Bringing Sketches To Life: Murlo Talks
The creativity of Murlo knows no bounds. With each release comes a new world. Blending elements of bashment, dancehall, garage, bass and anything distinctively UK, Murlo has crafted a sonic personality that is impossible to shy into the corner of genre restriction.
Every track represents a journey through anime inhabited worlds were machines roar and the future comes to life. An imaginative odyssey; continually evolving as each subtle element is introduced, adding explosive colour and self reflective meditation to our imaginative dreamscape.
Murlo has been making waves in the world of illustration for time, having designed several of his own project covers and creating short animations that tug on the heartstrings, even when they’re simply on a ten second loop.
Thirsty for more, the Manchester born artist has channelled inspiration from his hometown, Asia, Cyberpunk fiction and the beautiful worlds of Studio Ghibli into the creation of his very own AV show.
I caught up with the innovative creative himself to chat about everything from visual aesthetics to scoring science fiction shorts.
Where do you come up with the ideas for your artwork? Are you influenced or inspired by anything in particular?
"Yeah all sorts really. When I first thought about bringing a visual element into a set, I had the idea that I wanted it to be a culmination of everything I was working on at the time and I felt I had more to offer than just the DJing I’ve been doing for so long now. I had the idea of presenting the music in settings, like almost like a theatrical stage or something. I took pictures of places while I toured and referenced a lot of places in Manchester where I live. There’s a lot of industrial scenes in it which I took inspiration from where I grew up in the midlands, we lived behind the industrial estate where my dad works and where I spent messing around a lot as a kid so I remember all these massive machines. When I started putting together the AV show I think I'd just finished the video for ‘Tired Of U’ and I was touring. I needed something at the time that wouldn't run out of battery, and so I started reading again. I think the William Gibson books had a big impact."
Is there a particular William Gibson book that really stands out for you?
"I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read so far although I think I've Idoru resonated with me the most."
His work during the early 80’s is said to have left people baffled as the imaginative expression he was conjuring up was so beyond what a person’s mind at the time could comprehend. Do you draw inspiration from this? When I listen to your music I think of something that’s ahead of the curve, imaginative and distinctive. In a way, this relates to that work of Gibson.
(laughs) "I’m flattered for the comparison, I think what I like about his vision so much is that it doesn’t just stop at whatever technology the characters have, it’s the other details of the world he’s built; banks being owned by corporations, “Slitscan” the huge invasive entertainment corporation that thrives on consuming public information, the struggle of bohemianism due to the media machine working so fast to associate itself with underground culture. It all rings true today, and it’s probably why his books are so great to read 20/30 years on. When it comes to my music I don’t really think there is similarity there with the work process, I’m not sure. I listen to a lot of different music which I think helps me make stuff that isn’t strictly one genre. I think envisioning worlds for your music to exist in helps you create an individual sound though, so I guess that’s something. When it comes to trying to be inventive with music I think it’s important to not disregard the roots, give thanks to the artists who paved the way and pushed things forward in the past. I find constant inspiration from older tracks, I think the tracks and scenes that truly changed a field and spawned something new are tracks that came from something before it, an off shoot of a genre that wasn’t approached the same way before. That’s how I see the lineage of a lot of music anyway. Maybe that’s how Gibson has managed to make these cultural forecasts in his writing, watching what happened before and being aware with what’s happening now as much as what can happen in the future, I don’t know maybe I’m just rambling too!"
You say you took pictures of places while you toured as references for your AV show, as well as in your home of Manchester. Was there anywhere that particularly inspired you while you were touring?
"Yeah I travelled around Asia playing shows and I loved every city. It feels like a blur now I try and think back, which was probably down to the lack of sleep whilst touring but it’s like one of those hazy dreams that you remember when you wake up where you have a stronger memory of the feeling rather than exact details you can describe. I took sound recordings and photos but it wasn’t enough I don’t think, I need to go back and spend more time in a few of the cities. I would love to have a more extended time in Japan for instance and collaborate with artists over there. There’s sometimes very little time for things like that whilst you’re touring as so many things can dictate how long you can be in a city for, but maybe I’ll try and take some proper time out next time I go there."
When did you first start getting into illustration and animation?
"My dad taught me how to draw and shade when I was young. I always had the idea of being an illustrator from school; my dad really wanted me to pursue it because he didn't really have the chance to do that himself. I had the opportunity to study at uni and I went for it. I was the first person in my family to ever go and that kind of drove me to work harder at it. After uni I took up DJing and got more involved in music and I've been enjoying that as a different outlet. Animation is something I'm still teaching myself and working on."
You say that you like to think of a setting when creating music and then create a soundtrack to what you think would suit it. Has there been any inspiration from animated setting from the likes of Studio Ghibli, who are masters at melding the arts of score and setting?
"I think I’ve definitely been impacted by Ghibli films yeah and also films like Paprika and Tekkonkinkreet which I think all have really strong ways of world building in the films. I would love to put forward something more grandiose like a longer film but the time restraints and the fact that I’m doing all the work means I have to adapt. I think if I had a team of people working on it with me it would feel a lot different and maybe not as personal but I’m trying to push myself to what one person can do."
I think most people visualise something when they listen to music. What kind of visual aesthetic do you feel your music incites?
"Well the thing is sometimes it's the opposite, I like to imagine settings for the music, and i’d visualise a place or atmosphere and write music to soundtrack it. When I plan out the visuals for a track in the AV show I just go with it though, I don't overthink it. Generally I’d work piece by piece switching from working on a track to drawing scenes as I go. I'm sure people visualise completely different things for my music, I’ve had a lot of people tell me how happy it is which I don’t hear myself."
How does the visual aesthetic of your music filter into your AV Show?
"Is there a particular concept behind the show? The show does have a narrative, but it's intentionally loose and open to interpretation. Essentially I wanted to visualise my music and the story uses that as a vessel. What I can say is that everything exists in its own universe and the music I make is the soundtrack to that place."
What kind of work goes into the AV show? From the creation of the idea to the setting up on the day?
"So to begin with I have a little A5 note pad where I jot ideas and I usually cut them out and lay them on the table and rearrange them into a timeline. After that I draw everything in Photoshop, animate and plan certain scenes and prepare them to go into Aftereffects where I stitch the scenes together and render some of the live transparency layers. After that I load them into the programs and see how they look. Typically if I have a week dedicated to working on the AV show my life is usually a complete unstructured mess though. The whole process is something I'm learning to be more disciplined with and not be so chaotic. I tend to skip meals and never leave the flat which results in me feeling quite isloated. With time I think I can figure out a better routine but its really taught me how important it is to look after yourself when working on big project."
You’ve been inviting some really cool artists to play at your shows, such as Mr. Mitch and Sega Bodega. How healthy do you feel UK music is right now with such forward thinking artists, yourself included, pushing such experimental sounds?
"I’ve been very lucky in having the support I have, and I just want to say a massive thank you to all the artists that have performed at the shows so far. I’ve been DJing in clubs for a number of years now, its nice to have the opportunity to break free of some of the constraints of being a club DJ and to be able to present songs in a different context and I hope some of the guests have felt that too."
How did you get involved with Carmen Mueck’s ‘Fruit’ and how did you find composing the score?
"I’ve known Carmen for a number of years since university, recently she approached me saying that she was working on this project “Fruit” and she needed a score for it. I had about a week so I worked on it nonstop for a couple of days and sent it back. The film looks amazing, and it was an enlightening experience writing the music for it. Really hope I get to work on more soundtracking projects like this in the future, I'm always looking for opportunities."
If you could choose one score to soundtrack your life, what would it be?
"It would be so difficult to pick one full score, I hear a few individual tracks to a score and become obsessed with them as opposed to the whole thing and I guess they kind of lose context become more personal. So it would probably be a playlist of cherry picked tracks.
A few tunes that would definitely be on the list is Kirill Pokrovsky’s “Divine Transcendance” from Divinity: Original Sin…
Mica Levi’s “Love” from the film Under the Skin…
… and Kenji Kawai’s “Nightstalker” from Ghost in the shell OST.
Lastly, Hiroki Kikuta’s “Ceremony” from the OST of Secret of Mana… "
I saw a photo of you and Big Zuu in the studio together. Any insight into how that collaboration may sound?
"Yeah we saw each other at Outlook recently and he told me he wrote some stuff to a beat he had of mine a while back. He had a show up here in Manchester a few weeks ago so we sorted out a session at the Swing Ting studio and put some ideas down, sounding wicked so far!"
Any future projects you can tell us about?
"The AV show is my long term focus so I'm constantly working on that, adding more scenes and tracks and making it the best it can be. We're taking it to Bristol and Manchester this month, then Glasgow and Brighton in the New Year, and seeing about taking it further afield after that. Ive been working on music with a few other artists such as Zora Jones and Sinjin Hawke and I'm just continuing to write my own solo stuff too. Keeping busy!"
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