‘I like to have a balance,’ said musician Paul Mullen when asked about living in California, ‘being from the north of England, the desert is very very different!’
Originally hailing from Thornton-le-Dale, Mullen has spent a lot of his time over the years split between the UK, Berlin, and LA. Specifically, he now resides just outside the City of Angels, in the settlement of Pioneertown about an hour and a half away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. He sat down with Dom recently for a chat about what it’s been like for him over the past year in the US, and the exciting prospect of revived music from his band, Losers.
‘My first experiences with LA weren’t great!’ Mullen laughed when asked about his experiences with the U
‘We toured through here and you never really get a feel for a town or a state when you’re in there for one night. I always liked California – I liked the vibe and the people and it’s got kind of everything; the mountains, the coast, good mindset and everything like that. Spending time here has been fantastic really, especially out in the desert which I never thought I would take to so well… It’s been good knowing that there’s stuff going on back in Europe [with Losers], ideally it would just be coming back and forth. I’ve always been able to adapt to whatever’s in front of me, sort of thing.
And even though Mullen lives away from the heart of the city, he still manages to pop his head out of the studio to soak in the events that Pioneertown has to offer – gigs in the local bars being the main attraction.
‘There’s two local bars here in Pioneertown – one’s called Pappy + Harriet’s, which is quite a famous place. Paul McCartney’s played there, and it’s a really small spot, but they’ve got an outdoor bit which is like, a thousand capacity, so I went to see Dave Catching, who has that Rancho de la Luna studio in Joshua Tree. It was his birthday party so a whole bunch of artists played there… Jesse Hughes from Eagles of Death Metal and I have been out a few times. Even within this little spot I do put my head out and get to see some live music which is amazing. It’s all started to open now, things are happening, which is good. I’ll hopefully do a couple of things out here myself anyway soon.’
‘I get in and out of LA a little bit, enough to get my kicks and then go back to the quiet desert! I’m gonna go in next weekend for a friend’s birthday, actually, so that’ll be my next trip.’
And despite having to deal with the pandemic in a more remote location – which can feel incredibly lonely – Mullen kept himself busy and connected through Instagram live, playing songs to fans over the popular social media site.
‘The Pioneertown Sessions – what I was calling them – I sort of announced when we were doing interviews back in May last year, so I had to do it. It was a song every week, so basically I was starting from scratch, and writing and performing a track on Instagram live. I think I did six or seven, and it was pretty full on! It was an intense time. I really enjoyed it, because I couldn’t be too precious with it. There will be an EP with them [the tracks] on, and I don’t know if it’s just going to be me or something else, I’m not sure. But yeah, like I say there’s shows happening now out in the desert and in LA so I’m going to get myself on one of the spots there. I’ve been speaking to a drummer out here and a couple of musicians. He offered his skills on the skins to help out if needed with some live stuff.’
‘I’ve got a couple of musicians in LA who are up for getting a band together. It might just be me and a guitar but I do kind of like the band thing.’
As for Losers, Mullen is confident that they’re heading in the right direction to tour again, with new material on the way, as well as newer versions of their older songs.
‘With Losers at the moment it’s going pretty well out here. We’re just with a college radio and stuff and getting a bunch of press which is fantastic, and help starting out here, and yeah, of course there’s a possibility of it. We’ve been offered some shows out here already – in Florida I think – and so it’s a little bit early for that, but we’re definitely working on some alternative versions of the old tracks and redoing them in a different light.’
‘It’s just been such a nice process for us all… These tracks – some of them have been sitting around for years. And sometimes they can sometimes just not fit. They were good tracks, they stood alone, but we just never found a space for them. So, at the moment the EP was just a bit of an afterthought. We wanted to just release a track every six weeks, and we’ve been doing that since January, we did a Tears For Fears cover (Shout), and then we just went on from there really, and we picked and chose tracks – which we have about twenty-five of, in the bank. We’ll need a couple more mixes and tweaks here and there, but it allows these tracks that didn’t really find a home on the last few records to have that space.’
Alongside playing music online, Mullen has also been conducting webinars which go more in depth with the tracks and allow audiences to get a true feel for the songs and what’s behind them. In partnership with the visual reality platform Decentraland, he talked about what Losers are up to in that aspect:
‘I do these exclusive intro videos where we have a bit of fun with it… We’re actually building a venue inside of it, inside Decentraland at the moment, so it’s gonna have plenty of elements of Losers so we can really go into depth with the webinar stuff and the production as well as the videos, and exclusive stuff. You can kind of do anything in that place. So it’s really nice to be part of something that can grow and kind of go crazy.’
‘I think Losers became more of a studio project than a band. We did tours with Gary Numan, Sisters of Mercy, and we did a bunch of headline stuff as well, but it’s now developed into a production kind of exploration… We always wanted to do something a bit different with Losers.’
In terms of personal growth, Mullen details some trickier times and how he got out of them, being in a good place now.
‘Before, I was kind of strangled by my self doubt in a way sometimes, I wouldn’t get things done because I’d be questioning it too much. In life you have so many filters and boundaries you put up and you’re trying to get a thought out there or trying to get something to actually happen… You build these walls or whatever just to protect yourself and I’ve managed to knock a few of them down and allow that free flow of creativity and getting shit done… Everyone does it from an experience that’s traumatised you.’
So, what advice would he give to those who have been through similar feelings?
‘Just kind of trust your gut in a way and your feeling of things. Try not to be too scared. I just opened the door of getting stuff done, like the Pioneertown Sessions… I sometimes think that if you’re really down and depressed you’ve got to remember those times you were really happy because you’re capable of it, you have that inside you, those moments where you’re not creative and you’ve been down about it, you’ve got that ability to be happy and be creative and you’ve just got to try and remember that and access that. It’s a lot of hard work and it’s every day.’
‘We’re always out to make the best possible music that we can make. And I think now our mindset has changed in that we see a lot more light in our music, before it was very very dark… We’re in a better spot. We’re out to have fun as well, to share our experiences, we’re all one big music community, we think. We’re all in this together, you know. Everyone can be a Loser!’
Recalling the catharsis of releasing Losers’ previous album (‘How to Ruin People’s Futures’), Mullen relates that experience to the upcoming prospect of new music and rehashing the older songs that didn’t quite make the cut before:
‘I think we champion the loser, you know, and we’re championing these tracks and giving them their own little space. I’m not saying these tracks are losers at all, you know, these are some of the best tracks we’ve ever done is out and coming out over the next few months. It’s just been a fantastic process, this, connecting with a bunch of people about it. It’s been just an awesome experience and it’s growing and adapting with each release. Who knows, maybe it will turn into an album!’
Overall, what would he like to say to fans of Losers?
‘We’ve got an exclusive club you can join and a mailing list and we’re giving out exclusive content, you know? We’ve got this link or whatever, it’s on our Twitter page and Instagram, but you basically click on the link that’s on the Twitter page and it’s got everything on there. But also check out Decentraland and see how that works out for you!’
‘Thanks for just for sticking with me, I guess, for however many years I’ve been doing this! All our lives have been dealing with this pandemic so we can have a good time and bring on 2022…’