We had the pleasure of getting to chat to Mungo’s hifi, who bring reggae, dub and dancehall to people worldwide. A sound system coming out of Glasgow, Mungo’s have taken the reggae scene by storm. Started in 2000, they now travel the world performing at large festivals such as Glastonbury, Womad and Outlook. We spoke to Doug, one of the founders who gave us a little insight into the Mungo’s world.
When did you first decide you wanted to get into music and where did the name ‘Mungo’s hifi’ originate from?
Like many people, we got heavily into music as teenagers, although at that time in the early 90s we were mainly following bands and electronic music producers. We were studying in Glasgow, collecting music and wanting to get into DJing. We started listening to dub music, and soon enough got hooked. It was not represented much at all in those days, so we thought we should do something about that. The name Mungo's Hi Fi came from St Mungo, or to give him his real name Kentigern, the founder and patron saint of Glasgow. His name means beloved, and we got into the myths surrounding him as he seems to have been a dude. We felt it suited our purposes as we felt we were very much a product of Glasgow ourselves, and wanted what we did to be rooted here.
Who are your main musical influences?
Too many to mention; although King Tubby is a stand out figure as a true soundman, his groundbreaking productions, DIY approach and knowledge of the latest technology are a big inspiration. The fact that his approach was his signature rather than a particular sound and his productions from different times have a totally contrasting sound, but they are all equally brilliant. How he worked with artists and took his music through every stage from the studio, to the sound system has very much informed our approach.
Glasgow is famous for its incredible nightlife, when you guys first started out what did the scene look like?
The reggae scene was tiny back in the 90s, although it did exist with sounds like Unity and Rampant. Unity, based at the soundhaus, was beginning to wind down, and the crowds that came out to Rampant were faithful, but not very numerous. We wanted to change that Have you seen any great talent emerging out of Glasgow in recent years?Yes! We are glad to say that there are now many talented producers, vocalists and bands emerging from Glasgow who all work with reggae or associated music. There are a number of different nights being put on providing a healthy platform for people to play and hear the music.
"You know that people who commit their lives to sound systems are doing it purely for love and passion"
You have your own label, Scotch Bonnet Records, how did that start out?
The digital revolution offered many new opportunities, but also presented a very harsh landscape for people wanting to create music professionally. Distributers and labels were all pulling back after the turn of the millennium, so there was no way to get a record deal on another label, not that the right label even existed. So we had to do it ourselves. It has not been easy. It took a lot more time and money than we could ever have imagined, but it has definitely been worth it. We hope that in the future it can provide a platform for new talent and avoid them having to go through the same trials and tribulations.
You did loads of festivals last year; we caught you guys at Eden, what was your favourite festival of 2015?
It's so hard to say as they each have their own charms, and how much you enjoy one depends more on who you go with than what entertainment is on offer. The small Scottish festivals like Eden or Knockengorroch are great because of the warm, friendly atmosphere they offer, while bigger festivals like Glastonbury, Boomtown and Outlook have more in the way of lineups and awe inspiring production. Your sound system is very well known and HUGE, are you still adding to it?You never really finish a soundsystem; it is always a work in process. We are no longer so hooked on trying to impress with dB meter readings, so much as creating a great sound that people can enjoy. But then adding to the size of the soundsystem means you can play to a bigger audience. While we are pretty happy with it as it is, do expect it to change and improve in the coming years.
Where is the furthest you have travelled with your sound system?
We drive every year to Croatia, which as the crow flies is the furthest we have been from Glasgow. Although, the longest road trip was overland to Bergen in Norway, which is over 1800 miles! If we go any further, we would probably end up having to use shipping containers, and it becomes a bit impractical.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Do it! The journey for us has been unforgettable, and has put us in touch with the salt of the earth. You know that people who commit their lives to sound systems are doing it purely for love and passion, as it is hard work with very little financial reward. But then worthwhile things usually are.
What is 2016 looking like for you; can we expect some new releases?
We will kick off 2016 with a new album collaboration with YT, the veteran British MC who has a lot of worthwhile things to say. As for the rest of the year...there will be much touring, and more records to come before the year is out.