The Nature of the Beast: Marc Mumcian Strikes Back with Low Frequencies and Deep Beats

Mumcian with his upright bass during rehearsal. Courtesy of Marc Mumcian.

A Classical and Jazz-trained bassist Marc Mumcian retreats from a world with greedy higher-ups and monotonous music to a lair of underground altered-states hip-hop through his personal project: Mumkai.

“There are plenty of problems in the music industry today, but as for taste and genres in pop, I just hear more of the same.”

Marc is no ‘spring chicken’ when he speaks about music.  Having had experience from the Hamilton Music Academy and Bob Cole Conservatory of Music, Marc had the opportunity to premiere his first jazz piece, be coached by Jeff Clayton and open for Kenny Garret. He also plays bass in the Golden State Pops Orchestra, the resident orchestra of the Warner Grand Theatre. Even with these impressive credentials Marc has no self-important airs; he does not G.A.F. By day he is the ideal archetype of music-student-turned-pro-orchestra-member, but at night, he dons a cape as Mumkai, an underground hip-hop producer armed with an Akai sampler, laptop and electric bass.

Regarding his distaste for repetitive pop, Marc continues with saying that, “there is simply so much to weed out since it's very easy to produce music these days.” And while the availability and affordability of DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) like ProTools, Logic and Garageband, the playing field is more level than it has been since the early 2000s. The economics of music-making tools is another article in itself, so we’ll stick to a point Marc brings up: taste and discernment.

“Without coming off as some music snob, I must search out for something fresh at times, but I understand music is subjective, it's personal and all comes down to a matter of opinion.”  As opinionated as he is, this isn’t music snobbery. By definition, a music snob would be someone who claims their taste in music is better than others and leverages that to gain a sense of self-importance. Marc is anything but that. When you sit down and talk to him, he was even so humble to question why anyone would interview him. In his project, Mumkai, he samples classical music and integrates it with hip-hop. If anything, Marc is a music diversifier.

Further, there is something to be said about his extensive experience; as someone who has formally studied music and played it professionally for decades, he has a high exposure to different styles, genres and instruments. Therefore, it’s understandable he yearns for something “fresh”. The more exposure and expertise a person gains in an area of knowledge, it’s natural for them to become more particular about it.

Mumcian performing at the Warner Grand Theatre. Courtesy of Marc Mumcian.

In Popular Music of the Non-Western World (1988)[1], Peter Manuel wrote that “popular music assumes such a corporatized role and therefore remains subject to a large degree of standardization, ambiguity exists whether the music reflects actual cultural values or those only of the corporate sector seeking economic profit.” And that’s what music aficionados like Marc crave; that fresh variety of ‘ambiguity’. First year music history students are taught that compositions, in essence, are a combination of repetition and contrast. This concept is traditionally in regard to the musical form and other devices, but can also apply to a listener’s experience with music as a whole. A person can indulge in Top-40 pop and be guilt free about it if they are also exposed to fresh sounds on a micro level (instrumentation, vocal stylings, lyric content) or macro level (genres and context to experience music in, such as films, video games and other interactive content).

"As for classical, I wish there were more community orchestras out there. Even in Los Angeles, I can only name a handful that are in the L.A. district and most that don’t offer pay. For how many musicians there are in the area and the scarcity of performance groups it’s an issue that's hardly ever addressed. It allows contractors to take advantage of their musicians and it's a problem that has been prevalent since I could remember. How do you fix it? I'm gonna have to say ‘I'm just the bass player’ on that. The ones who could help have flourished under the system we currently have. Why would they want to change something that catered to them so well?"

There is a lot to unpack with Marc’s statement. But first, it’s a shame that he feels as bass player, or just the position of bassists as members of an orchestra have minimal power and decision-making. In music, the bass might not be the most popular instrument to choose in classical music, as compared to the violin. However, it could be deemed as the most underrated--it provides the rhythmic and harmonic foundation of both classical and commercial music.

Regardless, Marc is forthright and withstanding. He recognizes the flaws in the system, and fights back in his own way; through uncompromising artistic expression from his personal studio.  At one of his live shows, he performs his electric bass guitar along to his sequences. “[During] my second time playing at the Whiskey,” Marc reminisces, “the line up was all ska/punk bands and it was a packed show. It felt great to play at such an iconic place again, but also open up for a band that you admire and listen to (at that time it was a somewhat popular ska band from Santa Cruz called Slow Gherkin). What wasn’t so great is paying to play, but it's the ‘nature of the beast’, especially in Hollywood.”

Marc on the electric bass guitar as Mumkai. Courtesy of Marc Mumcian.

What Marc mentions, ‘pay-to-play’, is a system that exists in the commercial music scene, primarily for rock bands and other indie artists. In short, venues rely on bands to sell tickets to their venues, in hopes that the band members and their followers buy drinks and meals. It is beneficial for bands who are established and have a large following, but traps vulnerable musicians who are eager to play at a venue, in which they pay out-of-pocket whatever tickets were not sold. And this sentiment harkens back to an earlier part of this article where musicians end up playing in orchestras for low wages or free; that their eagerness to perform makes them vulnerable to businesses that believe they can get away with it.  Why is it that something like music, which is meant to give so many people joy, ensnares aspiring and working musicians to be taken advantage of? Can these systemic issues ever be resolved, or is it just the nature of the beast?

Pre-COVID, the classical music scene was not optimal, but now it’s in dire straits as most concert venues are not equipped for social-distancing. “COVID has somewhat slowed everything down in terms of playing out, but I am still producing and writing. I’m a bassist and producer that tries to keep up with practice and creates a bit everyday”. I hope to put out another EP some time in 2021, assuming we will still be here.”

Tip Time!

Here are Marc’s 5 tips for musicians, whether you are pursuing upright or electric bass guitar or thinking of become a hip-hop music producer using samplers:
  1. Get a teacher. 
    • Electric bass is a guitar and while it still would help immensely to have a teacher, I feel you can do your own thing with electric where as Upright, Its a classical instrument and needs that same approach. you need fundamentals or you could hurt yourself/develop bad habits. 
  2. Self-Start
    • For music production I self started on everything, which had plenty of its drawbacks.
  3. Ask for help
    • Most of my knowledge comes from colleagues in the industry and the internet. 
  4. Use the internet
    • There are experts online in forums, threads, and youtube you just need to know where to find them.
  5. Use specific forums.
    • I use the Akai MPC 1000 and 2000XL and the mpc-forums were a godsend. If I were to get a newer MPC that is the first place I would go for tips. 


1. Manuel, Peter. 1988. Popular Musics of the Non-Western World. New York: Oxford UP.

Marc is signed to Gloucester Records, along with artists Glasspirits, Laura Valle and Dommme. You can find his music at