“Can’t Hurt Me Now”… That was my first introduction to the ethereal, dancefloor-driven sound of Murge - the kind of sound that prompts a head scratch if you tried to define it by a specific genre. Talking about ‘scratching’, his talents as a DJ can’t escape mention particularly since he’s graced the stage of some of North America’s most esteemed electronic festivals such as Shambala and Bass Coast.
However, when he signed to Emancipator’s label Loci Records, that changed the course of his career and steered it towards a path of new opportunities. “A pivotal moment for me as an artist.”, he states. In this interview Murge shares the story of his journey so far, signing to Loci, and much more.
And he also crafted a beautiful exclusive mix for us, starting with his latest piece "Alone Together", featuring Sierra Lundy. So, hit the play button while reading:
2. Murge - Alone Together (feat. Sierra Lundy)
3. Janus Rasmussen - Green Wine
4. Parra for Cuva - Cupa Cupa
5. Rohne - ID
6. Murge - Can't Hurt Me Now (feat. Sierra Lundy)
7. Tambor World Collective - Shangai Tambor (Murge Edit)
8. Musumeci - Hey Mama (Murge Edit)
9. Oscar P (feat. Tatiana) - Going (8 Years Running Afro Soul Edit)
10. Maribou State (feat. Holly Walker) - Midas (Ben Pearce Re-Edit)
11. Murge - Full Flight
12. Frameworks - Breaking Down (Tor Remix)
13. Burial & Four Tet - Nova
14. Olafur Arnalds & Bonobo - Loom
For those who aren't familiar with your story, how would you describe your journey with music thus far?
Quite enjoyable overall so far I’d say! I’m a DJ and producer so I’ve explored and immersed myself in a lot of different styles and sounds - partially fuelled by a real passion for record digging! I have always had a fondness for electronic music that incorporates live elements and loads of percussion. I kind of feel like I really started to hit my stride as a producer over the past 5-6 years. Prior to that, I was producing a lot of hip hop and downtempo influenced stuff. Always working on tracks, but always searching for the right outlet to release them through. I’ve shared a lot of incredible experiences with some amazing people and artists, both on stage and off, and those moments always inspire me. I’ve collaborated with and remixed quite a variety of artists, including Talib Kweli, Dj Vadim, Tegan & Sara, Blackalicious, Slug (Atmosphere), and most recently a remix for Emancipator. With not being able to play any shows these last 7 months, I’ve been able to compose and produce a lot of soundtrack work for documentaries and film, and it’s been great to work on that side of my craft too.
If somebody walked into your room when you were a teenager, what kind of vinyls/CDs/cassettes and posters would they find lying in the room?
I was really into skateboarding as a teenager so I had a lot of posters from skate magazines. Music-wise, I was into a lot of hip hop, some punk, some pop. I found myself intrigued by how albums sounded and would always try to imagine the process that artists and the like were going through when they were creating the albums. Turns out it was way more work than I imagined!
Take us through how you began working with Loci Records, and how did you know they were the label for you?
I had been working on a bunch of new instrumental electronic songs and my management team and I were discussing some ideas of how to release them. I’d been a fan of Loci and the music they were releasing and I felt that my tunes fit well with their sound. I reached out to Emancipator and sent him my stuff directly. I had never spoken with him before but I thought I’d give it a chance to see if he’d even respond, haha… He did, and with some very positive feedback on the tracks! From there, things got moving pretty quickly with the label. He connected me with Chris, the Label Manager for Loci Records, and they invited me to be part of Loci’s Season Two compilation with my debut track "Climbing" in Spring 2019. Loci are very supportive and Chris has a really vast knowledge of the music industry. He’s really good at organizing for a release and coming up with creative ways to promote things, with consideration to the fact that most artists are really quite financially strapped right now. Loci allow a lot of freedom to contribute ideas for helping get the word out. All the artists on the label are really cool people. We all keep in touch and share new tracks with each other as they are in the development stages. It’s a great fit.
Getting signed to Loci and having this great working relationship with the label was, and still is, a pivotal moment for me as an artist. It helped solidify a lot of things I had been wondering about the music I was creating. As an artist you’re often sharing your latest creations with loved ones or peers or if you’re lucky, on a stage while performing. But when established people in the industry sign you to a label that you really respect, it let me know that what I was creating was “on the level”.
It's been a couple of months since the release of your debut album Here We All Are and looking back, what lessons did you learn from the creation process and the release that you apply to your current projects?
The big lesson was that you’ve only got the road ahead of a release to promote it. Once it’s out, the window is much narrower to try and garner any attention. So really trying to make the most of the time leading up to a release. I also learned how to work with audio engineers as opposed to me mixing it myself as I’d always done in the past. This process taught me a lot about how to communicate what I was after sound-wise to the engineers.
I’ve always been more of a cosmic, drawn-out storyteller with my music; have a slower build and make it more of a journey, so I’ve been learning to try and make my tracks a bit shorter. As an underground artist, I realize that building a core audience of people invested in my sound takes time, so my goal is to try and tell my musical story in less time in hopes that those listeners who aren’t aware of me, might give my tracks a listen. I always refer to my good friend and amazing DJ, Kid Koala’s quote: “Make it weird, they’ll get it later”.
How did the emotionally charged "Can't Hurt Me Now" come about and what story was Sierra Lundy trying to convey with her songwriting?
We had discussed doing some collaborations, and she was drawn to the music I had created for what came to be "Can’t Hurt Me Now". I was trying to create something that wasn’t too lyrical but instead relied heavily on feeling and vibe. She came in and we recorded a few ideas and worked on the lyrics a bit. I think it’s really just about not letting anyone bring you down. Understanding that each of us is amazing just as we are. It’s kind of a simple but revealing sentiment.
Words from Sierra Lundy:
“When Murge played me the track, my first thought was that the instrumentation possessed a powerful mixture of certainty and strength, yet there was a degree of sadness that lingered in the atmosphere. I always record a little voice memo of the first words and melody that come to mind when I'm working on a song, in order to access an honest interpretation of the emotional content— It’s so easy to overthink lyrics. ‘Can’t hurt me now’ was the first phrase that came out, so that felt like an authentic place to start... even though I honestly have no idea what it's about. The rest sort of came together as we laid the vocals down, but some of the words were left being completely nonsensical and letting the sounds speak instead.”
Your sound is certainly dance-floor friendly, yet also has quite an atmospheric, laid back aesthetic to it. From what you noticed how in your sets, have crowds generally responded to this?
I kind of like to take a free-flowing approach to my DJ sets; drawing inspiration from the psychedelic and Cosmic era sounds of disco, jazz, Latin, and world-inspired music. I try to push things into the more experimental side of music a bit more. As much as I love making a dance party happen, I also love to throw in some more reflective tracks to help ground things - allow people to re-group a bit. I’ve always been a fan of a lot of different genres of music: downtempo, disco, funk, house, soul, ambient, rock. I’m an accomplished turntablist and enjoy mixing up multiple genres throughout my set. A kind of cut-and-paste approach. Saying that, I really enjoy watching sets that focus on the deeper side of music, and not just hearing all the latest hits. I prefer more of a rollercoaster journey; one that embraces sounds that create a deep feeling and desire to groove.
When I make my music, I always envision playing it live. I feel I’ve built a following of people that want to hear music with substance and soul in it, and that’s what I truly enjoy creating and playing. I had one of my best moments playing at a festival out here called ‘Song and Surf’, spinning an all-vinyl set, ’Murge’s Vinyl Voyage’ and I had just received the vinyl test pressings for Here We All Are so I played "Can’t Hurt Me Now" and the place erupted! People knew every word and were singing and grooving. The track had only been out a couple of weeks at that point, and I had no idea just how far it had already reached... it was awesome.
What would you say DJ-ing gives you that producing at a secluded location can't?
DJ-ing is a big passion of mine; it's an incredible way to connect with your audience and test out tracks. I think DJ-ing in clubs and at festivals really is a big influence on how I produce. I’ve had magical moments being on stage when something really clicks with the crowd, and that definitely has inspired some of my records. However, I also draw a lot of inspiration from travelling and also from being out in nature. I often include a lot of field recordings that I capture while travelling, sounds of nature, city sounds, wind, water, rocks clacking together…all those sounds have made it into my tracks over the years. DJ-ing for me is about creating energy and a feeling that allows the audience to let loose and just be present in the moment.
I'm curious to hear your thoughts about going to an institution to study music production vs being in a room for years and teaching yourself?
I mean I think it really depends on what you want to do. I think there’s a lot of merit to taking some formal training as there’s a lot to learn and understand with production. I taught some DJ lessons and a bit of music production and loved the spark that it ignited. Of course, there’s the song creation process, but the engineering side of things that can be quite challenging. I am still always seeking out new methods and techniques to use in my own productions. There’s a lot of online resources online that can help people learn more about mixing and engineering as well. School can definitely help prepare you for the industry and fast track you to understanding things a lot. And now with Covid, a lot of artists who would normally be on tour are now offering online production lessons.
During these times of uncertainty and chaos, what are you doing right now to cultivate a sense of clarity and calm?
I’ve stayed focused on creating music and getting time in my studio - listening to a lot of relaxing records too! Stuff like Jon Hopkins, Olafur Arnalds, Chilly Gonzales, Nils Frahm. Living on Vancouver Island, I’m so lucky to have been able to spend a lot of time outdoors, hiking, surfing, jogging, beach walks. I find that exercise, meditating and focused breathing really helps to keep my mind and body in a calmer state. I’ve been learning a lot about video editing and working on upping my skills there. Lots of quality time and good conversations with loved ones too.
So… 1) An artist/band you would have a D.M.C (Deep Meaningful Conversion), 2) An artist/band you’d love to party with. 3) Artist/band you would like to be within the studio for a week.
1)Alive - Khruangbin / Dead - Gil Scott Heron
3)Bonobo or Maribou State