Interview: He Whose Ox Is Gored’s Lisa Mungo

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Lisa Mungo is the full-time keyboardist and part-time vocalist of Seattle’s synth-sludge wizards He Whose Ox Is Gored (or “Ox” for short). In light of their upcoming double LP and corresponding U.S. tour, I sent Lisa some very silly interview questions in response to which she graciously obliged me genuine answers. (Warning – slightly NSFW material follows in this piece.)

 

Tell us about your early days. What was the first music little Lisa got into, and when did you start playing/singing music yourself? I’m impressed by how long you can hold some of those notes with a full-throated voice, which makes me assume you got started early in a choir or something.

My dad had a huge vinyl collection. He spent countless hours teaching different artists, or albums; how it was recorded, or what lead a band to greatness.  My grandmother was a concert pianist. I would watch her for hours whenever I’d visit. Between the two of them, I had plenty of sound in the house.

Together, my parents had their own band.  I’d laugh when they fought at practice. They got me up on stage here and there to sing harmonies with them.  Growing up around it was fun, but I was looking for something else when I got out of school. I served in the Armed Forces.  I sang cadence as a platoon leader. I LOVED that loud, aggressive approach to singing/screaming and I knew I couldn’t stay away from it. Finishing out my contract, I entered college. I did homework inside the Music Hall, listening to the student choir, opera and orchestra.  There was a driving connection to the music, but I fucking hated music majors. None of my non-musical friends would go see concerts with me, so I started going alone. In the cheap seats, I thought of taking something symphonic, modernizing it, and blending it with something more aggressive. I felt like Seattle might be the place to do that.

Military, college, and family gave me everything I needed to build the OX.

How did Ox begin? Did you always intend to explore the musical direction the band currently has, or has your vision changed since you first started?

Brian and I were working together and talking about starting a band. I wasn’t sure at first, but we swapped demos that we’d been working on and something clicked. We both heard something in those early tracks that connected. Ox has changed over time, but our earliest ideas are still peppered through each release.

To me, the most distinguishing feature of Ox is the way you utilize your keyboards. Most heavy bands use keys as textural icing on the riffcake, but in your group they are arguably the biggest sounding thing in a big-sounding band. What and/or whom do you consider to be the biggest influences on how you play the keys?

If I had to pick just one artist?  Hands down, Jeff Lynne of ELO. 

I have heard from some folks living in Seattle that although it’s one of the biggest cities in North America and is famous for having a great rock n’ roll history, not many independent bands bother touring through there because it’s isolated from other population centers, tucked into the corner of the country, and therefore pretty out of the way for most tour routes. Do you find that to be true, and do you think it impacts the music scene of Washington?

I think we are only missing out on bands who are still finding their way.. the mid-level and up bands always find their way here.  Its the same for bands from here.  It takes a lot of coordination and money to venture out on a national tour, and I feel like I hear the same story from both coasts.

I know that you’re involved to some degree in operating a DIY venue in Seattle. Do you have any lofty, philosophical thoughts on the societal roles of independent performance spaces versus typical bar venues? Make sure to include a pithy quote I can fit on a bumper sticker to put on my Nalgene water bottle.

They both have their merits.  However, I believe that DIY spaces are a safe haven where many bands learn how to be a bands, and artistic expression at any level is celebrated.  I’m so lucky I found the space I am currently a part of, and was befriended by so many people dedicated to Seattle’s underground scene, especially now in the wake of this massive wave of gentrification.

You’re a band that hits the road pretty often. What have been your favorite cities to visit, either because of the shows you played or cool spots you got to explore?

Minneapolis and Denver’s scenes are pretty hot right now.  The local bands are great, and the kids work hard to promote the shit out of their shows.
Speaking of which, what are the MUST SEE attractions/restaurants/watering holes someone visiting your neck of the woods in the American Northwest should check out?

Big Marios. Not only is it a fun bar with board games, VHS tapes, pizza and cheap beer, its also a place that has allowed me to tour for years. Shit, they even put out one of our records.

Put together your dream tour package, including your own band. Go big, Clash of the Titans 1990 style – what other 3-4 acts would make for the best possible bill for Ox to play with around the world? My vote is for TAD, 1987-era Red Hot Chili Peppers, Marvin Gaye, and 2006-era Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Hmmm.. ok …my version of big… Swans, Isis, Boris, Russian Circles, and Ox.  Ha!  Thats five.

 


(Track stream from OX’s upcoming record via Earsplit)

 

You have a new double LP coming out on Oct 9th via Bleeding Light Records, called The Camel, The Lion, The Child. What drug-friendly movie did you design this record to sync up with as a soundtrack, Dark Side of the Rainbow style? Your secret is safe with us, I promise. I hope it was Tron or A Scanner Darkly* – that one’s really underrated.

Zardoz.  😉

zardoz

 

This is the obligatory last question of the interview where I ask you to leave a final message for the readers. In response to this, most interview subjects will say “Thanks for listening!” or “Rock on! \m/” or some other equally trite shit because responding to such an open-ended prompt is unnatural and difficult and you have better things to do with your day than concoct a unique and poignant reply to a lazy, unoriginal closing question like these things necessarily are. I always hope people will write the most immature, nihilistic, off-the-wall red herring string of words they possibly can off the top of their head to remind everyone just how silly this whole “interview” thing is anyway, so you should probably just do that instead of saying anything that could be construed as earnest or constructive. Wait, I’m supposed to have a question mark at the end of this, right?

To be is to do. -Socrates
To do is to be. – Sartre
Dobedobedo. – Sinatra

He-Whose-Ox-Is-Gored(A wild herd of Oxen in its natural habitat)

Many thanks to Lisa for her time. You can preorder The Camel, The Lion, The Child from Bleeding Light Records here. Be sure to catch He Whose Ox Is Gored on their upcoming October/November U.S. tour if you live in any of these cities.

Oct 09 – 733 w/ Drunk Dad – Tacoma, WA
Oct 10 – The Shakedown w/ Drunk Dad – Bellingham, WA
Oct 20 – Zootown Arts Community Center w/ Swamp Ritual – Missoula, MT
Oct 21 – Aesthetic Agony Tattoo and Production LLC w/ The Old Ones, Pi+Fire – Billings, MT
Oct 22 – New Direction – Fargo, ND
Oct 23 – The Riverboat w/ Maeth, Straya, Infinite Me – Minneapolis, MN
Oct 24 – Reggies Music Joint w/ Starless – Chicago, IL
Oct 25 – Magnolia Bar Louisville, KY
Oct 26 – TBA – Atlanta, GA
Oct 27 – Sisters In Christ – New Orleans, LA
Oct 28 – Mohawk – Austin, TX
Oct 29 – Alley Cat Bar and Lounge w/ Omotai – Houston, TX
Oct 30 – tba – Denton, TX
Nov 01 – Yucca Tap Room w/ The Ghost Next Door – Tempe, AZ
Nov 02 – The Merrow – San Diego, CA
Nov 03 – Complex w/ Caustic Casanova – Glendale, CA
Nov 04 – Blue Lagoon – Santa Cruz, CA
Nov 05 – Thee Parkside – San Francisco, CA
Nov 06 – Cafe Colonial – Sacramento, CA
Nov 07 – The Know – Portland, OR
Nov 08 – Le Voyeur Cafe and Lounge – Grandview, WA

 

*I have never actually seen A Scanner Darkly, but I assume it’s underrated because everyone thinks it looks kind of neat but almost no one has actually bothered to watch it. This shinfo** is not relevant to the subjects of this interview. I am not sorry.

**”Shinfo” is a portmanteau standing for “shitty info”, popularized by metalcore band Every Time I Die. You are welcome for the additional explanatory shinfo cluttering up this piece of very serious music journalism.

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain
    • BEARD OV GREAT DAWKINS
    • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

      Ass
      Penile Missile
      https://youtu.be/_6mUAiyhdzg

      • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

        What the fuck is this shit?

        • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

          Music from my neck o’ the woods.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            I figured that…………….and that was horrid.

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            I kinda dig it, like a good joke, ‘cept the horrendous lyrics. But you know, boobs -> ass -> penile missile, fit the theme.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Understandable.

  • Hubert

    A Scanner Darkly is super good dudes. I don’t know if I’d call it underrated because I don’t know what it’s rated but it’s super good. Anyway, good interview.

    • BEARD OV GREAT DAWKINS

      Also, read the book

      Short, good read

    • “I don’t know if I’d call it underrated because I don’t know what it’s rated”

      http://www.badumtss.net/

  • Dagon

    Only bare chested band photos are real. This band is pretty dope, very unique sound. Love the production on their releases as well.

    Any mention of Zardoz is enough to get me going.

  • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

    A Scanner Darlky was a good movie, if you enjoy not-Dick more than Philip K. Dick you should stay away though. It could pretty much be used to sum him up.

  • Fine Sexy Ladies

    I second the “music majors are assholes” sentiment. Oddly (or not so oddly) enough, at my university the super-classically-trained-since-childhood choir singers are the super chill ones. I even got to explain the technique behind growling and screaming to one of them. Ah, to be 19 again…

    • The first couple years of music education puts a lot of elitism in people’s heads. They never realized that no one cares what a picardy third is

    • Guacamole Jim

      Hey, fuck off you piece of insignificant shit. I was a music major, and I’m the nicest fucking dude you’ll ever interact with. I hope you die alone, you shriveled sack of balls.

  • i love her favorite pick of keyboard player, but i think the name is unspeakable in the comments section.
    anyways, fun interview and good tunes!

  • Shit, IT just stopped by. Internet revoked. My ox has been officially Gored. Good stuff.

  • KJM, Doom Hunter General

    I’ve read and seen ‘A Scanner Darkly’ several times.

  • Waynecro

    I like her answer to the final question. I seem to recall this joke and the one about the Buddhist asking the hot-dog vendor to make him one everything being among my philosophy professor’s favorites.

  • This banded sounded OK the first time I sampled months and months ago.

    Now they sound fanFUCKINGtastic.

    How quickly we learn and grow and hug and cry with the Toilet as guide.

    (Or maybe the band just got better?)

  • Guacamole Jim

    And Pumpkin Baby recommends something else I love. You got good taste, hombre.

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    Zardoz!!!

  • CT-12

    Nice interview man! I’m actually gonna see these guys Saturday when they hit up Bellingham; this interview definitely got me more stoked to see them!

  • Lacertilian

    Gourd shit as always!
    I saw the Straya tag and thought, I don’t remember reading anything about Australia. Then I caught the mention in the tour dates.