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Interview with Scott Morgan – loscil – Part 2

Interview with Scott Morgan – loscil – Part 2
by Killian Laher

No More Workhorse caught up with Scott Morgan, aka recording artist loscil from his home in Vancouver for an interview over zoom. You can read the first part of the interview is here.

Can you give us an insight into how you work?

I consider loscil as a project and I work in one way for that project predominantly, which is to start by building a library or palette of sounds. I do the sound design or sound crafting first, the recording of the palette to work with. Then I move on from there to arranging and composing, post-production and adding more instrumentation or layers. Somewhere in that process, there’s some
experimentation and some exploratory stuff. I like to use the sound I’ve constructed as loscil as the foundation and see what I can add to it, and take away from it and see if it still stands on its own. I still find that process engaging after all these years, finding new angles and perspectives on the same approach. That’s it in a nutshell.

You have a sizeable back catalogue, does any album in particular standout?

Endless Falls is one of my favourite records, in terms of achieving some sort of balance between the electronic realm, the influences of dub and the electronic side but also pulling in this history I have of acoustic instrumental writing with strings and piano and other instruments. It achieved something for me in terms of finding this balanced middle ground of that kind of expression.

This kind of thing has been going… people have been exhausted by the idea of ambient music for a long time so it’s not new to me. I was exhausted at that time so the collaboration with Dan Bejar who is the voice on the final track (The Making of Grief Point). He was going through this ‘hatred of music’ period too. I find it really interesting how there’s these waves, cyclical patterns with a lot of artists how you just get sick of the art world, sick of your own art and sick of the process. But there’s this rejuvenation in the hatred of it in a certain way! That was in the background of Endless Falls too. I find that record has a special place for me and it’s a good introduction to my catalogue. Of course, I’m always most interested in my latest work! Clara is the one I have to mention the most!

With Clara, you have taken the first track, Lux and manipulated it again for the new release, Refractions…

It’s interesting that you observed that. I find that with electronic music, in terms of sampling and re-sampling, there’s this kind of infinite number of ways you can treat material and turn it into new material. That’s the benefit of the studio as an instrument is that it’s its own recycling, you can turn things into other things. I find that process fascinating. Refractions is really indulgent! (laughs) I find that when I’m creating an album, like with Clara, I feel a bit of internal pressure to create an album that has an arc to it, that it’s a set of pieces and they all speak to each other in different ways. With the Refractions spin-off it was more like ‘I’m just going to take my time with this stuff’ and let it be a little less microscopically edited, and a little more open and free. Eight-to-ten-minute pieces.

Because it’s self-released, I don’t feel like I owe anybody anything and I can just relax and go along. It’s also tied quite tightly to the imagery for me, I think the photos, the macroscopic ice worlds that I was absorbed in for a while (in the accompanying book) offer the same introspection that the music does. You’re going in deep into this other world and I like that connection of the visual and the sonic, it’s a recent fascination of mine.

Is that your first book of photographs?

No, it’s the second book I’ve produced, and the Equivalents CD also has a miniature book. I did a book very early in the pandemic, spring of 2020, which featured photographs I had taken the year before in a place called Tofino which is on the west coast of Vancouver Island, not far from where I grew up. It’s a magical place, absolutely gorgeous. I was there in the spring of 2019 and took a bunch of pictures. I assembled a book, that was the Faults, Coasts, Lines book and EP combo. It was a first attempt at this kind of thing, and I enjoyed the combo. It’s not for everybody. Some people dig it as something physical that’s not just a CD or just a vinyl record, it’s something additional to the music.

Is music a big part of your life now, outside of creating music?

I definitely enjoy listening to music. Sometimes it’s stuff in my world, I’m always keen to hear what people are up to in my circle. Also, sometimes I’m exploring outside of the realm of electronic, classical and ambient. My good friend in Vancouver Amir Abbey who sometimes releases under the name Secret Pyramid, I love all his records. He’s just released some solo stuff under his own name that’s really experimental. There’s another northwest guy named Norm Chambers, he just released some music on a local Vancouver label called Hotham Sound.

It’s funny because we just took a family trip to the mountains in the summer. We drove from here to Banff which is the next province over, a 12-hour drive or so. We were celebrating my birthday, so I wanted to make a playlist of music I’ve enjoyed in my whole life. That was a really interesting and strange journey to review a lot of the indie and punk and weird music from the last 30 years, which has everything from My Bloody Valentine to Pavement to Sonic Youth. Every band I’ve ever enjoyed. Even the kids were impressed. To impress a couple of teenagers is a major feat!

Do you think music has been devalued in recent years?

I try to see it through the eyes of the kids, how they interact with music and compare that to how I interacted with music as a 13–15-year-old. I was really into music as a youth but I wasn’t a consumer. To the extent that people consume music today. I bought records but it was precious, it was expensive, it was a lot of your budget to buy records, so you had to be very selective and careful
in what you chose, there was a lot of trading. You see a lot of that continue in different ways today.

But there’s an abundance of music and availability. It’s hard to judge. I think people really connect with things that they really connect to and that is a really special thing. People still fall in love with music. I get the odd message from people telling me how they’ve enjoyed my music in very deep and meaningful ways and that’s pretty special. As long as that still exists, I don’t think we’ve
devalued music. The monetary, business side… I don’t know what’s next.

Any plans to tour?

I’m starting to put the plans together for a live show. I’m talking to promoters and agents about 2022. Canada’s a very careful country, unlike the US. We’ve been behind the US in terms of the pandemic but also mentally here, people are a lot more careful. The arts have not opened up, there’s been little bits and pieces here and there. Maybe this fall we’ll start to see some indoor
concerts with limited capacity. And now they’re implementing a vaccine passport, so you’ll have to verify that you’ve been vaccinated at the door. I think as those things come online, you’ll start to see more concerts and live events here. William Basinski was supposed to be here this month and he cancelled. A lot of people are booking and then the delta variant has caused some apprehension.

And logistics are hard to cope with right now. Every country has different rules, different ways of verifying that you’ve been vaccinated, different vaccines have been approved, or not approved depending on where you go. So we’re still in this feeling out phase.

What is the music scene like in Vancouver? Would you see yourself as part of any scene?

Not really. It’s come and gone in waves. This is not the centre of the kind of music I make. In Canada, Montreal would be the centre, maybe Toronto as a second. There used to be more in the Pacific Northwest in general, we had things like Decibel Festival in Seattle but that’s been gone for a few years. It feels like as a hub, the northwest of the continent is sleepy and too expensive for most artists. So people have left, either to Montreal or Europe, Berlin. For what I do there’s not a big scene. But it comes in waves, sometimes young people come into the scene and reinvigorate it and build up something new. There’s been a little bit of that over the last few years, pre-pandemic so hopefully, that continues, and people don’t lose faith in the city and disappear.

Do you get inspiration from other areas outside music?

Absolutely. I’m really into photography and architecture. I’m really surprised that I have not read more in the last year and a half. There’s been something about the anxiety in the air which means I can’t focus on reading these days. So I’m doing a lot of reference reading on topics that are interesting but not a lot of fiction. I’ve been watching the Steve McQueen films for the first time Hunger, it blew me away, I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it before, and then Shame which is weird, Michael Fassbender again. I’m going to keep going with McQueen.

What’s next for you?

I have a hard time taking time out, I just keep going. I have to admit I feel guilty making more music in a weird way. It feels like maybe I don’t need to make any more music. I think I’m going to do a digital-only release of music that I’ve written for dance projects over the years because I’ve written so much that’s just sitting there. I think a lot of it is worth having a second life outside of
the contexts of the dances. I’m going through that material and assembling what could be a collection. Then I have some ideas for new stuff and I’m probably going to start experimenting with that in the fall. Then there’s the question of whether I put a live show together for Clara. Maybe do some touring of that in the new year.

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1 reply »

  1. Great questions and answers.

    Been a Loscil fan for almost 20 years now.
    My Clara record is one of my favourites this year.
    Also the accompanyingbook/CD – Lux.

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