I would like to thank Morti Viventear first and foremost for accepting the interview request. This was conducted over email and done after the release of Sleep Deprived Pessimist: Nautilus Edition. If you haven’t heard it, check it out here and check out our review of it here! Without further ado, let’s begin!
What was your life like growing up in terms of music? What music did your family or friends play around the home?
I grew up in a small industrial town named Arvida. Most of my teenage years were spent on a basketball court as I was enrolled in a sport program through my high school years. I was going to school in the morning and training with my coaches and teammates during the afternoon. We were playing against teams from bigger towns and this is basically how I was exposed to hip hop. Most of the teams were playing mixtapes during the warm-ups and at half-time and I would sometimes steal their tapes when I was feeling the music. This was before the Internet so I had to figure out what the song titles were by listening to the lyrics. Then I would go to the music store and try to find the titles. I blindly bought a lot of shitty tapes around that time.
It is clear your music is rooted strongly in hip hop, especially the brilliant beat makers like Flying Lotus, 9th Wonder, DJ Shadow, Madlib etc. What got you into the genre?
While I grew up listening to 90’s hip hop, it’s actually turntablism that got me into music making. I discovered Q-bert, Craze, ISP, The Scratch Perverts and all these sick tablists around 97 and I knew I wanted to do the same. I learnt scratch techniques between 98 and 2002 by watching DMC videos and checking message boards like Asisphonics. Then I stumbled onto a StonesThrow VHS featuring most of these guys, but there was a short clip of Moodswing 9 from Anticon making a beat on his MPC (it was actually the instrumental for Sole’s 3 guys in a bar feat. Arsonists) and it completely blew my mind.
By looking for similar beatmakers I discovered guys like DJ Shadow, Controller7 and RJD2. Around 2002, I sold one of my Technics sl-1200 and saved money to buy a MPC60. At that time, I was heavily influenced by a Montreal label called Bully Records. They were releasing 45’s from artists like Dj Signify, Blockhead, Meaty Ogre, Moodswing 9, Sixtoo, Controller 7 etc. I basically learnt most of my beatmaking techniques listening to these cats.
What are some your influences outside of hip hop and beatmakers?
I discovered most of my favorite music while digging for samples. If I take a look at my record collection, I’d say that it’s 60% soul/funk, 20% psych/prog rock/shoegaze, 15% hard-bop jazz and 5% rarities from Quebec. I also collect hip hop tapes because this is how I discovered the genre and I’m a sucker for nostalgic shit.
I don’t know if they influence my music but my favorite non-hip hop artists are James Brown, Serge Gainsbourg, Lee Morgan and Aphex Twin.
How did you link up and connect with Annette Records?
The guys from the French label Sixtonarmor stumbled onto my music on the Controller7 message board around 2010. They asked me to put together a psych mix and I think this is how Mitch from Luana records heard of me at that time. He released the first version of Sleep Deprived Pessimist in 2013. Around 2014, he came to visit Montreal (he’s from Swiss) and we got piss drunk together. I played him some early tracks from Trip de Boucles Piquées and this is how he decided that he was going to release the album on vinyl. Since Luana was mostly releasing white labels 12’s at that time, we needed some help to release the LP in a proper format (artwork and everything) and this is how Anette was involved. Srizi from Anette is a friend of Mitch from Luana and they worked together to co-release my first LP.
What made you make the switch from Luana Messed Up Records to Annette?
This one is easy, Luana announced the end of its activity shortly after releasing my first LP so Anette kindly added me to their roster.
Sleep Deprived Pessimist was your 2013 cassette release. What made you want to rerelease it in 2019?
Last year, Srizi from Anette told me that he wanted to repress both of my LPs because they sold out pretty quick and he thought that it would be a good opportunity to release SDP on vinyl at the same time. I thought it was a good idea but I couldn’t find the masters. We actually tried to get the digital (WAV) version remastered for a vinyl pressing. When we received the test press we didn’t like how it sounded so I said fuck it, I’m redoing every track from scratch.
At that time, I just finished recording a soundtrack for a documentary so the timing was good because A. I was sleep deprived as fuck, and B. All my equipment was already set. It took me around 3 months to put everything together.
The Nautilus Edition of this release states that you reworked and remixed the album. Was this remix just focused on adjusting the levels and mixes, or did you go deeper and change the way things sounded?
I redid every single track like it was a new one. The only thing that remained are the original samples that I used for the first version because it all comes from 90’s shoegaze records from my collection. I have to admit that I have absolutely no clue what samples I used for the original version of Ornithopter Crash, so I had to work around with different sources.
I also used different equipment to record the new version of the LP. The first version was recorded on a pretty ghetto setup and straight into a shitty tape deck so I stepped my game up a little since 2013.
I found your music through reddit, how has the reception been through the platform?
When I released my first LP in 2015, I posted it on r/vinyl and the reception was great. I had absolutely no idea that it would help me to sell. I didn’t even put a link to the music on the original post. Though I had to edit it after a while because everyone was asking for one.
In 2017, I posted about my sophomore LP and it got less visibility on reddit, maybe because it was not a ‘’first record’’ and people like these kinds of stories. I received a lot of positive feedback though and the LP sold quickly as well.
Then a few days ago I made a post about the new version of SDP and r/vinyl users went completely nuts. I think I’m at 1,2k upvotes at the moment which is a lot on this particular subreddit. Maybe it helped that I offered the digital version for free to the redditors.
It’s gotten to the point where you’ve pressed all of your albums multiple times on vinyl. How has the reception been for buying the physical medium vs someone going strictly digital?
I never really tried to sell music in digital format. I released most of my projects on CD, cassette and vinyl so I don’t really know how to promote a digital product. I think it’s a lot of work online too and I’ve been spending less time online lately. I love the idea though because the Web is a great way to get heard from a lot of people worldwide and it has always been my main goal. If I was making music to make money, I would have stopped years ago. But I’m here to stay, music keeps me sane.
How have you progressed over the past years as a producer?
I think my music has always been focused on crate digging. Every project is like a different challenge in terms of sample finding. For the first LP, I limited myself to obscure prog rock music, then nautical vibes for the second and the last one was all shoegaze. It’s much more satisfying and entertaining this way. I just put sounds that I enjoy together and make my own version of a particular genre or vibe. Plus, I get to play with sexy synths!
Through the years I think I’ve learn how to give more personality to the samples that I use instead of just making collages of loops. Lately, I’ve been enjoying filtering and chopping samples too. It’s weird because I used to hate it when I started. Especially on the MPC60 which was a fucking dinosaur.
As a producer myself, I’m always interested in what gear people use. What’s been your current setup?
I mainly use a MPC 2000 xl , a Moog Prodigy, some filters and a digital 8-track with some effects.
What made you want to limit the type of samples you used for each album, and how did you dig for these samples?
First because it’s more of a challenge to find samples in a particular genre. You have to dig deeper or get more creative in order to use less obvious material. I also think that it’s easier to produce a more consistent album if you use samples from a particular era or genre.
Are there particular sounds or instruments you gravitate to or look for on a record?
I mainly dig for drums first. Then I try to find loops that fits the drums and I usually chop or filter them to build melodies around this main piece. Most of the time I like to use the low end theory technique to put my bass together, but lately I’ve been playing the bass with synths.