Published on May 1st, 2015 | by The Beige Baron0
Interview: Morgan Delt
It speaks of the quality of solo composer Morgan Delt’s debut self-titled album that it rocketed him from the obscurity of a Californian home studio to sharing a stage with the The Flaming Lips and Tame Impala—and a freshly inked contract with Sub Pop—in just over a year.
Initially released on limited-edition cassette entitled Barbarian Kings before emerging as an 11-track CD and LP issued on Trouble In Mind Records, Morgan Delt’s hazy and surreal slab of psychedelia surfed a wave of admiring reviews, with All Music Guide commenting:
“A lot of people have done the same kind of excavation and restoration work he has, but few have done it as memorably. Almost no one has done it with songs as good as these.”
From standouts like opener Make My Grey Brain Green—which sounds like a short-wave radio jammed between a late-night music program in Istanbul and some kind of weird alien broadcast from the outer edges of the cosmos—and the swooping, seasick gyrations of Barbarian Kings, Morgan Delt does take the far-out sounds of the ’60s and pass them through his own unique filter. The results are startlingly original and exciting.
Morgan Delt manages to unshackle itself from the earth and drift into strange new dimensions without ever leaving the listener behind. It wraps you in a warm embrace and lifts off, carrying you on a journey over vague and unsettling landscapes, somersaulting through aurora borealis of color and melody, before setting you down safely on the lounge just as the last notes of Main Title Sequence fade into dream.
I guess the tape delay is the most obvious thing that’s all over the record.
That one musician could create such a vast, full-fleshed, living, breathing piece of art in seeming isolation is remarkable.
Being huge fans of this album since the time Barbarian Kings (the version from the original four-track demo) was posted up on an internet forum back in 2013, BNU was fortunate enough to pry Morgan Delt away from his family and work—out of “hermit mode”—to briefly talk about the creation of what was, in this writer’s opinion at least, the best “psychedelic rock” album released in 2014.
BNU: When you set about recording the album, did you have a clear concept or picture in your mind of how you wanted it to sound, or did it evolve on it’s own kind of organically?
I had a pretty clear vision of what I was trying to do but it also evolved on its own while I was making it. Some of the songs I was working on for a couple of years, so they changed a lot while I was trying to figure out how to get where I wanted to go.
When you approach writing a song, what instrument do you generally start with?
I would say about a quarter of the time a pretty complete sounding song pops into my head and I try to get that down. I’ll usually just sing the various parts into the computer. Sometimes it’s just a fragment of a vocal melody, and then I work on it from there.
Then maybe half of the songs start with a guitar riff. Sometimes I’ll noodle around on the bass and come up with something that develops into a song.
And then there are a couple of songs where I started with a loop of part one of my other songs and built up something new on top of it.
Is there a particular piece of equipment or musical instrument that helped to shape the unique sound of the album?
I guess the tape delay is the most obvious thing that’s all over the record. A lot of the little sounds that might seem like synths are actually just the guitar or other tracks being run through a tape delay while I play with the feedback and tape speed.
Is “tape delay” when you record something on reel-to-reel and then alter the speed? Or do you use something already recorded and then use it as a sample, altering speed?
It’s a box that uses a tape loop inside and it works just like a delay unit. There’s a knob to control the delay time (which just changes the tape speed), and a knob to control how much it repeats and feeds back. So if you send something into it, it will start to echo, and then if you change the delay time, the pitch of the sound will shift.
The one I use is called the Hiwatt Custom Tape Echo.
What are five artists or albums that most inspired or influenced you when it came to writing and recording your own music?
It’s hard to narrow it down to five artists or albums. But I think I could break it down into five different ideas or moods.
There’s the classic ’60s psych like The Byrds, Pink Floyd, and Pretty Things, psychspoitation movie soundtracks like Stu Phillips or the Psych Out Soundtrack, and then the more garagey LA bands like the Seeds, Electric Prunes, and Music Machine, and the baroque and sunshine pop bands like the Millennium, Sagittarius, or Left Banke, and finally modern bands like White Fence and Broadcast.
So I tried to keep all of those different things in mind while I was working on the record.