Identity in music can be a tricky thing. Where some artists opt to build extensively rich and quixotic imagery around their craft, others dodge the concept of image entirely or alternatively hide behind a rigid veil of mystery. Regardless of what end of the spectrum a musician chooses to place himself in, it’s certain that the approaches that surround the music are superfluous if the music itself ultimately lacks substance and quality. MORRI$ is an artist who has paved a route for himself that significantly deviates from the norm and has allowed his talent speak for itself. Chances are that you’ve heard of MORRI$ and his sounds over the past year repeatedly, with a distinctly anchored sound to recognize as his own and a substantial amount of avid followers to his name. Upon further investigation, you’ll find that he’s peculiarly achieved this without a single individual release to his name, as the handful of tracks that he’s carefully and gradually granted us through the waves of his SoundCloud and the dispersed remixes that he’s put out quantitatively offer us a relatively limited amount of music, especially when comparing his output to those of a lot of his musical contemporaries. But numbers are hardly an issue when a producer has managed to find such a comfortable position for himself, where his musical substance does all the talking for him, rather than concocting arbitrary imagery or churning out release after release to stir up a buzz.
When he’s not busy sharpening his own production crafts, Kansas-native Phil Canty is probably making his moves as curator for Team Bear Club, a multi-faceted collective created by him and a group of friends to put forward music and events in the Lawrence, Kansas area. Even before his output as MORRI$, music has always played a prevalent role in Canty’s life. While he’s grown up witnessing a variety of musical environments and stimuli, his home base and present location Kansas provide him the type of panoramic surroundings that are most responsible for shaping his current musical character. This is something that can evidently be traced back in his sounds, with organic elements tying in perfectly with his firm hip-hop foundations to manifest an unequivocal sound that he and his Bear Club colleagues have self-branded as goombawave. It’s a sound that is universally apprehensible, so it’s no surprise that it’s made its way onto the Night Slugs roster, with the debut “White Hood” imminent on the UK label in the near future. To us, MORRI$ signifies a type of artist that is most valuable and increasingly rare these days; a purely talented producer that makes music with longevity and, most importantly, sincerity. We caught up with him a little while back on his background and general musical perspective and you can find the extensive results of it below as we patiently anticipate this burgeoning artist’s future maneuvers.
Hi Phil! How are you doing and what have you been up to? “I’m doing very, very good! I’ve done a few gigs lately in Austin and played with the Fade to Mind crew in Los Angeles. It’s been a lot of family vibes!” How have the shows been so far? “They’ve defied my expectations in many ways. Los Angeles in particular, for the first time ever I was convinced that there were people there to see me as a performer and that’s not necessarily something I’m familiar or comfortable with yet. It was sort of interesting, seeing people dance but to also have a cluster of people who are standing there watching you, trying to hear a certain song that they came over to hear. I wasn’t ready for that. It seems like it’s super easy to get swallowed up in a large place like that. Los Angeles is an important place for a lot of huge artists, so being able to make an impression there makes you feel good.”
From what I gather, you come from quite a musical family. Your dad was a DJ and you’ve always had music surrounding you. Can you tell us a little bit about your musical background? “My dad brought a lot of music into the house, a lot of dancehall and jazz. He also had tons of old Chicago house records that he first came in contact with through his Chicago native college dorm mates. They brought him all of these tapes with music that they’d recorded off the radio from the likes of Todd Terry, Blackbox and Ten City. I heard a lot of that growing up. On the other hand, my mom has always really been into R&B. Not modern R&B, but more in the vein of New Edition or Ralph Tresvant, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Prince and those types of artists. Both my parents still continue to be invested in music as my mom is now a professor in history of music in Kansas and my dad is a radio personality.”
Did you grow up playing an instrument yourself? If so, has it had any influence on your current creative process? “My parents exposed me to a variety of sounds and since my dad was a DJ, he was always showing me how to get into records a little bit more. I had a tiny turntable growing up, so I picked up on that early. I also took piano lessons, played the guitar and the drums. I don’t necessarily feel like it’s akin to anything I do now but it gave me a firm foundation of musical understanding. It’s helped me hear textures in music and that’s how I’ve become accustomed to listening to music in general. I suppose I also emulate that in my own creative process now.”
It sounds like you’ve always been involved in music one way or another from the start, what was the reason for you to only start pursuing your production career only in the recent few years? “Honestly, I’ve spent a lot of time rejecting music. When I was growing up, I didn’t want to play the piano or any other instrument until I got to high school and joined a punk band with my friends. It wasn’t until around 2005 that I started producing chiptune music on Fruityloops, whereafter I moved to D.C. for a year. After returning to Kansas, my influences and tastes had changed and I got more focused on using Ableton which is how MORRI$ came to be what it is now.”