Venturing into a fantastical world
In 2019, culture travels in strange patterns. Flying at you from all directions – be it analogue, digital or misc. – it can be hard to discern what is worth seeking out and what appears to lead you down a dead end. Oftentimes we find ourselves flying down a YouTube rabbit hole of infinite clips and bits without stopping to think if it’s all really worth our time. It can be a daunting world out there, but it can also be rewarding. Sitting down with Moon King to speak about his new LP, Voice of Lover, we’re reminded of just that: how a whole music scene in Detroit, or a long-forgotten Soviet synthpop record, can inspire you to take those sounds, rearrange them and create something wholly unique and personal.
Interview by Sasha Ermakov
Photos by Dani Dabney, shot in Hamtramck, Michigan
The ability for individuals just to customise their experience is the most powerful tool, and the Spotify thing is kinda like a small chunk of that, that day-to-day affects me
Congrats on releasing the new LP! It popped up on my Spotify the other day.
Honestly, whenever I listen to music on the internet I kinda go to Spotify now, which is weird for me ’cause I like to listen to tapes and vinyl and stuff like that. I feel like a few years ago when someone finished their record, they would send each other some MP3s, and now that doesn’t even happen anymore. But yeah, I’m a big fan of making playlists for people, and I have a playlist on Spotify that I update every week of music I’m into.
I have this theory that I like to come back to when I’m working on projects: the most important development that’s happening with new technology is that everybody can customise their experience by filtering things, because if you don’t it’s going to drive you crazy, there’s too much going on. For better or worse, that can change the way people engage with each other and also change what they’re interested in. If you take a step back that’s an overarching thing, that has to do with culture and music and art and sort of politics and anything that affects people socially in groups. The ability for individuals just to customise their experience is the most powerful tool, and the Spotify thing is kinda like a small chunk of that, that day-to-day affects me. I started diving into music that is rare, reissue type of stuff, and having that all linked together in playlists by other people. I wouldn’t have been able to do that maybe even five years ago. It’s nice, but it’s also scary.
It’s sort of like a double-edged sword – limiting and also revelatory.
Yeah, it puts people in boxes and if you don’t realise you’re being put in a box that can be quite scary for people. But if you realise you can control what’s in your box that power is very liberating.
Talking about putting things in boxes, how was the new album put together?
When I finished touring on Hamtramck ’16, I tried making some different stuff that was more italo influenced, and then a bunch of slower stuff, trippy funk kinda music. Then, in February of last year, I was in LA and one day I was in a weird place mentally and I just wrote a really really long text document which is basically the lyrics for the entire record. It’s basically just like a really long run-on sentence. Out of that I chopped parts out and started making instrumental ideas. In two months I went from just a text document to 26 finished songs, which was really fast for me.
I feel like if you’re making music in 2019 everything is referential to other sounds and other times
How does other music influence your sound?
I’ve noticed certain things about what I like, even down to what chords I like. I feel like if you’re making music in 2019 everything is referential to other sounds and other times. There’s something to be said about boundary pushing and trying something new, but I think equally important is defining who you are by taking elements of other things. If you say, ‘Who am I musically or artistically?’ it doesn’t have to be something you are unfamiliar with or that is sort of ground-breaking or experimental; it can also be something that’s just a combination of other things in a new way. I think that can be equally defining for something. Do you know Hauntology?
No, what is it?
It’s like the fetishisation of nostalgia of something that didn’t actually happen. Like, kids who are 15 years old listening to music from the ’80s. It’s a tricky concept to wrap your head around… the best way to look at it is re-issues. Stuff that comes out that sounds new to me or to others, but is really old. Take the label Dark Entries. They have an aesthetic, created a brand and a sound but it’s pretty much all old. I think that’s an interesting thing to do, especially when technology moves so fast, where everything new is instantly a little bit obsolete.
Funny enough, a good friend of mine recently ordered an 80’s Russian aerobics record online, and I found a copy of it collecting dust at my grandparents’.
Yeah, to you that’s a cool record that you might want to dance to at a party or something, but it was actually for aerobics. That’s exactly what I’m interested in. I think at the time it was thought of as being plastic, throwaway music. But I think that stuff is amazing. And you’re seeing a lot of those records get reissued. There’s so much of it.
Moon King will perform at DOK, Ghent
together with Sergeant on the 15th of May.
Free for members. Join us here.