Interview: Incubus

What do you ask a critically acclaimed band with a 20-year strong music career? Surely they have answered every question thrown at their direction in a multitude of interviews and press conferences. Lucky for us, we got an exclusive one-on-one with arguably the brainiest member of the group! Ahead of their highly anticipated concert at Stadium Negara on 23 July, JUICE caught up with Incubus guitarist Mike Einzinger via phone call, who openly discussed about the band’s latest album, the internet, Ozzy Osbourne, and, er, Malaysian women…

Interview courtesy of Tune Talk
Image Brantley Gutierrez

You’ll be touring Malaysia for the 3rd time this coming July. What is the one thing in Malaysia that you can’t get enough of?
The people there are so friendly and that just makes it such a pleasure for us to come to Malaysia. We have the most passionate fans in Malaysia and the fans clubs are just so supportive of us, you know, waiting for us everywhere; at the hotels and concert venues. It makes us feel very welcomed, so we’re happy to be back.

And we’re sure the fans are very happy as well.
Yeah, and it’s such a beautiful place with beautiful women.

Thought that was Venezuela? Oh well… Incubus has been a band for about 20 years now. How do you guys stay relevant to the music industry, especially in recent times where style often overshadows substance?
I like to think that we make music that’s meaningful to people. It’s been really interesting to watch the musical landscape change so much over such a long period of time and we feel very lucky to be able to just make our records, tour, travel, and play our music to people who want to hear it. It’s become a really good feeling for us because we’ve seen so many [bands] come and go. For us, even if people are critical and don’t like what we’re doing, we’ve stayed for so long and outlive so much that’s out there. It’s like we’ve carved our own niche.

What was your inspiration for the recent album If Not Now, When?
Well, just being 35 years old. I’d just finished my second year at university. Being a student has been a very profound experience for me. Being at Harvard has been one of the most enjoyable experiences, really humbling and just incredible from every direction.

With your album being leaked on the Internet before the official release date, what is your reaction to that?
It was very unfortunate; it feels like somebody who is eating a meal that you haven’t finished cooking yet. But it’s okay, because it’s an inevitable part of the world that we live in now. It’s sad for the anticipation of an album release like hearing and buying it for the first time because it’s such an important experience. But at times we also feel fortunate that we’re making music that’s important enough for people to steal it (laughs). I’m glad that people are interested enough in our music that they can’t wait to hear it. I choose to look at the brighter side of it.

Your music videos have very a conceptual feel to them. Do you feel that music videos are effective channels for fans to identify with the songs?
It’s funny because for a while we felt like music videos weren’t as relevant as they had been in the past because music channels like MTV don’t play music anymore. It seems like they’re overrun with reality TV programmes. But now in the age of Youtube and Vimeo, music videos are becoming much more relevant again, so I do think that music videos can definitely add a unique aesthetic to a song that wasn’t there during the songwriting process. A video is a collaboration between a band and a director because it’s another layer of added information that the artist may not have necessarily intended to be there. We’d released a single from our album A Crow Left of the Murder… called ‘Megalomaniac’ in 2003, and that song was never intended with political ideas in mind; it was much more personally motivated. But we made the video at a time when former president George Bush was doing things that the whole world was really frowning upon, and that was a reflection of the political nature of what was happening. So all of a sudden, the perception of the song changed into something about politics because the video brought that part of it into place. For us, it’s a really interesting exercise in how a music video can influence the way a song is perceived by an audience. It could have a very graphic effect so we definitely learned a lesson from doing that. But we’re glad we did it at the same time because I think it was important that the video came out.

During the band’s 5-year hiatus, what did you and your bandmates do to recharge musically and spiritually?
Brandon [Boyd] spent a lot of time dedicated to painting. He did a lot of paintings and art shows. One of the guys, Jose [Pasillas] had a baby. Ben [Kenney] and Chris [Kilmore] made a solo record, but Chris hasn’t released it yet. I don’t know if he’s going to put it out or just let it sit. He usually makes albums for his friends, but maybe he’ll release them. I think it’d be cool if he did. And me, I’ve been studying at Harvard for the past few years and I’ve written a lot of music for different projects. I’ve worked on a film with Kirsten Dunst which was shown at Cannes last year. It was a really fun experience working with her. That was a really cool phone call to get, her asking me to score her film. We went to the Cannes Film Festival together and it was a great experience. She just won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival this year, and I’d just congratulated her the other day. I didn’t even know about it, she told me that she won and I was like, “Wow, that’s crazy!” (laughs).

You’ve recently composed a score for a new film about Ozzy Osbourne’s life called God Bless Ozzy Osbourne. Do you fancy yourself as a rock n roll John Williams?
It’s really interesting doing projects like Kristen’s film or the Ozzy movie. I’m just working by myself. It’s really fun to work on projects like that because I’m just in my studio, trying to figure out how to amplify the emotions that are happening by watching something visual. It’s much different than just sitting down and writing a song because when I’m writing a song, I’m just trying to pull things out of the air. But with a movie, I already have a template to guide me. So, it’s kind of a different process but it’s really fun though. Scoring films is really fun.

You’ve mentioned in past interviews that Black Sabbath is one of your music inspirations. What’s your favourite Black Sabbath record?
I’d have to say it’s a cross between Paranoid and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was the first Black Sabbath album that I’d ever had, but Paranoid has ‘War Pigs’ and ‘Iron Man’ on it, which are the best Black Sabbath has to offer in that record.

You guys are strong advocates in protecting the environment and aiding charities like Carbon Neutral, UNICEF and Red Cross. How do you pick your charities?
The world is a very big place and we feel like we’re in the position to help in any little way that we can. We feel like it’s our duty to use our good fortune to help, even if it’s just a little bit. We just try and find things that are close to our hearts and try to figure out ways of helping those who are in need, whether they’re people or animals, and sometimes it’s environmental and humanity issues. Environmental issues can be very tricky because there’re a lot of unseen factors at work. We’re all doing the best that we can, but we can always do better. I think everybody can agree on that. We’re not trying to enforce an ideology on anybody and we have a very long history of showing up at wherever that had a great tragedy and trying to help bring resources to people who need them badly. And for people who are interested, you can go to to find information on how to help out.

How can Incubus fans contribute to the Make Yourself Foundation?
I think the easiest way for our fans to help with our causes is to buy tickets to our concerts. We have the special Meet and Greet VIP package where we auction tickets off on eBay and all the money that’s generated from them goes to our foundation. So it’s a great way for our fans to help us raise money, because they’re coming to our concerts and also helping us with our foundation. Every dollar that we raised goes to something that’s really important to us like recently, a good friend of mine was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and we just donated a portion of money to multiple sclerosis research. Each of us, individually and collectively, has things that we’re concerned about and the wonderful thing about having the foundation is that it offers us the opportunity to try and help out, even just a little.

You’ve mentioned earlier that you were glad to be a student. Do you feel that a formal education is something musicians lack and does that spoil an artist’s creativity?
I have mixed feelings about this. I definitely don’t think that a musician really needs to have a formal education at all because musicians receive education in very different ways. I never had a formal education until two years ago. For me, one of the most important things that I learned about studying is the history of music which changed my whole perspective on music in a very strong way. Everybody should have whatever experience that they want to have, but I definitely think that when I have children, I’d love for them to learn about some of the things that I’ve gotten to learn about. I feel really grateful for it and I do think that I’m a better musician now than I was because of it.

What are your advices to aspiring musicians?
I would say for anybody making music is to just do it because you love it. That’s the most important thing and that’s the reason why we stayed as a band for 20 years. It’s because we love doing it and we’re friends. And if I could give one bit of advice to musicians, it would be to learn how to play the piano. If you could be a really good pianist, your overall knowledge of how music works will be in good shape.

Rock out with Incubus at Stadium Negara on 23 July. Tickets are priced at RM203 and can be purchased via online at or AirAsiaRedTix outlets. JUICE would like to give a big thanks to Sony Music and Tune Talk for this interview with Mike Einzinger. For more info about Incubus, visit