Chrome Canyon (aka Morgan Z) is the soundtrack of the future – that is, if the future was powered by deliriously grandiose 80s synths, sweeping space-age visuals and Giorgio Moroder basslines with extra funk. We geek out with Stones Throw’s newest addition.
How would you describe your music to someone who hadn’t heard it before?
I usually say something like “imagine for a moment you’re in space surfing a wave of cosmic star dust…” and then they usually say something lame like “let go of my arm you’re hurting me” or “why aren’t you wearing any pants?” That’s usually as far as the conversation goes.
We presume you’re a pretty big fan of film soundtracks. What are some of your favourites?
I guess to start, pretty much any John Carpenter film. In particular, Christine is a favorite. Then there’s the Tangerine Dream stuff – Legend, Thief, Risky Business. Of course Vangelis – Blade Runner is obviously undeniable – sorta the ultimate combination of amazing movie and music.
If your album Elemental Themes was the soundtrack to a film, what would that film be and why?
It’s funny you ask, because I actually wrote a treatment for the entire record. It’s is a very psychedelic and speedy overview of the progression of human history and invention. Each song is a sort of “chapter”. It basically goes from the dawn of man through an imagined self-destruction by nuclear weapons. I had the idea of trying to direct an animated short that would span the whole album and tell this story – but it turns out that takes a LOT of money. Haha… someday.
What was the first song you ever made and what did it sound like?
This is a funny question, because believe it or not – the first song I ever made was Pachelbel’s Canon in D, only I thought I had written it. I was about 7 I think. I had been playing piano for about a year. And I sat down and was messing around and found these chords that fit together so beautifully, and then this melody that just sounded like I’d heard it before. I kept playing it over and over and told my parents I had written it. At which point I was made aware that actually I hadn’t written it, but had probably just heard it so many times (it’s no joke, that song is everywhere) that it was embedded in my subconscious. I’m sure that’s still happening to me, only now I can just pawn it off as me being “post-modern”.
What do you say when people call synth music a throwback or a shtick?
I think there is some synth music that is very obviously “of an era”. And some of the music I make walks that line – after all I’m using “throwback” technology. To a certain extent you need a shtick, something that you can play with, and not take too seriously. I think in terms of my music, there’s something familiar about it because I’m following my influences. I try to bring a certain level of musicianship and creativity to the process, and I think if you listen you can hear that I’m really playing stuff – and I’m taking that seriously. Art repeats and builds on itself, I’m a firm believer in that. So I really try to embrace whatever music has moved me and build on it. Originality is such a deceptive concept – how does that saying go? “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” I’m not out to steal, but like I said – I really thought I had written Pachelbel’s Canon in D…
If you could record a soundtrack for any film (whether it already exists or one that you’d love to see made), what film would that be?
When Hollywood decides to make a live action Speed Racer… oh wait they did, and Emile Hirsch was in it. Damn it, that sucked! Okay… fine, Road Warrior remake – this time Mel Gibson’s the bad guy.
What song on the record are you most proud of and why?
I’d say the title track Elemental Themes is one I really love. That track exemplifies the mentality that I have about synths – they’re instruments, just like pianos or drums, not just pieces of technology. They’re so rich with unique textures and sounds, and if you play them like instruments they can be as deep and rich as an orchestra.
Do you live and breathe synth music? Would you ever branch out and make a, say, folk record?
Yes! I’d love to do a folk record someday, sure! I’ve recorded other artists that are much more “acoustic” at my studio, and I’m actually a really big fan of slide guitar. I think I’m neck deep in the synths now and I’ll probably stay there for a while, but I love a lot of different types of music – and who’s to say where that’ll take me!
Elemental Themes is out now. soundcloud.com/chromecanyon
Words: Zing Tsjeng