One half of Bristol’s mighty Giant Swan, Harry Wright has been at the forefront of the developing post-genre diaspora emerging from peripheral corners of the scene. As Mun Sing, his subterranean sonics flash across the spectrum of definition: ‘post-ethinic militarism’, ‘radioactive trap’, ‘cyberized grime’ – often simultaneously. The neo-modernity of Mun Sing encapsulates a refreshing disenfranchisement of the normal conceptual frameworks. This syncopation is amplified by blurring lines between mainstream pop culture and austere industrial setting of the club world.
The Mun Sing live show is another vessel to undermine aesthetics of underground club culture. With a philosophical underpinning of pop, Wright is actively trying to disarm the audience of their preconceptions and pretences. His aim; to highlight inclusivity, space, performance and fun. We had a catchup with him to find out more about the project itself and his live show.
Hi Harry, cheers for taking a moment to chat with us. Have you been up to anything interesting over summer?
No worries! Yeah been a lush summer so far, been lucky enough to travel around lots of Europe playing shows in some sick places… Also got to meet a lot of ‘internet friends’ for the first time IRL AND I met Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend omgggg <3
Can you tell us a bit about the conception of Mun Sing as a project?
In 2016 I lived in a small cabin in Iceland for 3 weeks to write and record an album in total isolation. This was the first time I had to focus on my own music, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I started releasing it properly as ‘Mun Sin’. I started out with a specific focus on ‘drums as a form of communication’, creating short sketches or ‘rhythmic conversations’ at first, but later turning into longer form club tracks as a result of a change of pace being back in a city, as well as encouragement from friends and the label Infinite Machine who really took a chance on me!
Both aesthetically and sonically, there is a peripheral element to what you produce, your music has been termed everything from ‘cold and militaristic neo-EBM’ to ‘cyber grime’. Is this ‘hybridity’ something which is important to you?
Yeah I think so! Tbh I don’t listen to much of the music that I get compared to, I mostly listen to chart music and like Pitchfork indie bands haha… Like I can really appreciate so much of the dark club-music sub genres but I’m more fascinated by mainstream pop culture, commodification of art, chart music etc.
I think feeling kinda detached from the circles some of my peers operate in, hopefully ends up achieving something quite self-referential. I’m pretty grateful for this perceived lack of allegiance to one genre as it empowers me to trust my process, but that itself can also feel a lil lonely… But there can also be hope in creating new communities out of a disregard for a shared ‘aesthetic’ (and don’t talk to me about that ‘Asian sound’ lol). So this is definitely something I’ve gained from this sense of ‘hybridity’ and has even helped me meet some wonderful people who feel similarly balanced in feelings of empowerment and loneliness.
Could tell us about your creative process on this project? How/if does this differ from other outlets such as your work with Robin Stewart as Giant Swan?
The name ‘Mun Sing’ is my Chinese middle name meaning ‘Swift and Sincere’, which in itself has vital significance to the process. My aim is to make music under these loose guides of being ‘swift and sincere’; essentially trusting my own instincts to create emotionally reflective work at a quick pace when faced with difficulty.
Adopting these principles in practice has helped me focus on the use of immediacy and instinct, which for me are key elements in creating an interesting dialogue with an audience.
Giant Swan also looks at the power of an open dialogue with an audience, but is more centred around improvising and existentialism in the club space. With GS, when we play live the aim is to always have the creative process as transparent and democratic as possible, whereas for Mun Sing my creative process is way more specific and personal to me.
From a performative aspect your live sets radiate a punkesque energy. Do you feel this is a natural extension from your background of playing in bands?
Umm tbh I’m not really sure about the word ‘punkesque’ but yes one does like to put on a show lol. I’ve always liked performing I guess probably because I’m very self-centred haha.
Do you have a specific ritual or any pre-show routines that help you enter that headspace? Who do you look up to in terms of live sets?
Big production concerts! The shows where you can still be entertained even if you don’t know the tunes haha… A lot of pop music when put in a live context is so self-aware and is so often explicitly at the mercy of the audience’s attention span. I think this is a pretty universal concept that always helps keep me grounded when thinking about playing shows.
In terms of pre-show routines… I feel like the ritual I go through to enter the headspace is actually the show itself. It’s basically my own form of therapy, except it’s not a therapist it’s a bunch of strangers in the room.
Can you recount any epiphanic moments seeing someone perform?
Nicki Minaj dropping Chun-Li and seeing a mismatch of random lazy aesthetics from like 4000 years worth of East Asian culture on a massive screen was both heartbreaking and hilarious, but above all very sobering.
Do you envisage an ideal temporal or spatial context that you would want people to consume your music in?
I guess club spaces? People seem to have the option of being totally committed or not bothered, so I like how these spaces can be neutral and democratised from the effects of the music. With regards to a temporal context, having the chance to present yr own music should be seen as a privilege in itself, and with that in mind I always think about it more in terms of me bringing my world and headspace to an audience as a sort of open ‘invitation’, as opposed to requesting or hoping they will provide that for themselves if u know what I mean…
Speaking of spaces, historically and over the last few years in particular Bristol has been a hub of hyper-creativity within the underground music scene. To what extent and in what ways does locale affect your artist agency?
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Bristol tbh… I’m inspired and motivated by it’s sense of community and the freedom and openness to create there, not to mention the musicians themselves. Sometimes I take this for granted… Like there’s definitely some amazing stuff coming out of Bristol, but a lot of the dance music stuff doesn’t massively resonate with me if I’m being honest a lot of the early dubstep inspired techno stuff can take itself too seriously and plays heavily on some of the old heads and gatekeepers which puts me off a lot. It’s encouraged me to put that energy into other areas in and outside the community though, like our night Illegal Data I started with NE$$ where we get to poke a bit of fun at all that stuff as well as ourselves lol. I love Bristol but it can take itself too seriously with how countercultural it is sometimes… “We’re not London!” etc.
Who would you consider your biggest influences musically? And are there any records that are particularly special to you?
Well some of my all time favs are from The Locust, CocoRosie, Madonna, The Knife… But I’m way more ‘influenced’ by more current artists like Kanye (sorry), Travis Scott, Denzel Curry, Nicki Minaj, Charlie XCX atm.
What are you listening to right now? Is there anyone that people should be talking about?
Kim Petras obvs! But also Guttersnipe, Loraine James, Merlin Nova, E B U and Jackson Veil Panther.
Away from the usual stuff, what are some of your musical guilty pleasures?
Iggy Azalea and everything Diplo has ever and will ever do probably.
Tell us a bit about your interests outside of music, what keeps you ticking over?
Reading about capitalism, smoking weed baby! Or what I like to call ‘how to contradict yourself in two easy steps’
You have a few really interesting performances coming up including closing the Amphis stage at the tenth Wysing Polyphonic – do you have anything special planned this?
Yeah maybe a Klaxons remix… Or is that too silly?
Mun Sing performs live at Wysing Polyphonic on September 7th – buy tickets here.