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mercredi, décembre 24, 2008

There is too much okay music in the world: interviewing Morgan Geist

En guise de présent et avant le grand déballage de papelard, un presque inédit du travail: la version intégrale en v.o. dans le texte d'un entretien platonique (par e-mail) avec le formidable Morgan Geist à propos de son nouveau Double Night Time, rédigé pour le numéro 117 de Trax Magazine - parce que c'est beaucoup mieux comme ça, merci à vous, merci à lui.

Why did it take you so long to make a new solo album?

Perfectionism and fear. Still not completely happy with it, but publish or perish, as they say. Just in terms of my own sense of self-worth, I didn’t want to die having made only one album under my own name.

Did it actually take a decade to craft this album, or were you too busy with you other projects, running the label, making metro area, producing friends?
It was a bit of both. I was very busy, but I also am a very slow and self-doubting worker. I spend a lot of time busy with the label and putting my efforts into other people’s careers, which I am determined to do less. Also this record was made under difficult circumstances, creatively and personally. But the actual record only took about 3 years.

Were you looking for inspiration?

That was a big part of starting it. I wanted an angle. I crave coherence in every project I do, even 12”s, but especially albums. I don’t care if no one notices, if people download the tracks they want from iTunes...I’m still going to make the album the way I’d listen to an album, which is linearly and as a whole. I feel the listener MUST do that at least once to appreciate the artist’s intent. After that, you may choose favorites, but not before. But no one cares what I think. People must have their ringtones!

Accordingly, your output as a music maker and as a label manager is scarce.
There is too much okay music in the world. Far too much. I believe in only releasing what is vital. It must be my personal best, even if other people think it is garbage. I feel the same for the other music I release on the label too.
What is the meaning behind the album's title (and artwork)?
Not to sound overly dramatic, but honestly it just reflects the dark, extremely challenging period I was in while making the record. Originally I was going to call the album Nocebo, but it was a word most people (including me, originally) would have to consult a dictionary – maybe a medical dictionary – to understand. So I changed it to Double Night Time because I felt that’s what I was existing in. I like the daytime, or alternately, a double-strength night, like double-strength coffee. Black. Either way, a lot of darkness. The phrase is actually taken from a scene in the old UK television series with Patrick McGoohan, The Prisoner, in which the main character is being broken down with a marathon of psychological torture.

The first track of the album is called "Detroit", and yet, "Double Night Time" is the less "Detroit" influenced of your records. Why is that? Was it some way to pay a final tribute?
“Detroit” is so named because the lyrics are about a trip to Detroit years ago, back when I was in college. It is a sort of ode or memorial to a state of mind and a time in my life rather than a place. It is about lost potential and aging and wondering if I’d ever feel again what I once felt, the enthusiasm and excitement of being young and going somewhere you worshipped and being in love and not being totally aware of yourself, of being ruled by fascination and dreams and obsession.

This new album is an almost 100% electronic affair (I hear some guitars and strings): was it a conscious decision after the percussions and strings heavy arrangements of Metro area?
Yes. It’s not necessarily reacting against Metro Area, but I wanted to indulge different compulsions with this one. I wanted to also reinforce (even to myself) that I have a style outside of Metro Area, even though Metro Area is very much me as well. I also think this record doesn’t really fit into a lot right now and I like that. It’s not very hip, it’s something I hope people will like as its own thing. I try not to pay attention to trends.

What differences would you point up between this new record and the records you did in the past, be it "The Driving Memoirs" or the Environ 12"es collection?
I can’t stand many of my old records, but I think this (despite Jeremy Greenspan being on it) is definitely a lonely solo record in the same way The Driving Memoirs was. It’s me in a room making music, alone...which kind of links it to that early era when I lived in New Jersey and was just really isolated culturally, which can of course be a great thing. I wouldn’t say it’s a dance record at all, though we have some Carl Craig remixes of “Detroit” coming out first.

It is accordingly your most pronounced pop orientated record - more poppy than anything you'd done in the past, even with Metro Area. Again, was it a conscious move, or did it happen naturally? Shall we see it as a "back to the roots" record? Who were the new wave, romantic electropop bands that you liked the best at the time? I hear some Martin Gore, some Marc Moulin, some Haruomi Hosono in your current sound - among many others...
First of all, thank you. Yes, it is definitely intentional. I wish it were poppier but this is a practice run! With hope I’ll get better at writing little pop songs (and I mean pop in the best way). It was a conscious move, for sure, but also felt natural to do since I think it’s natural to become bored or resentful of what you’re familiar with. It was very difficult though and since it was sort of a a document of a learning process, it’s terrifying to put out into the public.

Your production technique is very distinctive and immediately recognizable - it's precise, balanced, almost scientific. Are you a studio maniac? A devoted craftsman? Do you work fast or are you more of the "i'll spend 78 hours on the equalization of this snare drum sound"? Also, are you a gear collector?
Yes to all. I also have projects and ideas that go against this...the idea of working fast is appealing to me, at least for songwriting. But I’ll always spend time on sounds and mixing, because I think it is important to get it right. And I wouldn’t say I’m a gear collector but I take it very seriously. I like hardware, I like analog sound generators and processors and mixers. It seems that most of the sounds of the album where made with genuine machines and that digital interventions were minimal... is it true? how much do you use the computer in a creative manner? It is the norm to process sound, every can hear it in demos I get, you can hear it in big-budget top-40 hits. So while I am not some purist like Steve Albini who only will use tape and record no more the sound of the band in a room, I think I use a computer creatively by NOT using it too much. I don’t process everything, I like dry sounds. I use it like a tape recorder, basically...though I do “cheat” a lot with editing and collage. I had to, sometimes...I could not afford to fly Jeremy back down from Canada to re-sing a single word. My computer is really old. I hate most plug-ins. I try to keep my songs like tape – 24 tracks to max 32 tracks. Many are less. I think limitations are great sometimes. Patrick Cowley used 8 tracks.

Beyond all matters of "musical genre", the way you manipulate sounds and machines reminds me of early electronic experiments, such as Raymond Scott's. Beyond detroit techno, disco and electro pop, what are your main influences?
I have many influences, but you’re right, on this particular album I loved the idea of becoming re-fascinated with synths and artificial sound, but used in a pop way. I think Raymond Scott and other pioneers did that. I think the key is to do it in a genuine way though...I’m not a big fan of novelty records, like joke Moog records. I think that’s why I love YMO stuff (and all the side projects) - they’re trying to be playful but you can tell their worshipping of the sounds is serious. It’s too calculated to be a joke. It’s like they can’t cover up their love of the synths with humor, no matter how hard they try!

When did you decide to make a move toward vocal songs? was it before or after you decided to work with jeremy greenspan?
I’ve wanted to do vocal songs forever...Metro Area even recorded vocal songs but they didn’t work out until “Read My Mind.” I had Jeremy in mind because I liked Junior Boys and then after we became friends, it seemed very natural.

How did you decide to work with greenspan? did you see a connection between your music and Junior Boys'? It seems that you found the perfect tessitura in his voice to go with your music. After we became friendly, I knew it would be easy to collaborate. Even in terms of understanding where I was coming from with the electronic, new-wave approach and the idea of being emotional without falling into the cliché of being “soulful” in that cheesy, electronic, house music way. I knew he was cool with transferring energy in a different way than, for example, a lot of French dance music does, which to me is fairly hilarious.

How did the songwriting happen between you and Greenspan? did you have all the melodies in mind? what are the differences between composing an instrumental track and a vocal one?
I wrote everything except for the lyrics to “City of Smoke and Flame,” which was Jeremy.

The album mostly distances itself for the current tsunami trend of the so-called "disco" revival - a trend which you preceded and probably initiated as well, with Metro Area and the Unclassics compilation. Was it conscious? Are you fed up with the hype? Are there some artists that you still like in the bunch?
I like real disco. I don’t believe in a revival of real disco.

My editor asked me: "he barely DJs, he doesn't play concerts, he doesn't release a lot of music, i wonder how does he make a living": so I'm asking, how does Morgan Geist make a living? Is it harsh making a living as a musician in New York City these days?
It’s very hard. I have lived carefully and there are little bits of income like publishing or licensing. But I think the way people just take music now I will probably stop doing music very soon. People don’t realize that recording artists cannot live without selling records. Notice I say recording artists. Yes, I can DJ (and I do) but it’s not what I started doing music for. I want to be in the studio. So I am trying to find something to do outside of music that is still creative. Then I can go back to doing music for myself and not releasing it – maybe just giving it to close friends.

About your label manager activity: is it all a family and friend affair? Kelley Polar, Daniel Wang: it seems that you like to work with close friends almost exclusively...? Yes, either I work with close friends or the artists become close friends after we start working. But mainly I do not think there is a lot of music out there that appeals to me. I’d love to have a lot more artists on the label, of course, but I’m not going to put out shit.

To finish, could you please tell me what the three following words inspire you, in a few words?

- optimism? Finished.
- elegance? Increasingly rare.
- innovation? Increasingly rare.

Libellés : ,

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