Until recently Michael Morris was making down and dirty rock n’ roll in Dunedin with The River Jesters. He toured both NZ and Australia, released a bunch of records, started a production company… And then last year he moved to Paris and released his first solo album Slow Loris.
I caught up with the man himself while was back in NZ to get the skinny on what’s been happening.
So could we get a quick rundown on your musical background?
Yeah sure. So I’ve lived in Paris for the last year and before that I lived in Dunedin for about almost seven years, and before that I studied music in Christchurch. And for my time in Dunedin I was working with a few different bands, touring pretty heavily, recording basically doing music full time.
Just before moving I decided to start working on my own project just alone which is what I’ve been doing for the last year and a half. So I moved to France and then took my first album over there to release in September last year. The album was released in September but I moved in late April/early May.
A couple of reasons. My partner is French, she was born in Paris. And I’ve toured New Zealand and Australia quite a lot over the last few years and I’ve wanted to get over and have a crack at doing Europe for quite some time, so the timing just worked out. So I made the decision to give it a try.
How’s it been?
It’s been awesome, I’ve loved it. It’s been a real challenge starting again, like here I have a network all around the country of places I can play or you know you just end up meeting a lot of the other players in the game, and over there I basically started by knowing nobody and had to work it up a bit. So it’s been cool, it’s been a challenge but I think it’s been going pretty well.
Have you been playing over there too?
I’ve played in Paris quite a bit, done quite a few of my own shows which have been really good, and one of the things that I’ve been working on mostly is just writing for the whole last year so that’s what I’m back here for now, which is recording some of that work for my second album.
Having spent a lot of time in Christchurch and Dunedin and then moving away overseas, have you noticed any differences in what it’s like to make music?
In terms of myself yes I’ve noticed quite a big difference of what I’m writing, this new work is coming out quite differently to the first album that I’ve already released which is something that I’m actively pursuing, trying to do something slightly different. But also it’s just organically a change of scene kind of equals a change of mindset and therefore a change of result, of creative output. So yeah, the move has changed what I’m doing quite a bit I think.
In my experience making an album is a quite intensive process and you have to call on your experience at that time, and in my experience of it, once you’ve captured your mindset of that moment and put it out there you can finally move on to finding a new mindset almost.
The reason for coming back is to make this second album because I have all my recording equipment and all my guitars here you know, so I figured rather than invest in more equipment over there I might as well just come back to do it.
What’s it like being back?
It’s great, the recording’s going really well actually, I’m trying not to overthink or overplay or overdo anything to the extent that maybe I did last time. It’s something I’m trying to change a touch. So things are taking less time than last time which is great and a bit easier. It’s awesome just to be in New Zealand in general, I just love this place. It’s home and I love it. But, you know I’m in Christchurch at the moment, and it’s pretty sad times, pretty dark days, so I’m just kind of trying to make sense of everything like everybody else is.
Your last album got some pretty good press… Are you happy with how it turned out?
For me it’s funny to look back at that album because like I was talking about different mindsets and I was having a pretty rough time when I was writing that especially and recording that, and I can hardly listen to it now to be honest. It’s obviously got it’s kind of darker elements to it, but I am really proud of it, and I’m really proud of what it has achieved for something that’s so out there. It’s a risky or a experimental kind of thing that in my opinion is not that nice to listen to, but maybe it’s interesting.
It sort of reminded me a little of Mr Bungle, just the weird song structures which would randomly do something else and make you go “whaat?”
I guess I was just kind of like following any kind of way that something went rather than trying to sit down and write a conventional song. But yeah it has had some really nice things said about it which is lovely, but it’s also been quite a difficult thing as a first and only album to have out because I think it has so far closed some doors for me because it’s kind of quite confronting. I think some opportunities have been quite difficult to pursue because of it being my only thing out. My thought is everybody thinks I’m mad.
But yeah, it has had some really cool reviews from a few places around the globe actually, so that’s good.
You produced it too, and it sounds really nice in my opinion, really lush and sparkly and spacious. You’ve done other production in the past too?
I’ve done quite a lot for a number of different local artists. Yeah I really love the recording process, I find it interesting. I was really happy with the sound that I got on it, I was stoked.
Having complete control over the whole process, do you think that’s a good thing?
That’s both a blessing and a curse so far because I do really like to have that overseeing of everything but I’m also a bit kind of obsessive, and in the past have been known to strive for unrealistic perfection. Like I said, that’s what I’m really trying to go against with this one, I just want to have a bit more of a rock n roll feel, it’s a bit dirtier. So I’m kind of smashing things out in a take or two and dealing with the imperfections of it a bit more.
Yeah, because Slow Loris definitely sounded perfect to me, like precise and technical…
Yeah that’s the thing, I kind of went pretty deep into getting everything how I wanted it. I think for like a first LP, especially because I’ve gone out by myself and there’s noone else, you bear the weight of whatever criticism that attracts and therefore I think as a first one there’s kind of this instinct that you really want to show how well you can play or whatever, and put your best into it. And now it’s like I kind of feel like I’ve put my most strange kind of cards out there and now because of that I don’t really feel like I have to answer to anybody anymore other than myself.