Exclusive interview with Mungo's Hifi

Reggae | Monday 24th February 2014 | Noam

How was Mungo’s Hi Fi born, what’s the story?

We started collecting reggae and dancehall vinyl in the 90s, mainly roots reissues, current Jamaican singles and uk dub. We started playing out in bars before cobbling together the proto-soundsystem for throwing bigger parties in 2000. 

Which Sound Systems did you look up to the most?

Jah Shaka, Channel One and Iration Steppas were all influences and our introduction to the UK soundsystem tradition. 

Was the Glasgow scene already flourishing before you started?

There was a crew called Rampant Sound who were putting on some nights and we got involved helping them out, but the scene was tiny, which was why we wanted to be part of bringing the music to people who had no idea it existed. 

You’re a relatively recent sound system, but your timing couldn’t have been better, the revival of sound system culture in the 2000s must have been a good incentive for building your own. Nonetheless, you’ve come a long way in so little time, what sort of difficulties did you have to overcome?

We built a soundsystem because we craved bass and sound quality that you simply couldn't get  on standard club PAs, and saved the expense of having to hire in equipment. However, despite our early productions being picked up on the Dubhead label, this was the time when the music industry started to feel the full impact of the digital revolution decimating the old way of doing things. At the same time it offered so many new possibilities for people anywhere to engage with the music. 

We found a lot of people doing their own thing on a small scale, and a vacuum of infrastructure in labels and promoters, so the only way forward was to do it ourselves. 

What’s the story behind Scotch Bonnet Records?

Starting our own label seemed the best way to get our music pressed on vinyl and it was only later that we realised how much work is involved and how tight the margins are. Now we have a bigger team, a lot more experience and the opportunity to push the whole scene forward by giving exposure to MCs and producers who we feel really deserve it.

Why did you decide to remain strictly vinyl?

We didn't. We play most of our shows from laptops with vinyl interface because we usually are playing for people who expect us to play our own dubs more than selection, and there's the added bonus of not having to risk carting about all your precious records. Don't get me wrong - we still collect and play vinyl whenever we get the chance. In an ideal world we would have our own dub cutting machine, so I guess we better start saving.

No one can blame you of lacking musical diversity, your avant-gardist productions like ‘Talk to the People’ with Brother Culture are brilliantly innovative. What does the sound of the future look like?

The production needs to sound somehow unlike anything that has gone before, while also drawing on musical heritage and references. The lyrics should talk about real experience in straightforward language, hopefully bringing a fresh perspective.

I couldn’t help but smiling when you played a Wailing Souls’ pure roots classic (I believe it was ‘Fire House Rock’) during one of your sets. How vast is the influence of Roots music in your productions, dances? Can you name a few major figures that changed the face of reggae music in your opinion?

The soundsystem hall of fame is packed with under-recognised musical geniuses, from foundation producers like Coxone, King Tubby and King Jammy to versatile vocalists like Johnny Osbourne and Dennis Brown and far too many more to name. We hope we can play a part in keeping their music alive and introducing people to it.

Which role does Rastafari play in your music, your lives, if at all?

Rastafari provides the herbs and meditation.

Any tasty new releases that we should be following closely?

Loads. First of all we are releasing 2 new 12" - the first on Scrub a Dub with a sleng teng reworking with The Stinger and a 140 bass wobble called Dem Stylee, and the other on Scotch Bonnet from a young crew from France with a really fresh digital reggae sound called Subactive. Next up is the massive remix collaboration with Prince Fatty which is coming on Mr Bongo Records in March, which features 5 of our tracks that he has reworked with a live band, and 5 of his tracks which we have given the Mungo bass treatment to. Then we are working towards our new compilation LP which is called Serious Time which will drop before the summer.

What is your favourite festival?

So many great festivals at the moment, but the one that stands out for us is Outlook, which takes place at the beginning of September in Croatia. Simply the best bass music lineup, on the fattest soundsystems in the awesome Fort Punta Christo on the Adriatic coast near Pula. We drive there every year with our soundsystem, and it is well worth the 3000 mile round trip. 

Tell us about your most amazing gig.

This is a very hard question cos we have played literally thousands of shows over the years in most corners of the globe from South American favelas to festivals in India and dances in grimey squats from Italy to Lithuania...

The one that comes to my mind was over ten year ago when we were travelling about Spain in our old bus and ended up at the Tarrega street theatre festival. There was a massive campsite just outside the town where we met a local reggae sound from Barcelona and we teamed up to put on a free party next to the olive groves that lasted well into the next day. We made enough money selling beers to buy our fuel to get back home.

Where and when can we see you next?

We are constantly touring these days, with rarely a weekend off. The best place to keep up to date is our gigs calendar on our website

But to pick out a few highlights, we will be taking our soundsystem to the Wee Dub Festival in Edinburgh and United Nations of Dub in Wales in March, then we are back with our stage at Glastonbury this summer.

More info on Mungo's Hifi:

All soundclips for new singles on soundcloud:

Records and Digital tunes available to buy in their shop:

Videos (including new video from our return to the artschool) on their Youtube Channel:

Photos and current news on their Facebook page