Interview: Update with P. MORRIS

Two years ago we interviewed P. MORRIS as he was popping up on the scene with his own Goombawave sound and the Bear Club Music Group. Since then he has relocated from his home state of Kansas to sunny Los Angeles, changed his name and has been tuning up his sound and production whilst working with all sorts of different artists.  In the past year he provided the effortlessly laid-back vibe to Kelela’s excellent single “Go All Night,” which was featured on Solange’s ‘Saint Heron’ compilation and most recently put out a beautiful new tape titled “Debut”, complete with an immersive website experience. We caught up with him on the evening of his birthday, deep in the cut at SRB’s in Brooklyn just before his show with Sinjin Hawke.

Stream: P. Morris – Turtle Lounge (Bear Club Music Group)

Now that you live in LA, how do you think this affects you? Being in a more music-centric city with so much going on, do you ever feel the need to distance yourself? “I like how much music is floating around in LA. Just being here I’ve gotten exposed to a lot of different shit that I wouldn’t have been plugged into when I was in Kansas in particular. It might not be necessarily my number one influence but I’ve obviously been hearing more beat music, more kind of Low End Theory stuff. Admittedly, I wasn’t up on that sound because it wasn’t the local culture that I was surrounded by; that whole ethic of sample-based 4-on-4 type sound. It’s not my new shit or anything but something I acquired an awareness of when I moved out to LA. In addition to that, being there has me being more open to other kind of styles. There is a huge contingency of people who are really pushing techno in LA now, and that’s also something that I wasn’t super plugged into when I was living in Kansas. So it has given me the chance to kind of dig in more in these little pockets of electronic culture that I just wasn’t plugged into, you know?” Like FTM, Body High, LA Resource? “Yeah I see those dudes all the time, and I was up on that and the Club Resource stuff, but there were little things floating around on the West coast that I just wasn’t up on in Kansas. But all those other cliques are tight!”

How has working with vocalists changed your workflow, rather than working with sampled vocals? Can you talk about the Kelela experience? Is there anything in the future? “Working with vocalists, it takes less work in terms of the production because a lot of the sequencing and the rhythmic or melodic elements end up getting carried by the vocals in a way, and now my job is suddenly making space for vocals to be able to exist. So while it might be easier on the technical end, it’s much harder on the conceptual end of things because it’s like “This beat is hitting, but is there room for the vocalist here?”. In terms of working with Kelela, she is an incredible artist and an incredible professional. Moreover, she’s really good at pushing me to the limit, pushing me into territories that I wouldn’t normally go to. But it exists inside of me, and she is good at getting that out of me.  Together we’ve been exploring that, and I’d like to think I’m doing the same for her, but at this point she is definitely teasing a lot of sides of me out. There will be a lot more vocal collaborations, I’m working on a couple right now that are all really good but I don’t know if I’m at liberty to say quite yet [laughs]. But it has definitely changed my process, for damn sure.”

Stream: Kelela – Go All Night (Saint Records)

In what ways have you been honing your sound and production chops? “Man, just being in LA. My roommates are involved in music so I’m overhearing a lot of technical talk. In addition to being brought into contact with music that I wouldn’t ordinarily touch upon in itself has pushed my production level to another, new echelon just because a whole world of possibilities has opened up when I met these dudes. But that said, it’s not like I have been sitting on my hands over the last year, I’ve definitely been practicing, playing piano more, working more on my drums and all that kind of stuff. Just tightening my game up all around, so inadvertently there is going to be progress, but the California move kind of accelerated that.”

Can you talk about the imagery in your new website with OKFocus and how it relates to the music? Ryder Ripps, the guy who made it, we put our heads together and tried to figure out a way that we can kind of like have some sort of interactive experience that could accompany the music. For me on my end, I feel like there’s a lot of musicians and artists that are really trying to make music that exists in a club space, which is fucking awesome, I love club music and previously I’ve been really attached to it. But this music is much more suited to the in-between moments. It’s a great companion to driving around, going to go get groceries, just headphone space or weather your smoking by the fire reading a book type shit. So that’s what the visual accompaniment ended up hammering home. It’s a bunch of environment spaces conceivably, that my music can be a companion to; a walk in the woods, the backseat of a luxury vehicle, a crazy fucking Burj Khalifa lookin’ space in India! I just really want it to show that the world of P. Morris is much wider than the club confines.”

You mentioned Shibuya-Kei in your first interview, and my first post was on Towa Tei. I’m a big fan of shibuya-kei myself and I see a lot of similarities in your music, especially your new mix (tracks like Turtle Lounge, Hold Tight). It alludes to the idea of taking sounds from the past in a very hiphop or MPC sampler fashion to create a future-leaning sound, which can also come off as cinematic. You have studied film, do you think you have developed or strengthened a more ‘visual’ sense to creating your music? “Before I was making music I worked primarily as a visual artist, so I’m always thinking about things in those terms. I’m not one of those Pharrell or Kanye type of people who are going to tell you they see sound or whatever; it’s not like that. But as I’ve started to massage the song and the melodies, it becomes a little bit more clear what the direction is and sometimes that can have more cinematic qualities. Something that is apparent in all of those songs on the mixtape is that they are all a little world in of themselves. They are cohesive as a piece together but I think that each one exists on its own and that is something that comes from that visual space too. There is a great deal of diversity in terms of the sonic architecture, but at the same time its built all in the same era, by the same hands, but not all the exact same experience.”Have you ever thought about scoring? Yeah, it’s something I would love to do but it is something I don’t really want to cut corners on. It’s all about having the proper resources. Obviously the right place to record it, the right orchestra, so it would take a lot of money to be able to do that kind of stuff.  With the right project, I think I could wrap my head around it but it’s not anything I would dive into because I feel like I couldn’t do it justice.

Stream: P. Morris – Maison Purple (Bear Club Music Group)

Listening to your new mix as a whole I get a very strong sense that there is a story going throughout the whole new tape.  Can you touch on this? “I think the story in itself is nostalgia. That’s a vague notion, I don’t want to place to many connotations over it and color the listeners experience of it, but for me the crutch that it leans on is nostalgia. I use Burt Bacharach era horn sections that come in and out, I use nostalgic sounding string sections that come in and out, I use some more, almost musique-concrète interludes that are using sounds of cicadas and moving water and stuff like that. Those are all things that are immediately nostalgic for a lot of people. It’s a common ground that we all understand about the emotion being wrapped up in nature and temporality in that way. If anything that’s probably the clearest story there, and on a song-by-song basis there is a bit more of a narrative there. But like I said, I don’t really want to color people’s perception of it too much.”

Can you talk about your name change? “It was just time. I just really wanted to grow into something more mature, its nothing more than that. I mean it symbolises me taking myself more seriously just in terms of my career, types of songs that I’m writing, and the ways that I’m going to be positioning myself into the future.”

Is Goombawave a thing for you and your friends or are do you want other producers to catch on to it and help evolve the sound? “That’s a good question. When you release art, or anything out into the world, people are going to be influenced by it and suddenly you don’t own it anymore.  I don’t want to prohibit anyone from trying to create the Goombawave. At the same time I might be a little bit bent out of shape if there was a situation where we sort of lost the breadcrumbs as we’ve walked through the forest. We don’t have any idea where we came from, where the notion of Goombawave came from, so suddenly it might be this thing like Dubstep. People who like Dubstep now are just like Skrillex, excision, Datsik, all these EDM names but they don’t remember Skream, Joker, Slimzee, or grime or any of the things that came right before it, so I kind of worry about that with Goombawave if it ever got to a point where it was completely out of my control. But it’s something I can’t worry about, and ultimately it would be a sign of a form of success that goes beyond money. It’s suddenly about cultural influence and stuff so we can’t be mad at it.” 


What do you see for the future of Bear Club Music Group, your own productions and your work on Night Slugs and Fade To Mind? “I’ll answer the second part first.  The FTM and Night Slugs dudes, those guys are first and foremost a family and second a record label or collective. Without being too bold, I definitely would assert that I am part of that family tree. Now does it necessarily fit within my immediate goals to be trying to deliver a bunch of material to both those guys? That’s hard to say at this point. I’ve just been focusing a lot of my energy on building my own platform at this point. So I don’t want to immediately discard the idea of some recordings that are going to trickle out with them, because there’s been a lot of stuff that’s been in the works for a long time. I can’t always speak for what’s going on in their side, but I can speak for what’s going on with Bear Club Music Group. BCMG is positioning itself to not only be able to define our own space but also bring that space into three dimensions for people. We have obviously existed as a music group in some peoples minds, like something you can stream on SoundCloud, but over this next year I want to make our whole world something that people can dive into more, whether that’s through merchandise, through immersive media pieces like we did with OkFocus.  I just want to give people more entry points to kind of manipulate and interact with what we are doing. I want it to go beyond a music video or an interview or whatever.” That’s sort of like Kingdom how he put out work before starting FTM. “Yeah, the story is there I don’t want to draw the parallels too strongly but that is in general how it works is that this sort of tangent. It was really important for me from the get go that the family tree that a lot of my work springs from was proper, and there were a lot of different channels that I could have gone through. But I was really gung-ho about working with Nightslugs and FTM and I’m very appreciative of them allowing me to grow like a little flower on their little branch, but now its time to grow my own, you know?”

Anything else you would like to say about the future? “I’m looking forward this year to going out of the country. It’s finally something that has come to fruition thanks to a number of different things that have aligned on the back end. So this year I think people can look forward to seeing my face a little bit more after having either hiding behind being in Kansas or hidden behind being in the United States, suddenly I think the world is going to be a lot more open myself and my fans.”

Follow P. Morris on Twitter. Listen to him on SoundCloud. Check out his new tape “Debut

Joe Linden