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Mugison at Moers Festival 2006, Germany
|Birth name||Örn Elías Guðmundsson|
|Born||September 4, 1976|
Mugison got his nickname Mugison while on holiday visiting his father Muggi (Muggur) in Malaysia. His father is a karaoke singer and as the crowds at the karaoke bars in the small fishing villages they were touring had problems pronouncing his name they came to call him Mugison. Mugison is the Icelandic naming convention for the surname of someone who is the son of Muggi.
At the age of one, his family moved from Reykjavik to Isafjordur. When he was six his family then moved to a series of Islands on the West African Coast by the name of Cabo Verde. His father was there as part of a volunteer program teaching locals how to fish. Mugison spent an idyllic childhood in Cabo Verde owning various pet monkeys and spending vast amounts of time swimming. He did not start school until the age of nine.
From the age of 10 to 14, he lived in and around many parts of Reykjavík . At 14 he moved to a small island in the North of Iceland called Hrísey . During the winter, he was sent to a boarding/dorm school from 14-17. This is where Mugison began to explore and discover music. Prior to moving to Hrísey he had been a keen swimmer and football player, not overly interested in the arts.
During the summer of 1990, whilst working on Hrísey, he saw a poet/musician play a gig which was a major turning point in his life. The artist in question was Kjartan H Grétarsson. Mugison was so fascinated by Kjartan's mysterious presence, most notably his hair, that he sought him out and requested the musician teach Mugison how to become an artist. Kjartan agreed and they met every Wednesday in order for him to impart his widom and expose Mugison to all kinds of weird and wonderful music and literature including Frank Zappa, The Beat Poets and key Icelandic poetry. He told Mugison that this knowledge was crucial to know, as it could lend itself to conversations all over the world, no matter where you were from or where you were. Another aspect of the teacher/pupil scenario included a field trip on how to look at women, an invaluable lesson. This union has led to a lifelong friendship with Kjartan H Grétarsson creating subsequent cover art for the album Mugiboogie.
Having learnt the tricks of the trade from Kjartan H Grétarsson, Mugison moved to Reykjavík in 1993 at the age of 17. This was the year Nirvana released In Utero and Bjork put out Debut, both were highly influential in Mugison's life. He attended Hammrahlíðaskóli Menntaskóli, this particular school was chosen as so many artists had graduated from there, most notably Páll Óskar who Mugison was a huge fan of.
During his time at Hammrahlíðaskóli he befriended an influential character called Kiddi Kanína who owned the iconic record shop Hljómalind. Kiddi was very involved with the early careers of Sigur Rós and Bjork and turned Mugison onto lots of good music such as Sonic Youth and Pavement etc. This was an important friendship which solidified Mugison's love of music and encouraged him to participate and explore.
In 2000 Mugison went to London's Middlesex University SAE to complete a BA (Hons) in Recording Art. During his time in the UK he experimented with creating music on computers. Interested in creating more portable music options, Mugison visited an Apple Store to enquire when the laptop would be big enough to handle music, only to be told by a salesperson, unequivocally, that laptops wouldn't ever be big enough to make music. At the same time Bjork was predicting that all music would be made on laptops in the near future in various interviews she gave. Sharing the same vision as someone as influential as Bjork made Mugison even more determined that he was on the right path, so he purchased a second hand Apple 3G Powerbook with the sole intention to create music on it. During his studies in London, Digigram released the VX Pocket Soundcard. This new technology was so expensive that after Mugison purchased his prize possession he could not afford to pay rent for the rest of his semester, so had to sleep on friends sofas for the rest of his term in London. The investment was worth it and he began working on his debut album; Lonely Mountain.
Whilst working on his debut album Mugison spent a lot of time listening to Andy Votel and Matthew Herbert, these electronic artists were very important to him and they both ran small record labels (Twisted Nerve Records & Accidental Records) and influenced his own music making.
Upon completing the record, he made 10 burnt copies and sent them out to various labels in hope that a record label would release it. The CD was sent to all the usual suspects (4AD Records, XL Recordings etc.). He ran out of copies but wanted to contact Twisted Nerve Records so he rather charmingly farted in a mayonnaise jar, sealed the lid and posted it to the label accompanied by a note stating, if you like the smell of this fart, you'll love my music. Amazingly enough Andy Votel wrote back pledging to release his first split 7" single with Andy also featuring on the vinyl record.
He also sent a copy to Matthew Herbert who ran Accidental Records, rather, it was more akin to a love letter as Mugison was a great admirer of his work. Matthew responded to the record and agreed to release his debut album on Accidental. The artwork for the record and all subsequent Mugison CDs were all handmade. The CD packaging was ambitious with Mugison and his family hand-stitching over 10,000 copies before putting them all on a boat to England. Matthew Herbert took Mugison under his wing and nurtured his talent, becoming another mentor to him. At this point Mugison had never played a live gig. In 2003 Herbert was booked on a three week DJ tour of Japan, during this tour Herbert insisted he perform live, as his support act, thus Mugison began to finesse his live performance one man show.
The Mugison show in the early days consisted of himself, alone with a guitar and various gadgets. Sometimes a little tipsy. Always shambolic. He built himself 'The Mugibox', a box, no bigger than a suitcase, that contained all the equipment he needed to go out on the road (including his pants). He had discovered Ableton Live by this point, and played around with looping and various other tricks that the software enabled him to conjure up. He played wild, crashing guitar while mixing vocals and distorted breathing through a laptop. There weren't many other performers at this time using Ableton Live, thus giving him a slight edge in that particular area.
Mugison was booked to play at Sonar 2003 in Barcelona which turned out to be a monumental turning point in his career. Having grown disillusioned in his short time period of playing live, he treated Sonar as his last live gig. Playing in a basement parking garage, there were a handful of people to watch him, when suddenly, seconds after he started playing, the entire basement filled up with hundreds of people. Wishing to 'go out in a blaze of glory' Mugison played the gig of his life. The crowd lapped it up, and consequently became the talk of the festival. Unbeknown to Mugison, the reason for the sudden influx of people was because it had begun raining outside, however, the set was a hit and spurred him on to persevere with the live element of his career.
Sonar 2003 was a turning point and because of the good publicity and general industry buzz created as a direct result of the show he was booked to tour many headline tours around France, UK, Netherlands and Denmark. Touring became part of his life, one particular highlight was touring around Europe with fellow Icelandic band Múm during 2004.
A fortuitous chance encounter with Gruff Rhys from Super Furry Animals in London during 2003 led to Mugison Supporting the Welsh band at The Royal Festival Hall. This was a particular highlight during his early career.
After many tours during 2003/4 Mugison returned to Isafjordur and was asked to create the soundtrack to an Icelandic Film Niceland. Having no studio to create, the town kindly lent him the church in which he could record.
By the early fall of 2004 Mugison had finished his second album Mugimama Is This Monkey Music? which was recorded in an abandoned house in Isafjordur, also generously donated by the town. He moved to Reykjavik to release the album and perform at Iceland Airwaves Festival 2004. His official gig at NASA was packed and he could feel that something was happening, something big. Mugison was getting popular with the gig going fraternity. He also had his album release party at the (now defunct) NASA venue, which completely sold out. The album gained critical and commercial success.
Dani Siciliano - All The Above - writer singer
Cheek Mountain Thief - "You Are The Demon"
Bubbi Morthens- Þorpið 2012
Björgvin Halldórsson - "Minning".
Wrote a song and performed with band Reykjavík a song called "Sumarást".
Wrote a song with Múm (not released yet) performed in Poland, song called "Stamina"
Wrote a song with Icelandic reggae band Hjálmar - song called "Ljósvíkingur".
Sang 2 songs on Tómas R. Einarssons album Trúnó. songs are "Stolin Stef" and "Náungar Mínir"
On all albums Mugison has worked with Pétur Ben (he co wrote Murr Murr) and is responsible for string arrangements on many of the songs, and also played guitar. Rúna (partner) has featured on all of the albums. And his friend Biggi had mixed and mastered every album.
Aldrei Fór ég Suður Festival
Aldrei Fór ég Suður (I Never Went South) Festival is a music festival Mugison set up approximately 10 years ago. The name of Mugison's celebrated Isafjördur music festival roughly translates to: “I never went south“ (an old saying that pokes fun at those who abandoned the West Fjords for the cosmopolitan niceties of life in temperate Reykjavík).
Mugison got the idea while in London one summer performing at a Rough Trade music festival that lineup included a host of up-and-coming talent. He thought it would be fun to put on a similar festival only a bigger and more weird in Isafjördur. Mugison talked to some musician friends and everyone got excited about the idea. They even talked to Björk [about playing] when they met her downtown when they were drunk. She said they were “cutie pies" and for a long time they thought that meant “yes".
Even though Björk declined to perform, plenty of other people got excited about the idea of an all-day music festival where the only remuneration would be a damn good time. They figured Sigur Rós were too big so they asked them if they could just come over and do an acoustic set. And they showed up in cowboy hats and were doing hillbilly versions of all their old tunes. Mugison invited popular acts to perform, but he also extended the invitation to musicians with far lower profiles everyone from the local elementary-school choir to high-school garage bands to Isafjördur leather-sporting hair-metal act The Nine Elevens.
The festival rules for playing there are strict. No soundchecks and no backstage allowed, and each performing act would be informed of their playing order until just 10 minutes of getting on stage. There would be no monetary compensation, as all entance would be free.
The inaugural festival in the spring of 2004 took place in a fish factory, followed the next year by a different factory that was in the middle of being converted to a theatre but still had fire-hazardous plastic sheets covering the inside walls.
Mirstumenti Project: The Mirstumenti is an electronic music instrument conceived by Mugison and his sound engineer. The idea for the Mirstument came them when on a tour in Europe in 2003 (shortly after Sonar 2003) - At the time he was a one-man-band - bunch of controllers and guitar. Mugison and Palli (the sound-engineer) where fantasising about the ultimate setup because they didn't like putting a lot of controllers on a table, hooking up adapters and cables to all the midi stuff - they thought it should be more of an instrument - so people could see what was going on - and it should just have one on/off button.
The main part is the 192 button keyboard which is an AXIS 64 - that uses the "harmony table" or "Melodic table. Then there are some button controllers controllers fitted around it. They also built a floor-station switch has a lot of buttons and hides the computer (out of sight - out of mind). t=The duo have also built a light-system that syncs with everything. Mugison will premier the instrument at the inaugural Sonar Reykjavik in February 2013
Icelandic Music Awards 2004 :
Performer Of The Year
Best Album - Mugimama Is This Monkey Music?
Best Cover Art
Song Of The Year - "Murr Murr"
Voted by the Icelandic Music-Press 2004:
Album Of The Year - Mugimama Is This Monkey Music?
2005 saw Mugison go global with the musician playing approximately 200 gigs in one year whilst supporting his second album Mugimama Is This Monkey Music? . Gig highlights included supporting Fantomas in London at the HMV forum and playing Roskilde festival. He also shared stages with Jose Gonzalez and Hot Chip.
He also created another soundtrack for a film by the name of A Little Trip To Heaven
During 2006 Mugison established his record label Mugiboogie, he was also growing tired of the computer troubadour label and wanted to play some rock and roll with a band. He moved back to The Westfjords with his young family, bought a house, converted the garage into a studio and started jamming with friends, this was going to be the basis of the next record.
Icelandic Music Awards 2006:
'Performer Of The Year'
2007 saw the release of Mugiboogie, his third studio album in October. Mugison wanted the album to sound timeless, so that you could not identify when it was recorded, the album comprises many different rock influenced styles including heavy, light and George Harrison-esq sounds. The idea was for it to sound like a 'Best Of' album. Following the release of Mugiboogie in Europe on his own label and Ipecac Records in North America, a booking agent from William Morris approached him to represent his touring interests in North America. Mugiboogie sold over 10,000 records in Iceland alone, with no radio support.
Icelandic Music Awards 2007:
Best Rock and Alternative Album Of The Year - Mugiboogie
Voted by the Icelandic Music-Press 2007:
Album Of The Year - Mugiboogie
Gig highlights in 2008 supporting his third studio album include: supporting Queens Of The Stone Age during their 2008 Canadian Tour. First US tour - from NY to LA in three weeks. 2 piece band-setup with his good friend Davíð Þór Jónsson Popkomm in Berlin - the day Iceland went bankrupt The Nightmare Before Christmas Curated by The Melvins and Mike Patton (ATP Festival) Three headline tours around Europe plus a second appearance at Roskilde Festival 2008.
2009 saw Mugison release a live album called 'A Reminder' which contained a few songs which had been modified over the years. He sold this through his website and completed a sold out tour of Iceland with Björgvin Gíslasson
2011 saw the release of his fourth and most successful to date studio album; Haglél. The album sold in excess of 30,000 during 2011. Recorded entirely in Icelandic, and recorded on a simple two-track soundcard the album was casually recorded with friends in various houses and home made studios. Due to the phenomenal success of the record, Mugison was able to pay off various debts and as a thank you gesture to the people that bought the album he did three free concerts in Reykjavik at Harpa in December 2011. He performed the three concerts in one day, and they were all at maximum capacity. The middle performance was filmed live to air on RUV and transpired to be the highest rated TV show on RUV during 2011. Mugison also travelled around the country and performed free concerts in the following towns: Seyðisfjörður, Vestmannaeyjar, Bolungarvik and Akureyri (where he did 2 concerts).
All Mugison's albums are handmade, so to create 30,000 became a full-time job for some of his friends and family.
Icelandic Music Awards 2011: -
Album of the year - Haglél
Songwriter Of The Year
Best Song Of The Year
Best Lyrics Of The Year
Most Poplar Performer - voted by the general public
After returning to Isafjordur in 2002, Mugison met his partner Rúna Esradóttir. They currently live in the Westfjords in a town called Súðavík with their two sons, next door to Rúna's mother's house. Family is extremely important to Mugison. His wife always plays on his records as well as his extended family. He had been away from my family and friends since he went to study in London. So he made a manifesto for Mugimama - that everyone that works with him on the album should be close to the musician, that was really practical.
- Lonely Mountain (2003)
- Niceland (2004, Soundtrack)
- Mugimama Is This Monkey Music? (2004)
- Little Trip (2005, Soundtrack)
- Mýrin (2007, Soundtrack)
- Mugiboogie (2008)
- Ítrekun (2009)
- Haglél (2011)
- Official website
- Interview with Mugison
- Paste Magazine special on Mugison
- Mugison interviewed at OceanViewPress.com