If you’ve encountered MSI then you’ll know them to be a bunch of brightly coloured pranksters with a line in effervescent electro-pop-punk-metal-techno that has won them hundreds of thousands of fans. Some twelve years after its initial release, the band’s debut album ‘Tight’ has now been rechristened ‘tighter’, expanded to an obscene length and coupled with a DVD in order to re-launch it to a whole new generation who may not have discovered the band until the blazingly successful ‘if’. Almost a living cartoon, MSI are known for their insane live shows, their deviant humour and their distressingly catchy songs so when a chance for an interview with MSI front man Jimmy Eurine was offered I jumped at it, not least because reviewing ‘Tighter’ had been a blast. Then I began my research which, as it so often does, included looking back at old interviews to see what may interest the man and what may drive him nuts. What I witnessed turned my blood cold. Microphones were eaten, songs were sung and hapless interviewers were berated from a great height and I began to have visions of my brief aspirations towards journalism rent asunder by Jimmy’s patented bullshit detector.
As the day got closer questions were drafted and re-drafted as I contemplated the notion that a band that’s been going for in excess of a decade has heard everything several times over and anyway, if Jimmy turned out to be in a playful mood, I would most likely end up reprinting the lyrics to an off-the-cuff song rather than anything more concrete. The day of the interview arrived and with no small amount of trepidation I dialled the number only to be greeted in French before launching into a free-flowing conversation that covered all manner of topics. The following is a more or less (less where things got too quick to transcribe 100%) verbatim account of one of the most enjoyable interviews I have ever conducted and I am proud to present it to you.
J: [Phone rings] Bonjour!
SA: [Confused] Bonjour and greetings from England – how are you doing?
J: Hey what’s going on England, how you been?
SA: Cold, wet, grey, lil’ bit miserable – y’know the usual!
J: really? I thought it was summer there – isn’t it summer there or is it just always that?
SA: You’ve been in England right? We don’t really have summer…
J: Oh my god! I love England man, come on!
SA: Anyway, my name’s Phil, I’m calling from the website SonicAbuse…
J: I haven’t checked it yet – is that a music site or a porn site?
SA: Which would you prefer?
J: I’ll take the porn site ‘cause it’s totally fun…
SA: Alright so if we throw some nudity into the interview would that work?
J: That would be fine, let me take my pants off!
SA: [Laughs] Alright! So, you’re promoting ‘tighter’ which has come out now and, looking back at some of your interviews, you said you’d only re-release ‘tight’ when it hit $900 on Ebay, I guess you got tired of waiting!
J: Well it got up there! Well it didn’t get as high as… there was a record that came before that which nobody has – like a self-titled one – there’s a couple of radio promos that go on ebay… well the highest I’ve seen any of our records go, which is usually the self-titled one, is about $500 on Ebay. But ‘tight’ was going for a good hundred dollars a clip – a little bit less or a little more (it’s kinda like the stock market) and I thought ‘well hey! I’m not getting any of that money, so let’s put it back out there!’
SA: That’s got to be pretty cool for you – to see that people are so keen to get hold of your early recordings and stuff?
J: Yeah – it is! It’s actually kind of weird! It’s pretty cool that somebody would be like ‘Oh look at this shit that you’ve decided to keep out of print, and forget about – and we’re going to trade it for hundreds of dollars!’ It feels kind of bookish, which I like – it has a very comic book feel and it still because people have this first run, second run, deluxe version feel to it. Even on Ebay it’s not like the original suddenly isn’t worth anything so it still has that, you know, ‘Action! Comics No.1’ / ‘Spider Man reprint – they’re not worth as much but they came with a special extra story…’
SA: You’re a big fan of comic books and stuff like that because you’ve just done an MSI comic I believe…
J: Yes, yes, we did. I’m a huge fan of comics of course and we did the comic book and it came out on Image, which is a very wonderful comic book company out here in the states and Jess Fink is the artist who did the art; and we did all the stories which are basically just stories of us on the road, the real stories. Because I was like ‘why make up crazy stories about us in space or fighting superheroes when our real stories are just as fucking nuts – might as well use those…so…’
SA: Image had Spawn right?
J: That is the same Image yeah – they had Spawn and a bunch of other stuff since then, but that’s where they originated.
SA: That’s a cool place for you to be then… what sort of comics do you follow?
J: Oh Jeez – well so many! On the British side, I love all the 2000AD – I used to collect 2000 AD when I was a kid so all Judge Dredd, all the Slaine stuff, you know – all the 2000 AD stuff on that side. A lot of European comics was what I grew up with which is weird. I was never a big Superman/Batman fan – hated DC. I liked Marvel because Marvel actually took place in a real city – the City I grew up in, in New York and I was like ‘OK, well that makes more sense – they’re not in Metropolis… where is that?’ There’s the Fantastic 4 near the centre, and Daredevil hangs out in Hell’s Kitchen, and the X men are upstate and to me, that was like ‘oh, perfect – these people actually exist!’ but all my real influences came from underground comics like Gilbert Shelton and the Freak Brothers or it was all European comics like Mobius and Richard Corben and all those guys who did ‘Heavy metal’ with the tits hanging out all over the place – those were my huge, major influences.
SA: That, for me, comes across in your music because MSI is really bright, really colourful – would you say that the comic have been a significant influence in what you’ve become and the music that you make?
J: Oh yeah – we all… all four of us came from very arty backgrounds. We’d all gone to art schools and brought those kind of influences in, whether it was a fashion thing – “ooh, I saw this thing in a magazine..”’ or someone would come in and say “I just watched an anime, and this is what people did in it…” Every aspect of what we did – whether we were bringing it into the group and saying “we’re going to do this…”’ or just coming into the group and going “‘I’m going to do this tonight!”… “Yeah I’m going to do a fucking back-flip because I saw Fred Astaire do it in some fucking movie,” or whatever… that’s what we bought in – it was all these other things that we were interested in and it just became this big sort of… that’s how MSI ends up being MSI!
SA: One of the things about being a musician is that your back catalogue sits out there and every so often a record company will come along and re-issue it so you’re permanently confronted with everything you’ve done in the past – how do you feel your older stuff stands up now it’s being re-issued ten… no twelve years later?
J: Well actually that’s the funny thing. One of the things that people would always tell us that was sort of anti-MSI was that we were ten years ahead of our time. They loved us, they were fans of ours, but if it didn’t sell a million copies, or if they didn’t want to put us on TV or book us at a thing, then it was always like a back-handed compliment – “you guys are so good…” or “You guys are so futuristic… but you have nothing to do with what’s going on right now – you’re ten years ahead of your time.” Well, for someone who was ten years ahead of their time, it actually fits in very well with what’s going on right now so it kinda holds up, I mean it sounds like a lot of… I mean just look at the way music is now – dub step and all that stuff – sounds like MSI with all it’s crazy, nut-case drops and stuff… and people cursing and they’re winning Grammys for it – I mean I was running around and cursing all the fucking time and just saying what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it and now people are “hey, fuck you!” and someone offers them a Grammy for that and I’m just “what??! Really?” So now you get Grammys for cursing, you get chicks for loving comic books and being a geek and you can do whatever kind of crazy drops and nutty out-of-time drums and we just think ‘well fuck you! We had all that shit ten years ago, so I think it holds up pretty well! It just sounds very current.
SA: How do you feel you’ve developed musically since then?
J: We kind of pulled it back slightly a little bit here and there. I don’t think we pulled it back in the offensive department – I think honestly the only thing that’s changed is nothing incredibly technical, but there was a little bit of slowing down. You know the BPM – it’s a very weird scientific thing to say but it’s not like “well as a songwriter…” but you know I wrote whatever I wanted to write, like who’s not writing about what? Oh they’re not writing about taking a lot of drugs – OK – I’ll write about that… or no one’s writing about how everybody just does the same old stuff – how they love stuff like Jimi Hendrix, or the Beatles or Jimmy Page – and then just do a Jimmy Page cover band – like Wolfmother or Interpol where they basically sound like a Joy Division Cover band and for me it’s well “just say you’re a Joy Division cover band!” so I would write songs like ‘I hate Jimmy Page’ and just say whatever I want. But the only technical thing where there’s been a difference is that instead of things being like 240BPM they’ve slowed down a little bit so you have songs like ‘straight to video’ which were about 125BPM – that’s a nice dance song… and a lot of stuff on ‘If’ was clipping along at a pretty reasonable BPM. IT was still fast and had cursing and was pretty giddy and had wacky ideas, but the speed slowed down a touch and so, you know, that was the only difference I noticed.
SA: You’re one of the few acts who have managed to keep creative control over your own output – how important was that to you?
J: It was very important because we had sort of invented this weird sound and we wanted to really…I didn’t want to have to fight with someone on every level. I wanted everything all at once, 1000 beats per minute, and all these crazy song subjects and whatever kind of art we want to do and how we want to dress – I think that’s all important in the sound because the sound and the image and everything is basically made up of looking at everyone else we don’t like and doing the opposite. So if I’m sitting with an A&R guy and he’s telling me not to dress in pink and don’t put those drums in and don’t have it go from 100BPM to 1000 and then back down again and don’t have the song be a minute long – anything that we wanted to do creatively we wanted to have the freedom to do because we were trying to do something totally different just because that band didn’t exist and we wanted to make that band. It was the sort of band we wanted to see was mindless and, ironically, I’ve never seen Mindless live because I’m the one playing it. I’ve seen Steve live – I’ve seen three people in the band live but I’ve ever seen me and the whole band live!!
SA: You’ve done really well, it seems, to keep a stable, solid line up over the years because a lot of bands have people come and go and you’re quite an intense group of individuals…
J: Well I think it helped… sometimes it works like this and sometimes it doesn’t… but most bands are kind of people who go out to find a guitarist and find somebody to do their project with and then they get successful and suddenly they realise that one of the people they’ve grabbed from college or whatever is a junkie… you see it all over. But this lucked out because we were all friends and when I put this set up together I had all this music and I wanted to do a band and I wanted to do it with friends. I hate musicians, I really do. I think most people who are musicians before they are creative people are actually pains in the asses – it’s the ones when people get together and hang out and just happen to also play instruments – that usually ends up being cooler. You end up getting a little more of…you have so much more in common. And at the en of a show when we go back to the bus it’s not like someone doesn’t want to do this r that – we’re all hanging out the back playing video games or reading comic books or talking shit or getting all excited or whatever. And whatever we’re doing we’re doing it together and it’s kind of like hanging out in your mom’s basement except you get to take that on the road in this big basement bus and do shit.
SA: …which is pretty much every teenagers dream I imagine…
J: Yeah – I would assume!
SA: …and now you get to get up on stage and say what you want and there’re very limited repercussions…
J: Well, yeah! Like I said, we found this little niche to make and because of that I kind of get away with murder really. I get to go up there and people are expecting me to say what the fuck I want to say and that is really – it’s a very comfortable position to be in because I’m not trying to necessarily shock anybody – we’re actually telling you the truth. We’re one of the only bands who actually tell you the truth. Most bands go with the flow and that’s why they sell 20 million records because they stand up there, they sing their songs, they don’t tell you there’s fakery or bullshit – they show you they 100% believe in what they’re doing which is smart and they make a lot of money. And we go out there and we basically show people it’s all bullshit and people are a bunch of idiots coming out and we break a bunch of shit and they can watch us do it!
SA: That’s distressingly ordinary – I was expecting at least some animals to be delivered or something!
J: I wish!
SA: One of the things from an English perspective is that it sees very easy to..shock people in America. Do you find that what pushes buttons in the US doesn’t get people quite so riled up elsewere?
J: It’s interesting – there’re definitely a lot of different dynamics but one of the things in America is that they don’t get our humour. We have a very English sense of humour – we’re all big Anglophiles and we all watch all the shows and we watched all the shows over the last decade way ahead of when they hit in America so the great thing about coming over to England was that every little nuance, every little thing – they got. You didn’t have to do it outrageously. In America, you can say something really fucked up and actually kind of funny and people would take it as something really horrible and ask how we could say that and maybe one person would get it. That sort of taking the piss humour just doesn’t exist in America. They either like it really crude or really obvious and then some places just don’t get it at all – they just dig the hardness of it. Like Germany – you can be doing jokes and crazy stuff and going over the top and they ‘re just like [German accent] “we don’t get it – play hard and fast! What is buttsheiser? Why are you making shit jokes? I don’t understand – play harder!”
SA: In fairness they have Rammstein – men with big strap on penises so there’s quite a lot of competition there!
J: Yeah – all the fire and stuff!
SA: It’s interesting you talk about the British sense of humour because one thing we notice over here is that every time we export a show to America it gets changed.
J:I do not like that! There was a bunch of shows that I watch and I just don’t get why the fuck they have to change it. I get the Office thing – it was big here it was big there… but even stuff like Shameless – that was perfectly fine and then they bought it over here and re-did it for HBO and it was shot-for-shot and the only difference was the accents and I don’t get what people didn’t understand with the accent. But I guess… We’re a huge country and I guess people in the mid-west and the west just don’t understand regular English accents and they don’t understand all the references. I mean I grew up watching the Young Ones and Monty Python… if someone says something… even if I don’t know the slang exactly I get an idea of where the joke’s going whereas people in the mid-west, if they’ve never seen British stuff then they’ll struggle with the accent and the subtleties of the language. I mean I just didn’t understand why they did that with Shameless because there’s no other difference at all, just American actors but otherwise it’s shot-for-shot exact. Why not just licence the original and bring it over… who cares!
SA: You always get lumped in with the metal press more than anything else… I that where you saw yourself going?
J: No and I think it’s a left-over thing. First off metal is one of the only genres where they exist as what they are period. If you’re metal, close to metal, black metal or whatever you’ve got a place to go. There’s still radio stations that play it, there are specialty shows that play it, there’re magazines that talk about it – it’s a very scene driven thing. Whereas if you’re doing roc music now then you may not be cool in ten years time, but with metal it’s always pretty straight and when we were coming up that’s all there was. Nu-metal was a huge thing and here was this bunch of crazy guys and girls (which was a big fuck in the head for people) playing with weird synthesizer bleeps and bloops and 8 bit shit and crazy punk rock songs with little metal bit and hard bits but the hard bits were almost hard rave which was a weird thing. It’s a little bit like System of a down – they also got lumped in with all the metal and they’re kind of metal and they have a slayer feel but it’s still… they have a thousand other things going on and it was very much an of the time thing and we were there at that time and we opened for a lot of those type of bands like Linkin Park and Korn or Rammstein and I don’t mind – it’s fine so long as the metal community likes it – if they think it’s hard it’ll keep your mind off of limp bizkit then I’m fine with that.
SA: You referenced punk there – I always took punk to be more about musical freedom than a style of music – would you ally yourself more with that aspect of freedom then?
J: yeah – I definitely think that’s an aspect of the look and the feel and the shortness. Like I said there were so many things that you pulled pieces of. None of us – that was one of the reasons we were all friends to begin with – nobody pulled from one area where they just listened to Slayer or punk rock or whatever. We liked all that shit everyday and one day you’d wake up and wanna hear Slayer and the next day Dead or alive… so there were so many aspects coming in and the punk rock thing was just part of it. I like the one minute songs. I like to hear a song that lasts one minute and then done. Next song. I thought that was incredibly great. No wasting time coming up with a bridge or stupid guitar solo.
SA: One of the things about bands like MSI, the Butthole surfers or whatever is that it’s kind of fun and music seems to be deadly serious and that’s cool but do you think there’s more of a place for the fun side of music as well?
J: Yeah – not everybody has to be serious and that’s another aspect of the whole bullshit thing. Are you really trying to tell me that every single person trying to write a song about something – they’re all going to write about love and they really all mean it? No! They just want to be famous or they saw someone else do it. You know they saw Nine inch nails once when they were a kid and Trent sung that song ‘hurt’ and he just stood there and cried and sang the song and they they decide they’re going to do that and it’s like “yeah – you and million other people!” Only one of them is going to really sell it and it’s not even about that, it’s about being in the right place at the right time with the right marketing team and the right money…. so it’s all bullshit. If no one was making any money, no one would be doing this shit! And that’s the one thing that pisses people off when I say, but it’s true it’s like just because you have this band, maybe Bright eyes is out there, or NIN or even Lady Gaga who pretty much art-speaks her way through everything – if they weren’t getting paid they would do it for like a week… maybe a couple of months. You know if you’re twenty it’s cool and you get free beer and get girls and you’re the first of 50,000 bands at a festival and then get to hang around the festival – that’s cool for about a year but when you’ve got zero in the bank, are you just going to keep doing that shit? No! Then it’s a hobby!! It’s a business – people make money.
SA: I saw a lot of old interviews when I was researching for this and you range from gleefully demented to rather erudite – to what extent do you feed off the expectations people have of you?
J: Hardly at all? That’s part of who I am is to do what I wanna do. If I feel like talking about how much I hate everything right now, or just making up a silly song for the interview then we’ll do that. It’s just part of being able to be myself. It’s been very positive – it’s actually worked out… for me [laughs] it’s great if I am actually allowed to do that, you know I don’t have to go put away the crossword puzzle because I’ve got to look super-hard and pull out the drugs. You’ve got to be able to do what you want to do and you’ve gotta think, ten years ago the world was not as customisable as it is now. I am a very customisable person – I can read a comic book or take some ecstasy or kiss a boy and kiss a girl and then I want to do a crossword puzzle and walk a dog – then I’m going to do that and no-one from any camp can ask me why I’ve done that. You know people who are super-straight-laced who I hang out with can’t say “why did you kiss a boy? You’re nuts!” and the people who are super-nasty can’t be like “why are you doing a crossword puzzle? You’re fucking lame!” because I just do what the fuck I want to do and I don’t give a shit and now… Everything’s customisable – your facebook is customisable… you only see the world that you decide to create and I mean I’m going to watch this particular movie – I’m going to listen to this particular band, I’m going to be friends with this particular person and then the computer’s going to point everything towards me – it’s going to see that I like this kind of band so it’s going to send me more bands like that which is great; or more places to shop which is cool. It’s going to tell me I should be friends with these people so all of a sudden everyone is living in their own customisable world so it’s like ‘welcome to my world, bitch!’ You know if I like someone and want to hang out with them then that’s cool, and if I only have two friends but they’re real friends then that’s cool too – I don’t need to have a party with 30 people I hate!
SA: But still, it must mean at times you’ve got interviewers who try to challenge you, who try to get you to slag off other bands or whatever… that’s got to become frustrating?
J: We love to slag off other bands… but err, the only thing that ever pisses us off interview-wise, and the only reason that we would ever go to the left or right is if somebody didn’t do their research. If someone comes on the bus and asks for an interview and they ask “so, what’s MSI all about? Where did you guys come from? How did you guys get together? Where does the name come from? What do you do live?” I always wonder – well you’re going to see us live and you have no clue what we do and you want me to sit here and explain to you what the fuck we’re going to do in five minutes instead of watching it??? Yeah – we’re going to sing a fucking stupid song [laughs] we’re not going to answer that question, it’s stupid, we’ve answered that question for the last ten years – if you don’t know by now then you’re the one late to the party motherfucker, not me. So that’s usually the only time we’d alienate interviewers. Other than that if an interviewer asks a question we’re going to fucking answer it and pretty damn truthfully but if you’re going to ask…and kudos to you sir, none of your questions have been very stupid – it sounds like you’ve done your research… all you have to do is open up a Wikipedia page, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t fucking do that…
SA: [stammering a touch] Thank you!! I try to know a bit about who I’m talking to – it helps!
J: You’d be surprised though! Motherfuckers think that they can just do whatever and big people too, not just a website or a ‘zine but big-assed publications just walk in and they have no clue and just ask questions like “errrr….where’d the name come from?” and it’s like ‘dude! Get out!!!”
SA: But with the big publications obviously it’s not about passion or interest – it’s because you’re paid to do it!
J: Right… so you throw in a couple of extra bands on the list at a festival and you get a pay check… [Thoughtfully] that makes sense – I would do the same thing!
SA: I’m taking up loads of your time but I have one more question if that’s OK – you’ve just done another record – the Left Rights which to me is stylistically quite different – it seems to emphasise the more rap side of it and it’s still very much in the same format as MSI – is that just an escape for you??
J: Well it’s pretty much me and Steve with zero rules. Left Rights is basically MSI with zero rules. People think that MSI is a band with no rules because yes, comparatively to something like Linkin Park there are zero rules, which is why people in these bigger bands enjoy watching and playing and having us open for them because for them it’s a riot. They’re not going to.. . Linkin park aren’t going to get up there and berate the audience – they’re going to get up there and do their act so when we’re the opener they’re going to think it’s hilarious and same thing with Korn and everybody else. But with MSI we still want to sell some records – there’s still some marketing and we need to get some money and pay the rent. Left Rights is just me and Steve exactly how we were back when we were teenagers laying video games and just running around the streets of New York in the late eighties. Ad that’s all it is – zero rules – we don’t give a flying fuck if anybody loves it. If a mindless kid loves it, cool, go buy it. If not, then who gives a fuck! All the jokes in there are literally so I can play it and make Steve laugh or so he can play it and make me laugh. I don’t give a fuck if anybody laughs outside of that group so that had to be done to take the Mindless thing to another level of freedom. I mean we have so much freedom, we might even take it for granted with Mindless… but when you do that for ten years, when you’re always on the road or in the studio, you kind of want to have something where those little things that you do, whether it’s on the bus or behind the scenes or the things we’ve grown up with – so we just went and did that.
The other thing is that there’s so much hidden shit on the record that no one will ever get. There’s hidden famous people in there, hidden friends in there, hidden artwork in there… there’s so much hidden shit because we love that stuff. So we’d have someone in the background for example, of some song and I’m not going to tell you – we never even marked it, we just thanked people and some people we didn’t mention that they’re in the record at all and a voice may pop up in the background, it may not – you don’t know… and I think that’s fucking hilarious!
SA: Thank you so much for talking to us – it was really fun
J: thank you and we’re looking forward to coming back to England and we’re one of the only bands in the world who actually love English food – so we’ll be back just because you serve Yorkshire pudding, bangers and mash and Shepherd’s pie so just on that alone we’ll come back!!