Artist to Artist: Mor Elian & Rhyw
Three years ago Mor Elian and Rhyw AKA Alex Tsiridis launched their Fever AM imprint as a space to explore the deep, dark corners of electronic music. Predominantly providing a platform for them both to share their own productions, in recent years the label has also welcomed Gacha Bakradze into the family for a solo joint, as well as spotlighting friends and artists from across the world on a couple of V/A releases.
Both operating out of Berlin, the pair have individually bolstered their reputations as skilled DJs and producers over the last few years. While Elian has been soundtracking dance floors around the globe and charting records with the likes of Radio Matrix, Visible Spectrum and Hypercolour, Rhyw has also been making movements, as part of techno duo Cassegrain and solo on labels like Seilscheibenpfeiler and his own Arcing Seas, showcasing his intricate approach to sound design.
Following the release of Loom High, his latest outing on Fever AM following 2019’s Biggest Bully, the pair sit down to discuss musical upbringings, routes into production and what the future of the label holds.
Mor: Alex, most people don’t know this but you are half Welsh half Greek and were raised in both countries pretty equally. Having spent your adolescence in the UK, do you think that was crucial to your musical upbringing?
Rhyw: Yeah, we were back n forth quite a lot, but the period in Greece before moving back to the UK was when I got into electronic stuff, from around 8 or 9 years old so that’s when the seeds were planted. My tastes are definitely heavily UK informed but hard to say how important it was actually being there during my teens, since I was in Bournemouth – not much going on and I didn’t know anyone in to electronic music (until my Art Foundation course, before uni). Saying that, it was where i started messing around making stuff.
Mor: What were your first clubbing experiences in the UK like?
Alex: First experiences were at The Consortium in Bournemouth. They seemed to book quite a lot of nu-skool breaks, it was the post-progressive house era, kindof. I remember seeing James Lavelle / UNKLE play, Plump DJs, that kind of thing. Then when I moved to London for uni, I had a lot more choice. Tea Bar was a big deal, had some great nights there! And of course Fabric and The End…
Mor: Yes, about those years, I think what I find so interesting is even though we grew up in different places, we have so many parallels in common musical influences. Theres a big common thread, mostly because Israel is so UK influenced in music.
Rhyw: What was the first time you felt serious about music, beyond consuming it?
Mor: To be honest, it was when I saw other women DJing, thats when I felt there was space for me. Especially WOC. It got to a point in my life that I felt like if I didn’t “go for it” with pursuing music, I would always feel like I gave up my biggest passion. I think moving to the USA at a young age also allowed me to have more opportunities.
Mor: I know you chose to go to university in London, where you met some of your best friends. There is where you really got into making music. How did it all start?
Rhyw: I was already making stuff in Bournemouth, with Fruity Loops initially then got into Reason, but it definitely felt more real in London. I started using Ableton as well and was doing lots of weird stuff, had this goal of making a contemporary version of Rembetika (Greek folk music, kinda the equivalent to Blues). This never worked out, but i was using a lot of chopped up bouzouki samples, which then led to an accidental loop. Was living with Ed (Davenport/ Inland) – we met the year before and moved to London for uni together with some friends – who heard it and basically convinced me to make it into a techno track (well, minimal-ish) which became my first release and that’s what got me stuck in. So Ed was very important in me getting started (we’re still very very close and live pretty close in Berlin).
Rhyw: I’m not sure I’ve asked you this before – you were already DJing in bars and stuff before in LA, but when did you decide you wanted to make music?
Mor: I actually always wanted to but didn’t believe I could or thought it was hard to make good music. I think I’m still very critical about what I do when I sit in the studio. Like, my expectations are big of myself. I tried to make music long before djing, but djing was my chance to have my voice in music and it built my confidence to make music.
Mor: It’s interesting as you are Welsh, you grew up with strong UK electronic music influence, but the music you put out in the start was more Berlin sounding. Seems like you came around a lot to your UK roots now with the Rhyw project. What prompted that?
Rhyw: I’ve always been into loads of music coming out of the UK, that never changed, but I think with the Cassegrain project I got very deep into techno and the “scene” here, so even though I was following other stuff, I wasn’t making that kind music. It got to the point I really felt like doing something alone as well, was quite simple tbh, a need basically. There’s lots of magic in collaboration but it’s also nice to have full creative control over a project, think I just missed that feeling.
Rhyw: Have you ever thought about collaborating with another artist? Is it something you’re keen to do?
Mor: Well, yes I thought about it, but I think it’s something that has to come up organically, has to feel right like any other type of relationship. But you know everyone has their own work flow, its strange to imagine splitting the work.
Mor: Feels like Biggest Bully was a big moment musically for you as it seemed to have formed a more refined sound that is Rhyw. Would you say that’s accurate?
Rhyw: In a way, it gave me a push, made me realise a lot about what I want to make. Although I wouldn’t say it’s refined. I find it hard to stand still style-wise, so I’m still making different stuff but trying to connect it all with the sound, aesthetic and the process I go through, hopefully that’s starting to work out. I like to connect releases on the different labels i’m releasing on, so the stuff I do for Avian has a common thread running throughout and this new EP on Fever AM is a sort of follow up to Biggest Bully last year, whereas the 2 records in between (on SSPB) i feel are a bit different.
Rhyw: I’m very happy with how we’ve been running Fever AM, at our own pace, not rushing out releases. How do you see the label developing from here?
Mor: Well, Fever AM is one of the most fulfilling projects I’ve ever been involved in, alongside the Into The Woods parties I started with Maheras in LA (now we also have Teira involved in the project). I think when we first started the label there was pressure from us to state what the direction was but that was hard to do without allowing things to develop naturally, and I think 3 years in, you can clearly see the identity there. It is something that may also continue to evolve with time, as we do. It’s really liberating having your own platform to release your own music without the boundaries of others vision and also amplifying other peoples voices is so rewarding, using your own platform to push others is a gift.
Rhyw: You’ve had a few streams lately and got some good DJ practice in, but do you miss playing out in *actual real clubs*?
Mor: I do miss playing clubs, and being around people in a club environment. I realised how much we needed that kind of environment to stay inspired and progress.
Mor: Seems like you were in the flow in the studio and were pumping out plenty of music. How has Covid-19 affected your creativity?
Rhyw: Seems to have gone in waves really. For the first month, don’t think I did anything, then went through a nice little phase and have been dipping in and out the past month or so. I’ve had a few targets in mind so that helps but generally the problem has been finding the motivation to actually finish tracks. It’s been a mixture of “oh great now i have loads of time” and “oh no, what am I going to do with my life”. Has to be said though, we’re very fortunate to be stuck in Germany for all of this with the help we’ve received.
Alex: You don’t play any instruments but you’re very musical, something which became more obvious during lockdown with all the new stuff you’ve been preparing. Have you enjoyed having the down-time to explore new material?
Mor: Well, first few weeks I just needed to catch up with so much in life, I felt was neglected because of excessive travel. Then I got into a weird groove and made loads of tracks. Not having to deal with the pressures of the outside world and industry pressures has allowed me to tune into myself more. The last month was more challenging after the events that have taken place in the USA. Nothing felt relevant anymore besides trying to advocate more and learn more. It deeply affected me, and I haven’t really been able to focus. We can’t go back to normal and we have to stay accountable and keep others accountable for real progress.
Mor: I also saw this had a deep effect on you.
Rhyw: Yeah, everything has felt quite trivial lately with everything going on – and it is. It’s been a wake up call for many, myself included. I think it’s crucial to just keep the momentum going and not let this die out like another ‘crisis phase’ once media stops shining the spotlight on it as much. The positive thing is there have actually been results from the protests, donations, petitions, everything. It’s so easy to just return to our bubble but just need to persist and keep up the momentum.