“Montreal’s got ADD, just like me. A sleepless, restless city.”
I feel honored to say that I was able to interview Montreal’s own “Pirate” Jess Abran and Producer/Turntablist Morbin for their upcoming collaboration. This is not the first time they have collaborated but it was back in 2012 when “Reprise” was released. Some say that their collaboration was their best track yet… so I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I can’t wait to hear what they’re coming up with next.
Jess has been one of my favorite red heads since back in the Clyde’s days. Her voice is remarkable. As for Morbin, “trip hop” will never be the same for me after hearing his work. So, sit back, relax and enjoy the interview, (I know that I loved getting to know them better and so will you, trust me). Also, please be sure to check out their work- follow them, share their pages, anything you can do to support them would be greatly appreciated.
You both have quite impressive solo careers, this interview is actually a tad intimidating! So, two years of a hiatus- what brought you two together again?
J: The reason for our hiatus is personal, but a spark of musical inspiration is definitely the reason we are now back on track.
M: Simply, I just miss the texture and energy Jess’ voice brings to my sounds.
How did you first meet?
J: I remember! it must have been nearly 7 years a go… I was playing a show at Clyde’s which is now the Pioneer, Jon was on the turn tables that night and I had just finished playing my set. He came up to me after the show, shook my hand and told me I had a hell of a voice. We became pretty fast friends after that! Oh! And we were also really big fans of the game Diablo “Dziablo” lol (and still are)
M: […] I came over and installed Diablo 1 on Jess’ computer so we could play online. A little bit of gamer nostalgia!
And what made you want to collaborate together originally?
J: First time I heard Morbin’s music I fell in love. I knew no one at the time who was creating anything so ambient and dark. It was absolutely fantastic and I was drawn to it right away. Really reminiscent of that 90’s trip hop style. I still tell him all the time that it’s the easiest thing to write to as a songwriter and vocalist.
M: Jess and I liked similar music and shared similar musical interests. I don’t meet many people that feel passionate about my downtempo, low energy sounds. Knowing that Jess felt that way was a perfect recipe for collaboration.
What music/ which artists inspire you?
J: These days I’m really into Bossa Nova jazz ( The beautifully sad stuff)
Also love my old school HipHop (Tribe called Quest, J Dilla, Notorious BIG ext..)
A Few indie, acoustic, and experimental artists (The National, Sigur Ros, James Blake, Alt-J, Amon Tobin, Massive Attack, Portishead).. My playlist is infinite, so I will spare you…
M: It depends on the day really, but I’ve always drawn musical inspiration from Lorn, Moby, Amon Tobin, Massive Attack, Exist Strategy, Murcof, Sorrow, Kla Tu, Atu, Smaug, Burial, Four Tet, FKA Twigs, Loscill, William Basinski, Hauschka, Tennysson, CoMa. I’m sure I’m forgetting some…
What was the first musical experience that really touched you?
J: I’ve been to so many concerts, but Sigur Ros brought me to tears.. every time.
M: Michael Jackson was my first love of music; the first time I felt like I knew and understood someone through their art without actually meeting them.
I also remember a tape my mom played often. It was an audio-book. The premise was a boy practicing piano in his living room and having Tchaikosvky magically appear in the room and give him pointers on how to play better. I’m youtubing his concertos right now and the memories are potent!
Did you come from musical families?
J: My Dad played a little guitar in high school, and my mum was in the choir when my siblings and I were just kids. But I’m the only one in the family who really pursued music.
M: Yes! My mom played the piano, and my dad’s mom played the organ. My older brother also played the piano and started to delve into production in high school.
What started your individual musical careers?
J : For me it was my tour in Europe where I got to play the Berlin Melt Festival with Animal Collective and Dear Hunter and many more artists I wasn’t even aware of! I was only 19 at the time and it was my first time leaving the country ALONE in a foreign country. Let me tell you.. Trip of a life time. It really opened my eyes as an artist.
M: Hip-Hop! I listened to a lot of hip-hop in high school and was very drawn to its anti-establishment culture, if you will. I tried rapping, break dancing, writing, but sucked at all of those. My last option to contribute to the culture of hip-hop was DJing. So I got into that. I bought a pair of turntables and a mixer and scratched day in and day out for years, literally. I owe much of my social awkwardness to DJing, having missed out on a lot of social conditioning by isolating myself in my room for so long and nerding out on scratching. DJing inevitably led to music production, something about being exposed to music so often for so long unearthed a desire to create it myself. Production was an easy platform to access since my brother had been doing it years prior to me getting into DJing and showing any remote interest in it.
How has the process of making music changed for you over the years?
J: Honestly, now more than ever it’s been slower because “the real world” is now pulling at me from every angle. But I’ve always, ALWAYS been a creative person musically, and have always worked, and surround myself with creative people.
M: I am becoming much more economic with my sounds and placing more importance on melody. I used to think music was all about texture, sounds, and complexity of sounds and rhythm. And though music may be much of these things, I’m starting to put those on the back burner and pay more respect to melody. Melody is the heart and soul of a song in my opinion. If you have a boring melody, you have a boring song (and I’m guilty of this). If you have a heartfelt, novel melody, you have an affective song. For someone with little theoretical background, I have to dig deep for those melodies, which is proving to be a very arduous process.
Which instruments are used? Mixer/Turntable etc?
J: Morbin works his magic with whatever he’s got.. I just close my little eyes and sing.
M: For Jess and I’s music: a turntable, mixer, controller (for effects automations), piano, vocals.
How long have each of you been artists?
J: Oh, I always had it in me… Was born an artist and will always be an artist. Was singing since before I could walk and was in vocal pageants before I could read.
M: My whole life I think. I don’t think art is always necessarily developed but rather innate. I also don’t believe you necessarily need to create a work to be considered an artist. I’ve always maintained that the simple act of thought can be an art. If I sit and stare at a tree and think deeply about it – how old it is, how it breathes, how it moves, the birds, animals, and insects it houses, its intricate roots structure- if those thoughts put my life on hold for a brief moment, and make me forget about everything except that tree, I’d like to think that those thoughts are a form of art, a type of poetry. In that regard, everyone has the potential to be an artist.
How do you balance your music careers with other responsibilities? (9-5 jobs, school, etc)
J: Balance? I don’t! Girl, I’m in therapy.. But it’s all part of the game..
M: I don’t. My life is not balanced. Things drastically change from year to year. I’ve gone months without making music. There’s no pressure. Life happens, and you have to deal with it. There will always be compromises. But I don’t have deadlines with music, nor do I have any specific goal with it. I just do it when I have the time and when I’m feeling inspired.
How long does it usually take for you to fully complete a song?
J: Anywhere from 5 minutes to a year sounds about right.
M: It definitely varies. I have songs that have been brewing for years that I intend to revisit at some point. It all depends on the inspiration in the moment. A song can take anywhere from 20 minutes to make, to years.
What is the hardest part of being artists?
J: Having convinced yourself some days that you might in fact be crazy. Having high anxiety and an untamed mind.
M: An unquiet mind.
What do you enjoy most about being musical artists?
J: To be able to look at one thing and mold it into something else.
M: Being able to turn something intangible like emotion into something that a human sense can interpret in whatever way it wants.
What message do you want your music to portray?
J: Beauty can be found in scary places.
M: Beauty in melancholy. Unity amid chaos. Ying and yang.
What are your music goals in the long run?
M: To continue making it.
Are you performing in any events or have any shows coming up?
M: July 22nd I will be performing at Divan Orange for the Montreal edition of ‘Skratcher’, an event that started in Toronto and that has branched off throughout North-America. It’s a platform where DJs can jam and scratch and also showcase their turntablism skills.
I’m also giving a bunch of free DJ workshops throughout the months of July and August to youths at Riverdale High-School.
What is the best way for fans to contact you?
Facebook: Jonathan Rist
What is your favorite part of living in Montreal?
J: Montreal’s got ADD, just like me. A sleepless, restless city.
M: The quiet suburbs.
What would you like your fans to know?
M: That I’m sitting in my boxers eating sweet potato fries in my living room. Actually.
What is your favorite venue to play in within Montreal? The rest of the world (touring etc)?
J: Metropolis at Jazz Fest 2015 with URBAN SCIENCE… BAM! Was a dream come true.
M: Opening for Wu-Tang at Metropolis when I was 19 was quite an experience. I would love to play in an enchanted forest somewhere.
What can we expect to see in the near future from Jess & Morbin?
M: We are two tracks into a 12 track EP I believe, but who knows really. How’s that for ambiguous? Haha! No deadline, I’m taking this project slow and don’t want to rush it. I also want to finish everything before I release any track. I could foresee a lot of progress done by winter 2016.
My countdown to Winter 2016 starts now.
Thank you to both Jess & Jon for taking the time to do this interview.
As always, thank you for reading and be sure to support your local artists!