Keep It Local: Morgan Wright

We had a chat with Melbourne producer Morgan Wright following the release of his new tape on Sydney’s Burning Rose imprint. Having taken Sydney party Floorbreaker for a hoon over the weekend, he’s been kind enough to give us an hour and a half of his mind, in sound. Listen to his live work below. 

Tell us a bit about your upbringing, was it critical to your current musical direction?

My dad plays keyboard/piano, so from a young age I had access to lots of his ‘gear’, which involved a keyboard that had an inbuilt sequencer. I spent a lot of time programming songs into it and creating different arrangements of metallica songs. Eventually I got involved in playing guitar in hardcore and metal bands and have continued to do that for the last 10 years. I started working on solo electronic stuff about 2 years ago and more seriously in the last 6 months. Sonically I don’t think there has been any one thing that has led me in the musical direction I’ve taken- electronic music (techno, house, IDM) was an easy choice given I had the knowledge already required to compose and create it. The ethic and approach I have towards creating this music has been informed by my playing in hardcore and metal bands. It’s an approach that is very disciplined and DIY- the only reward you get for creating this music is the music itself.

What was your first experience with music? How did those initial experiences bring you to where you are now?

I was really fortunate that my parents encouraged me to play music for it’s own sake and not necessarily for academic reasons. I was always interested in song-writing and composition from a young age, rather than learning the songs of others. I’ve spent most of my life writing songs on guitar and using various software(s) (reason, ableton, logic) to compose and create. I’ve usually done so before performing it with a band- this latest tape and all the music that I create under my own name has come about purely from necessity. I’ve had a complete lack of time to organise rehearsals with bands and other musicians. Creating music on your own is obviously much faster logistically, but the process is also streamlined because it removes the difficulty of having to communicate ideas to others.

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Why does this specific form of relatively esoteric music appeal to you?

Mostly by chance, life circumstances changed so I started going out to parties and clubs and was exposed to music that I found really exciting sonically, as well as culturally. That made me want to contribute to this community. I think a lot of people who get this feeling to want to contribute to this community, whether through DJing, promoting, hosting or selling drugs. I owned a few synthesizers and drum machines and was knowledgeable about music composition so I did what was natural for me. I just continued to make music that excited me. I wish I had a more interesting and sexier response, but unfortunately I don’t.

How much importance do you place on being different?

It’s important that my music is novel and stands out, but mostly my goal is to satisfy two questions- “does the song communicate what I want it to?”, and “is it a genuine piece of music?”. So I guess probably not a large amount of importance is placed on being different, but hopefully the music I achieve stands out and is ‘different’ because of my approach, life experiences and inspirations that I bring to the sounds.

What are your inspirations?

In terms of work-ethic, my housemate is a huge inspiration. He’s a doctor and works 10-13 hours a day then comes home and works on a research project. Coming home from work and seeing that has made me approach my music with a similar discipline, which I think has allowed me to create work that is far more intricate than if I had just sat down at a synth when I felt like it.

A lot of my friends and acquaintances make music, play in bands, design stuff, take photos and work on films. I think hearing them discuss their approach to their craft can often inspire me to re-evaluate my approach. Most recently, this has encouraged me to use images and film to inspire me to create.

What do you do when you’re not making music?

I work at a Community Mental Health service in Brunswick which is 9-5 as well as overnight shifts, which is quite psychologically taxing work. As a result music is a huge part of my self-care. My other form of escapism is writing satirical reviews of restaurants, doctors surgeries and camping sites. It would be nice to be able to compare the two, but I don’t think it will be possible in the near future.

What is your home setup?

My studio/bedroom is always changing and I don’t tend to have it all set up at once, due to space requirements. I usually map out ideas on the MPC then put them into Ableton, manipulate them then back onto the MPC, this process goes back and forth until I have the song. I mostly use ableton as an effect processor in terms of its role in the creative process. Most of my sounds come from drum samples I’ve resampled onto tape and then back into Ableton: poly-800, juno, 303, D-110 and lots of field recordings for textures. My workflow in the studio is actually awful and there are heaps of logistical factors that get in the way of my process – specifically the fact that it’s in my tiny bedroom. I am moving into a studio space mid-november so hopefully that
alleviates these constraints, currently half my time is spent troubleshooting gear and unplugging things.

For the live set performed for 6am, the process was quite straightforward. The songs performed fall into two distinct categories. The first is songs that are already prepared, where I alter the arrangement “live” by bringing in different instruments using the mixer and mpc, altering the effects to build excitement. These songs can vary from performance to performance but for the most part stay relatively the same. The other category is songs that are performed completely live – that means I play the sequence, loop it, play another sequence etc. Usually I just collect samples and sounds I like and improvise with them to create an interesting melodic idea. Playing like this is a nice break from just producing at the computer as it leads me to create musical ideas I usually would not.

What is your music making process, both mentally and physically?

I have two main approaches. Either I will be improvising with an instrument and come up with a musical idea, then expand on it. Otherwise, I use another form of art such as a film or photograph and try to convey the same emotion through my art. What this looks like in terms of devices used is lots of back and forth between synthesizer, mpc and ableton. Physically I end up with a sore back because my desk isn’t at a good height and I’m always leaning over it. I can’t seem to stay seated.

What’s happening next for you? Releases, shows, parties, holidays…?

I’ve just put out a tape through Burning Rose (above) and have a show at Lucid on the 3rd of December. I’m also working on my next release, moving to a new studio and am part of an immersive art project involving photography and film, in which I am responsible for the sound design. I’ll probably do a lot of camping as well. Actually, I want to buy a kayak so hit me up if you’re selling.

Morgan Wright SOUNDCLOUD

Buy TAPE ONE