Among the plethora –and that’s putting it mildly – of albums coming out in the fall of 2017, one clearly stands out because of its artistic direction, and that’s Hugo Mudie’s very surprising Cordoba. Well-known in music circles as the frontman of The Sainte Catherines and Yesterday’s Ring, Mudie has launched his first solo album, and it’s a big departure from what are considered his musical roots, while retaining the sarcastic and off-beat tone that he’s owned since the start of his career.
“It’s probably the most representative album I’ve made, because there were no compromises,” says Mudie. “It’s the first time I can really be who I’ve always wanted to be. My closest friends do recognize me in it… I was always a little more fucked-up and open to all styles of music than most.”
Pop Goes La Vie
Let’s tell it like it is: Mudie ventures into pop territory that few would have expected him to approach to this point. “I don’t know if we can call it a pop statement,” he says. “As far as I’m concerned, it came very naturally. I’ve always listened to a lot of pop music and I’ve always based my compositions on melodies, even in my bands. The difference is that it was executed in an aggro or country way, depending on the band I was writing for.
Add to that the fact that the songwriter was saturating his ears and mind with rap during the writing and recording of the album – from Kanye West to Chance the Rapper to Young Thug. “I love the way they try things, sonically,” Mudie says. “There truly is a lot of research that goes into it. I get a feeling the genre re-invents itself every six months. It’s crazy.”
Yet, despite all that, his “natural” side re-appears every now and then, on tracks like “Ferme ta radio” or “Tofu Dogs,” where Mudie lets loose the punk/hardcore energy that drew the spotlight to him early in his career. “I wanted to do pure, bona fide Minor Threat or Dead Fucking Last, and I like the idea of having a couple of tracks on the album that are pure punk, like the Beastie Boys did back in the day,” he says.
Add to the mix a large pinch of Wavves and Beach House, and you’ll start having an idea of the multi-genre affair that you can expect. “In the end, I guess it’s my attempt at making Beach House tracks,” says Mudie. There. Case closed.
We Are Wolves’ Alex Ortiz is credited with his first official production duty. “I didn’t know him and he had never done this,” says Mudie. “I liked what he did with WAW and, musically, his personality seemed as all-over-the-place as mine. We clicked immediately when we first met, and it was an awesome collaboration.”
And not only has the release enjoyed great visibility – “Livre d’or” has earned rotation on a few commercial outlets – the man behind the project is also the object of media attention, being a guest columnist of the ICI Première, Urbania and Vice platforms, to name a few. More often than not invited as an “industry” columnist, Mudie recently penned an op-ed piece on the role of music critics that was considered incendiary by some.
At a time where social media occupy most of our collective imagination, critics have a hard time finding their rightful place. The reactions to the op-ed were just as colourful as the piece itself: “I wasn’t expecting people to react with such intensity!” says Mudie. “Some even flat-out refused to talk about my album. But to be honest, I prefer that to pure disinterest. I’ve always loved stuff that shakes things up.”
Again, let’s be clear. “Even good critics piss me off,” says Mudie. “When I read it, all I can think of is that the writer has never made music. I truly believe that, and it drives me mad. And Québec is so small, everyone knows everyone. That drives me nuts too, when I think about it too much. All of that is who I am, I don’t over-think it before I commit. People who know me know I’ve always been that way. In school, people said I was a negative leader. When I was in a sports-study program, my teacher once told me: ‘You’re not a hockey player, you’re a rock star.’ Apparently, she had great vision. There comes a point in life where you either embrace your larger-than-life personality, or you are ashamed of it. And if you try to dumb it down, you’ll feel bad. In the end, it’s simple: if you like me, you’re welcome, if you don’t, oh well.” Another case closed.
“I’m only at the beginning of my career,” says Mudie, “and I already have songs ready to go. I’ve hung up my multi-band singer role for now, and I’ll no longer try to justify the style I choose. If I want to do balls-to-the-wall music, country, or pop, then that’s what I’ll do.” Don’t say you haven’t been warned.