“I’m Cut from That Cloth”: An Interview with MNDSGN

Will Schube speaks with the Los Angeles-based producer about being present and intentional with his work.
By    June 27, 2019

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Despite a smattering of beat tapes and steady touring over the past few years, Ringgo Ancheta was on a break. The New Jersey-born, LA residing beatmaker and songwriter has become a prolific force in LA’s electronic and rap scenes, putting out records to great acclaim on Stones Throw. But his last record came in 2016, and since then, he’s put out two loose mixtapes of tracks he considered deleting but eventually put out to clear some harddrive space. Well, that may be simplifying things a bit, but the music Anchelta, aka MNDSGN, has put out over the past two years are just palate cleansers. They’re appropriately called Snax and Snaxx.

For relying heavily on funk and electronic instrumentation, MNDSGN infuses his work with an almost tangible emotion. This is cerebral stoned music, blasted breakbeats and haunted melodies. Ancheta builds his songs from experience, the daily shit that most of us turn into angry Tweets and half-finished novels. But when Ancheta’s life took a backseat to the music, he discovered that there was no meaning behind the songs he was singing. This is art extracted from a well, and that well runs deep with Ringgo’s DNA. MNDSGN isn’t necessarily on a hiatus, but it is a reset of sorts. Snaxx, out now on Stones Throw, is a glimpse into that process of self-discovery. It’s not perfect, but the skull-cracking drums and drugged up chords are a welcome reminder that MNDSGN is still here, even if he never really went away.  — Will Schube

How did the idea to put out these mixtapes come about?

MNDSGN: It’s just like the title implies. I’m just offering something to snack on in the mean time. I didn’t have any other plans for this music. Otherwise, it’d just be taking up harddrive space. At the same time, I’m trying to make more of my work heard. I want to give people an insight into what goes on unrelated to album work. I’m writing music everyday, but it might not be intended for an album. We do this shit for sport, for our health.

So are you specifically making these tracks just for practice, or if they fit a certain mood, will they end up on an official album?

MNDSGN: I respect people who are very intentional about their work, who can execute by sitting down to make an album. I struggle with that. I’m on some day-to-day shit, it’s just however I feel. Albums have been more chronological documentaries of time for me. But on the other side, if I were trying to make an album, I’d be making a lot fewer songs. I have a good habit of saving things. I used to work on something and if I felt it wasn’t good enough, I’d delete it. I wanted to get out of that bad habit so I started saving stuff because it sounds different when you come back to it later on. I wouldn’t even say it was stuff I was working on. These records are just me making music for the love of making music. That work, although it’s non necessarily album-worthy to me, still deserves to be shared with other people.

Does that come from the history of beatmaking? Like Dilla and Madlib who have these troves of unreleased music?

MNDSGN: That’s definitely one of the main inspirations. I come from a background of producing and making beats. A lot of my early influences were beat tapes that were shared via instant messenger. It was just shit I wasn’t supposed to have. I’m cut from that cloth. That raw shit.

Who got you into beat music as a kid in New Jersey?

MNDSGN: I’ve always been a hip-hop head since I was young. It’s a mixture of things. My older brother was always putting me onto music. He put me onto Mm..Food? That was one of the first Stones Throw related things I’d heard. I used to breakdance growing up so I’d hear stuff on b-boy mixtapes. My homies would find mixtapes online and there would be some Lootpack shit in there. At the time I wasn’t aware that it was part of Stones Throw, but later on I connected the dots.

So what’s it like being a part of that history now?

MNDSGN: I’m grateful and humbled at the same time. I’m just trying to do my due diligence and carry the torch for the stuff that inspired me.

Is there stuff you learn while making these b-side tracks that you will end up applying to your LPs?

MNDSGN: It’s research and development. I’m trying out different things and seeing what feels good. I’m just picking up on different details as I go. Composition has always been on my mind when I’m creating, whether it’s a sample I’m flipping or something I’m re-creating, it’s always in the name of growing and learning more.

Do you have a preference in terms of sampling versus re-creating?

MNDSGN: They’re two different things. I think it’d be unfair to say that I have a preference. Right now, I’m definitely more drawn to songwriting, whether it be lyrics or arrangements. I’ve been sampling since I began, so I’m now more interested in the musical background of things. I might as well go to the source and figure out how the music was written. That world is infinite to me.

What are you working on now?

MNDSGN: It’s a little too early for me to talk about and I don’t want to jinx it. I’ve already told people about it in different waves and it’s changed every time. For the sake of the record it’s best just to work on it and not talk about it so much.

This tape is super drum-heavy. Where did that come from?

MNDSGN: I was just re-kindling my roots in beats and hip-hop. The drums always have to slap. A lot of these tracks also saw time in my live sets. I use the SP-555 in my sets and I can load anything on there. That’s another reason why I wanted to put these songs out: I’m sure people have heard these tracks played live and if I was on the other side of it, I’d be asking, ‘Man, when is he putting that track out?’

Do you use your live shows to test out new material? To see if it works with your audience?

MNDSGN: Not super consciously, but it definitely gives me a gauge. I always take it with a grain of salt, though. At the end of the day, I’m just gonna do what I do when I play live. I’ve witnessed how playing a lot of shows can alter your perspective in the process of making music. It’s even affected me in a certain way. Sometimes when I’m writing music, I’m thinking about performing it. I want to find a good balance between listening with headphones and hearing it in a live performance. But I try not to think about that too much.

I know Jeff Jank did the album art. Was it collaborative? It’s dope.

MNDSGN: It was actually inadvertently a collaborative project. I stopped by the studio one day and we were talking about what we were gonna do for the art. When I was getting ready to leave, he asked if I wanted this photo of the Foster’s Freeze in Eagle Rock. It’s a shop that’s been there forever. I stuck it in a book and forgot about it, but recently, I was cleaning up and it fell out. I thought it’d be tight to re-illustrate for the cover. One day I was FaceTiming with my mom and I started doodling this giant character. I thought it’d be cool if he’d hover over the ice cream shop. Jeff laid it out and it came about pretty organically.

It does match the looseness of the record, too.

MNDSGN: Yeah! I’ve also always loved the Quasimoto and Dilla Donuts art, and it kind of alludes to that classic Stones Throw stuff. It’s comic book shit.

Do you think about your legacy and the music you leave behind? Or are you still too heavily in the middle of it to reflect on the history of your project?

MNDSGN: Both, I would say. As I’m making new material, especially album stuff, I try to make sure that there’s some kind of conversation going between it and all of my work. At the same time, that doesn’t prevent me from going any direction I want. The only way for me to maintain that pure conversation amongst my work is just to remain honest. No matter what I’m doing, as long as I feel like I’m being honest, whatever needs to come out will come out. I just try to be present and not let that weigh in on the process too much.

Do you view all of your records as in conversation with one another?

MNDSGN: I’d say so. Even the Snaxx series is keeping parts of that older conversation alive. I used to drop straight beat tapes and I still make beats. It’s still remaining true to who I am and where I come from.

It’s been three plus years since your last full-length. Is that intentional or has it just taken a while?

MNDSGN: I’m just making sure I live my life first and foremost, otherwise the music has no context or substance. Life is the music itself. That’s what I draw upon when I’m thinking about an album. I wasn’t trying to wait a certain amount of years, but I’m just taking it one day at a time. Life happens and you have to re-prioritize things in your life. As much as I love making music and identify with being a musician, I’m still a human being and have to do that first. It’s taking as long as it needs to because when I feel good about the next project it’ll be the right time to put my two-sense into what’s going on globally and universally within the musical conversation.

Do you have to remind yourself sometimes to put your life ahead of your music?

MNDSGN: As of late, I’ve been trying to put things into perspective. I’ve come to realize that the music will suffer if I’m not taking care of myself. Maybe that’s just a product of me growing up and getting older because it wasn’t always like that. When you’re young you don’t have shit to lose and you’re just gonna get after it all the time. I’ve been successful in my endeavors, which has allowed me to grant myself time and space to take care of myself. I’m just trying to honor that more in my life. I feel like that will be reflected in music that’s to come.

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