Photo credit: Lulu McArdle.
Morgan Hislop is a multimedia artist and musician based right here in Southampton. We managed to catch him for an interview which you can read below. He talks about his experiences, inspirations, and methodology behind his many creative outputs.
Morgan produces music and performs live under his own name (also under aliases with friends) and is the drummer for Tropics’ live band. He crafts both still and video-based art pieces designed for use during his audio-visual performances as well as for print media ranging from clothing to album sleeves. Alongside his solo output, live performances, and collaborations Morgan also dabbles in the remix arena. On November 4th, Drut Recordings will release his remix of Kelpe’s track “Puds”. It’s part of an entirely reworked version of Kelpe’s recent LP “Fourth: The Golden Eagle” where Morgan will sit alongside both new and established guest producers.
Speaking of remixes, Morgan has just completed one for local group Wolfe, which you can listen to and download below. In the remix he takes “Run” and turns it into a very much bass infused club-friendly version of itself, throwing in a 2-step beat and chopped up vocals. Wolfe are a 4 piece Southampton-based band whose output sits somewhere around the styles of The xx, Fever Ray, and Massive Attack; with swirling dual vocals that roll over analogue synths and effects-laden percussion and guitars, all mingled with electronic beats and drones.
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INTERVIEW WITH MORGAN HISLOP:
Questions by George Connolly, given in plain text.
Answers from Morgan Hislop, given in italics.
We’ll start with how I first heard about you, your work as a solo producer. How did you first get into making music?
I started playing drums when I was 10. I got into bands pretty early on and managed to start touring with a rock/indie band when I was in college. It was around this point I borrowed a load of Aphex Twin, DJ Shadow, etc and my taste in music really changed overnight. I started making music using lots of toy keyboards and live drums with a project called Remnant Psyche that went through many different guises and styles but enabled me to progress with recording and producing techniques.
Who would you put down as your biggest influences?
Agh there’s so many! I think I get really influenced by people’s attitudes to music and creativity in general. I was charged with inspiration for years from Zach Hill (drummer and producer for Hella and more recently Death Grips). He seemed to have this endless output of music and art that I found really refreshing. To an extent Mr Oizo has a similar ethic, making films and writing the music for them. In terms of style of music, I love Bibio’s methods and records — they’re so full of life — and Hudson Mohawke’s really early releases. Para One’s record “Passion” really struck a chord in me too. Those are what spring to mind first though!
As well as producing tracks, you also perform live sets. How do you go about preparing for these, and how much is decided on the night?
I hardly ever practise unfortunately, I know my live equipment inside out so I just program the latest tracks I’ve been working on, spreading it across the sampler and my SPD drum pads. I think it’s important to make it obvious I am contributing to the live rendition so the drum pads work really well for this. When I played at Glastonbury this year I managed to stupidly forget the pads, so it was all very on-the-fly for that show!
Tell me a bit more about your work with Cholombian – you two seem to produce well together, how did you first start making music with him?
We’ve been great friends for a while now and we kinda realised one day that we hadn’t tried to make something together. We got started with Brittany Murphy, and when that got picked up and played on BBC Radio 1, we have been slowly making tracks together since.
In terms of process how do you two work off each other?
It’s very slow! Mitch (Cholombian) tends to bring the tone and melodies to the table. And I’m in charge of the rhythm and percussive side of it. We wanted to make sure that trademark elements of our own material were evident in the collabs, so that it was literally like combining a track of ours together. An EP will emerge eventually I’m sure. We’re determined to get a guest vocal from the star of one of our favourite viral videos, Billy Moore, this northern X Factor reject!
As well as your solo work you are also involved in a load of exciting ventures. What can we expect from one of your latest projects Jet Black Furs in the near future?
Jet Black Furs is a reincarnation of the Remnant Psyche project which I mentioned earlier. I work alongside a close friend of mine Tom Chilton. We meet at his studio, which is the best environment for writing music, it’s like a proper recording studio, which we’re very lucky to be able to use! Jet Black Furs was both of us saying we wanna make some unique pop music in a really concise and well conceived album. We’d always tried to make something a bit more challenging and this was us wanting to make some quirky but ultimately catchy and accessible music. The process has been amazing, we work really efficiently together. We have a whole record ready, so the next step is to just get it out there.
And as if this didn’t all keep you busy enough you’re the drummer for Tropics! How does playing in an ensemble context differ creatively from producing your own music?
It’s a different approach altogether. Chris writes and produces the music, he’s the brains in Tropics. Me and the guitarist Keith (With Joyful Lips) apply some of our musical style to the live show, but it’s been nice to concentrate on just playing and locking into a track with the drums again. Playing the tracks out live to different audiences and to travel to places I never thought I’d ever go is an amazing experience. We were in Mexico City in August and I had literally the best time, we’re on tour again in the UK next month. It’s a different schedule and overall really refreshing and eye-opening.
Your live performances often feature a visual element. How important is the audio-visual experience to your art?
Really important. I think in the past I have wanted to use an alias or theme with different musical outlets. But the solo project is my singular mind and the art and video is to be presented alongside that as an equal. It’s like my creative output in it’s most purest form, with no one else involved, and compositions that span across audio and visual. That’s why I have just used my own name for my music project as I have done with my art, they are to be received together collectively.
Your website describes your artistic influences as ranging from 80s sci-fi movies to ancient Egyptian iconography. What can you draw from such contrasting cultures?
I think it’s more the juxtaposition of these references that interests me. I was looking for certain very strong styles that would contrast and look alien together, but still recognizable from their origin. The idea was for the viewer to be able to slowly deconstruct the imagery and familiarize with the components, eventually spoiling the mystery of the content.
Prints by Morgan Hislop. See the collection at cargocollective.com.
What’s your vision for your art? Obviously some of your work has been used for album covers etc. but is there a greater message?
This could be a lot longer but I’ll try and summarise it! I produced a range of work in this style back at university. When I came to produce more over a year later, I took a very frequent plot formula that’s seen in many sequels of 80s science fiction films (which was one of my key influences, mainly The Neverending Story and it’s terrible sequels), in that the protagonist would return to this magical or alien world years later, and their neglect had caused the world to fall apart and collapse. I treated my return to producing this artwork in a similar way and produced the work with the figures and settings falling apart, melting, or in shattered pieces. For me the work has a certain sadness or desolate quality about it. I love to think of my work as creations living in real-time, so me taking a break from producing work for a while leaves them abandoned and more forlorn the longer I leave it.
Prints by Morgan Hislop. See the collection at cargocollective.com.