SIP - SoundLAB Interview Project

Stary, Morgen

Morgen Stary
US artist



Interview: 10 questions

1. When did you start making music, what is/was your motivation to do it?

I was 14 when I started making my own music. I come from a musical family, my father is a classically trained pianist, and my mother and brother both studied voice. When I was 9 I spent some time living with my grandparents and my grandmother wouldn’t let me leave the house until I took my after school piano lesson.

Later on in junior high I really wanted an electric guitar. I begged my dad to buy me one but he bought me a nylon acoustic instead on the condition that if I kept at it and he saw improvement in my playing he’d eventually get me an electric guitar. I finally got the electric guitar but I had no desire to learn other people’s music or take lessons. Instead I would make up songs with another friend who played drums and record them on a ghetto blaster.

This went on for about a year until I got bored of the whole thing and the guitar went in the closet to gather dust. A couple years later a friend of my mom’s left a cassette four track recorder and a microphone over at our house, I’d say that was the beginning of the motivation to do it.

2. Tell me something about your living environment and the musical education.

I live in Los Angeles, a big sprawling city and media hub. There are a lot of places here to see and hear live music and it’s really easy to get lost if you’re not from here. I think having to drive everywhere and the traffic has a big influence on the people who live here.

3. Is making music your profession? What is the context in which you practice music nowadays?

Currently I make money as a postproduction sound mixer/sound designer for television. In the early 90’s I was making a living playing music in a touring band in Europe for a few years. After I moved back to the U.S. I decided to go to sound engineer school in order to become more self sufficient with my own music production and continued playing in rock bands. Lately the focus has been on collaborating with other musicians and experimenting with new ideas and ways of making.

4. How do you compose or create music or sound? Have you certain principles, use certain styles etc?

Most of the time I’ll start by toying around with a sound or instrument. When I have no real idea or direction I’ll just keep noodling around until I find a sound, rhythm, or it could be a chord sequence. I’m looking for something that I connect with, something that inspires me and holds my attention. Sometimes it’s a particular mood I’m connecting with or a certain sonic texture. There are also times when I have a definite idea for what I’m striving for, but most of the time it finds me. I have a folder on my computer with a bunch of ideas too; sometimes this is a good place to go as well.

A certain goal of mine is to be as objective as I can about my personal creations. It can be real easy to fall in love with something when it’s really not that good or think something isn’t very good when it is because of some insecurity. I think one of the hardest things about making is steering past the ego while being your own cheerleader.

5. Tell me something about the instruments, technical equipment or tools you use?

I have two computers in my studio, a G4 laptop and G4 tower running an old digidesign mix plus system. At the center of everything is a tascam dm-24 with some M-Audio SP-5B’s for monitoring. I also have a pretty sizeable microphone collection including a pair of marshall mxl-2001’s heavily modified with tubes, new circuit boards, and high quality components.

These days my sequencer of choice has been ableton live and I’ve also just taken an interest in max/msp/jitter. I have a custom guitar pedalboard I use with some effects that I built myself although I don’t always use it for guitar. I’m also a big fan of software synthesizers made by gforce software and native instruments.

For mixing and mastering I use pro tools because I think it allows me the most control for fine tuning a mix once all the elements have been recorded but recently I’ve started mixing right out of ableton live more as I get more comfortable with it. Sometimes I send more crucial material out to be mastered by other engineers. I always think it’s a good idea to run stuff by another set of ears.

6. What are the chances of New Media for the music production in general and you personally?

My understanding of new media is as a new language that is constantly changing. It’s also being added to by our collective (un)consciousness, music and music production is no exception. There is a line blurring music and what might be called “sound art”. There’s some music that’s completely textural and lives outside common musical functions, while there’s some “sound art” heavy on melody and rhythm.

It would almost seem that the chances of new media for music production are assured seeing how a lot of people are adapting so quickly to new technology and the pace at which new technology presents itself. Coupled with how much information is available to everyone via the internet it would seem that the chances are overcome when one just makes a decision to do something.

7. How about producing and financing your musical productions?

I work on material in my own studio and I’m at a point now where the costs of producing my own music are pretty much nonexistent. I’ve made it a point in my life to become as self sufficient as possible. A lot of what has led me here was a lot of groundwork in terms of learning about recording technology and investing in equipment. There have been large periods of my life where that actually took a lot of time away from creating new material but in the long run I’ve found it’s kept me out of the mercy of absolutely needing someone else. This is not to say that I don’t value collaboration, criticism, or an outside set of ears. Most of the work I do lately winds up as an mp3 so the costs have been cut down to the price of webserver space.

8. Do you work individually as a musician/sound artist or in a group or collaborative? If you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?

I’ve come to where I am today by being in bands. I started my first band in high school. Later on I joined a group and moved to The Netherlands for a few years and toured Europe. When I returned to the U.S. I played in a couple of more bands. I collaborate with friends on their projects either as a co-writer, producer, or engineer, the latest being a project by a friend of mine called The Microphonies.

I think there’s a big difference between working alone and working with others. When you’re working alone the possibilities are pretty much limited to your own imagination which can be a great thing, the flipside can be a lack of objectivity. Working with others can be great in that there are times the results can be completely unexpected. Collaborating with others is definitely a skill, you’ll sometimes butt heads with others in collaborations but the results can sometimes be worth it. I’m a believer in the magic of chemistry.

9. Is there any group, composer, style of movement which has a lasting influence on making music?

Definitely, and there are many. I grew up in a musical household and my folks both came from classical backgrounds but they were also teenagers in the 60’s so one minute there’d be a recording of Chopin or Liszt on the turntable and the next minute it’d be The Beatles Revolver. So in the beginning it was a lot of groups and musicians from the 60’s that I really came to know. Later on when I started finding things out for myself I started to discover I really appreciate more idiosyncratic artists and musicians rather than one certain style or movement. I also get a lot of inspiration from the visual arts and literature.

10: What are your future plans or dreams as a soundartist or musician?

As funny as it sounds coming from someone who has been doing it as long as I have would be to allow myself to do it more often and create a solid body of new work. I’m at a point right now where I’m attempting to redefine what it is I do and what it is I want to communicate. As much as I would like to stay in my comfort zone and rehash what I’ve been doing for the past 15 years I have an urge to search for something new, to take a risk with a brand new approach with live performance and audio recordings.