Interview: He Whose Ox Is Gored’s Lisa Mungo
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.
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?
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.
(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.
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
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.