LA-based producer P. Morris (aka MORRI$) and New York-based digital concept artist Ryder Ripps have never met IRL – their relationship is, in Morris’s words, “purely digital” - but they’ve created worlds together. Debut is the first full-length release from the producer, whose orchestral, otherworldly touch has graced the likes of Night Slugs and Fade To Mind (with fingerprints on Kelela’s astounding 2013 mixtape Cut 4 Me). Not being one to follow the crowd, he’s released it in the form of an interactive, Google Streetview-inspired environment designed by OKFocus collective member Ripps.
Dazed caught up with both artists in a room on dump.fm, a real-time image-sharing chat website built by Ripps himself a couple of years ago (the sheer amount of sites this internet giant has created is pretty intimidating – check the full list here http://ryder-ripps.com/). Using words, acronyms and GIFs of Disney princesses, they discussed how their partnership blossomed in obscure corners of the internet and led to them creating even more obscure corners together.
Before you read on, be sure to experience the mixtape over at morrismakes.com. Shiver your way through tundra to the bleached-out sex croon of Justin Bieber’s stretched-out “Hold Tight”, explore a palace to the lush metallic percussion of “Turtle Lounge” or sit out the party in the back seat of a car, catching snippets of the distorted voices and beats, on “Gemini”.
Ryder Ripps: We started working together through a bodybuilding forum, for artists and electricians. It doesn’t exist anymore. This was years ago – 2005.
P. Morris: My screen name was Swoll Faded, we were fast friends.
Ryder Ripps: Wasn’t it sw0llF4ded? Regardless, that’s how we met. A few months ago we reconnected. Phil sent over these new tracks and we fell in love with them.
P. Morris: And likewise, around that time I started seeing more of the OKFocus output and realised the overlap was there, conceptually. (It) made all the sense in the world to try to fit our two worlds together. And on the music tip, it needed a visual component.
P. Morris: OKFocus's lens is through technology, that perspective is really heavy in their work, and it's definitely a component to my music and identity as an artist. So conceptually we had that digital common ground.
Ryder Ripps: There’s also a human element to (your) music, which I think we share.
P. Morris: Yeah, a lot of my preoccupation is trying to reconcile digital elements that I love about current popular music with the timeless qualities of recorded live instruments like strings.
Ryder Ripps: That tactility is something I like about art that uses technology... it should be about an artist emoting through technology, which is a constant struggle. Some electronic based art is purely a celebration of technology, showmanship or something.
P. Morris: Yeah totally, a lot of that electronic based art is pure artifice.
Ryder Ripps: I wanted to do a Streetview music video for a while.. proof of concept here.
P. Morris: The music came first.
Ryder Ripps: Then we found scenes around the world in Google Streetview that matched.
P. Morris: I had the majority of the mixtape sort of composed by the time I got in contact with Ryder for the website. We spent a couple months going back and forth sharing different locations via Google Docs.
Ryder Ripps: How did you write? Was there a structure predefined or was it more sample-based? Also what’s your process with sequencing? Do you start with a loop or a larger sketch?
P. Morris: Orchestration and arrangement are really my preoccupation when it comes to writing music. My ear has really always been more attuned to timbre and instrumentation and it's something I've been learning to embrace... I feel like the current music climate is dominated by "fat beats" and "sick bass" blah blah, but I'm coming from sort of a forgotten school where the instrumentation is the story, or the focal point of the music.
For a lot of the material on Debut, I started with just raw beats, all in Ableton. I started writing a majority of it in 2011 when my resources were a little more limited. But halfway through it, things started to pick up so I was able to come to LA and record some live instrumentation with an ensemble put together by my collaborator, Mocky. Via Mocky, we were able to co-arrange some orchestral stuff, which I think is most apparent on the song "Breakfast at Richmans", but it's scattered throughout the record. To answer your question though Ryder, I really try to break the loop. Being a melody guy, I sit down in front of the piano or the Fender Rhodes and I pound out the basis of the song until I stumble upon a progression that makes sense, and then I try to ease the digital aspects in until there's a seamless balance.
I thought a visual element was imperative, as its mostly an instrumental release, that visual will be really necessary in terms of creating a context that the average listener will be able to relate with. Also though, I wanted people to be able to imagine the music as a companion to whatever the listener might be doing...That Mars link Ryder dropped, it was literally inside a bodega. Then the idea sort of evolved in my head, to be more regal, palatial. Which I think brought us to some more luxurious locations. Ryder, how did you go about finding some of those crazy remote outdoor locations?
Ryder Ripps: There are some Streetview blogs that list cool locations, other ones I found by going through Streetview photographers’ portfolios, and some just putting the marker in remote places and thinking "wonder what it’s like over yonder". I think we were attracted to simulating a Myst-like experience.
Google Streetview for many is a purely practical thing... even if they have seen Streetview art and such, rarely do people do Streetview tourism... which is a shame. It’s so crazy how you can see a very realistic depiction of so many places on earth.
P. Morris: Omg, I used to play the shit out of Riven and Myst both, never knew this about you.
Ryder Ripps: I was also into Half Life and Tetris.
P. Morris: How long did it take you to put everything together in the form that we see today, Ryder? Speaking specifically on the programming end, I know that shit had to be time-consuming.
Ryder Ripps: The basic site we put together in a day or so... lots of tweaks and deciding the locations and minor edits to interface. But the true answer is 58 years. Takes lifetimes to be this fresh.
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