Ahead of our night on October 4th at the White Hotel with Héctor Oaks, Claire Morgan & T A K A, we had the pleasure of interviewing Australian turned Berliner, film composer and techno DJ, the one and only: Claire Morgan.

So I’ll jump straight in – I’m super curious to hear about your early years learning music. From your RA bio, you performed your first original piano piece at age 11 in Taipei (amazing!) – are you able to give us a bit of a chronology of what happened next? Were you using a DAW age 11 or did that come later?
DAW etc. was much later, it was all classical at that age. I played a few instruments and performed my composition a few times, but didn’t write anything again until high school music assignments, at which point I realised that composing music was my thing for life.
Following on from the previous question, can you pinpoint any key influences in your life (people/music/events) that began your transition from the orchestral work, into the world of the underground, and the electronic? 
There was never really a transition, both the classical/composing and electronic/DJ sides of my life have developed independently, with their own distinct career paths, and they have coexisted in various ways over the years.

Until about 6 years ago, composing for film/tv/etc was the focus and DJing was on the side. At the moment I’m DJing every weekend, have just finished writing my first song for a play in London and am working on a series of piano improvisations. I took a break from film work for a few years but that’s starting to creep back in again. So things are always changing, and I like it like that.

Your track ‘inexorably’ really transports us to another place when we listen to it, it’s absolutely lush. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it as a composition – your process, your feeling behind it. Where did the track emerge from? 

Thank you! A couple of years ago it was time for my dog & bestie Charlie to head off to hound heaven. I wrote this track to play to him when I went back to Australia to spend some time before saying goodbye. I was so unbelievably sad but also deeply grateful and getting lost in years of memories, and thinking a lot about the inevitability of time passing and losing people we love.

In the end, I recorded an ambient mix including ‘Inexorably’ at God Goes Deep in the Copenhagen Cathedral, complete with room and overhead mics in a super wide mixdown, and played the whole thing to Charlie on repeat (he dug it). This track is a special one because it was the beginning of a new style of music for me and a completely new process which I am still working with now. I consider it to be his final gift to me. 

Onto gear talk – what does your music studio look like, can you describe it? Hardware, software? And are there any bits of kit you couldn’t live without, if so, why? 

Prophet 5 rev3.3 is my number one piece of gear and has been the starting point for most of my music for about 12 years. It’s so diverse and seems to fit everywhere, including with live instruments and ensembles which is great because my needs change constantly along with whatever it is that I’m writing. ‘Inexorably’ is almost entirely Prophet 5. I also use a MonoPoly, Acidlab Miami, Nord G2 Modular, Moog Little Phatty, plus Native Instruments sample libraries etc. I rarely use soft synths and am the furthest thing from a tech nerd. 

Prophet 5 rev 3.3 Claire Morgan Meat Free

“Morgan’s mixing is tight and assured. Even when the music is heart-in-mouth intense, her transitions are like an outstretched hand in a dark room: You grab on, hold tight, and plunge ahead into the fray.” – that is a mega quote that gets us very excited for you playing Meat Free! On the topic of mixing transitions ‘that reach out like an outstretched hand in a dark room’, I would LOVE to know more about your mixing approach. Are there any habits you have which are distinctly individual to your style of mixing? For example, are you heavy on the loops, the cue points, do you plan ahead with how you’re going to build tension, or do you prefer being in the moment?

I am pretty old school and use unlinked CDJs like they are turntables, and I had a similar technique with vinyl as I do now with digital but it’s much easier to nail long mixes with CDJs. I still also play some vinyl in Berlin and a few other places but mostly not touring with records anymore. I am busy mixing most of the time when I’m DJing, layering sounds and creating new ways to experience tracks. This definitely requires more thought and programming than just picking tracks on the fly, but it’s also important to be adaptable and in the moment. Track selection and mixing are my tools to create flow, tension and release, rather than using effects or CDJ features, and I play a lot of my own edits. 

Another one I love asking just to get a different perspective. If you couldn’t do your job and could start again – what job would you do? (I asked this to XDB who said he’d be a tennis coach – and that he actually was one in his spare time because he also loves tennis!!)

Music stole me for good around the age of 15, but before then I was planning to be a horse vet, specifically polo horses. I was serious about it and during high school worked on weekends as a strapper at polo matches (where I was nicknamed DJ Supreme for loudly playing rave tapes on the sidelines).

Finally, are there any producers/DJs that we should be keeping an eye out for that you rate? Big, small or bubbling up – happy to get recommendations to put on our radars!

Eternal: Luke Slater, Djrum, Objekt, Detroit in general. Current froth: Barker, D.Dan, Hadone.

Make sure you give Claire Morgan a follow on Soundcloud and Facebook and Resident Advisor.

Meat Free Manchester Oct 2019 - Hector Oaks, Claire Morgan, TAKA
Bringing Techno to Manchester. Democratising dancefloors.