Future-Dance Purveyor Mystery Skulls Reveals the Dystopian Theme Behind New Album ‘One Of Us’
Imagine a world where science fiction meets music, where the dark underbelly of a futuristic city has a soundtrack. Thankfully, L.A. electro-pop artist Mystery Skulls has brought this imaginary world to life. Luis Dubuc, a Dallas-native, is the man behind the moniker. His debut album from 2014, “Forever,” charted at No. 3 on the U.S. Dance charts, creating a palpable buzz for the singer and multi-instrumentalist. See, Mystery Skulls is all Dubuc. He crafts each and every song by himself and performs them live. The only exception to this rule is a successful collaboration with famed guitarist Nile Rodgers – who has performed with legends such as Madonna and David Bowie – and 90s R&B singer Brandy on the tracks “Magic” and “Number One” from his debut. Dubuc is back with a new album, “One Of Us,” where he once again takes listeners into the future of dance.
Just ahead of the release, Dubuc spoke with Entertainment Voice about the new project, his new music video and what’s next for the 32-year-old Angelino.
When your fans first play your new album “One Of Us,” what world are you wanting to take them into?
Well it centers around a dystopian world, not too dissimilar from our own. It’s meant to propel you into that place and leave you feeling hopeful rather than hopeless, which is a lot of what’s happening today. It’s meant to take you to a positive place.
Who is the “us” in the title referring to?
Originally the album was intended to be a soundtrack to a film concept that I came up with. It was centered around a couple. They start this underground movement. I suppose it’s open though, so it could be anything. But particular to the album, it’s definitely a part of the story, so once you hear the album it starts to make a little more sense.
How would you describe your musical development from your debut, 2014’s “Forever,” to your new album?
I toured a lot (since then) and that gave me a bit of perspective on what works live and what doesn’t work live. So I felt like I had a new goal which was to have a better live show and also new songs. Now with this album, I feel like I have enough songs, and the intention was to make more songs. So musically, I added a lot. I invested in these Russian synthesizers from the 70s and 80s and they arrived. And the moment they did, all these songs were born. That was really cool, so there’s that. I also worked a lot on my singing. I tried to make a concerted effort to have it be a progression rather than a regression.
In the past, you’ve cited Prince and Daft Punk as artists who’ve impacted your sound. What are some of the musical influences for the new album?
Absolutely. I took a lot of influence from Cheryl Lynn who ended up being on the record. She sings on two songs, so I was definitely hyper influenced by her. This record maybe had a little bit more influence from Prodigy, just sort of a little more progressive sound, like Kraftwerk.
What about film influences? Both your sound and your otherworldly music videos both feel very cinematic.
Definitely influenced by John Carpenter’s “They Live,” which played a big role in the writing of the album. As far as the sweeping emotions to it, I think that was more like shades of “Doctor Zhivago” meets “The Holy Mountain.” But that’s really cool that you see a cinematic quality behind it because like I said, it was meant to be a soundtrack. So, if anybody ever wanted to make a play or a musical, these are the songs. They would go great.
Your latest video for the single “Music” is reminiscent of John Wick if he were stuck in a futuristic video game. Can you talk about the inspiration behind this video?
Because conceptually we were unable to pull off the film idea… you know, the film that was supposed to accompany the album, so it ended up becoming condensed down into one video. In essence, it’s about a man who’s stuck in this dystopian society and the only way out is bashing the screen, and so he does, for his freedom. That’s why there’s also the deprogramming that happens at the very beginning.
A good portion of your Wikipedia page is devoted strictly to music videos created by your fans, all of which have complex, grandiose worlds in an anime style. What are your thoughts on this unique trend?
I really love it. I feel very lucky it exists. I know that it doesn’t exist for everyone. I just feel really lucky that people do this. On a more molecular level, I get a lot of people coming to my shows that tell me that they draw and listen to my music, or they paint or they animate. Obviously, I’ve always thought that was really cool. I can’t draw or paint or animate. I can make stick people, you know. I’m not a visual artist necessarily. So, I’m quite humbled at the fact that my audio influences other people’s visuals. I don’t know how it happened (laughs), but it’s a really cool byproduct of listening to Mystery Skulls.
So far, no upcoming tour dates have been released. Any plans to bring “One Of Us” on the road?
Yea, I’m doing my very first headlining tour in October. It begins Oct. 24 in L.A. at The Troubadour and I’m really excited! We have a really good tour planned with great supports. I’ve never done a proper headline tour so I’m hoping for the best.
“One Of Us” is available Aug. 4 on Apple Music.