmy Urine is best known as the enigmatic front man of the eclectic New York City collective Mindless Self Indulgence. MSI has been around for over 20 years and are currently on hiatus, so Jimmy Urine decided to continue writing and pursuing his own artistic merits as a solo artist under the name Euringer and a new self-titled record. The eclectic offering holds both Frank Zappa and J Dilla close to its heart while delivering pulsating covers of Kate Bush and The Doobie Brothers for good measure.
Euringer also sees multiple collaborations with artists and friends of Jimmy Urine. These guest appearances include artists as diverse as Serj Tankian, Grimes and Gerard Way. mxdwn recently spoke with Urine about the writing process and collaborations, his accidental acting career – especially in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – and his recent move to New Zealand, which seemed to have driven inspiration for portions of the new record.
mxdwn: How did your newest album Euringer come together and what was the writing process for the album like?
Jimmy Urine: Well, I wanted to do something slightly different than Mindless, and I didn’t want it to be Mindless. I like that Mindless Self Indulgence has been sort of a perfect thing for almost 20 years and it’s never been corrupted, it’s never really sold out. Believe me, we’d love the money, but we never sold out. It’s a great electronic punk rock band, so I don’t really wanna go down some weird super different avenues and have people be like, ‘Okay, here’s new Mindless record,’ and then be like, ‘Meh, whatever.’
So, I like to separate my projects into different groups a lot of times. It just makes it a lot easier. When it’s super jokey, it’s left-right, if it’s soundtrack stuff, if it’s cinematic sounds and so on and so forth. So let me do a proper solo record with singing on it and everything. The main idea that I had for it, which started about two and a half years ago when I was driving around New Zealand was, I wanted to do almost like a movie script in the sense where I would formulate the entire art project. I look at it less like a concept record and more like an art installation in a museum, a cool art installation.
I scripted out all these ideas that I have laying around and I’ll stick to that script all the way to the end. Normally when people write a record, they start writing and then let go. All of a sudden, this song nobody was really thinking about, that’s the killer song, that’s the single. That’s gotta be the first song on the record and then this is the next song, it’s the next single, it’s gotta be the second song on the record. That’s kinda how people write records.
This was like, no, I have an idea for opening the record with a trigger warning and ending the record with this weird spoken word thing from my dad, and then having this song in the middle and this song towards the end. I stuck to the script pretty fuckin’ tightly for two and a half years and then just started filling in all the music into the ideas and all the concepts into the ideas. Obviously things would change, like, morph, but I stuck to the basic outline of that sort of plot/script for the whole thing, which is totally different. It’s more like writing a movie than it was like making a record for my whole career of how I’ve done music and records. It was definitely very different.
mxdwn: Do you have a running theme throughout the record?
Jimmy Urine: The running theme is that it’s mainly like as if I was starring in a one-man show on Broadway and the only person in the audience is me – that’s kinda how I describe it. It’s not a super concept. To me, The Wall is a very obvious concept record, Black Parade is a very obvious concept record…I don’t consider American Idiot a concept record, even though Green Day claims it is. I consider it a bunch of singles, and a very good record, but not a concept record.
For me with this, it’s very like an acid dream. It’s very counter-culture. It was really hard getting back to a lot of old-school, weird, counter-culture, Frank Zappa, Robert Crumb-style shit that’s like Captain Beefheart, all that kind of stuff which is really weird people doing. Like, 200 Motels is more what this is more than Tommy. You know what I mean? Where it’s just how weird can I be and keep it all in some sort of weird fever dream?
mxdwn: It’s funny how you bring up Captain Beefheart, because I actually wrote that down when I was listening to it.
Jimmy Urine: It’s definitely a stream of consciousness. Usually a lot of the underground comic books I loved as a kid were very stream of consciousness. A lot of the weird freaky shit that I would see on TV as a kid on cable TV was always these weird stream of consciousness things where you were like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ Some weird Frank Zappa thing would come in or some weird Devo video would come on and you’d be like, ‘What? Am I breaking my 10 year old mind? What’s going on?’
mxdwn: How did you come to collaborate with Serj Tankian from System of a Down on the record and then move along to another collaboration with Grimes? They both have two very different vocal stylings.
Jimmy Urine: It was pretty natural. I had kind of never done full-on real collaborations before and they always looked so stressful to me. It also didn’t look like the people were necessarily always friends, too. You know, my manager called your manager, we’re on the record, let’s make a million dollars. I never thought of ever doing them, and then I’m friends with all these people so I was hanging out with Serj and he was like, ‘What are you doing these days?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I’m doing a solo record.’ And he was like, ‘Dude, I gotta be on it! It’ll be cool! Let me be on it!’ I was like, ‘Oh. Fuck, yeah, okay! Yeah, sure, okay. That sounds like a great idea. Let’s do that if you’re down.’
Then I was like, ‘Oh, I should call a lot of people ’cause I don’t wanna be rude. Everybody deserves to turn me down if they wanna.’ I wanted it to be super chill and no stress for anybody ’cause it should be just fun. Every time I called someone, I was like, ‘Hey man, if you feel like being on it that’s be awesome, I’d love to have you on it. If you don’t, don’t even fuckin’ worry about it. I know you got a crazy schedule and you’re doing your thing and I just wanted to extend an invitation.’ That’s kinda how that all came around, so when I reached out to everybody, ‘Hey you wanna be on it?’ People are like, ‘Yeah, sounds fuckin’ fun! Let’s do it.’
mxdwn: Did you write those song specifically for them?
Jimmy Urine: Yeah, it definitely depends on the set up. For some of them, it was different every time. For Gerard, it could’ve been any song on the record because it was all kind of in his wheelhouse. I just sort of picked the one that reminded me the most of his band smashed together with my band.
I threw that towards him, and with Grimes (“The Medicine Does Not Control Me”), I really admire the fact that she does everything. She’s the most DIY artist. For how big she is and how much she’s in the press, she is so DIY and does every single thing. She would color correct her videos if she had the time. I really admire that, and I like the fact that she’s very proud about that. She’s like, “I did everything, there’s no super producer who comes in, no Dr. Luke behind Grimes. It’s Grimes, or Grimes. That’s it.’ That is so dope, I was like, ‘Let’s do that. You be my Dr. Luke. You write me a track. Let’s do that.’ But we ran out of time. By the time me and her got on the phone being ‘Hey, you wanna be on my record?’ I was literally almost done mixing. I was like, ‘I don’t want to be insulting because I really wanted to do you write the track and produce it and I’ll just be the ingenue who’ll sing it, but would you mind if you just sang on a track?’ And she was like, ‘No, that’d be awesome. That’s totally cool.’ I gave her the choice of one or two, and she gravitated towards the ones that had the most synths on it, the real Blade Runner-y one which is great, ’cause she totally fits in that world of all synths.
For Serj, I had that idea, I wanted the record to start really, really pretty, and get to…it was based off a Cheech and Chong skit. Basically, in Up in Smoke, there’s a part where Cheech takes a bunch of speed and starts freaking out and Chong calms him down and does meditation with him, ‘You know, let’s calm down. Shush.’ And then he screams at him like, ‘Ahhh!’ And freaks him the fuck out. I wanted that to be the opening of the record, so you start with “Trigger Warning” where it’s all really pretty and it gets you down into your safe space and then boom! It hits you with this giant Serj screaming in your face. I had sent him a track and he wasn’t feeling the music and I was like, ‘Oh, shit, okay. I gotta write something else.’ The idea of the track I kinda had from the beginning, you know the Martin Niemöller quote, the World War II quote which is kind of what the song is based on, which was like, first they came for the socialists and I didn’t speak up, then they came for the trade unionists but I didn’t speak up, then they came for the Jews and I didn’t speak up, then they came for me and there was no one here to help me and I was killed.
I was like, I wanna do that idea, but modern version of it. Obviously I wanted to have Serj on that, because if you’re gonna do something, I don’t do a lot of political songs, if I’m going to do something somewhat political, I have one of the greatest political lead singers of one of the greatest political bands, System of a Down, on this track. The first track he was like, ‘Meh, I’m not really feeling it.’ So I rewrote it completely from scratch, ‘All right, screw it. I’m gonna get rid of all the music and I’ll keep the basic idea of the chorus and I’ll just come up with all new music.’ Then I sent it to him and he was like, ‘Oh! I love that! That was great!’ So, we did that all stream of consciousness for Serj. He went into the booth and we just put the verse on a loop for an hour and he just screamed all sorts of different things, whispered things, laughed, had coffee, did whatever he wanted to do in the microphone and then we just edited the cooler ones together, like, ‘Oh, this is really cool and I like it when you say phantom president, and I like it when you say claustrophobia really high, just gotta cut ’em all up.’ Kind of like “Moonage Daydream” with David Bowie where he cut up all the words.
Yeah. I definitely enjoyed myself, even though it took me a long time to make this record, it was almost about two and half years, but it was still, every time, ‘Oh, I wanna do this! Oh, I wanna do that!’ It was fun to come up with all these weird ideas and weird things ’cause it’s less about making songs and picking up a guitar, and it’s more about audio sculpture. I’m a fuckin’ crazy good producer as far as using sounds and samples, and that’s how I’ve always been, so I’ll just build up giant sculptures of audio and then chip away at it over the course of months. A lot of people write songs really quickly. A good example is my wife who’s on that song, “Fuck Everything.” She writes songs for a living and with people and going to commercials and everything like that, and she does them in one fucking day. She’ll just be like, ‘Boop! I made the song. Now it’s on Netflix and boom, I’m done.’
I’m like, ‘I’ve been working on the same song for three months! Holy shit!’ So, when she came in for that song, I had had half of it done, and she fucking wrote that, she finished it up, she finished all the words and helped me with the melody and shit and some of the arrangement in one fucking night! I was like, ‘Holy shit! Fuck you are quick!’ When you’re doing weirder shit, I like to take my name and fuck around with songs over the course of time, you know?
mxdwn: You do pretty great covers of Kate Bush and The Doobie Brothers on the record. How did you choose those two songs?
Jimmy Urine: Even if I like the artist or I’m kind of whatever about them, we covered ‘Tom Sawyer’ on You’ll Rebel to Anything with Mindless and that was literally just because, I like ‘Tom Sawyer.’ I’m not a huge Rush fan, but I bought the record on the street from a homeless guy with a bunch of 12 inches, and I was listening to the 12 inches and forgot to switch it back to 33. It was on 45, I was like, ‘Fuck! That already sounds like a Mindless song!’ So I basically just did it because it was like,’Fuck! That already sounds like a song!’
But with Kate Bush, very different, because I love Kate Bush and part of the Mindless formula is Kate Bush. There’s different aspects of Mindless of Indulgence and of the way that I write songs that have always been, oh I get this hip-hop stuff from Public Enemy and I get the rock stuff from Cheap Trick and so on and so forth, and then smash it all together, and then the other part is, anytime you hear me doing anything pretty, anything with falsettos, any kind of breakdown where everything gets really nice and pretty, it’s always an homage to Kate Bush, ’cause I fucking love Kate Bush.
I was like, if I’m gonna cover Kate Bush, I might as well cover ‘the’ song, ’cause I noticed she started getting a lot of thinks recently, her old stuff just started popping up in TV shows, and no one ever touches “Wuthering Heights.” They never cover “Wuthering Heights,” ’cause it’s very iconically Kate Bush, but not necessarily a classic song that people put into movies, commercials, or wanna cover. So, fuck it, I’m gonna do fucking do that one and I’m gonna fucking do it all in falsetto because I can fucking do falsetto and I’m not gonna not put any drums on the motherfucker. I’ll make it all analog synth like fucking Vangelis and Tangerine Dream came into the music and then I came and sang in falsetto like Kate Bush over it.
A lot of actual love was in that one. Like I said, there’s other songs I’ve covered where I love the artist, but that’s not my favorite song, but I just did a better version of it. Like “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode. I love Depeche Mode. I would much rather listen to “Strangelove” than “Personal Jesus,” which is one of my least favorite Depeche Mode songs, but man, I made a fucking good version of it, so I’m like, ‘Fuck it, I’m gonna do it.’
mxdwn: You know, I like Doobie Brothers. I always have.
Jimmy Urine: Yeah, I definitely have no problem with them at all, but that wasn’t necessarily something I was listening to everyday and is a big influence on my work, but it’s definitely a great fucking song. When I heard the kind of arpeggios that they were making, I was like, ‘That sounds like fucking synths! I can do that.’
mxdwn: There is a really cool clip that you wrote on your press release. You mentioned you wanted the record to sound as if “Depeche Mode hired J. Dilla and DJ Premiere to drop loops while Frank Zappa produced, and then I came in and took a shit all over it.” Do you think that was achieved with this record?
Jimmy Urine: Definitely achieved that, and a lot of times with this, like I said, I started with the script, and then I was like, ‘Okay, what do I like to write with? What’s one of my favorite things to start with and then I get the most melodies out of?’ And it’s basically just really simple ’80s synth stuff – like an ’80s base line, which basically sounds like either Depeche Mode or New Order or something along those lines. That’s kinda where I started all the songs. All the songs were really started with bass synth, and then I’m a really, really huge fan of DJ Premiere and J Dilla, I think that the loops that they pull are so unique, the way they cut up the records are so fucking unique, and I really was into that.
I really wanted to approach it as just dropping a thousand loops. I just spent all my time making basically copyright free catalogs of files of anything I could find, because there’s tons of samples out there in the world now. There’s tons of loops or drum loops and bass loops and everything like that, so I was like, I’m just gonna buy two thousand dollars’ worth of sample CDs that people don’t fucking even care about anymore and I’m just gonna go through them as if they’re crates of records like DJ Shadow used to do, except I don’t have to fucking pay somebody millions of dollars, because I’m not sampling Aretha Franklin, I’m sampling just some fucking drumbeats that’s been made by some guy in a studio for someone to sample.
Then I just combed through it and just made a best crate of records, copyright free records, and then just dropping ’em and dropping ’em and dropping ’em and just seeing what fit. How did it fit? Would DJ Premiere drop it here, while at the same time, trying to keep an overall arc on the entire record the way Frank Zappa would produce some of the side bands that he would work with, whether he would work with Glowing Eddy on a soundtrack, or whether he would do, I think it’s the GTO’s, the girl band that was made up of groupies and shit where he would just be like, ‘Okay, I’m just gonna fucking oversee this. You guys do your thing, but I’m gonna keep it weird.’
So, that was the whole thing. And then, at the end of it, be, ‘Okay, now I’m gonna do my vocals on it and I’m gonna shit all over it and ruin any kinda beautiful instrumental that you might have by making wacky songs like “That’s How Jimmy Gets Down” or something like that.’
mxdwn: What prompted you to decide to make the move to New Zealand?
Jimmy Urine: New Zealand, it’s so fucking show and it’s so fucking cool. We had been coming down here, me and my wife for a couple years, and we really liked the country. We thought the country was beautiful and we drove all over the country and saw different places and were like, ‘Man, this is really cool!’
Auckland is the big, big city that’s kind of like L.A., but all big and spread out, and we were kinda like, ‘Okay, Auckland’s cool, but it’s basically a prettier version of L.A. It’s not incredibly different than where we’re already living in Los Angeles, so maybe we’ll just vacation in New Zealand once in a while.’ Then, we were driving on our way to the south island, and we stopped in the capital, in Wellington, for only three days, and we were like, ‘What the fuck is this place?’ It looks like someone took the Lower East Side in the ’90s, a little bit of San Francisco, a smidge of Seattle, a pinch of the UK, and just sort of dropped it in the middle of the fucking ocean and it’s super artsy.
Imagine as if 20 art schools just let out. There’s people walking around, everybody’s dressed however they wanna dress, not because of a scene, but just because they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna wear these boots ’cause they look cool. And look, I shaved my head and I bought a fucking flak jacket, just ’cause I think, why not? I’m on the middle of an island, what the fuck does it matter?’
It’s really cool, and everyone here is super-artistic, really creative, you’ve got weather down here and you’ve got all these art schools and music colleges, and everyone is just super fucking talented and they’re all just fucking making shit, just not to be famous, which is even crazier. ‘Cause coming from L.A. where people are YouTubing fucking shaving their balls just because, ‘Oh, maybe I’ll get 20 thousand hits and I’m famous for being the guy who shaved his balls on YouTube,’ here, people just wanna create stuff and they don’t care. Obviously, I’m sure they’d love to do it as a living, but they’re all so fucking talented, even the kids who are busking on the street, I’m like, ‘Motherfucker! Why don’t you have a fucking record deal! You are fucking phenomenal!’ Some of those kids are like, ‘Oh, no, I don’t even wanna be a musician. I’m actually a film student, I just wanna do my shit.’ We just think that that’s so fucking cool. We were like, ‘Fuck it. I wanna live in a walking city, like New York where I grew up, and I wanna get out of the United States. Let’s fucking go.’
We literally started doing it right as Trump got elected. So, we were already ahead. We would’ve moved even if you had Hillary, or even if there was gay president of the United States who was black and a woman and we were super progressive. I would still come to New Zealand because it’s the best place…it’s Middle Earth also. But it’s even better now to look back and see all the crazy shit going on in the United States. I’m just like, ‘Oh, for crying out loud. You guys are gonna fucking criminalize abortion and take away women’s rights and kill black people in cars. Fuck that shit.’ I’m way chiller here, just chillin’ out, making shit, meeting people, hanging out. It’s so fucking cool. And if you get a chance to come down, it’s really cool. People get it confused with Australia a lot which you should not fucking do, because, just to flip, think of it as Australia is America, and Canada is New Zealand.
I like Australia. I love going to Australia. Australia is the Mad Max shit, super desert-y, everybody’s kinda cowboy-ish, and here everyone is really chill and the fucking scenery is beautiful. Also, for those of you who wanna camp and get into the nature but have a problem with getting bit by spiders and attacked by wild animals and all sorts of shit, no predators on this island. Zero. The worst thing you could probably get is if you’re allergic to bees, you might get stung by a bee or a wasp. Other than that, you can go run into a jungle or jump into a beach and you’re not gonna get…obviously be respectful of the land, but the worst thing you’re probably gonna see is a cow maybe coming over to you and saying, ‘Hey! What’s up?’
So, it makes it nice. I’m not even a huge nature person. I’ve never been a huge camper. I’ve always been a very big city boy, but with this, I’m kinda like, ‘Fuck it, let’s go in the woods for a weekend, or fuck it, let’s go to the beach for a week.’ It’s phenomenal. I can’t talk enough good stuff about it. I think it’s the greatest. I’m definitely a convert. An ex-pat. I always wanted to be…I’d always see that in World War I movies, guys who stayed in France after the war and they were ex-patriots and shit. I was like, ‘Oh! I’m an ex-pat! Look at that! I’m like Ernest Hemingway.’
mxdwn: You had a pretty great role in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Are you considering more acting after the positive feedback that came from your part in the movie?
Jimmy Urine: I am what you call an accidental actor, where, a lot of times, people call me up or pull me in just because they saw the show or they’re a friend of mine or something, and they’re just like, ‘Man, you wanna be in this movie?’ Or like, ‘You’re the crazy guy on stage, could you be the crazy guy in this horror movie, or what have you?’ I never say no, because movies are just cool. I’m a big fan of movies. I’ll always say yes and then just do what I’m supposed to do, and luckily it’s all been in my wheelhouse. It’s all kind of based on me being crazy.
I could never do super dramatic Anthony Hopkins-style roles, where I’m crying and stuff, but it’s fun and I’ll always do it, but I’m definitely not focusing on it. Not like somebody who’s like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna be an actor now.’ I’ll never turn it down, ever. It’s fun as fuck, man. That’s the thing. It is true. Even when I was a kid, I would do extra work. Someone would know somebody, ’cause when you’re growing up in New York, everybody knows everybody and it’s a big and small city at the same time.
Somebody would be like, ‘Oh you wanna be an extra in this fucking Ethan Hawke film?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah! Fuck, sure, okay! Oh, free catering? I get to hang out and chat people up for fucking all day and eat free food and get bussed everywhere? Fuck yeah, this is a dream job. Fuck it.’ Whether it was me as a kid as an extra or me as an adult in a number one Marvel movie, I’m like, ‘Fuck! That’s fun shit man!’ Never turn that shit down.
mxdwn: Is Mindless Self Indulgence coming off hiatus any time soon?
Jimmy Urine: Maybe soon. We always play it by ear. Even if you look at our career, because it’s an art project and it’s on our own time scale, we’ve always done it like that. We’ve done a record and then we’ve been like, ‘Okay, let’s wait three years.’ And then, ‘Oh, now we’ve got something to say. Okay, fuck it, let’s get back together, let’s do a record, let’s do a tour.’ We’ll tour for four, five years, and then ‘Oh, okay, we’ll take some time off.’ It’s always when we’re all friends, we’re all friendly, it’s not any kind of weird Guns N Roses shit where people are like, ‘Welcome to the Jungle and this guy’s on cocaine!’ We all love each other and everything, but people are taking some family time and doing some other stuff and some other side projects and things, so it’s fun.
When we decide, ‘I think it’s time for a Mindless record,’ then we just come back together and do it. That’s one of the nice things about being in a weird art project as opposed to a real working day band, ’cause there’s bands out there that, man, those guys are no joke. Especially the metal bands. Metal bands, those are your mom and pop shops right there. Those motherfuckers work 24 hours a day. They are always touring, they are always on the road, they are always making a record, and there’s tons of middle-class, middle of the road guys in the these metal bands and man, more power to them. I see those guys on the road all the time and I couldn’t do that 360 days a year, always on the fucking road. Jesus Christ.
But they really fucking do it, and my hat’s off to that shit. Being in a nice art project, you can be like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna do a soundtrack for this year and maybe a TV show next year and then a solo record and then a side project and blah, blah, blah and then, oh, we’ll do a Mindless record five years in between and that kinda shit.’ Right now, there’s no plan today, but there’s always a plan for tomorrow. We’re not broken up is the official.
Oh, believe me, if we break up, you’ll all fucking know, ’cause there’ll be a farewell fucking KISS-style tour, you know what I mean? If anybody breaks up, we’ll let you know. Other than that, hiatus to me is nice ’cause it just means we’re just doing our shit, why are you knocking on our door? We’ll call you when we’re ready to go out.