All it takes is for one idea from a curiously minded individual to go from thought to concept to start a revolution. It is one person’s desire to stand apart that makes them idiosyncratic. This is one of the driving principles behind beat scout pioneer & musician, Fresh Big Mouf. Fresh Big Mouf is an artist that makes songs completely comprised out of the sounds of his surroundings like motorcycles, gas pumps and people. As different as his name is, so is the approach he takes to music; his exploration into distinctive sounds isn’t something new as he has been fascinated by it his whole life. He’s been living, breathing music for as long as he can remember. We got the chance to speak with Fresh Big Mouf as he discusses his attraction to sounds from an early age, the start of the whole beat scouting insurgency and exceedingly more.
Where does the name Fresh Big Mouf come from?
Fresh Big Mouf: I’m often having the thought, “wouldn’t it be crazy if someone did this?” I have that thought every day about something or other. So naturally, “wouldn’t it be crazy if someone was called Fresh Big Mouf?” ended in me deciding if no one else had done it, I had to be the one.
Before any of the beat scouting, how did you get into music/arts?
Fresh Big Mouf: I banged out chips in the ivory of our baby grand piano as a toddler with an egg beater. Those chips are still missing today. I was fascinated with my dad’s stereo equipment, the buttons, oh heavens, all the buttons. That stuff turned me on from an early age. Then it was exposure – listening to great stuff by James Taylor, The Police, The Beatles, Elvis Costello, and great classical stuff too – Stravinsky, Prokofiev. You’re thinking I’m kind of sophisticated right? No. I loved shaking my ass from an early age too. One of my favorite songs from my childhood was “Rump Shaker” by Wreckx-n-Effect. The pure joy of listening to that on Patrick Tomazin’s dad’s humungous Bose speaker system in the 90’s. I just LOVED it.
I would put headphones on and figure out the exact chords to Gin Blossoms or Mary J Blige or Fool on the Hill. I’m really grateful to my family for supporting all of that, sending me to lessons, being interested in the new thing, not being complacent with the same old radio blah. I remember picking up an Evil Tambourines record from my high school radio station’s sale day and I was amazed no one had heard of these guys – so warm! So groovy, so hot! That was my introduction to underground music. Those guys plugged their keyboards right into 2” tape machines and cranked the knobs, that’s why their stuff sounded so fat. I was an idiot for that stuff. Still am. So yeah, I came away from childhood with a high appreciation for what had come down already, and a high interest in what was coming next. That’s why I think I’m not satisfied doing the normal thing in music.
For those who aren’t entirely too familiar, what is beat scouting?
Fresh Big Mouf: Beat Scouting is my thing, but anyone can do it. Now people are starting to do it a little bit more, it’s nice to see that. A Beat Scout is a song made up entirely out of the sounds of one thing – say a taco truck – I would use my cell phone to get all the sounds a taco truck makes, combine them together to make a song, and sing the vocals as well. You can do it with anything –a sailboat, city, cell phone – anything that you can make sound out of, I can turn into a Beat Scout.
I like to use things around me too – especially people, if they’re into it! I’m always trying to get restaurant workers, passers by, factory workers, whoever, to sing in my videos. No one can resist that smile! It’s funny, almost everyone will say no at first, but almost everybody will smile too. I find myself being curious about that smile, leaning into it, helping them feel just comfortable enough to take a huge risk for me. I think it’s pretty rewarding, we all have a great time. Who doesn’t want to see themselves in a music video? A few, I admit. And that’s ok too.
What was it that helped you discover/develop the whole beat scout concept?
Fresh Big Mouf: Yeah, again my “what if?” brain came up with that one. I was working with a friend of mine, a folk artist named Ryan Darton. Great songwriter. We were finishing his album together, getting the songs ready, and I always want the musicians I produce to have a great shot at getting noticed. So we were brainstorming things we could do to promote the album, and it had sort of a desert feel to it I thought, so I said, “why don’t we go out into the desert and film ourselves making a song from your album out of desert things? Cactus, sand, tumble weeds, maybe throw some real instruments in there too.” I remember him saying, “yeah, that’s a great idea – you should do that!” I thought, you’re right, that’s sort of my thing. So I took it and ran with it. “Hamburger Stand” was the first one, and we had a ball. The rest is history.
What is it about being in “an unfamiliar location” that allows you to be most creative?
Fresh Big Mouf: I love unfamiliarity! I think it is so freeing for thinking and letting my mind wander. For example, if I take a guitar and write a song on it, I’ve written a million songs on guitar already, and played a million songs, so my hands are familiar with it. They automatically go certain places, and the sounds that come out are sounds I’ve heard before. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t strike me! What I love is taking my mind to a new space so it can get inspired! You know the feeling when you step off a plane into a new country? Or city even? The possibilities are endless, you don’t know your way around, and your mind is free to imagine all the things you can do there. You’re excited, anything could happen!
It’s a state of curiosity that’s wild and stimulating, there are so many things you haven’t made up your mind about yet! It’s a world of openness, and your mind can do its job properly there. Though some would say the mind is being quite improper, illogical. I say that’s the best stuff, the most interesting. Suppose it’s why people use drugs, to get to another space, to get away from familiarity, but that space of unfamiliarity is fleeting – in a little while you see things for what they are, you begin to make judgments, decisions, and pretty soon it becomes dull and more difficult to be inspired. I like to leave those spaces, in music, leave them for years, and then come back to them with a new self, and I can be inspired again.
As I imagine you at times have to explain to people what beating scouting is, what have been the most memorable/unique reactions you have ever received?
Fresh Big Mouf: I think someone wanted me to Beat Scout their mom once.
Is there one track/experience that you would say has been your favorite/most memorable?
Fresh Big Mouf: Oh, so many. It’s a delightful experience to make a Beat Scout. People get pretty into it. I’ve run into so many characters doing this, one is a guy who was going to be a big rapper and wanted to freestyle rap for us – he ended up doing a lot of dancing in the Taco Truck Beat Scout. I remember an older German couple who started dancing on a beach pier we were on; they were so adorable. I’m also pretty lucky to work with some great people. Kina Grannis, who I’ve done many of these with, is about as genuine a person as you could meet. Go listen to her stuff, she’s adorable. Our beach Beat Scout always makes me smile.
Of all the projects you have worked on would you say was that one sound that was the most difficult to record? Can you elaborate, why?
Fresh Big Mouf: You’re probably thinking of a Beat Scout sound, but those are all pretty easy really, I just put up my phone and press record. No, when you ask that I think of recording the last bits of Taco Boom Box. Most of it was done, and I flew to play a gig in Salt Lake City. I got put up in a nice hotel, and decided to finish the vocals of “Everywhere Pieces of You” there. Hotel rooms are tough to record in, and for this song especially it was very sensitive.
The song has some very very quiet vocals. So I put up the mattresses from both beds, put up everything soft and pillowy I could into the air to trap sound from echoing. It was dead as a closet in there and I had to cross my fingers the kids in the next room didn’t come home. I just remember producing myself, and giving myself permission to feel during the takes. It was painful, and I felt all alone in there, but I’m happy about what came out of it.
What are you currently working on as far as upcoming projects?
Fresh Big Mouf: My latest thing has nothing to do with Beat Scout actually! I’ve decided to release a full length studio album! It’s called Taco Boom Box. I’m very pleased with it, and it’s funny to have the experience of doing the “normal” thing in music, even though this music is far from normal. My publicist called it “art pop,” and I said, yeah, that feels right. There’s a hip hop song, a Motown one, a 90’s industrial song, a dub step ballad, all sorts of things. It’s a little preposterous, but it’s very sensitive too. I committed myself to only including songs that were truly inspired, not trying to fill some kind of a hole. Each song came from a real place in my life, real pain I was feeling, so I think it’s really vulnerable. I hope people will enjoy it. Like it or not, it’s 100% me.