Yes! More Mophono (we can’t get enough). We were able to get back touch with Benji Illgen, the face behind Mophono’s sick beats, and ask a few questions. Read on and you’ll find that this is a real down-to-earth respectable guy.
CP: What was the tipping point in your musical interest where you knew you had talent and knew you could succeed?
M: I would say a big thing for me was one of the first mixtapes as a DJ that I made was in May 1996. It was a cassette mix I called Mophono with a really cool cut and paste cover i made on a copy machine. I gave away and sold so many of them to my graff writer, raver and skateboarder friends. It had loads of Mo Wax, Ninja Tune and classic Beat shit.
CP: What can we expect from your style of music in the future? Any new projects or inspirations?
M: I got a lot of ideas and a bunch of irons in the fire and some secrets…….. for now more open compositions. Possibly more clarity in the sound. Definitely more aggressive shit, more stupid drum breaks, Thug Jazz and Dirt Wave!
CP: Any long-term plans for your career?
M: Put out so many pressings that I have more records in the dollar bin than Barbara Streisand.
CP: What’s your biggest challenge as a producer and musician?
M: Earning enough paper to not think about earning it and then getting to the real tough part of not hating everyone because I love them so much.
CP: I really enjoyed The Edge album. What is the main message you want your listeners to collect from it and the Skip On Beat style?
M: Right on Im glad you enjoyed it. The edge was more of a salute to a few aspects of the hip hop and sample based b boy culture of today. Two of my favorite producers and arrangers are Willie Mitchell R.I.P. and David Axelrod… so I remixed them. Look them up and listen to all of their work…its amazing. Also we all know the Rza and Dr Dre, so obviously respect to them of course.
As far as the SKIP ON BEAT thing. This is the first full record with compositions that skip on beat. This means you can lift the needle and put it any where on the song and it stays on beat. You can only do this with the physical record. This is why the record is more valuable than any other format. On top of all that, these classic songs and drum breaks are not available on 7″ and I wanted to be able to rock them on a 7″……so its a gift to all the DJ’s that were quick on their feet and awake enough to buy them…big up.
CP: What’s popular in today’s mainstream music is often imitated by other artists and lacks complexity. Any thoughts or messages to upcoming and developing artists or the mainstream genre?
M: To all the mainstream “sheeple” who kill communities and cultural development……..Keep being wack you boring fucks!
To all the developing artists….. the more unique and true to your own vision you keep your creative works, the more you will have to offer, causing your art to be more valuable and have more of an impact. Create something new for your family and friends and enrich your community with something beautiful that only you can create. Welcome constructive criticism from everywhere and try and better yourself and your works.
CP: I’ve always wondered how artists decide to title their tracks. What are things that determine the results?
M: On my first album the machine I was using the MPC 2000, one the dopest sampling tool available, the MPC 2000. It had a small screen that could only fit a few symbols and the the song I was working on started off melancholic so I named it I Cry.
I made the song in 1999 and even though the full album came out in 2005, I really feel like it represents the nineties and Ideas that were happening in the nineties (in general and personally). The name means more today than it did when I named it…for sure. San Francisco went through many changes between 1999 and 2002. We lost a huge amount of culture and people that made up the heart and soul of SF and made it such a unique,beautiful and fucked up place.
The name of my first 12″ on Bastard Jazz is Sinicism. It is a play on words based on an idea of being so cynical that you have stopped growth in your self and others based on your biases or judgement and that equates to being closed minded and negative. The ability to see the bad in things is a double edged sword, like a gift and a curse.
CP: In another interview, you mentioned your respect for the listeners (thanks) when you were deciding whether or not to make your Cut Form Crush album one big track. Why not present your music as you wish as an artist?
M: Yes, this idea is about preserving the order of the finished piece. I come from decades of making mixtapes on cassettes and then mixCD’s, which people would listen from start to finish and then over and over again and sometimes memorize them. The ironic side is that I skip through shit so much until i find my favorite parts of an album or song so I couldn’t be a hypocrite. Also, part of the act of finishing and releasing art is letting go. This was one of the aspects I thought it would be valuable to let go. In cutting the pieces up I’m giving the listener more control to decide what parts to listen to.
CP: Can you talk about your best and worst experiences in the music industry?
M: One of the best things has been meeting all of the talented people and getting to work with them…..also watching some of my friends blow up hella successful.
CP: What are the big barriers you’ve faced and the breaks you’ve gotten that has shaped you as a person?
M: DJ Lethal from House of Pain asked me to help produce some music while he was working with Limp Bizkit. Their music is really not my bag and at the time I was hustling my music so hard that I thought this was some sort of cruel joke that my lucky break would be so ironic. Was it my lucky break or not?….Either way I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to make the decision to stay true to my vision
CP: What’s your current addiction? Why?
M: I try to remain conscious especially of excessive things but I have been into portable instruments lately and seafood for some reason…..but I live in the bay area so its easy to find good spots.
CP: Do you have any other interests or talents outside of the music realm you’d like to share with us?
M: Being hella slow and lagging the fuck out….Im actually getting better at it, like ten minutes late instead of 2 hours, but right now I am lagging hard. I am extremely distracted as a free thinker, its fucked up sometimes but I also have the ability to concentrate hard core on some real precision shit too. It is a balance.
CP: Can you describe a time when your work was criticized and how you spun it into a positive?
M: I am very proud of what I do as a contributing member of my community and I encourage and expect others to get themselves to a better place and be proud of themselves by doing something they love and put in hard work to get there, even it sometimes it does not seem valuable to others, fuck other people, they are busy being cool and doing nothing but talking anyway. If you are unhappy or not reaching your potential, change it and build something to be proud of.
CP: You were in Austin not too long ago for an Applied Pressure event. Can we expect more of you in the live music capital in the next year?
M: Hell yes, big up Applied Pressure.
CP: Please fill in the blank: (we want to get to know you)
M: Records Records Drums Records Drums Drums Drums Records Drums
Electronics Drums Drums Drums Drum Machines Drums Echo Drums Synths Drums Drums Drums Horns Drums Drums Drums Drums Strings Drums Drums Drums Acid Drums Drums Drums Organs Drums Drums Spring Reverb….all to tape.
· My top favorite artists are To many…..really to many.
· Dirty ass basement with hella records …..or outdoors very far from all that….. is where I find peace.
· The potential to have wealth evenly spread and a positive growth based society with plenty of diversity and beauty that is shot down by greed and a few bankers flawed history and the media that supports it…… is/are annoying.
· (Dead or alive) I’d love to meet if those are the rules than I would like to meet everyone that has ever lived ever and is now dead…and then play them all a few records, talk shit, maybe have an experimental electronic jam session and smoke a joint.