January 13, 2023 Interview – John “Mook” Gibbons Talks Wu-Tang Clan’s Legacy
It was once said that Wu-Tang is forever. Assuring that prophecy comes true, Wu-Tang Clan have taken the necessary steps in encapsulating their story for planet earth to look to lightyears into the future with their epic Wu-Tang Legacy book and chamber.
One of the most influential and successful Hip Hop groups ever, Wu-Tang Clan burst onto the scene back in 1993 with their debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Anchored by epic debut single “Protect Ya Neck,” Wu-Tang Clan would reclaim New York City as the mecca for Hip Hop while swarming the entire globe with a buzz that was impossible to ignore. Making an imprint that has remained strong for over three decades, Wu-Tang Clan continues to make history with their music, brand, and unique approach to art.
Bold and visionary, they have forged the Wu-Tang book and chamber; an artifact which features rare and never-before-seen photos of the group and their entire history. With only thirty-six units being made and put out into the world, where will they end up?
An intricate part of Wu-Tang Clan’s success, John “Mook” Gibbons is the first head manager of the Wu-Tang Clan, founder of Wu-Tang Management, and a leader who continues to keep the core adhered together finely. Celebrating their past, present, and future, Gibbons recently took the time to talk about Wu-Tang Clan, managing them, and all the gory details of the Wu-Tang Legacy book and chamber.
Cryptic Rock – You have a really compelling story. You started out as a working-class guy before you found yourself thrusted into the entertainment industry with the Wu-Tang Clan. How would you describe your journey into the music business and entertainment world?
John “Mook” Gibbons – My journey here was a mystery and it became fantastic. The journey has been great; I’ve had some ups and downs, walls to climb over, and bumps in the road. When I look at my journey, I look at it as a beautiful experience of learning about this music industry and learning more about people in general.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, you learned lessons for life from working with others. You have been working with Wu-Tang Clan from the very early days. The public are starting to see more of what those early days were like through the Hulu series Wu-Tang: An American Saga. From your perspective, what was it like during those times when people began to take notice of the Wu-Tang Clan and everything picked up some steam?
John “Mook” Gibbons – Man, it was incredible. It was like, is this really happening? This was my first time directly in the music industry dealing with artists and record label executives. It was like hitting a grand slam the first time I got up at bat… and winning the game! That is how the experience was for me. I wasn’t in music industry at all. At most I gave little parties to get extra income being a NYC bus operator.
Cryptic Rock – Some people are delusional, live in a bubble, and have no real-life experience. However, you had real life experience coming into Wu-Tang Clan. Do you think having an honest, working-class job, and having to support your family, helped you?
John “Mook” Gibbons – I think it helped me as well as it did the rest of the Clan members. I was able to shed some light on future things that may happen according to how we were moving. I am also a little older than all of them; I’ve got them all by seven years, so I had that experience. You may say, you ain’t that much older, but when you are twenty-five, and everybody else is nineteen and twenty… that’s a big difference in maturity of life. At that time, I already had a family, was already on my own, and some of the guys were still living at home with their parents. I had been on my own for years… since around nineteen I had been out there.
I had that experience. I did other things in life, so I experienced having money. I was able to share that with the guys and that help us be a little steadier as we were moving.
Cryptic Rock – You offered a mature, down to earth outlook. Wu-Tang Clan went on to be one of the biggest Hip Hop groups of all-time. Not just with the music, but the brand that has been developed is amazing. What can you tell us about the branding and everything that went into that. You have Wu Wear, etc… there is just so much that encompasses the Wu-Tang Clan.
John “Mook” Gibbons – To be quite honest, I didn’t even look at the brand in the beginning as being as powerful as it is at this time. I didn’t know the group would become as powerful. It was just work, it was just, let’s make it happen. If we have to tie our shoes up… let’s tie our shoes up. If we have to make them tight… let’s tighten them up. It was, whatever we need to do, this is what we need to do to get where we want to go.
As far as the branding, that is a whole field on its own outside the artist. The brand is going to continue to live after we are all physically gone; the clothing and books will continue. We have offspring coming on who are going to step into these positions and continue what we’re doing with the brand. The brand is our soul… it’s the soul of Wu-Tang.
Cryptic Rock – Absolutely. A tribute to yourself as a manager, what really stands out about Wu-Tang is that the group has done things differently. They have made marks that no others have. They have made many smart business decisions along the way too. In hindsight, do you feel the right decisions have been made?
John “Mook” Gibbons – Listen, we ain’t perfect, we’ve made some mistakes along the way. We damn sure ran into some bumps in the road, but we were able to fix it, and if we couldn’t fix it, we were able to move on. We would pick up the pieces, say, that was a mistake, and move on. That is pretty much the way it is. We’ve definitely made mistakes along the way.
Cryptic Rock – You live and learn, right? Going back to the Hulu series, you are featured in the second season of Wu-Tang: An American Saga. Gbenga Akinnagbe portrays you in the series. How do you feel about your portrayal?
John “Mook” Gibbons – He’s a good dude. I chose him, we had conservations, and he resembles me a little bit too. He’s got street credibility. He was a good choice. I’m happy with my character in the series.
Cryptic Rock – Agreed. And the series is fantastic; the third season is set for release in February. So, let’s talk about this really special book, Wu-Tang Legacy. It’s very limited; 36 books, just like 36 chambers. It is made from the finest leather from Italy, etc. This is an artifact people will be talking about for years to come. Where did the whole concept come from?
John “Mook” Gibbons – I had a conversation with RZA and we were discussing our legacy. We were talking about making an imprint that can never be taken away. Making an imprint that is going to be there for hundreds, maybe thousands of years after we’re gone. We said, if we do one, anything can happen to one. However, if we do many of these objects, the chances of them all going away, is very slim to none.
We came up with a significant number, 36, because everything we’ve dealt with is dealing with 36; 360 degrees. We decided to go with it for the first album – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993). So we said, for this let’s do 36 of these books and chambers, make them into artifacts… and now we push them out.
Now we know we are going to be on this planet earth for eternity. Our symbol, logo, brand, our goal, our artifacts… even after our children and grandchildren are gone… this is still going to be here. It is going to let everyone know hundreds of years from now who Wu-Tang was and what we were about.
People will say we are one of the biggest groups of all-time, but we are the biggest group of all-time. I’m not bragging, but I am bragging because it’s real. I look at the situations, and Run-D.M.C. was that group, and when they stepped down, we stepped up.
Cryptic Rock – Very true. This Wu-Tang Legacy book and chamber is really impressive. The promotional video clip showing it being made, and it looks extremely solid, but also very unique. The book has rare photographs… so what can you tell us about the book itself?
John “Mook” Gibbons – The book has rare and never-before-seen photographs that tells the story of Wu-Tang from the conception of Wu-Tang. So, we are talking about from ’92-’93 up until the present day. It not only talks about the conception of Wu-Tang, but it also tells you about all the different affiliates that we’ve touched. It tells you about all the different acts or a Wu-Tang executive that we brought into the group; from employee to an intern… and how they grew with the family. It’s going to tell their story and how they got in. You have hundreds of groups who call themselves part of the Wu-Tang family, and it’s true, but we want to identify them to show how they became family. We want to show what General brought them in, so there can be no confusions. We want things to be clear.
Cryptic Rock – That sounds fantastic. So, beyond the core of Wu-Tang, many others will also be encapsulated in history now.
John “Mook” Gibbons – Absolutely! So, years from now someone can say, “I remember Killarmy, they were one of the Wu-Tang groups.” Then they can look in this book at these artifacts and they can say, “There they go right there. There is my great, great, great grandfather.” That’s what we want. We don’t want our books, our stories, to be told by someone else as the time passes or after we pass on. It ain’t going to be as accurate as we can tell it ourselves. We want to do it now while we can tell it.
Cryptic Rock – It is a brilliant idea. The Wu-Tang Legacy book is obviously going to be a very limited thing. How can someone even consider trying to acquire one of these?
John “Mook” Gibbons – We are selling thirty-five out of the thirty-six; the thirty-sixth will be auctioned off in March of 2023 at Sotheby’s. The thirty-five others can be purchased off our website, wutanglegacy.com. The website tells you how the product can be purchased.
Cryptic Rock – Wow, one can imagine it will go very quickly. You made the statement that Wu-Tang Clan is the biggest Hip Hop group of all-time. It is hard to argue that.
Many people grew up with the Wu-Tang Clan. For example, as a kid, someone may have first heard Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) when it first came out and grew into an adult with it. Even after all these years, you put on that album, and the production, style, and sound is ingenious.
John “Mook” Gibbons – That’s right. RZA is a genius. He forecasted everything that we’re doing. That’s why we continue to prosper, and that is why we continue to stay as a unit. If you can see the future, you can forecast your future. If you can see if something ain’t going to be right, you can make a change. By him being able to forecast, we were able to see the bumps that were coming before they came. So, we prepared ourselves for them mentally, so we can deal with them and keep the family as a unit.
Cryptic Rock – And that has been accomplished for the last three plus decades. Let’s talk about Wu-Tang Clan members as individuals. Everyone has a different personality and everyone has different ideas of how things work. What was it like keeping everyone together and on the same page?
John “Mook” Gibbons – First of all, let me make one little correction, everyone has ten personalities. I had to figure out which one was showing up today. Once I was able to figure that out, then I was able to deal with that person. Sometimes you think RZA is coming, but no RZA ain’t here, Bobby Digital showed up today, so you have to deal with Bobby Digital. The same thing with Meth. You would think Meth is coming, but Meth ain’t coming in, Tical is coming in.
I gave them names based on their actual names, but based on their attitudes for the day so I knew who I was dealing with. Sometimes it was a real adventure, but we managed to work everything out so we could all still be standing strong.
Cryptic Rock – Co-existing is the whole point of life, right?
John “Mook” Gibbons – That’s all it is, co-existing. It is about keeping the common cores that we have as unity as the number one reason to stay together. We all want for ourselves what we want for our brothers. This gives us that goal to keep striving together.