- Thu, 2012-06-21 16:27
Marcos Ortega, better known as Lorn, made his name with his 2010 debut album Nothing Else, a collection of cold, dystopian post-dubstep productions released by Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label. From one bastion of experimental electronic music to another, 2012 sees him relocated to Ninja Tune for the release of his follow-up Ask The Dust.
I Like Music headed over to Ninja Tune HQ to chat with Lorn about why 4am is his hour, experimenting with field recordings, getting 'weird' in the studio and his exciting plans for the Lorn live show.
“I Like Music because… it’s just simply fucking magic.” Lorn
ILM: How are you?
Lorn: Hangin’ in there. It’s been a hectic couple of months with the record, touring and other projects… and my personal life, y’know. It’s crazy to juggle all those things. But, yeah, I can’t really complain.
ILM: You were with Brainfeeder, but you’ve now signed to Ninja Tune: how does it feel to be part of the Ninja family?
Lorn: It’s insane and it’s humbling. Before Brainfeeder I was just a kid in a basement making music by myself. That was, what? Almost three years ago maybe? I went from that to sitting here in London chatting to you about my next record on Ninja Tune. Growing up Ninja Tune was a formative label for me, and more recently I’ve been supporting Amon Tobin at his shows. I used to listen to him in high school. It’s crazy how everything comes together. I’m really grateful. That’s my biggest emotion about everything.
ILM: Have you had much time to chat with Amon Tobin?
Lorn: No. I can imagine he’s pretty exhausted, and I’ve been equally exhausted. It’s hard touring on your own. We had the chance to say we’re big fans of each other and that we should talk later, but that’s about it.
ILM: Are you already thinking about what’s next? Album three…
Lorn: All the time. And I’ve started supplementary work for Ask The Dust as well. Ninja’s already put together a bunch of really, really exciting remixes for the record. Other than that I’m working on an actual live show to really bring it to life. It’s one thing to carry your gear in a backpack and do your best to recreate it live, but I really want to do it… I don’t want to do it big, I want to do it right. Really do the record live. Live live live live.
ILM: What was your initial vision for Ask The Dust?
Lorn: I can never really pinpoint something. It was the same thing with Nothing Else. I like to get weird in the studio. Just shut the door and close everything off. I find that I’m really at peace when the music’s loud and I’m just exploring drums, instruments, my own voice. You know, pacing in the room, humming nonsense to form melodies and sometimes lyrics. It’s a different place for me. It’s separate from all this. It’s very cathartic and special, and nobody else can touch it.
ILM: When do you feel that you get most in the zone?
Lorn: When I’m tired. At 4am. 4am is my hour...! Everyone in their right mind is probably asleep, or incredibly fucked up. Drunk, or something. Even animals at that hour are quiet. There’s not much going on. It’s a very powerful time. It’s like getting lost for a couple of hours. Sometimes I’ll drink a lot whilst making music, sometimes I’ll get really high, sometimes I’m stone-cold sober. In the morning you rediscover what you’ve made which is exciting. Sometimes it works and you keep it, sometimes it’s just nonsense, so you throw it away and just keep it in the dark grave of your hard-drive...
ILM: Tell us a bit about your studio space.
Lorn: It’s in my home in Milwaukee. I live with my lady, and also my buddy Barry, who did upright bass on the last track of the record, but we have a third bedroom, and our studio is in there. It’s not that crazy. I’ve seen some studios from Brainfeeder and Ninja Tune artists that are just like “wow!”
Lorn: Nosuch – actually he’s not Brainfeeder or Ninja Tune, but his studio is insane. Daddy Kev’s studio is insane, Om Unit’s studio is kind of similar to mine: it’s a humble little bedroom type thing, but he’s got his racks, his gear, his synths and everything. For me it’s a computer with a big screen, big speakers, reel-to-reel recorders, and stacks and stacks of old tapes, blank tapes, cassette decks, a Moog, all kinds of things to record percussion… Sometimes it’s cans slowed down, sometimes it’s field recordings slowed down. It’s all on top of an old desk that my grandfather made for my mother when she was a kid. It’s nice.
ILM: You’ve toyed with using your voice before, but it’s much more prevalent on this album…
Lorn: I’ve been using my voice in my music and stuff that I’ve given away… I don’t know if you’re familiar with Self Confidence, but it’s two big .zip files of unreleased bits that I still want people to hear, so I’ve given them away for free. I use my vocals on a lot of that stuff. The only thing that’s really changed between Nothing Else and Ask The Dust is different recording techniques. Like recording what’s coming out of my speakers from a different room, and putting that back very faintly in the track. I definitely use my voice more. And then the reel-to-reel recorder, which was a romantic experience for me; recording sound by tape, waiting for it to finish then recording it back in… It gives it a different character. It sounds like it was kicked down the street for a few days. I love it.
ILM: I suppose it picks up lots of sounds that you wouldn’t otherwise collect. It’s not clean.
Lorn: Right. Or bumping into things while I’m recording, or the microphone not being plugged in correctly. There are a few moments on Ask The Dust with little things like that, but I was just like “fuck it, we’ll leave it. It’s part of it.”
ILM: How do you choose which things are going to be finished album tracks, and which might just end up on something like the Self Confidence collections?
Lorn: It can be a challenging task, but when I set out to make a record I find it comes together by itself, or it just gets to the point where it’s like “this feels like something.” Whereas with those big .zip folders there’s really nothing coherent. It’s like a sketchbook.
ILM: A lot of the artists on Ninja Tune also ‘get weird’, as you put it. What is it about reaching that space, and taking people there with you that captivates you?
Lorn: To me it’s just pure peace. My music can be violent and oppressive at times. And loud. Even when it’s quiet it can be a little loud. But for me it’s like a train coming towards you: just that small bright light. I really feel at peace. Pure pain and pure pleasure. That’s exciting every time. There’s nothing that can compare to it for me. That’s why I make music.
ILM: What are your future plans? Where do you want to take Lorn?
Lorn: Film. My next record will be the soundtrack to a short film I’m working on.
ILM: You’re making the film yourself?
Lorn: Yes. I’ll be working with other people, but I’ll be directing it. I’m doing a story with my friend Grant Maierhofer. It can’t just be music for me, y’know. Music is a part of my life and I love it, there’s nothing like it, but I want to take my music and put it in other worlds. Film, art installations, and I wanna build buildings and burn them down… I wanna do all kinds of shit.
ILM: Outside of music, what inspires you?
Lorn: I’m interested in humanity. I fucking hate law. I hate rules. Fuck cops and all that. I love that in our minds we can take any chance. That’s what inspires me the most to make music and try to make art. It inspires me to be a listener to music, and a reader, and someone who appreciates film.
ILM: What have you been listening to recently?
Lorn: I listen to a lot of metal. Black Dahlia Murder, Through The Eyes Of The Dead. I listen to a lot of classical stuff. The new Clark record is really special. I’ve been listening to a lot of field recordings lately. Sounds just slowed way, way down. On the way here we listened to a recording I did in Berlin of birds chirping. I slowed it down by like 300% and there’s just this crazy conversation happening with all these birds. You can tell that’s how they make dinosaur sounds for movies.
ILM: Can you tell us some more about your field recordings? Have you done any in London?
Lorn: Yes, a few, but London is such a busy place, so it can sometimes just sound like a wash. I initially started doing it at home, just leaving a microphone plugged in outside my window. Sometimes I’ll come back and realise I’ve been recording for three hours, and I’ve got to stop this giant file before it crashes my computer! It really just started because I was curious about what the rest of the world sounded like outside of a computer or an instrument.
ILM: Something that’s almost impossible to recreate yourself.
Lorn: Right. Architecture conflicts and assists sound. And nature… I dunno, does sunlight change sound? There are so many things that I don’t have a clue about, and that’s just a wonderful thing. When I was young I just wanted to make beats to scratch to, I wanted to make songs, and push myself and experiment. It wasn’t until three or four years ago where I was like “I’m gonna shut up and just listen.” You can’t really run out of sound with field recordings.
ILM: Anything else comig up?
Lorn: There’s this French collective called CRCR who do animations. I literally have just seen the music video they’ve made for me. It’s my first official music video! There’s a bunch on YouTube that fans have made, which is awesome, but this is the first official one. Ninja found them. It’s hand-drawn animations. Simple, elegant, but also just fucking strange and exciting!
Lorn - Ask The Dust is out now, find out more at ninjatune.net/artist/lorn