Mugwampers are a Scottish Hip-Hop crew consisting of beat-maker and producer Chris McCormick AKA 'i's and emcee Aaron Bonnar AKA SaIGO and collectively hailing from Livingston, Scotland. Although, they have yet to release a proper full-length collaborative project, SaIGO & 'i's been communicating through social media since 2014, working together, actively recording material, and earnestly started building their brand last Fall. 'i's has quietly released an album entitled failure.to.communicate and a 6-track compilation EP dubbed .and then there was flowers under the Mugwampers banner/Bandcamp page within just the last two months. Nestled amongst a who's-who of featured guests including billy woods, s.al AKA Ruby Yacht's Safari Al, Uncommon Nasa, and cunabear, 'i's & SaIGO slipped out their first collaborative track attributed to Mugwampers, "white liez," on .and then there was flowers. However, I can positively assure you, Mugwampers have a number of albums, collaborative efforts, and a series of 717 EP's, as well as solo albums/EP's from both SaIGO & 'i's slated to be released before the end of 2018. Last week, I sent over a batch of 12 questions for Mugwampers, as well as one each for both 'i's & SaIGO concerning their current and upcoming releases, Scottish Hip-Hop, what's to come next form Mugwampers, and much, much more. It has been lightly edited for overall clarity. SaIGO's 'i's-produced "poetry project," ANOTHER TIME MAYBE . . is now available to stream or purchase directly from Mugwampers' Bandcamp on a Name-Your-Price basis.
Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
I. Let's start this interview off Nardwuar-style: "WHO ARE YOU!?"
Mugwampers: We are Mugwampers...
II. How did you fellas initially meet and decide to form Mugwampers?
'i's: I started talking to SaIGO back in 2014 through social media, when he reached out to me looking for instrumentals (still for sale, by the way!) when I went by a prior alias that shall remain unknown. We met in person in the Summer of 2017, when SaIGO was sleeping rough. I met him under a bridge, while he was drinking; it really just felt like I was meeting up with an old friend, as we instantly just started speaking about our favourite albums and music in general. It just felt normal and [we] started meeting up on a weekly basis, making plans to make music, but not quite managed to work out a direction, as of yet.
SaIGO: Yeah, I was in a pretty bad place, but as 'i's said, it felt natural and we ended up back at his place rockin' out to Death Grips and Atmosphere's God Loves Ugly. After I found [temporary accommodations], we had an idea for a song, lyrics, and atmospheric drones: "I AM NOT A PERSON, OF THAT TITLE I AM NOT DESERVING." As soon as I wrote lyrics to that song, we knew that this was something serious and that we should go ahead and begin our journey as Mugwampers...
III. Now, what exactly is Mugwampers, for those poor souls, who may still be unaware?
'i's: The least important people you don't know that create whatever comes to them without confining to one specific sub-genre; people that are mentally f***ed, but finding a way to cope and move forward.
SaIGO: Mugwampers, for me, is what pretty much saved me from going back to where I was in my life. I literally had nothing. Mugwampers has given me the sense of purpose that I have been needing since like f***ing ever, I know that sounds stupid, but you know... just f***ing.......... Mugwampers.
Mugwampers: It feels like a beautiful reality, when you find something that can inspire you everyday by saying just one word because you have so much belief in it and that word is "Mugwampers."
IV. Who might each of you cite as your greatest sources of personal/musical inspiration and influence?
SaIGO: My inspiration in music mainly comes from (believe it or not!) 90's West Coast Hip-Hop.... Tupac, DEFARI, Dr. Dre, and them. Also, a lot from artists like Aesop Rock, MF DOOM, and pretty much, anyone who has that "raw" feel... WU-TANG IS FOREVER!
'i's: For me, my inspiration comes from so many different genres, but to dwindle it to down to a few art stylers, I would say: El-P, Sun Ra, Lil Peep, Aesop Rock, doseone, John Cage, and Electric Wizard, to name some of the major ones.
V. Mugwampers' YouTube channel recently unleashed videos for "Another Time Maybe" (SaIGO) and "The Word of God Is Recycled" (Mugwampers) both directed by Joe Eaton AKA @joeeverse; how exactly did these videos come to fruition? When might the projects they're set to appear on be announced/released?
'i's: I met Joe at Edinburgh college. He was in the same class as me. I remember on the first day, he mentioned wanting to do music videos and that stayed in my head. I eventually approached him a few months later with the idea of doing some video work for my solo music, but that didn't pan out because I lost interest in those tracks..... and you know, Mugwampers—your favourite carpet cleaners—managed to wangle their way into some free video work by probably the best upcoming videographer in THE ENTIRE UK! (Ii Joe, send more meme mails!)
SaIGO: The EP's will be announced right now..... one of them, at least ;) 717 Volume 1 will be released 17/7/18 (yes that is 7/17) but we travel time, via calendar apps and expiring demo versions of you favourate DAW's. After release, we will drop 2 more monthly... we have more in-the-works with Joe... Go Like his page and buy stuff from him!!! The future holds more, but the present is where we are at.
VI. How do 'i's' failure.to.communicate & .and then there was flowers relate to Mugwampers' brand and upcoming releases?
'i's: 'cause I make clunk music and the first Mugwampers instrumentals I made were made up of Carpark [Records] violins and Brick [Records] drums. Also, 'cause I am part of Mugwampers, of course haha. Whatever we do solo or collabo-wise will always be part of the Mugwampers brand 'cause this [is] our life, pretty much, (MUGWAMPERS STUFF OR DOCTOR APPOINTMENTS)
SaIGO: I'm on meds, but not mine..... ay!
VII. .and then there was flowers boasts collaborations with the likes of billy woods, cunabear, Emmanuel Coto, SaIGO (Mugwampers.) Safari Al, Uncommon Nasa & wc tank. How did these collaborations come about and how did you go about placing each featured artists on their corresponding track?
'i's: This project, I made over the period of a year; pretty much, just adding to it slowly, when I seen fit. It was pretty much, just done through social media, as far as reaching out to artists. I just sent them whatever instrumentals I could hear them on and it happened just like that. There is more tracks that were made for the tape, but I am holding on to them, until it makes sense to drop them. Also, got a project with a "big name" dropping this year, hopefully, that was birthed out of the floral creation.
SaIGO: I just rap... [on] one song.... that's it...... bastard! ;)
VIII. So, I'm just curious: what exactly do your names 'i's, SaIGO, and Mugwampers mean? Also, Chris: what's the reasoning behind changing your name's spelling from ('i's')/'i's' to simply 'i's with failure.to.communicate?
SaIGO: My name comes from the story of Saigo. Essentially, the last samurai. The short version is that The Shogun didn't let him return to the place he belonged and Saigo fought long and hard for his place—granted or not—he would do it with honour. So, basically, I felt that I could relate in a sense, as when I tried to return to the town I was born and had a lot going for me, I was told I had no right to live there (Livingston, West Lothian) and I had to get letters from members of Parliament to help fight my case. They said I had "no local connection"......... I won.... "Show us signs to guide us on our path, so we can find trust. It's not what we say, but our actions that define us" - MugWampers' "Prophecy."
'i's: I have a wonky left eye..... I can see the future.
IX. When creating a Mugwampers track or collaborating on each other's solo works, what do your typical writing, beat-making, recording, etc. processes generally entail?
'i's: If I am making beats, it usually, entails me hunched over crossed legged on a floor drinking coffee or cider eating a stupid amount of rice and kidney beans. Sometimes, this takes place under a dusty desk with stains on it, but it's niiiice. If I am writing, I usually do it on-the-go over a period of time. I never write anything in full in one sitting. We usually, go places during the day and wander around. Then, smash recordings out at night; beats tends to be an all-day-every-day type of thing.
SaIGO: A session at "Highfield" with MugWampers, usually, looks like a f***in' bombsite, to be honest; pages of rhyme books everywhere, beer cans, and forgotten memories. Without [sounding] too extravagant, it's "poetry-in-transit." We are always 2 projects and 2 videos ahead of what gets announced. We work hard! We are sitting on A LOT of material. I usually, write through the week and contribute basslines to beats every now and then. The way I see it, if my life is good and I have no worries.... I can't write. It sounds brutal, but I genuinely feel that I need to be this miserable; this is me everyday. Since 'i's met me and waaay before, but I feel I have to just accept how I feel. So, I guess, that's why I write the way I write.... 'coz I'm not OK haha. I don't know really, to be honest...
'i's: It is a sad reality that we feel like we need to be this messed up to make the material we make, but that is just the place we are in. Who knows what will happen down the road.
X. I know you're currently planning a genre-eschewing 3-volume 717 EP series, but what else do Mugwampers have planned for the remainder of 2018?
SaIGO: Outside of the 717 series, we have collaboration EP's with Spawn Zero (from L.I.V.) cunabear (BearTooth Collective) and Unsung—who made the masterpiece, Young Man in 2016. Plus, more that you aren't allowed to know haha...
'i's: I also, have some projects coming out; another full project with cunabear that is slated to be titled Skulptures and a full EP with myself and Spawn Zero. Remember the name Jazz Williams, as well.
XI. For those of us still new to Scottish Hip-Hop: might you have any particular friends, affiliates, favorites, or fellow Scottish Hip-Hop artists to recommend checking out?
'i's: There is only a few Scottish Hip-Hop artists I really mess with outside of our stuff like ours friends Mac-Be, Spawn Zero, the rest of L.I.V. & CRPNTR. There is other dope artists that I mess with, but I won't return to their material too much, but Physiks is also, amazing. Listen to his sh*t, too.
SaIGO: Yeah, i agree mostly. Stay up-to-date with Mac-Be, Being MC's (Loki, Gasp & Physiks) also, Respek BA and I can't forget to mention L.I.V. (Barz Fury, Spawn Zero & Jailz.) TOGO FAM! (Kid Robotik, Orry Caren & Big Shamu) also, A-Macc & SubConsious AKA DeadSoundz. There are too many to mention, but our plan is to bring more attention to Hip-Hop in Scotland and pretty much, any artist in any country, who isn't getting the exposure they deserve. Listen to the music! Really hear it....... It's all about the least important people you've never heard of... MugLife!
XII. What made you fellas decide to select "white liez" from .and then there was flowers as the first officially-released Mugwampers collaborative track? It's sounds phenomenal and I seriously, can't wait to see and hear what's coming next!
'i's: Firstly, thanks for your kind words, man. I'm glad you love what we are doing. The reason that track went out first is because it encaptured the essential Mugwampers sound and mission statement.
Mugwampers: The lyrics are "denial-ridden ambition reveals itself;" literally, until the moment we are typing this, we have just relised that "white liez" is probably the most truthful song we have written. Simply for the fact that in the beginning there was nothing, but a dream and denial and now it has revealed itself as something with huge potential.
SaIGO: Yeah, thanks to The Witzard for being interested in something as f***ed up as Mugwampers! It means a lot. "white liez" had sort of freaked us out. It's mad. Sometimes, the true meaning of what you write will reveal itself, after someone else takes notice and relates to something that you never even knew you had addressed in what you wrote.... at least, I do anyways....
717........ 717........ 717......... 717.......... 717......... 717........ 717........... 717....... 717....... 717....... 717.
XIII. SaIGO, would you mind telling us a bit more about your upcoming solo album, ANOTHER TIME MAYBE . . dropping this upcoming Monday, June 25, 2018? I've heard the 'i's-produced album described as a "poetry project."
SaIGO: Yeah, so ANOTHER TIME MAYBE . . is a culmination of my own personal experiences. The production 'i's did on this is outstanding! There's a lot of very personal material in here. I'd say, [it] was more of a spoken-word project, rather than "poetry." Just listen to it, that's all I'm gonna say haha....
XIV. Not many people may know this, Chris, but you and I first met after Hemlock Ernst AKA Future Islands frontman Sam Herring's rapping alter-ego released "In The Land of Cats" over an original ('i's') beat called "River Echo" a couple years ago. What was it like working with Hemlock Ernst and do you two have any immediate plans to release any additional collaborations to the masses?
'i's: It was dope to work with Hemlock Ernst, as I am a big fan of all his works. I pretty much, just hit him up on Soundcloud and he said to send some stuff over and he was loving all the beats, but "River Echo" is the one that spoke to him most. So, he banged the track out in a day or so after I sent the beat and that was it, to be honest. I would love to work with him again, for sure, but don't have anything, at the moment.