In 1990, Manhattan’s East Village hadn’t yet developed into the glorified shopping mall that’s become so popular with big-haired tourists and yogis alike. It was still fertile ground for people who wanted to create. And it was within this landscape that the band Mindless Self Indulgence, and the character of leader Little Jimmy Urine, were born.
MSI, as fans know them, ripped the music scene a new asshole when they released Tight in 1999. If you were a teenager in the early 2000’s, there’s a good chance you were hanging out in a musty basement somewhere shouting the lyrics to “Bitches” from their year 2000 release Frankenstein Girls Will Seem Strangely Sexy. But what happened before that?
Bootlegs of MSI’s earliest work have been circling the Internet for at least a decade. Finally, their early work is getting the attention it deserves. Pink, coming September 18th on Metropolis Records, contains 15 never-before-released MSI tracks, plus covers of “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode and “Girls on Film“ by Duran Duran. The album is a snapshot of who MSI was from 1990-1997; a celebration of being young and dirty in New York City.
ATYPICAL SOUNDS spoke with singer and writer Little Jimmy Urine (born James Euringer) about the new/old album, what it was like growing up in the city, and what’s in the future for Mindless Self Indulgence.
Your new album Pink is comprised mainly of previously-unreleased music from the early days of MSI. What made you want to release it now?
JU: Well first off, people were selling the self-titled record on eBay for like 500 bucks and I was not seeing any of that money. And I was the only one who had Pink in my possession. But fans knew about the record since the early 2000’s from the Internet. Whether you like Pink or not, one thing is true – it is the most anticipated record of ours because fans knew everything about it for so long but no one even had a bootleg of it. In fact the “bootlegs” that went around were never Pink, they were other bands using the name to promote their own bad music to my fans. So I was like “Fuck that, I am going to put out the real Pink.”
Pink also has covers of “Personal Jesus” and “Girls on Film”. What attracted you to these? Has 80’s synthpop been influential to your sound?
JU: I think synthpop is influential to every single person that has ever worked with electronic music equipment, period. Even if you’re anti-synthpop, that is also synthpop influencing you to do something different. For me, I love melody and 80’s synthpop has some of the best melodies and songwriting ever.
As far as covering “Personal Jesus” and “Girls on Film,” my number one reason to cover a song is, “Can I make a bangin version of this song?” Most people cover songs because the song means a lot to them, but all my covers are based on, “Does the MSI cover slam the fuck out of the original song in some way?” And honestly “Personal Jesus” is my least favorite Depeche Mode song ever – I am a “Strangelove”/”Black Celebration” guy myself. But man does the MSI version kick ass, so of course I’m going to cover it.
Will you be touring to support the album?
JU: We won’t be.
JU: Hell yeah! All the time. She did a lot of the little vocal samples and background vocals on Pink, How I learned To Love MSI, and If. We’re both working on stuff all the time and we ask each other’s opinions, help each other with lyrics and melody here and there, talk about art production, business etc. My wife is super talented at so much stuff so, of course, I love to work with her.
You have your own record label, Uppity Cracker. Can you speak a little bit about the process of setting up and running an independent label?
JU: Well, it’s really easy; you just make up a stupid name and get an LLC. Then BAM! you’re in business. It’s just a good thing to have an imprint even if it just handles your own music. But really just go on the internet and look around you can probably find a video on YouTube that would walk you through the whole thing.
Uppity Cracker was started in 1999. Do you think setting up an independent record label is something that could still be done today?
JU: Yeah, easily. Record labels are not magic they are just small business. If you can open up a cupcake shop you can start an independent label. But it will have less cupcakes…
MSI has been around for a reasonably long time, and I’m sure some of your fans have grown up with you as well. Do you keep in contact with any of them? Are there fans you recognize that come to your shows?
JU: Of course, and I am sure that is the case with a lot of bands. But I think even more so with Mindless Self Indulgence because we have always come right off the stage literally at the end of every show and mingled with the crowd no matter how big or small the show or festival is. So being in the crowd every night for twenty years you get to know the regulars.
Growing up in New York City, how great was the temptation to cut class and do something fun?
JU: That is all we did! We grew up in an X-rated adult mall basically. With a bus/subway pass for free transportation that took you anywhere and everywhere 24/7. We would go to 42nd Street, play video games, go to peep shows and jack off, sneak into movies, go to comic book shops. It was the greatest.
Who has the best pizza in New York?
Have there been any New York venues you’ve performed at that you enjoyed going to as a teenager? Was it a special experience for you?
As a musician, have you ever felt pressured to “grow up”? How do you respond to this criticism?
JU: Nope. One of my biggest influences is Mad Magazine – it’s a subversive satire written and illustrated by smart, talented guys. But it’s also considered lowbrow humor for kids. As long as I’m me I am happy, and I have always been me and I will continue to be myself. It is very satisfying.
What do you see in the future for MSI or your other projects?
JU: I love Mindless Self Indulgence. That’s my favorite band because it’s the band that pays my rent and I will do it for as long as I am physically able. But I do not want to see Jimmy Urine on stage in a wheelchair. And as for other projects, I do a lot of work for TV, movies, comics and video games which are all things that I have loved since I was a kid. So I sleep very well at night.
Listen: Mindless Self Indulgence