With his latest venture, Muggs may be taking it slow, but he is by no means taking it easy. Dust (Anti, 2003), the first solo effort by the DJ/producer

With his latest venture, Muggs may be taking it slow, but he is by no means taking it easy. Dust (Anti, 2003), the first solo effort by the DJ/producer behind the infamous Cypress Hill group, shows Muggs at his introspective best while highlighting his trademark multilayered approach. “I just go in there and start moving shit,” he says, rather modestly. “It's that moment, that inspiration for that split second — and then it's gone. You've got to go with it, and while it's happening, let it immortalize itself.”

In order to do so, Muggs had to take a break. Relentless touring combined with a busy schedule of remixing and producing some of hip-hop's biggest stars (not to mention dabbling in trip-hop with folks such as Tricky and Bomb the Bass) left little time for Muggs to work on his own music. “There was never really enough time during the day,” he recalls. “So I did most of it at night. I sat up from midnight to seven in the morning.”

The hazy melancholy of the predawn hours certainly had an impact on Muggs' latest creation. Although the album is chock-full of dreamy melodies and tender vocals, Dust maintains an almost palpable tension thanks to the intriguing juxtaposition of gloomy samples and dense bass lines. “I often start it off with drums, sometimes with loops, and I just build on them with keyboards,” he explains. “Drums are key. I always try to get them rocking, get them hard, get them tight — that sets the tone for the entire song. To do this, I stack them up: I use three or four snares and a couple of kick drums. This builds a strong bottom layer, and the snares add sharpness to it.”

Armed with a slew of programs (he prefers Steinberg Nuendo but also uses Propellerhead Reason and Native Instruments Reaktor), Neve preamps, Korg keyboards (especially the Karma workstation) and stacks of records, Muggs pieces sounds together in a manner that ranges from tightly controlled to haphazardly experimental. “I try to envision the project, what it's all about, and try to make [the songs] all fit together as a cohesive piece of work,” he explains. Still, that leaves plenty of room for experimentation and even divine inspiration. “I just let the Holy Ghost take control of me,” he jokes. Take, for instance, the glitchy electronica tune “Shadows,” which he created out of chopped-up bits of a static-y record. “I don't know what happened,” Muggs says. “The spirit took me over!”

And other times, smoking a little pot will do great things. “This project is called Dust,” Muggs points out, himself a member of a group renowned for its consumption of marijuana. “It's supposed to be real spacey, dusted out, smoked out. Back in the day when we'd hear really slow hip-hop music, we'd call it ‘dusted.’ And that's something that kind of stuck.”

Of course, getting high is no shortcut to create a fully formed song. Diligent editing and careful attention to detail marks Dust as Muggs' own creation. “I made this record for me — it's who I am, what's in my head — as an artist,” he notes. “This is something that I've been trying to get out for the past four or five years. I just haven't had the time or the avenue or the vehicle to get it out.”