Mingo is from USA and plays some kind of futuristic ambient/drone/space music, where beautiful or gruesome things are both hiding. Pleasant and dreadful at the same time, Mingo is surely not the common ambient music. Anybody who likes the sound of cold and ponderous notes should first check out Mingo then read this interesting interview with the man from behind the shadows.
I searched the internet to find out what is "Mingo" and I have found this: “Mingo is an Iroquoian language native to the areas of western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and West Virginia. It is a seriously endangered language, with very few native speakers remaining.” Why have you chosen this name" Mingo" and how do you think the name Mingo associate with the music you play?
I am frequently asked that question and I wish that I had a profound or interesting story to give. But the truth is, Mingo is just a last name – like VanHalen. I’ve heard of the reference to the Iroquois before, but in my case there is no relation.
The album "The Once And Future World" is like a journey, where we can see and met beautiful but also hideous things, musically speaking: sensations of coldness/melancholy and lukewarm atmospheres are there too. What kind of impressions would you like to generate in the listener?
You basically described the kinds of things I’d like people to think about when listening to my music. We need to consider all of these things, the things we perceive as being good or bad, pretty or ugly, and realize that they are all a natural part of the world we live in. Everything has its role or a reason to exist. And in a way it is all equally beautiful.
Why do you try to give very minimal information about Mingo? I don't even know if Mingo is a one-man-project, or more a band with other people involved...Who/what is Mingo?
Mingo is just me – a solo artist. I don’t intentionally try to be secretive about myself. But I also don’t think it’s necessary to be too forthcoming about myself either. I would just rather let the music speak for itself.
If you don't mind I think that Mingo carries on what artists like Tangerine Dream or Brian Eno started decades ago. What do you think makes Mingo unique, or different from the other names in the ambient/drone/space style?
I think the main differences between any two artists would be why or how someone creates. Or the process in which one creates. For example, you could walk into a bookstore and pick up two different books. On the surface they look the same and they may be written in the same language. But upon reading them you find that they contain two completely different stories. I think that’s the same way with music. There are all these different genres or styles. And while my music may be put in the same category as Eno or Steve Roach for example – I believe we all create this music for our own reasons and we each have different stories to tell.
So, who were the artists with the biggest impact regarding your music and how did you reach to play this kind of music?
As a kid, I listened to radio programs that featured ambient music and several musicians including Tangerine Dream, Steve Roach and Jean Michel Jarre, as well as many others. Throughout most of the 1990’s I was a rave party and club promoter. During this time I started creating trance music and started performing at parties throughout the Midwestern U.S. At the after parties the dj’s would spin ambient music and that renewed my interest in the type of music I was listening to years before. Eventually I started creating ambient music and became less involved in dance music.
There are a few vocals on your album, but I don’t understand what are you singing, and lyrics aren’t available. Are there any real spoken words on the album?
On “the once and future world” I only use synthesizers to create the sounds. But some of the sounds and effects do have a vocal quality to them. Occasionally I do sample voices and run them through several effects to in a sense de-humanize the sound.
Do you have any musical training? Do you think it is good for a musician to learn musical theory or it is better to discover everything alone and to create his own style? Or maybe a combination of both?
I had musical training from my child years through my late teens. And I am not sure how much of that I use currently. I think some of that training was more prevalent when I was in more traditional bands using guitars and so on and even when I was producing dance music. I’ve tried to break down some of those technical barriers when producing ambient music. I think this has allowed me to go into directions with my music that I may not have otherwise gone to if I had relied on my previous training. I’m sure it’s different for everyone who creates this type of music.
In your opinion is there any piece of art (book, movie, etc.) which emanate similar feelings like your music? Personally do you feel close in mood to other pieces of art?
I am also an abstract painter. I find that painting is the only other activity that I do that puts me in the same mindset as when I am performing ambient music. It seems that I always have a dozen things on my mind at any given time. But when I’m painting or creating music, it’s the only time when I am truly focused.
If Mingo music could be a soundtrack and it would be up to you to decide, which movie’s soundtrack would be Mingo’s music?
I once created a score for a short claymation film about an existential clay creature. I think that worked very well. Also, I’m a Wim Wender’s fan and I probably have an unhealthy obsession with the movie “Until the end of the world”. I don’t think my music would necessarily fit with the other music on that soundtrack, but there are parts where I think it would work. Wender’s is actually going to be in town talking about his latest film and so I’m hoping to slip him a cd.
The kind of music you create is not a popular one (in the wide sense of the word), so I'm curious if you can make a living out of music, or do you have to maintain a “regular” job in order to survive?
I don’t currently work a conventional “day job” as it were. I have a hard time trying to do anything creative while working an unrelated job that takes up all of my time. So as I mentioned before, I also paint which brings in extra money. I dabble in politics from time to time and I’ve also spent a considerable amount of time managing my personal investments. All these things together have allowed me to maintain a lifestyle where I have the time to do the things I feel I need to do. I am currently finding myself spending more time on the creating and promoting of my music in order for it to help perpetuate itself a bit more.
How do you find your label Helmet Room, or how did they find you? Do you know the other artists from Helmet Room/Beta Lactam Records? What do you think of them?
One of my favorite bands in my area has been a band by the name of Orbit Service. A few years ago I met the band and since then I have been the opening act for their shows. Our music blends in well together. Some of the members of Orbit Service started Helmet Room and asked me to sign on.
My copy of "The Once and Future World" has no real booklet, only one page. I am wondering if my copy is a promo, or it’s the original copy which was intended to have minimal info?
It sounds like you have the full release copy. The reason the packaging and information is so minimal is mainly for practical reasons. Since I have no real vocals in my music, there is no need to create a booklet to print the lyrics. And I see no real need to put much information about myself in the packaging. Again, I let the music speak for itself. If someone wants more information, they can always go to my website. And besides, most of my music sales come from internet downloads. I do like to have the cd artwork coincide with the music to some extent. But I think with the internet, the artwork and packaging is starting to become less important. I personally have not purchased a physical CD from a record store in almost two years. And I think it is a trend that we are going to see more and more. Who knows if there will even be CD’s still around in another 10 years or so.
You also perform live. How many people are on stage when Mingo plays? Could you describe us how a Mingo show looks/sounds like? Do you use other elements (lights or projections) to extend the impact of the music?
My last few shows I have performed strictly solo. I do like to collaborate and several times have performed live with a musician by the name of Shane Etter. He is currently involved with his new project called BOYFRIENDGIRLFRIEND, so we have not had time to work together lately. And also, I used to rely heavily on sequencers. When I had others on stage, this helped create a sense of unpredictability as I would not allow us to practice together until we actually performed live. But now I have added more analog synths and rarely use sequencers. This is all a part of the transition I have been going through as I get more involved in the free flowing ambient style and further away from the dance music I used to create. I do use a minimal amount of lighting, projections and effects when I perform.
How many people came to a Mingo live show? And what kind of people are they?
Over the last year or two, I have performed at shows where there have been several other bands on the same bill. While I think all of the different bands sounds have worked well together in the same arena, I have for the most part been the only ambient artist on the bill. So while several people have attended, it has been kind of a mixed crowd due to each band attracting their own audience. I think this is generally a good thing since it exposes people to other music they may not have intended to seek out. But at the performances where I am the only act or where only ambient music is featured – it draws an interesting crowd. It’s usually quite mellow, not a lot of talking going on during the performance and there is usually a good number of people who are meditating. I like doing both types of shows, but over the next year, with the exception of a festival I am performing at this summer, I am going to try to book smaller shows where maybe myself and one other ambient act will be performing. It’s all a part of my wanting to become more involved exclusively with ambient/space music. When I play the shows where a mix of other electronic genres of music are featured – I find myself not connecting with the music I am creating in the same way I do when it’s just an ambient/space show where the audience is in tuned with the music.
I know you had a live performance with George & Caplin, whose music I admire very much. Personally what do you think of their music?
I think they are very original and are creating a sound that no one else is exactly doing right now. On a personal level, that electronic experimental sound is the kind of sound I am attempting to disassociate myself from as I move more towards wanting to be fully ensconced in the ambient/space sound.
Are you used to read the reviews about Mingo? What kid of response did you received? Do you think that people succeeded in understand your music? Anyway, does have Mingo a personal message, or are you just "doing music"?
I find it interesting that since my music has no lyrics, the reviewers or listeners generally have the same reaction or generate similar ides about my music. I think that people are for the most part in tuned with the same things I am thinking as I am creating the music. I do not know if I have a message so much as I do have a philosophy I am attempting to relay in the sound.
Sometimes when I’m listening to Mingo, I have visions of an apocalyptic world, pictures of the earth after a nuclear war, with agonizing humans. Do you share this thought?
These are some of the ideas I was thinking about while recording “the once and future world”. I do not see these as necessarily being negative things. Maybe bad for humans, yes. But not for the world itself perhaps. Not to say that I’m anti humanity by any means.
Do you think that humanity and the world we’re living in is closing to an end? Do you think the human race will disappear or you think that we will get used to the environmental changes (pollution, radiation, viruses)?
I believe one of the most important things about our species is that we are and always have been able to adapt to the environment around us. Or more so, we shape it to meet our needs. And eventually I believe humans will create civilizations beyond our planet. So I am kind of mixed on this thought. On one hand I believe that we will push the limits of our environment to a point where our planet can no longer allow us to exist on it. Many people believe this is a bad thing, but I feel that this is just a natural progression of things. Once the earth expels us, something else will come along and the planet will have a long future without us. Just as it does now without dinosaurs and the other creatures that came before us. However, I also believe that humanity will survive, perhaps on other planets and the earth will long be forgotten as our home.
Mingo's music has sometimes a "this is the end of everything" type of feeling and I would like to know personally what do you think of death and if you think death is the absolute end for us, humans, or is just the beginning of something else?
I think most people see death as a sad thing. I’m certainly not obsessed with death and I fully intend to live a full life. However, I don’t think death is a bad thing or necessarily and end. Whether an individual dies, or all of humanity, or even the earth itself – life somewhere will continue to go on. It’s necessary. Besides, if we lived in a world without change and without unpredictability, would we really want to live in such a boring place?
What is the concept behind “The Once and Future World”? What are your visions of the “Once World” and your visions of the “Future World’?
I kind of touched on that in the previous question. While I was working on this CD, I was thinking about what was, what is currently happening and what will happen in the future long after humans have left this planet. The question of – will there be a future for mankind? And what does it look like? These are concepts I think about a lot.
How do you think will be the future sound of music?
This is a difficult question to answer but an interesting one. I think there are cycles in music where there are periods of extreme creativity and then periods of maintenance. For example, someone might come up with a new or interesting development in music. And then several others will try to emulate that sound and before you know it a new genre or music scene has been created. There are the innovators and then there are others who appreciate the new sound so much that they emulate it and make it their own. It’s a natural progression of things that can be found in everything be it music, clothing, automobiles or even an ideology for example. I think that computers and the internet are going to help change music in a more dramatic way as it has allowed more people to get involved and collaborate. Just as “bloggers” have changed the nature that we receive and share our information. The news and other information are not controlled by a sort of “media elite” or the government in some cases. Over the centuries, and especially over the past 100 years or so, more people have been able to get involved in creating music. And now with even more access, someone with just a passing interest in music can publish his or her work online for the whole world to hear. It’s a little more complicated than that still, but my point is – with more people getting involved, the amount of ideas is being created at a more rapid pace than in the past. And that can only be a good thing. It will be interesting to find out what we will be listening to in the near future.
Any future projects which you would like to share with us?
I am currently working on my next CD which I will hopefully have available by the latter half of this year.
That's all, thank you for your time. Any words of wisdom in the end?
Words of wisdom – well, I just believe that we should all spend more time doing the things we like to do. That’s what I’ve been trying to do anyway. This way, if the world does end – you’ll have no regrets.
by Robert Sun