Geoffroy Mugwump ….. is one of those producers of long journey, with a past started in the top moments of the new beat in Belgium, his passage through Ibiza and collaborations with Kolombo, publishing on a multitude of labels, a producer with a variety of styles and a musician who is always marked is the quality. … promoter, dj, musician, producer, owner of his label, with him we have been talking, reviewing his career, his works, and his latest album, “Pneuma”, released on his own label Subfield Records …… a great, very great, a master Mugwump ….
It’s a real pleasure to have you back in Como las Grecas, you know this is your home.
– It’s good news every time we hear about a new release from you. Tell us first, what have you been doing all this time? Not only during the pandemic, since a few years ago we haven’t heard from you.
Well In 2018, I released the second Mugwump album written with a band and we then toured with it in France, Belgium, UK and Germany. It was full on live music with no computers and it was pretty intense, I did also quite a few remixes in the meantime and in 2019 I wanted to take a break and to write electronic music again. I started working on the new album and in between i undertook an academic degree in political science actually, which i’m still busy with at the moment. It goes quite well.
– Being Belgian, with all that it means musically, and living a few years in Ibiza as a DJ, what influence on your music and as a DJ have those 2 experiences meant?
I’m lucky enough to have witness the rise of the Belgian new-beat scene, from the inside, as I was already a record collector and hung in a shop which was at the epicenter of it (USA Import) and finally worked there. The scale of the evolution months after months, trends after trend was absolutely mindblowing. New music, new styles, it was developmental heaven : ). But back then, it was really really complicated to emerge as a DJ in Belgium. The craft was different from now : residents were working in the same venue for 3 nights in clubs, had massive record collections and years of experience. So I decided to go to Ibiza in the early nineties to try being noticed as it was the epicenter. It was really hardcore but absolutely worth it. After three seasons, I ended up playing for Jose Padilla with Sasha in Pacha, then their funky room loads, played with Alfredo, hung with Pippi and Cesar, played Ku (Manumission second room) and finally landed a residency at Km5 in 1995. But it then became extremely conventional for me with all the UK superclubs trying to step foot and the goa trance parties as the only underground spots. There was not enough proper house being played. It became very marginal back then and I was an underdog on the scene. So i went back to Belgium to start the Food Club which ran untill 2005. Week in week out, we had frankly all the best house dj’s from US, UK, France, Germany and Belgium for a decade. And i started to tour worldwide.
– You have worked with labels like Kompakt, Throne Of Blood, International Deejay Gigolo Records, R & S Records, Cocoon, Permanent Vacation, Endless Flight…. and finally you decided to start your own label, Subfield…… What does it mean for you to have your own label, and what experiences have you had working with those other labels?
It’s been amazing for me to release on those labels and I really feel those records stand the test of time. But sometimes the release dates were too close. When I started working on the first LP, I wanted to to something pop with songs and it did not really fit on those labels so !K7 suggested i launched my own label and they’re amazing at helping me with all administrative, distribution and management issues trough their highly efficient label services division. I control everything, including release dates, gets a fantastic distribution and network of services.
– Pneuma, is your third studio album, the third on your own Subfield label, how do you see your musical evolution?
I always think (as stated in one my lyrics) that « the path reveals itself while we walk ».
I’m a collectionner turned recordstore seller, then turned dj, then turned producer. I started to produce dancefloor 12’s on big labels then i was offered to do an album. However, in regards of my musical background, I wanted to try producing a timeless album with pop overtones and songs but I was not a singer so I crammed many vocal featurings in there (Luke Jenner from The Rapture, Samy Birnbach from Minimal Compact, Circlesquare, Ost & Kjex…) and the first LP « Unspell » was born. Then I realized it made a lot of sense to defend it with live performances and I thus set up a live band to defend it and had one singer covering all the songs. We started touring (clubs, festivals, The Great Escape, Eurosonic,…) and absolutely loved it but the live crew did not wrote the songs and it showed some limits on stage. I realized I wanted to go deeper within the live aspect and decided to get rid of computers on stage. So I wrote a second album from scratch, exclusively with a band, in rehearsal rooms. They then pushed me to sing and write lyrics. That’s when « the second LP « Drape » was released. After more intensive touring, I wanted to take a break and get back writing electronic music alone but still singing on it. That’s what 3rd LP « Pneuma » is made with.
– What instrumentation have you used in the studio for the creation of Pneuma? What is the compositional process you use?
I wrote lyrics for songs, then started to build beats on my laptop and add some basic synths, samples and fxs. I then recorded the lyrics in a proper studio from Brussels and mixed the songs with my partner Kolombo in his studio and he added some final touches (more fxs / slightly more drums.
– In the album stands out the track ‘Breakout’, an excellent version of a Swing Out Sister’s classic. How was the idea of this version, this twist that you give to the original, and you build something practically new?
It’s a song I really liked in the 80’s. People don’t often realize it was written my members of influentail UK bands A Certain Ratio and Magazine. I tought the lyrics could be interpretated within a more activist, dissent perspective and tought it would suit current events. The models of our western societies are falling apart in regards of climate change, migration issues or social inequalities and i reckon civic society has to step up – and it does already a lot – to also intervene in this mess. The terms of democracy still allow participation and democracy is able to found a community which cannot be definitively circumscribed within its borders or its limits and open up the possibility of extensions trough granting more rights and more deliberation processes within institutions. That is why civic societey needs to « breakout »
– Your music stands out for its eclecticism and variety of styles, what music do you usually listen to when you are at home, working ….. and how do you select the tracks when you prepare a Dj session ……
I listen to a lot of jazz, funk, pop, kraut and postpunk when Im at home, also a lot of shows on NTS radio and Kiosk Radio but not when Im working really. I need to focus on my political science degree this has been really heady and intense. Regarding DJ sessions, I always look to find obscure classics and oldies i dont really know and im up to date with all recent disco/electro/house/techno releases trough Bandcamp, Juno, Beatport plus tons of promos i receive. I select a mix and order the tracks in terms of intensity, ready to be used in appropriate moments of the night.
– How do you see the current music scene in Belgium?
There’s a lot of amazing bands, good djs, new dj’s, great parties and festivals. But the offer is a bit saturated and « bottlenecked » after COVID like everywhere. And, like everywhere, social media offers a sad state of the affairs with Instagram and TikTok clips all looking standard: its funny how the disqualified 90’s drumroll has turned into a small clip for mostly every dj now obligated to post « their » moment rocking the audience, all the social feeds are crammed with those absolutely similar moments. Additionnally DJ’s obligated to document their not very attractive lifestyle on socials show the limits and silliness of what we do.
– How have you lived, as an artist, the pandemic situation?
It allowed me to finalize the lp but all in all I was mostly reclused and busy studying loads so it quite matched the moment and I was also busy within various civic associations Im member of, to try intervene in lockdown decisions and issues badly affecting artists, venues and labels. Im very happy now that we can finally also hold our Leftorium parties again in Brussels. The next one is with Maurice Fulton and Sean Johnston (A Love from Outer Space) on June 25th.