Mickey Mickey Rourke, a project Los Angeles resident Miller Rodriguez began just this year, is already one of the most prolific musicians in the current quasi-scene of somewhat-ambient, sometimes-R&B-influenced, lo-fi musicians. Under the motto “Make pretty things and never be seen,” Miller not only makes blissfully meditative drones, but also more concrete tropical psychedelia in his collaborations with Lester Brown as Mickey Brown and, most recently, he’s branched out to structured, lo-fi pop songs.
MP3: Mickey Mickey Rourke - Magic Man [from Magic User]
I heard Festive Bummer a while ago, and then you added me on last.fm and I saw all your other stuff on your Bandcamp. Just recently you posted Inner Gazing, the album with all the collaborations.
Miller: Yeeee, that’s my newest album and it features some amazing doods.
I really liked that one. I saw the track you did with Raw Moans on some blog, and I thought that song was really cool.
Miller: He’s a good online friend of mine... Joseph Vorachack is just a person with so much sexiness inside, I wanted to crate a warm song that would feel like you were having a pillow talk with a friend or a girl etc... He just has that voice that makes you want to shut up and feel the smooth vibes.
How did you guys get in touch?
Miller: A lot of the guys I feature were fans of my music or I stalked them for being great artist. I became friends with them over the internet, and I’ve been keeping tabs with them ever since. They’re all doing really great with their own music. I’m not really doing music that’s popular right now, I like to do music that’s not popular. So working with different artists who are doing different genres, I thought would be such a great thing to do for an album. they really added such a great touch to my world. They were down to collaborate, so I put them on my new album.
What I think is really interesting about Raw Moans and Top Girls who are also on there, and this also goes for other people like How To Dress Well and Wise Blood, is that they incorporate R&B into their music. You don’t hear a lot of experimental music influenced by R&B.
Miller: That’s true, and is why I was so drawn to those projects. They kind of just let loose and do something different when they’re working with me. I have a really great depth with my artistic scope. If you listen to Mickey brown, it’s totally different. I’m obsessed with ambient music but... where am I going with this? Did you ask me a question?
No, I don’t think so.
Miller: I woke up not too long ago.
The new song you posted, “Magic Man,” from Magic User...
Miller: That’s my new album, coming out. That’s just like a pop song.
Yeah, and is that song an exception on the album or is that what the whole thing is going to be?
Miller: I don’t know, a lot of people liked it. I just love music, and I’m not afraid to make different sounds and styles. If you listen to all music, I change my style a lot, but there are still some characteristics of me being myself.
Do you think some artists, once they find an aesthetic that works, they stick with it instead of trying to change the formula?
Miller: Happens all the time and gets boring fast.
You put out a ridiculous amount of stuff, all the time. You put out four albums this year.
Miller: I’m already working on my second one with my good friend Lester Brown, our second album for Mickey Brown. We’re mixing our single, which should be out soon. It’s really great stuff. We’re just trying to give different vibes. I know what’s dominant right now, and what a lot of my friends are listening to, is the chillwave stuff, and I love that stuff, but I don’t see how it’s cool to emulate the artists who are cool right now. There’s no way for you to stand out. I hear all these up-and-coming artists and they all sound the same to me.
Chillwave seems like such a specific aesthetic that when artists try to fit in to it, they all wind up sounding the same.
Miller: You said it best.
Did you use samples on the last Mickey Brown album?
Miller: I made a lot of those. The voices and stuff, I make all those. I like to change my voice.
Ariel Pink does a lot of that.
Miller: Yeah, a lot of stuff using his mouth, which is really great. He went to my school, CalArts.
When did you go there?
Miller: 2006, I was in a program called experimental animation.
Miller: Yeah, you saw that? Yeah, I like making weird films like that.
When did you make it?
Miller: That was a while ago, it’s pretty old. I just put it up on YouTube, and I thought it was really ridiculous because I haven’t seen anything like it.
A bunch of your stuff on Bandcamp is tagged as Kelowna, a city in Canada. What is that?
Miller: I have no idea, I don’t even know how that’s there. I don’t even know how to take it off.
When you have pieces that are so abstract, particularly with Festive Bummer, how do you choose titles?
Miller: There are a lot of inside jokes, or things that me and my girlfriend call each other, and the people around me, family members. I like using names, I get really inspired by people’s names. If you look at my titles, they’re usually people’s names or one word syllables and stuff. I get inspired by words that I use in my daily life, people’s names.
Where is the picture on your last.fm artist page of the boy wrapped in the blanket from?
Miller: That was this neighbor of mine, this kid who’s an albino.
Does he know that he’s on the internet as Mickey Mickey Rourke?
Miller: Yeah he knows, he loves it. It just describes my music perfectly, that image. There was a big misconception where a lot of people thought that I was an albino, and that was great, it was getting me some hype at first. People were like “check out this ambient artist, he’s an albino.” And then I started putting up pictures of myself, but not really.
There are YouTube videos of you in a mask.
Miller: Yeah, that mask... I used to be in this dance punk band called Neon Navajo, this band Neon Indian came out, and of course they blew up, and everyone started saying that we were a Neon Indian cover band, and I got really upset. I like Neon Indian, but I feel like I have this hostility toward them, just because they ruined my band. If you listen to Neon Navajo, we’re nowhere remotely close to Neon Indian. We both came out around 2007 or 2008, and I remember sending them a message, like “change your name,” and they were like “oh, it’s just a coincidence.” And I was like “whatever,” and then I was just over it. I mean, we were pretty different in the LA punk scene out here, but I dunno, I just got really tired of it, and I would just tell my self “I don’t want to do this anymore” when we would practice then one day my bass player got hit by a car knocked out all his front teeth. That was really kinda god sent, because I’ve always been making music and stuff but I never showed my solo work to the world. So I made a MySpace, and I started putting up my songs, and people liked it. So I kept making more, or re-recording songs that I had made up when I was young... If you listen to Festive Bummer, all that stuff I play are mostly random guitar parts I made when I was fifteen or sixteen. I was really into Joan of Arc and American Football, those type of bands, Cap’n Jazz. I was really influenced by their guitar style. I could not quite do it the same because I'm not a guitar player (I play keyboard), if you listen to Festive Bummer, you’ll see that there are two or three different guitar tracks. That album was me experimenting with different guitars layered on top of each other.
I feel like Neon Navajo is so much more aggressive than anything you’ve done as Mickey Mickey Rourke.
Miller: Punk music is like my main influence, I love punk and I love hip-hop, and that’s really who I am. I can be really aggressive, but there’s a side of me... I have like OCD and I just take medicine for stuff, and Mickey Mickey Rourke is a way for me to calm down and cope with these things. I kind of started to make the music for myself. Sometimes I would just play to be relaxed and calm down, because I feel like my music can be kind of relaxing sometimes. It’s funny, when my friends heard it, they were like “woah I didn’t think you could do something like that, that’s so not you,” because I’m usually like... I like to scream and that’s just a way for me to get out all of my anger, and it’s just a relief for me. Neon Navajo was really fun but it was just hard, and I was always writing the songs, and my drummer was all about... He models and just likes to party and stuff, and I’m kind of the type of person who just likes to create constantly, and not be in the limelight so much, and I hide who I am. When we played shows I would always wear a mask. I was the only one in the band who would wear a mask. I would just do my thing and go home, and they’d stay and party and drink and stuff.
Mickey Rourke is such an aggressive dude in his movies.
Miller: This is true. I've always been a fan of him, even more so after seeing The Wrestler... He’s always been this aggressive guy but deep down inside he's got a heart of gold... He just has more depth to him then we really know and I can totally relate with him.
Like he’s putting on this mask of being aggressive.
Miller: Exactly, and after I saw The Wrestler, I saw him open up all raw and real. There was something about that ONE tear when he's talking to his lil' girl , I got really... I always liked him, but after seeing that movie I got really into him. I started getting obsessed with him and looking at interviews with him, and I saw Inside the Actor’s Studio with him, and he’s such a great guy, really smart, and his history is really sad. He just has this angel-like feel to him, deep down inside. A lot of people probably don’t listen to my music because they’re like “oh that’s some hardcore band” or something, and when they listen to it, they’re shell-shocked, like “woah I didn’t expect this at all.” It kinda just fits, it’s how I am. I can be aggressive. I can be a punk, y’know? I like the name, it’s silly, and it’s just a name.
You seem to be associated with a lot of lo-fi bands, but I never really thought of your music as that before. The new song “Magic Man” sounds a lot more lo-fi than your other stuff.
Miller: Definitely, if you listen to all my albums, all the recordings are somewhat different. I like to make it really rough sometimes and sometimes I like to make it really clean. But with the new album I think I’m going to try to do some rougher stuff. I’ve always been into the distortion and static and feedback. I don’t even know where to... I mean, I already made like three songs for that album, and I don’t know where to go with it and I don’t want to strictly do that. That song I made for my grandfather who just passed away. Inner Gazing was dedicated to him. I wanted to make a really spiritual album, and I think I accomplished it with that one. But, yeah, the Magic User, I don’t know where I’m gonna go with that, but I feel like if I do make all the songs like that, I don’t know how people will take it. I feel like I’d be changing what Mickey Mickey Rourke is about completely. I’m kind of voiceless on everything that I’ve done. Magic Man is more kind of pop-driven I guess.
People might be able to connect with that kind of thing easier than your ambient music, and that could draw them into listening to the earlier stuff.
Miller: I’ll see. I guess you’re right. That’s a good idea, huh? Just make these dorky pop songs...
Do you do all the artwork for your albums?
Miller: All those ideas are mine. It’s actually my artist from Poland, my friend Rafael. He did all the artwork for Neon Navajo, and we stayed in contact. He’s a really good friend of mine and I’ve always told him “if anything happens with me and my music, I want you to be my guy.” He brings my ideas to life. I can tell him anything and he’ll draw it up. I feel like a lot of artists aren’t creative enough. I have to think of all those little details, in terms of my aesthetic, like my art, my song titles, and all that. A lot of people nowadays aren’t really giving it their all. Everything they put out, they should really be conscious about their album covers. I feel like it’s lazy if you just get a random image and put your name on it. That’s kind of bullshit to me. Everything I like to do is custom.
I really like the artwork for Inner Gazing.
Miller: Yeah, I love it to, it’s so great. That’s just how I feel inside, really innocent but at the same time I can be eerie and dark. And that album is really just... to do some inner gazing to. It’s not music that I would recommend you just put on and bump but it’s definitely something I would love for people to listen to on a more personal level, just by themselves with headphones, alone in the dark or something. That’s the way I would like all my music to be listened to.
Have you played live on your own?
Miller: I have a few times but I’m kind of getting older and I’ve always been playing music and I’ve always been playing shows. I just got over it and I didn’t like it. I’m just weird, like when I play shows I get really anxious. My heart starts to beat really hard and I start to get hives. I can perform, it’s just that I don’t want to be a performing artist. I’m a recording artist. I think it’s gonna not benefit me, doing that, but it helps me with my creativity. I keep making stuff and keep putting it out, and hopefully I’ll keep getting a fanbase. If I have a good enough fanbase, and people are like “play shows, play shows,” I will, but for now I just want to keep developing my sound and just keep exploring different things and keep fucking with music. A lot of my stuff might not be that conventional, but I don’t really care, it’s like feelings. I always thought instrumentals were really powerful because, if you can make someone feel with sound, that’s a great thing.