Sir Millard Mulch makes music that is unsettling. Sometimes it is funny, while at other times it is painful to listen to. His twisted sense of humor is always at the forefront, in the form of obtuse titles and statements which challenge your patience and common sense. But when it comes down to it, he is a musical genius. And, as most musical geniuses go, he is an oddity to be reckoned with. Many compare him to Frank Zappa, simply because there are few comparisons to make. But, Mr. Mulch has his own quirky style that sets him apart and throws caution to the wind shamelessly. If anything, his music actually ends up making fun of the people who pass him off as a Zappa clone.
On his second full-length release, To Hell With All Of You, I Just Wanna Grow My Vegetables, Mulch ventures into the final frontier with his trusty Atari STe and another cast of wacky characters. From the cartoonish sounds of songs like Grant Schumacher Destroys Hollywood For The Girl Of His Dreams, to the indie rock spoof Nina Gordon With David Bowie, and the hilarious metal gibberish of One Day, I Shall Return, A King, And Obliterate You All, Sir Millard does his absolute best to confuse and abuse everything that is pop music.
OK, let's get the Zappa issue out of the way---just how important is his work to you? Are you carrying his torch proudly, or are you just sick of the comparisons?
Yeah, I'm a bit sick of the comparisons because I almost never listen to Zappa. I think Zappa was really awesome, and I am glad of his achievements not only musically but also as an entrepreneur...but I wish that people who look up to him as some sort of deity would just be a little more honest with themselves and realize they could write music just as good as his or better if they'd stop spending so much time posing, dancing, and making faces...and honestly write some music, instead of worrying about making tons of money. There is no better way to honor another genius than by expressing your own genius in your own way. They're trapped in the past, but I guess that happens to everyone. Zappa worked himself til he died...and that's something I really respect. And it's something that pisses me off about people who just want to copy Zappa and Pledge Allegiance to him. The guy would surely tell you to shut up and write your own music for chrissake if he was around today. And I think comparing my music to Zappa is pretty narrow-minded, but look what there is to choose from out there to compare my music to...especially on MTV or the radio, there is just NOTHING. In the underground, there are plenty of things. So many people are musically illiterate in the first place, completely ignorant of how much music is really out there. The ten bands on MTV at whatever time period aren't sh**. But you know, in a lot of ways that most people will never understand, I am much more highly influenced by Nirvana than I am Zappa. And that's the sad thing. I should justify that statement by telling anyone who wants to compare me to Zappa to go and do a harmonic analysis of my music against Devin Towsend's or Nina Gordon's or Kurt Cobain's and you'll see it's completely different from Zappa, about as far as you can go. I'm more influenced by Pantera than Zappa. So there. But I WILL proudly carry the torch, if there is one. Growing up listening to Vai and Bozzio, Colaiuta...I wouldn't have ever heard any of those people if it wasn't for Zappa. So thanks, Frank. The guy inspired an entire generation of weirdos and mad scientists to venture into composition. But he was highly influenced by the previous generation, such as Stravinsky. So really he wasn't all that unusual, musically, from a historical point of view, if you really know your sh**. But as far as getting his nose into popular culture, he did a very good job. Just like Mr. Bungle are doing.
How much planning goes into your songs? Is there a lot of improvisation?
Well, there's two ways that you can go about writing songs, I guess. You can either come up with some big grand f***ing scheme and try to build every little block to make it work, like the way a programmer thinks...or you can just start throwing things at the wall and see if they stick. I mostly just throw lots of stuff at the wall, one note at a time. But the throwing of things is often motivated by some sort of emotion or concept in the first place, like CHAIR or FLANNEL or GREEN or KILL EVERYONE, etc. I tend to rely on some sort of divine inspiration, which I think is a mood more than anything else. Maybe I eat some food and get the idea to WRITE RIGHT NOW and I do it. An there's the song. Sometimes the music hits me when I am driving, or when I first wake up in the morning. Usually the only things that are improvisation is the mistakes, which I LOVE, since I am such a sh**ty improviser...but you might say that much of the midi music was improvised on my first album, because I wrote it in one note at a time with my mouse on the piano roll screen on my little Atari, but at the same time I knew what it would sound like because of lots of aural theory training I had in college. I know what a ninth chord, or a tritone, or whatever sounds like. People tend to think that I just hit a button and beats come out, but that's bullshit. Every note on that freakin' thing, I have to tell it when to start, how long it lasts, how loud it is, what note of the chord it is, what note is before and after it, what instrument it is played on, what other instrument it is contrasting with. A lot goes into it, but I can think so quickly with Cubase that it's almost a free-flowing improvisation / instant creation thing.
Explain the obsession with the Atari--are you a lo-tech junkie?
Not at all. My mom bought it for me years ago for like $200. The thing runs like a tank. It has NEVER had a technical problem (with the exception of the monitor cable getting a bit loose)...because it's built in such a way that it CAN'T have problems. The operating system is burned on a chip inside the thing. It will occasionally crash, once every few months, but nothing major, just turn it back on. No hard drive equals no hard drive problems. Everything was stored on low-density floppies. That's like .75 megs on a disk. You can fit about 10 songs on a disk. But to answer your question: NO. I'm not at all obsessed with it, but it is a great machine. I wish more computers were built like that. Lo tech junkie? In other words, I couldn't afford anything better. Now that I have thousands of dollars to throw around, people are going to be a bit surprised at my new album. No one will EVER say that my music sounds like Video Game Music AGAIN. I promise. And I can't wait for that. But there will always be a special place in my heart for that really twisted little Yamaha keyboard and freaky esoteric drumbeats.
Ironically, I think the phone conversation with the "multi-media entertainer" is the funniest piece on the album. Who is this guy? Was this staged, or is it real? Is he aware that he's on your CD? Is he aware that he's a jerk?
That guy called me out of nowhere...and as far as I know he's real. I thought the entire situation was hilarious. He called me several times and we had a couple more conversations than that one. In the previous conversation he was trying to convince me to go on Jerry Springer and be part of a fake love-triangle. I don't know where this guy found me, but I thought, this is freakin' hilarious...I need to call him back and tape-record him. There's plenty more to that conversation. He had a very long resume...he worked for Hard Copy, Geraldo, Springer, and managed a bunch of big bands that everyone who watches MTV would know about, but I won't name them because...just because. It was totally ridiculous, and I basically told him to f*** off at the end, I wrote him a really long letter letting him know how much of a piece of sh** I thought he was and why.
It would be interesting to see how he could make your music more "commercially viable," don't you think?
Real interesting. Well, you notice that he basically starts talking about checking out my publicity photos, which has nothing to do with my music or goals. I pick out my photos, thank you. What an idiot. For me to be commercially viable, I'd basically have to cease my existence.
Tell us a little about the Troma project--how did you get involved with them?
2 years ago Flail and I went to Dragoncon, and I went up to the Troma booth and handed Lloyd Kaufman a CD. He asked if I'd autograph it, then gave me some autographed comic book about a movie with Carmen Electra. 2 years went buy, and his lawyer called me and wanted to license 15 Interesting Things To Do With Tiny Chairs for the new Toxic Avenger movie. I was like, why the hell not? So they send me over a contract, and it says they're gonna pay me a dollar. So get this: They never send me my f***ing dollar. So a few months ago a went up to Lloyd Kaufman at the Troma Booth at Dragoncon, and say, "Hey there, Lloyd, it's Sir Millard Mulch." He says, "Hey, Millard." I say, "Where's my dollar?" He kinda acts nervous and then looks back at me and says, "What was that about?" And I say, "You used my song in a movie." He says, "What movie?" And I point to the big Toxic Avenger poster. He says, "Oh yeah! Right! I remember now!" Then he walks away. I say, "So you gonna give me my dollar or what?!" And he turns around and says, "Yeah, as they say, the check is in the mail!" and laughs and walks away. I kinda wanted the dollar.
I was watching Yasmine Bleeth on Rock N Roll Jeopardy, and they asked her what DEVO means. And she says, right off the top of her head, "What is De-Evolution." And boom, they move onto the next question. Now I say that if some girl from the clearest epitome of TELEVISION STUPIDITY in this country (if not in the world) knows what De-Evolution, which is a common term used by SubGenii, is then I'm ready to go crawl into a hole somewhere...something just isn't right. If that isn't the polar line drawn up the middle of pure evil, then I don't know what is.
Who's your favorite member of Iron Maiden?
That bass player was freakin' cool. But I really liked Bruce Dickinson, too. I heard some of their stuff, something about Run To The Hills, and it was really cool. Heard it at Stew's house. Probably the same weekend that we recorded "Amy" on the second album. But I don't own anything of theirs other than a video that my brother left at my mom's house when he moved out. 12 Wasted Years, I think? Why do you ask?
I dunno, just curious...
Any last words?
Yeah...write your own damn music, enjoy yourself, and don't worry if anyone likes it. Stop worrying about dancing so much. And send me some good Hare Krishna recipes. And more questions. I like them.