Like my interview with Tagada Jones, here’s one that I wanted to publish for quite a while. Since april 2010 to be exact, when I received a mail on Flickr from a guy called Morphamish. What a surprise, he wanted to use my humble doodles for some of his album’s covers that were realeased on Black Lantern Music ! My ego filled with this mark of artistic gratitude, and using my famous business skill, I accepted with pleasure to let him use them for free. That’s why, thanks to my another great talent for
cronyism total journalism, I let this talented scottish musician in. So let’s meet Morphamish, who proves with his label Black Lantern Music and its partner website Weaponizer, that creation is an unusual merchandise.
Can you present yourself quickly for the Centrifugue’s numerous readers ?
Morphamish. I’m from Edinburgh, I play and write diverse bass music and do live and DJ sets. I started playing in various bands when I was just a nipper, and then had a revelation when introduced to the clubbing scene in the late 1990s, Jeff Mills at Pure 1 blew my mind (my mate Gary and I named the night ‘Kerpow!’).
After that, a circle of friends started up the notorious techno night Pillbox 2, it was a very special time, very free and chaotic ! We played host to people like Dave Tarrida, Neil Landstrumm (big inspirations) and numerous other marvels. I was a resident, playing live sets of techno, acid house and crazy acid breakbeats to an incredibly open minded, unified crowd of lovely folk. It was a beautiful way to learn how to play out. A little later, and overlapping in time, I was also resident at the jungle night Obscene (Krish and Alice who ran this went on to form Edinburgh’s first dubstep night Volume with Profisee – though the music policy of the night is, and always has been, very open minded in general too).
Er no it seems I can’t present myself quickly !
I love a very wide spectrum of music, really there’s only two groups – good or bad ! It depends on the mood really. Sorry I can’t be more specific but that’s how I feel. Names that come to mind just now would be Tom Waits, Talking Heads, Ivor Cutler, Queens Of The Stone Age, the whole kaboodle of the sound-system music continuum, Sativae techno, Kruder and Dorfmeister, Squarepusher, Baobinga, Luke Vibert, Anti-Pop Consortium, Untold, King Tubby, Akira Kiteshi, oh I could go on and on !
How and when did you start Black Lantern Music ? How many artists do you have on your label, what kinds of music they make and how many releases for the moment ?
We (Texture, Harlequinade, Asthmatic Astronaut, Tickle and myself) started the label in 2009. Those guys had been performing (with Gung Who of Church Of When The Shit Hits The Fan 3 and Mo-seph) as the Chemical Poets (an experimental spoken word noise collage barrage) for quite a while and doing festival gigs etc, while I’d been collaborating with Texture for some years with our Double Helix project (now re-named Morphamish+Texture out of the necessity for a unique name). We’ve got lots of talented friends (and have made many more since then through it), so it made sense to band together and give the collective a name and identity.
We’ve got 33 acts 4on the label so far, though maybe eight of them are collaborations between BLM artists. There’s quite a few we’ve recently met to come too.
Style wise, a few of what we’ve had so far is trippy instrumental hiphop from Asthmatic Astronaut, undefinable experimentalism from Sineni, straight up good vibe hiphop from Burning Bright (Tickle+Salem Anders), balls out dark bassy raving material from Blackmass Plastics, atmospheric dubstep, bass+breaks from Shatterfreak, grizzly punky electro from Stick 430, experimental hiphop/funky hiphop/drone/ambient/illbient/electro/drag from Texture, jazz-laced magesticness from Daddy Scrabble, gorgeous melodic instrumental math-rock from Comma, gospel doom crunk from Church Of When The Shit Hits The Fan, diverse electro and hiphop from Krowne, mutating trippy turntablism and beats from Mild Maynyrd, and nasty left field breakbeat dubstep/atmospheric funky bass music from myself… I’m missing quite a few artists here, you’ll have to have a dig for more!
So far we’ve had 42 releases 5, many more to come. I’m planning some more bassy releases, some techno eps, some mid-tempo breakbeat house really chilled trip-hoppy and even some breakcore mentalism at some point soon. Plus of course a Morphamish and Texture EP.
I’ve noticed fantastic influences in the albums availables on the web site (like John Carpenter music or Edgard Allan Poe ) or even the logo which reminds me Lovecraft. Do you have a special interest on this theme ? Is it a important aspect for Black Lantern Music and the musicians who work with you ?
Morphamish. To be honest, John Carpenter and Edgar Allan Poe are not places I draw from majorly myself, though I do love their work. That’s something better left to Texture and Harlequinade… I’m glad that we have such diverse influences and approaches on the label, I think its a strength, an open mind is a happy one a lot of the time.
Texture. The logo definitely has a Lovecraft influence ! I’d put a lot of these influences down to Ali Maloney (aka Harlequinade), whose own work is influenced by a wide range of styles and genres, one of the strongest being horror. It was a friend of his, Inkmoth, who designed our logo, and although not all of us are such big Lovecraft fans as Ali is, we definitely all loved the logo as soon as we saw it. It’s such a strong image – the tentacle lifting a lantern from the briny depths to shine black light across the waves !
In terms of music, John Carpenter scores have definitely influenced my own productions, and I’m sure many of the artists on the site who use synths would claim him as an influence. Really it all comes back to Chemical Poets, the collective that Harlequinade, myself and Tickle were in, and from which the idea for Black Lantern grew. Myself and Ali especially write lyrics that dwell on science fiction and horror imagery and themes, so it was natural that at least some of the acts we ended up working with would have the same influences. It’s not a must, however ! We don’t only release « occult rap ». It would be a bit depressing if we all rapped about sea monsters and space aliens ! We also release jazzy, funky, happy music by folks like Burning Bright and Daddy Scrabble, and intelligent dancefloor-aimed material by the likes of Morphamish and Blackmass Plastics.
Your releases are on Creative Commons so people can download them for free. How did you chose this option ? Is it also linked to the spirit of the label ? How do you manage to run the label this way ? Do you have others ways to make profit (concerts, CD, etc) ?
Morphamish. Yes they are free to download, with an option to donate if you like. Its a labour of love, we’ve all got jobs, though obviously it would be great to make more of a living out of our music. These days money only really comes from shows even if you are pretty well known in your field. We just want to get our music heard without anything getting in the way.
In the past its been great to have my music on vinyl and cd, and despite how much I love vinyl, if you want to break even, doing this amount of weirdness is unlikely to get us to the top of the charts! But we would rather put out music from the heart than simply follow trends in a calculating soul-less way to shift units. That and we aren’t the most business minded bunch!
Texture. Currently both Weaponizer (see below) and Black Lantern are not-for-profit – our next step is finding a way to offer our artists and writers a way of making money through the site. That isn’t to say we’ll suddenly start charging for everything ! We very much believe in our slogan « Music Wants To Be Free », but we also like to think that many people enjoy buying well-crafted products, and like to support independent artists. You’ll see limited-edition, high-quality products for sale from both Weaponizer and Black Lantern before too long.
You work with another website called Weaponizer, which publish free serial, comics and novels. Can you tell us more about this website, and can you explain how does the partnership began ?
Morphamish. That’s Texture’s department so I let him talk about it.
Texture. Weaponizer started as a place for me to publish my own writing, and a reaction to working as a music journalist and not finding it very satisfying. I’ve ended up publishing the work of over eighty writers worldwide, and I’ve made some great friends in the process. Last year we released our first magazine, with all-exclusive content, and next year we’re looking at moving into the e-book market. I try and publish one story or article a day, but as I run the site pretty much solo, sometimes life gets in the way!
The partnership between the two sites all goes back to the Creative Commons Licenses which we release music under. I discovered the CC License and movement when setting up Weaponizer, and found it to be a really good ideological and legal platform to publish under online. It allows for collaboration, remixing and sharing, which is what the internet is all about (or at least, it should be). This lends itself naturally to music as well. I think Creative Commons is hugely significant in bringing what Jonathan Lethem 6 called « the gift economy » of art into the public mind – the transaction between artist and consumer that has nothing to do with money, product or ‘intellectual property,’ and everything to do with enjoyment, inspiration, and influence.
By releasing stuff under CC Licenses, I see us as contributing to a vibrant and healthy public domain culture, which actively encourages people to participate in making and re-making art, as well as consuming it. With both Weaponizer and Black Lantern, I hope to assist artists in getting to a place where they can start charging for physical products like CDs, books and merchandise, or for live events like concerts and readings, and hopefully give them a platform to do this from. Thus far the experiment has been a success – several of our authors at Weaponizer have released self-published books and done quite well, and many of the Black Lantern artists have used the site to spread their work far afield, helping them get gigs and organise the independent sale of their music.
And special question, does the celtic/scottish spirit has an influence on your work and others artists ?
Morphamish. Speaking personally the scottish spirit not so much, though in a broader sense celtic perhaps, if only in terms of raving being a timeless thing that humans have done since campfires, we do love a party ! I recently went and played over in Ireland, and met some fabulous artists, some of which will be releasing on the label. Look out for Niamh De Barra, she sounds very supernaturally Irish, like a creature from a timeless/futuristic folk taIe.
I suppose being Scottish is bound to be an influence, but I tend to think my own music is universal for freaky people in any location !
One of the reason (apart from the great tunes on your website) I started thinking about your interview is that you used some of my drawings for the cover of your albums. Could you explain why you choose them ?
I found your drawings by looking on the Creative Commons website 7. I really liked the directness, distinctiveness and vibrancy of the images. There’s a lot of movement in many of them, they stuck a chord with me, and I’m really glad you are happy for us to use them, I feel they go well with my tunes !
Thanks a lot for the time you took for this interview and, in order to conclude, do you wish to add a few words ?
Stay tuned for loads of new diverse material from Black Lantern over the next few months, including bands, breakcore, techno, deep dubstep breaks+garage, hiphop, electro and yet more un-categorisable stuff. We are really excited to be unveiling an overhauled website in the next couple of weeks which will be even more inviting and user-friendly, plus we are planning a UK tour in the spring, so watch out for exciting times! Oh and look out for my new release The Big Picture EP, out soon!
Interviewed by Gwen
Illustration : Black Lantern Music logo, artwork by Inkmoth