How Iglooghost makes some of the freakiest music in the world
The Brainfeeder oddball on his two new EPs Clear Tamei and Steel Mogu.
Seamus Malliagh, who makes outlandishly fun electronic music as Iglooghost, grew up two hours out of London. “My town has this one hill. There's an advert for bread that was shot there. Ridley Scott directed it. It's weird as hell but that's all we have,” he says. Laughing at how bizarre that sounds, he cheerfully adds, “It's fucked up. It's like some computer-generated shit.”
Over the past year, the producer and visual artist has earned a reputation for vibrant, hyperspeed innovation — the potential for beauty in bizarre, computer-generated shit is hardly lost on him. His debut album on Brainfeeder, Neō Wax Bloom, told of cartoonish adventures set in the fantastical realm of Mamu, a place accessible through Malliagh’s garden and for which he serves as loyal mediator. Now, on August 8, he will self-release two EPs that explore Mamu as it was millennia ago.
Clear Tamei and Steel Mogu throw together crystalline synths, vocals in a made-up language, orchestral undertones, and throbbing 808s at a breakneck pace. Although much of it is in keeping with the aesthetic and narrative themes of Neō Wax Bloom, the EPs — accompanied by his self-described “FIRST BIG LAD” music video and more original visuals — also prove that Malliagh has ambitions beyond his current sound. Before he kicked off his U.S. tour at MoMA PS1, Malliagh sat down to talk about his music, his childhood, and what’s next for Iglooghost.
How did you start making music?
I could never play instruments as a kid because I have this thing called dyspraxia where I'm just clumsy as fuck. I'm really undexterous. I couldn't play guitar and shit. It took me long enough to get a computer. I can't play shit very fast, but with a computer I can do it in my own time. It's like the matrix — you slow shit down and tweak as you go along. That was a game changer. If I was trying to do this 20 years before, that wouldn't happen.
Your music definitely feels like a part of the digital age.
I feel like the internet is where I fucking grew my brain in a lot of ways. I think it's the reason why this shit is so cheery and fast and the music is never staying in one moment. Fuck it, maybe for the next thing I should not go on the internet for a while and see what happens. I'll live in the woods [laughs]. I think it's definitely why this shit is so confusing. I have a trillion tabs open, I'm trying to watch YouTube while reading a fucking cooking tutorial. It's crazy. It's too much.
In Neō Wax Bloom there was a witch, there was a monk, there was a bug. In Clear Tamei and Steel Mogu, there's obviously Tamei and Mogu. Who are they?
In [Neō Wax Bloom], it was all based around the fact that the eyes of the god of Mamu had fallen out. Tamei is him when he's a baby and training to be a god. Mogu, who's the rival guy on the album cover, is from the future and he wants to kill the god. So he's come back in time to try and kill Tamei.
What made you decide to release dual EPs rather than another full-length album?
Probably honestly growing up with Pokémon. That's just the concept that's sat in my head. There was Diamond and Pearl, and for the original there was Red and Blue. It's just a fucking scam — it's all the same game — but because of that, I love the idea of having these two things. I love collecting shit, and this is just mimicking those things I like. In a lot of ways, I'm inspired by products that I had as a kid. It's all fucking capitalist, but I think you can derive beauty from that stuff. That's what stimulated me as a kid. That's kind of what I'm trying to distill. Maybe not the selling of a product, but more how it feels when you have the shit. I do feel like if you put the two EPs together, though, it might not flow as an album. I want them to be EPs on their own, but hopefully you can listen to them next to each other and it'll still sound cool.
I heard you threw your tapes at Flying Lotus during one of his concerts. Is that how you ended up on Brainfeeder?
No, that probably lowered my chances to be honest [laughs]. That was when I was 15. That shit's fucking whack. I made these little tapes and I had some left over. I saw FlyLo and just chucked them on stage. A few days later, I went "Fuck, why hasn't he hit me back," not even realizing that the music was shit. But then I put the tapes in and I realized it was all wrangled. Half the shit was slowed down and I think both the sides were the same. I made that shit in my room. I fucking hope he didn't listen to it.
Are you doing anything exciting while you’re here in the U.S.?
I'm going to try and make some music with FlyLo in LA. I'm kind of bored of playing the same shit over. I've been doing the same show for the whole of this year. I'm just in robo-mode right now. I'm going to switch it up at the end of this year. I'm going to do this crazy, fucking kids TV show. It'll have costumes and shit. It'll have props.
You obviously have some Asian influences in your work. Do you listen or watch stuff that inspired that?
I watch a lot of Youtube. I've definitely taken a couple stories from there. I don't really listen to J-Pop a lot. I fuck with Kyary Pamyu [Pamyu], she's tight. Her stuff is always fucking insane. I think a lot of that shit happens by accident. I don't ever want to make it too overt. Obviously a lot of the shit I liked when I was a kid was Japanese, but I think it'd be corny if I made too many nods to Japan and shit.
And there's always a concern about being appropriative.
Exactly, I don't want to step on anybody's toes and shit. I didn't really realize it at the time, but I watched a lot of anime as a kid. There's a couple shows I really like. There's one called CardCaptor, there's one called Monster Rancher. There were all these cheap shows that no TV company wanted to buy so they were on at like 6am and shit. I'd just get up and watch them.
There's that cartoony-but-violent thing that's common in anime and your music.
Yeah. I don't know, I think it's kind of cool to try and paint. In my head, a lot of the fucking music I make sounds like emo music made out of midi shit. I think it's kind of cool to reframe sad emotions or intense things in a really silly palette. Like making some heart-wrenching song that sounds like a little dog yelling or some shit. I think it's a really fun dynamic to play with. Growing up on video games and shit, the sounds are always so fucking goofy because of the limitations but they're still trying to express the sad part of whatever it is.
Do you want to stay in the U.K.?
I think it'd be fun to move somewhere really weird eventually, but I like the UK. There are weird things about it that I really like. Shitty things [laughs]. I love the shitty food. I love how terrible it is. I'm about to move to London. I don't want to bust through my earnings renting a place I don't want to live in forever. I'm obsessed with trying to figure out where the fuck I want to live. I'm starting to think I want to save up kind of a lot and then just never spend more money. I want to buy a tiny amount of land and just build a house. Just fucking never have to interact. I want to live somewhere really annoying. Do you guys have roundabouts?
Yeah, we do.
I want to live in the middle of one. Like on a traffic island.
That's genius. Nobody would ever want to visit you.
I've always wanted to go to a club and go back to my house in the middle of a roundabout. In a tent. I want to ball out but then go back to that.