For quite an introvert London-based artist and DJ MUNGO has an extremely distinct aesthetic. One that he says developed naturally through having a consistent artistic output as a freelance designer and visual content producer for the now departed Radar Radio, "I was making different shit for people every single day – if I wasn't pushed to have that much of an output I think I would overthink my style and what it is,” MUNGO explains. His textured, digitally-charged work which utilises immersive programs such as Adobe fuse and CGI, stand out in an increasingly oversaturated medium. And allow MUNGO to fluidly merge his parallel worlds of art and music to create some of the most fascinating and striking visuals – most recently for Girl Unit’s and Kelela’s ‘WYWD’ artwork and previously for Ikonika’s dark and enchanting ‘Lossy’ music video.
But had it not been for an Ed Banger compilation advert that he’d seen when younger, the 24-year-old artist doubts whether he’d be doing music at all. Art, on the other hand, has remained a constant throughout MUNGOs life, and despite dropping out of two useless uni courses the self-taught artist has always gravitated back to the visual language, “it’s the only thing that I would actually do naturally in my time”, he reflects.
Now in a position to seamlessly intertwine both art and music without being tied to a either we meet the multidisciplinary artist to talk about his memories of both, inspirations and what he currently thinks of digital art.
Who is MUNGO – How would you describe yourself and what you do?
I guess I do art and music (production, DJing and VJing) under the same alias. I wanted there to be something non-specific about it and I like that what I do is not set in stone – I'm not tied to anything.
Have you found any difficulties with not being tied to anything and switching between music and art?
Yeah definitely – you've got to be in the mindset. If I've got to get loads of graphics out quickly for someone, I'm not in a creative mindset because I'm just, like, ok shit I just need to get this shit done. And that's not the kind of mindset that I can do anything really with music because with music it's a little bit more mystical to me. I'm less familiar with the software I use to make it. Whereas art is something that I can think about more practically – if it’s a flyer for this night it's going to need XYZ it’s kind of very demystified, but with music, it’s bit harder. Sometimes it works out though – there are times when I hear something and get a visual idea from it.
Would you say you feel most creative when making music then?
I feel most creative usually depending on the time of the day. I'm basically useless before 6 pm. Anything I do AM I'm there, but on autopilot.
Where did the name MUNGO come from?
There's this grime producer called Grizzle, who's a really old mate of mine. He's got these two fat cats called Spook and Mungo. And basically, for our first ever gig – it was weird, this Irish promoter guy called Jack Finnigan was putting on a hip-hop night, but we were playing –and playing bass music the same kind of shit we play now. And the night before Jack calls me from Grizzle's yard like ‘I'm with the guy making the flyer now, I need a DJ name to put on there.’ I remember my first suggestion was BLT, and he had the weirdest reply to that, he was like, 'no acronyms because they'll think I can't spell.' I couldn't tell if he was joking, but at that point, I had just suggested my DJ name for the rest of my life was BLT. I just felt lucky for the chance to suggest anything else. And then I hear this burp and he was like ‘Grizzles cat just sat on me,’ and I was like which one? And he was Mungo and I was like, wait, Mungos a sick name…
How did you develop your artistic style?
It happened quite naturally. If I wasn't working freelance as a designer and at Radar, where I was making different shit for people every single day – if I wasn't pushed to have that much of an output I think I would overthink my style and what it is. If you don't put much work out, it's more just an idea in your head that you think would be nice. But when you're putting loads of shit out, you get to know quite quickly what you're drawn to and what excites you.
Would you like to do more exhibition work?
I want to start doing more live shows and things that just interact with people. I'm super shy and – socialising, like, I get it, but I'm not a particularly sociable person and I feel like if I do more exhibition work I could link up with people I knew and talk with a language that expresses myself and that I kind of get it's hard to describe, but yeah, as a pose to socialising for socialising sake.
What was your earliest music memory?
There's a track called ‘Lies’ by JJ Cale and my dad would play it when he was making dinner for the fam on the weekends. So in my head it became synonymous with weekends, seeing fam and nice food.
What kind of music did you grow up listening to?
Ok, so here's the weird thing – apart from that track I basically hated music until I was 12. I just didn't really get it, the idea that you could have silence if you wanted it and then play music? I had the idea music was something forced upon you. But, then I started finding music that sounded really different that got me excited. I think the first music that I got into was Ed Banger? And that also made me do what I want to do now. I remember Ed Banger records put out an advert for a compilation– and the art direction was so solid and so sick that it made me give the music a chance. If it wasn't for the graphics that came with it then I probably wouldn't have listened.
So art came first and then the music?
Art, deffo. I would be that kid at kid parties if there'd be a Clown or something I would go to the other end of the house and just be drawing or playing with lego or something. It was all I really gave a shit about doing.
What was your first art memory?
One time when I was a kid I won a Blue Peter drawing competition, where you had to draw something to go across the BBC broadcasting house. I drew a cross-section of what I imagined was going on in the building (it was super lame) but the prize was to have your work imprinted across the front of the BBC building. And, yeah, that actually got quite a lot of hype and I remember bare things came out of it. I turned on the fucking Oxford Street Christmas lights that year with Daniel Beddingfield. I was famous for like two minutes – on Radio 1 doing interviews and shit. I got a job of it as a Cartoonist at the Oxford Times which was fucking mad.
Have you always want to do something visual?
It's the only thing that I didn't have to force on myself and the only thing that I would actually do naturally in my time. And it's the only thing that I would get excited about. I'm very dyslexic and I was fortunate enough at one point in school to have this teaching assistant who basically worked out like, ok, if I let this kid draw for a little bit, at the end of the lesson he'll be sweet. And that was the only way to kind of get me to do things.
Fave programs to use?
Cinema4d is my main one – I use it for all of my 3D stuff and a lot of my 2D stuff as well. But nothing that interesting or techy tbh: Photoshop, illustrator all the basics. I've really been into Adobe fuse recently, which is basically like sims when you're making the person but in an Adobe programme and you can put animation files in them– it's really useful if you just want to have like a person in the theme quickly.
Do you think digital art has changed a lot from when you started getting into it?
I feel now in comparison to two, three years ago there's way less of an attached novelty to it. A few years ago if I made something that wasn't stylised in an interesting way or conveying a mood but it was a good 3D vendor it would still probably survive off the novelty of it being in that medium. But now, no one really gives a shit, it's everywhere so people are forced to make more original, interesting stuff. And I think it makes it a really exciting time to be doing that stuff because the standards are so much higher.
And when did you decide to pursue music?
Probably 15 was when I started DJing. At school, it was like you either liked Paramore or Giggs –and that was it. There was no in-between. I liked DnB, electro, and kind of indulgently techy music I guess. And no one I knew really liked that music so music was an exciting thing for me, and it wasn't something that was necessarily socially rooted like it is for most people.
Do you play the same kind of stuff now?
More or less. I was listening to the first ever mix that I did which was at that night– the hip-hop night.
Who or what are your biggest influences?
The first one that got me really gassed about how art can compliment music and basically made me do what I wanted to do was the So Me –Ed banger thing. And then after that, another big influence for me was the early Night Slugs. I just like the way they just seemed to be worlds that worked complimentary to each other and with each release you'd feel like you'd another bit more of that world that they existed. There’s something so instantly immersive about them and I thought that was just really cool.
Has being from London influenced you to work – sonically and visually?
I think so, I think my stuff would be really different if lived somewhere else in the world. But it's hard to say at the same time because I've always lived in London my whole life and not anywhere else for more than a week. I'm very confident it has but it's hard to see exactly how.
Where has been your favourite place to DJ so far?
Probably Corsica because the sound is set up in such a good way, the monitors work perfectly– the Soundsystem is solid. It just makes it that little bit easier, you can relax and get creative when you're mixing instead of worrying all the time whether that sounds right or what it sounds like.
Name a track that describes your life right now?
There's a track called White Noiz from the soundtrack from the Silent Hill PS2 game. It's really kind of hazy –if you listen to it it's a sonic rendition of the feeling you get in your head when you're really sleep deprived, but you've got that high off being sleep deprived.
Images courtesy of MUNGO
interview GERALDA CELA
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