Long Island Electrical Systems (L.I.E.S.) is exemplary of the private press label renaissance of recent years. Its releases largely draw upon the output of gifted friends and quintessences, are pressed up with few frills (and occasionally hand-stamped white labels), and have garnered rave reviews and full-throated DJ support with little or no promotion. Yet its founder, Ron Morelli, was initially reluctant to jump into the label game and shows no interest in seeking the spotlight. That hasn’t stopped it from finding him, based on the strength of records by Jason Letkiewicz (aka Steve Summers/Malvoeaux), Legowelt, Willie Burns, Steve Moore, Maxmillion Dunbar, and Marcos Cabral. He’s also introduced the world to the talents of erstwhile unknowns Terekke, Vapauteen, XOSAR, and Svenghalisghost, with more likely to follow. And while L.I.E.S. has hosted a range of techno and house aesthetics, an overarching punk ethos — via bruisingly raw and utterly human sonics — unites its first 12 records. LWE sat down with Morelli to discuss the label’s prolific last year and future plans, his straightforward A&R choices, and his feelings on New York’s contemporary club scene. He also contributed Talking Shopcast 15, an effortlessly diverse and eminently replayable mix recorded before his shift at A1 Records.
You were initially reluctant to start the label. Why?
Ron Morelli: It was more or less just not wanting to take on another responsibility, basically. Initially it was going to be just nothing: no information or anything like that. I was just going to put it out. You know, a name, no artist information or nothing, no stamp. I was going to do it and have the music exist as it is with nothing behind it, no preconceived notions, no one knows where it comes from. Obviously when you put a label on it, and it’s associated with a label and artists’ names and everything like that, it’s perceived in a certain way. Eventually it becomes what it becomes. I didn’t want it to get it’s own stigma behind it.
After seriously thinking about it I’m like, “Well, that’s ridiculous,” because then whoever makes the record gets no credit for it. It doesn’t help anyone out in any sense. I still like the idea of just having that exist with no stigma attached to it; it exists in a truly pure form. If you hear Future Times or Trax Records or whoever, you immediately associate it with something. Which is not a bad thing, but I don’t know. I never really wanted to have a face or any type of image attached to the whole label. A lot of this dance music shit, it’s fucking image. It’s all image and no content, to me. So I didn’t want it to be that way, but it ends up being that way anyway, so fuck it.
So the initial idea was to do it that way and not do any press for it or anything like that. You know, just get it to the distributor and do that work, but no press, no pushing the record, no talking to anyone. Super-small pressed runs, like only 200 or something like that. If people buy it, cool. You should be able to — if the music’s good — push 200 copies of it or whatever like that. Minimal work, put the records out, and that’s it. But I didn’t want to take on the responsibility of emailing people, making contacts, sending out promos — actually doing the not fun part of it, you know? I didn’t want to do any of that. But, in the end, you have to deal with it.
What was the initial idea for the label? Was it mostly to put out some of your own stuff?
Yeah, it was for my own stuff, and I knew a lot of people, too. Jason [Letkiewicz], at that time, might have had, like, one record out, and I knew he had an entire back catalog of stuff; and I knew other people who had stuff that they have been working on and not released.
Has that changed as the label’s gone on?
No, it’s still the same thing. There’s a core group of people that I’m working with. Obviously there’s other people I’m going to work with too, but I like people I have a good, close working relationship with, you know? I think it’s good because you have full control. Again, if I bang out a track that I like, I can put it out immediately. I don’t have to wait around on a release schedule or anything like that.
Had you had to go through that process before?
No, but I know how the world of records and labels runs. After you do a track, six months later the magic is not always there, you know? I’m not saying the track’s going to be bad or anything like that, but when you do it you want it to be out. I just know that if you’re working with a label that’s more established, even someone like Future Times or W.T., they’ve got other stuff — you’re going to have to wait a couple months. When you do it on your own, you’re the boss.
Were there any labels or scenes that have inspired the idea of the label, or influence how you approach running the label?
Not running the label, no. You just run it — it’s going through the motions. For every release it’s the same process, you know? Promote it to the press people and you get it to the DJs. As far as inspiration, aesthetically, Bunker Records was a huge influence because it’s a very grassroots approach, and a localized scene out of the The Hague, the west coast of Holland. There was no image involved with it, it was just a bunch of fucked-up people on broke gear trying to fuckin’ push music hard, you know? And there wasn’t anything nice about it. They did whatever they wanted to do and made extremely uncompromising music. So, you know, all those dudes from that scene, that was — and continues to inspire me, as far as what I do — as far as the attitude about it. It’s all at this point DIY, it’s just a matter of what the end product is. Some people are putting out completely inane, weak records, and it’s still DIY. No one’s getting rich off this and whatever, but, you know, a lot of people push image, and that’s, to me, style over substance.
The label’s released mostly American artists. Is there any desire to be pulling from overseas?
Yeah, I’m down to put out whatever, man, as long as it kills. As long as it sounds good and I dig it and it’s totally uncompromising music, I don’t care where it’s from. And the person can’t be a complete asshole either. I generally don’t want to deal with some of these people who are complete douche bags.
What’s your demo policy?
I mean I get a ton of demos and they all pretty much suck, but whatever, send it. At some point, something’s going to be good. People got to push it, man. It’s just, like, the same thing over and over again. I’m not so interested in that, you know? It’s like, “Here’s some throwback house music.” It’s like, “Okay cool, but — ” it’s like a wrap on that. Give me some shit, man.
Do you enjoy the process of getting and listening to demos?
Yeah, definitely. It’s cool, it’s exciting, especially if it’s some killer stuff. I like finding it more, though, than having it sent to me. To discover something is better than to have it given to you. It’s fun trying to find some crazy shit out of the middle of nowhere.
What are some examples of things that you’ve found and put out?
SvengalisGhost. My friend Porkchop, we would DJ together all the time. At one point we were DJing together a good amount, and you know, he played me these tracks, and I was like, “What the fuck is this?” “This is my friend, he lives in Chicago, and he just makes all this crazy shit.” And we’d be all fucked up like, “Aw, man, this is blowing my mind, dude.” He’s like, “Here, take the CDs.” Every time we’d play, he’d give me some new shit, and then I was like, “Oh man, I’ve got to get in touch with him.” After I initially got in touch with him a year ago, that was the first time I actually spoke to him. It still took a year for this whole process to come together. So that was a cool little thing to have happen. Matt Gardner’s record, I think I might have just heard — I’d seen him around, I didn’t know who he was or anything like that, and then somehow I ended up on his SoundCloud, and I’m like, “What the fuck is this crazy music, man?” And that was it, simple as that.
You’ve put out some stuff with Jason, what are your plans with your solo stuff?
It’s just a slow process, super-slow process. I have a lot of half-finished music. I don’t really work on music as much as I want — it’s very fragmented. Ideally, I would spend, like, days in a row on it, but unfortunately my life isn’t structured as such right now. The label stuff I have to tend to, and if you want to get really good at something you need to do it all the time and immerse yourself in it, and unfortunately I haven’t been able to. I’ve got old stuff that eventually is going to come out. I just need a couple finishing touches, but it’s slow, man; I’m not like some producer who can bang it out like Danny [Wolfers] or something like that. I’m still learning a lot so it’s going to take a long time. And then for me and Jason, same deal; he’s involved in a lot of shit, I’m doing my shit, so whenever we can work, we’re going to try to work. Every time you go into the studio it doesn’t always happen. When things are ready they’re ready. There’s no pressure, but it would be nice to get on a roll and do a bunch of shit.
Do you think some of the label work cuts into your ability to work on your own stuff?
Yeah, I mean it cuts into everything. It cuts into my days off. My days off are — you know, go to the pressing plant, send emails, call the mastering dude. It’s office work, man. You’re a secretary. That’s what it is. All it is is glorified office work. Which is cool, man, it’s good. It’s all positive stuff, but it’s not always fun.
For the past year the label’s been incredibly prolific. Were you gathering a lot of music leading up to the launch of L.I.E.S?
Release number two, which was the Two Dogs In A House, came out in August of 2010, and then the Steve Moore record came out April of 2011, so that’s a huge gap in between records. I was dealing with a pressing plant problem, which delayed Steve’s record for longer than six months. Eight-month delay or some crazy thing. So in between those times I didn’t want to put out anything new, even though I had, like — I had Danny’s record for a long time. Danny’s record was, like, wrapped up by December of 2010, and that didn’t come out until June of 2011, I think. And then Will’s record fit in somewhere in between there. But with the delay with Steve’s record, I didn’t want to go and press anything else; I was dead set that this record had to come out before anything else. So that almost forced me into having some sort of weird release schedule, inadvertently, because it was never a plan to have a release schedule. There’s no plan that says every month this is coming out, next month that’s coming out, next month this is going to come out, or whatever. And as all that happened, there was more music coming together from other artists, and then I’m like, “Alright. Fuck it, man, I’m just going to bust this out every month now.”
You started pressing all these white labels — just because you wanted to get the stuff out there?
Well yeah — apparently, I was told, that summertime’s a bad time overseas. My distributor overseas is like, “The industry is slow, people are on vacation, no one’s buying records, it’s a risk to press up more records, blah, blah, blah.” Which I think, personally, is bullshit. So I’m like, “Alright, if you don’t want to do a full release, then I’m just going to press this up anyway. How many copies do you want? Oh, OK. 200 copies? Cool, alright.” And that’s it, you know? So it’s like — I’m not going to stop the release schedule because you say that there’s — ” you know? And then there was some intention to re-press stuff, but then I didn’t because I don’t want to move backwards. I just, like, keep going forward. Maybe do it down the line.
What do you think when you see some of these records fetch a lot of money on the second release?
Yeah, it’s kind of ridiculous. Eventually they’re going to get re-pressed at some point, you know? So hang tight on it. I mean, you shouldn’t buy a record that came out last year for 50 dollars now. That’s kind of ridiculous. I mean there is intention, eventually, to do it, but if you didn’t get it the first time around, you didn’t get it the first time around. It happens to everyone. You’ll get it at some point. It’s a record, you know? I don’t know, steal it off of YouTube. That’s what everyone does anyway.
Do these white labels have any sort of identity to themselves? Outside of the “main” sequence of catalog numbers.
No, now I have a segmented release schedule every month, right? With the most recent white label that came out, which was Shaun [O’Sullivan]’s white label, you know — I always liked Shaun — Shaun’s music is cool, and then I’m talking to Will [Burnett] from W.T., and he’s like, “Man, you should just do a record with Shaun.” I’m like, “Yeah, I was thinking about doing it.” I’d been waiting on tracks for Danny that I’ve had for a while, and he’s been on the road, or whatever. So he was taking too long. And then it’s just basically filling in the pieces of the puzzle. Shaun’s shit’s badass, and I’m like, “Dude, let’s just put out.” I’m like, “Send me these tracks, and we can get it out next week.” Same thing with Andrew [Field-Pickering] from Future Times — Andrew was on iChat with me and he was like, “Yo, I want to do a white label.” I’m like, “Alright, let’s just do it.” Half an hour later, I had all the tracks, and a day later they were at mastering, and two weeks later the record’s out.
It’s a way of just immediately being able to do something without it losing the magic, man. When you wait a year for something, I don’t care what anyone says, it’s not as magic as it was when you first hear something that’s fresh, you know? A year later, you heard a bunch of other shit, that song’s still cool that you did, or whatever, but you found some new production technique that’s better and you think that song sucks, or all this shit. When it’s fresh, there’s just an energy behind it, and you want to be psyched. And you want other people to be psyched — even though people who buy the stuff, they’re not sick of it, but the people involved, they’re always sick of it. It’s like, “Fuck, dude, I don’t want to hear this old shit again.” You know, you played it hundreds of times, and editing it and listening to the mix, and this and that. It’s like, “Fuck this, man, this is old news.” So I don’t know, it’s just fun to be able to knock it out.
Is there something also fun about really “preparing” a release?
Sure, of course. The new Steve Moore — after he did the last one, we were both, like, yeah, we should do another one. He’ll send me some demos, and I’m like, “OK, here’s how things are looking. I think we could fit it in here,” and then that’s it. Same with Jason, you know? I mean we’re already thinking about the next Steve Summers record, whenever that’s going to be ready. Working with these dudes, and they’re friends — I kind of like to try to give them a little direction, as far as stylistically what they’re going to do for the label. For instance, I got a lot of feedback from DJs for the first Steve Moore; every one was playing one of the tracks on 33 because it was on 45. And I’m like, “Dude, everyone’s playing your shit on 43 — I mean on 43 — on 33 plus eight, you know? So they’re making it, like, whatever — 110 BPMs or something. You should just make, like, a 110 BPM track, 115, and then, like, a 120, or something, you know? Make it all gnarly and slow and stuff.” It’s a cool project, to try to work with an artist and both conceptually come up with something that you think is going to be super badass. Same with Jason — I’m like, “Do some other shit, man, that’s not like any of the other stuff you did.” We can talk about it, it’s cool. You know, you don’t do that with everyone, but people you’ve known for a while, it’s cool to kind of push things into a new direction. I don’t want the same record twice, man. No one wants that shit. Some people do, but that shit’s boring, you know? It’s like, “Fuck, man. Let’s hear some other shit. Let’s hear some new shit.”
The label’s really released a huge range of styles.
To me, it very much goes back into the style of DJing, how I play, and what I enjoy hearing from people. I don’t want to hear some linear fuckin’ DJ set, man, where it’s, like, a techno set. All these people are techno people, man. You know, you go to a techno party. These people, like, don’t listen to any other fuckin’ music except techno. It’s a joke, man. You know, to me, being a DJ, you take the best from every genre, the most interesting style, the most interesting records from all genres, be it disco, house, techno, new beat, African records, soul records, whatever, man. You make that into a cohesive presentation to a bunch of people, to the crowd when you play, right? It’s cool to hear some gnarly techno for, like, two and a half hours, but by the third hour, man, your mind is not blown anymore, there’s no distinction. You’re just in one linear path.
And maybe that’s a European thing, I don’t know, but in the United States, growing up hearing New York radio, hearing DJs — New York is pretty whack, but DJs go across the board. They will play across the board here, for the most part, and that’s pretty important. I don’t want to hear one style, and I think that’s how the label goes too: it’s not a house label, it’s not a techno label, it’s not a whatever. It’s open for whatever style of electronic music or, like, whatever, I’ll put out a punk record if it’s badass. I’ll put out some post-punk shit. It doesn’t matter to me, you know? I’ll put out industrial shit. It’s just got to be good music. I mean, obviously, I want it to be cohesive, I want it to make sense. I’m not going to put out a folk record, you know what I mean, or some shit like that.
There’s definitely a limitation and aesthetic I want to keep tight, but you know, I think too many people who listen to this kind of dance music — it’s just really, really linear, man. And they really just can’t think outside the box. I think 99 percent of these people don’t think out of the box, man, you know? And I mean, you know, you listen to old Chicago DJs, old Detroit DJs, old New York DJs, these dudes are playing across the board. They’re playing Kraftwerk, they’re playing disco, they’re playing house tracks, they’re playing Italo, they’re playing Liaisons Dangereuses, you know, Nitzer Ebb, you know. All that shit, man. And they make it work and they blow the mind. I want the label to reflect that on some level, you know what I mean? It should just be diverse.
Do you think that has to do with the fact that Europe is more dominant than the States? I mean, there are people like Optimo in Europe who will definitely —
Sure, and they’ve been doing it for years, and I think those guys are a great example of people who have a very broad knowledge of music and don’t limit themselves into being whatever — fuckin’, a techno DJ, man, or something like that. A house DJ. Shit is boring. These dudes are out to take their knowledge, their influences, and try to blow people’s minds and tweak people. Traxx from Chicago, another dude who plays across the board always, and Porkchop here in New York. Overseas there are dudes. There’s dudes who are trying to push it for sure, but I think it’s a small percentage — and it’s risky to do that. You know, you go overseas to play some tweaked-out fuckin’ track to a full room of people, and it could totally fall flat on its face; it’s a risk. People play it safe. The more DJs that go out there and try to push the limits, the more the crowd’s going to be open to it. I think a lot of dance music people are conditioned to one way of listening to things.
You have this Professor Genius album, which is not dance music. Do you want to keep pushing things that aren’t necessarily dance music?
Yeah, because it’s all related. In the perfect world, you play those Hassan tracks out at a night to a full room of people, and, people are receptive to what’s going on. Obviously, that’s in an ideal world. You want people to be open minded, but you can’t be so far up your own ass you’re playing shit that’s just like, “Whatever, man, what the fuck is this?” You know, you can’t play that kind of shit at peak time for an hour or something, but you hope that you can slide these really cool things in there and people are going to connect the dots in between, you know, an ambient soundtrack synthesizer record and, like, some 4/4 drum tracks, or whatever. I would hope that the world is at the point where people have enough knowledge and have opened their mind up enough to be receptive to this kind of thing.
The Hassan album was kind of like the turning point for the label — it’s a very important record as far as where the label stands. From that point on, it was like all the proceeding releases are more gnarly, and kind of more super electronic based and stuff like that. Like, Steve Moore’s new record is super gnarly, and then this Svengalisghost record — it’s house music, but it’s more Chris and Cosey style. Shaun’s record, which, again, was a pretty quick thing that happened, but it was definitely a direction where I wanted to go where it was more gnarly sounding. Then there’s this other record that’s going to come out, which is another double LP of — it’s basically, like, new age music meets Throbbing Gristle or something like that. Which will be out in, like, March, April, or something like that.
Who’s doing that?
The artist name is Jahiliyya Fields, and it’s an old friend of mine from New York. And he had been working on music for a really, really long time. I went over to his house to listen to some dance tracks that were possibly for the label, and then he played me this stuff, and my mind was blown. “Dude, forget the dance tracks; we’re just going to do this shit, man.” And it’s badass, super gnarly, heavy, heavy stuff. But it’s not 4/4, you know? But it’s undoubtedly super, super experimental electronics.
Do you want to put out more LPs? Like, “fuller” statements than 12″s?
I mean it’s whatever it calls for. 12″s are cool. The format doesn’t matter to me. This was an album; so it’s an album, you know what I mean? It wouldn’t have made sense to make this a two-song 12″. It works as a full body of work together. However the artist presents it, you know, their pieces will dictate what happens, basically.
It seems like a very vinyl-centric label.
I mean there’s digital, whoever buys that. I don’t know who buys digital. I have no clue. I couldn’t tell you. People in Europe? I don’t know who the fuck buys this digital stuff, man, but you might as well put it out there for people, you know, to get it. It’s kind of ignorant not to at this point. I don’t like it. I don’t care about it, but it — to ignore the digital world is ignorant — you know, my feelings don’t really matter. It’s just stupid not to do it. CDs, maybe? I don’t know. Does it matter? I don’t even know if anyone buys CDs. I think you have to, like, market them in some weird way, you know. Put a movie on there or something. I have no idea, I really don’t.
Do you see a lot of sales from the digital?
Not really. Only half the catalog is available on digital at this point. The white-label stuff’s not available because it just shouldn’t be. It kind of defeats the whole purpose of it. Digital sucks, man. It’s impersonal. I acknowledge it, but I don’t like it. But it’s the standard, so I don’t know. At some point when they regulate the Internet, maybe all these record labels will be making a ton of money off of digital. Who knows? I don’t know. But you might as well just do it now and see what happens later. There’s nothing interesting to me about the world of digital.
I mean listen: on paper vinyl makes zero sense whatsoever. It’s ridiculous for so many reasons, you know? At this point, pressing records is almost like vanity. It’s a very specialty thing, and there’s a very small amount of people who are really, truly interested in playing records. It’s a thing of preference. Some people will want to play records, some people don’t want to play records, some people want to play CDs, some people are going to want to play fuckin’ Serato. I’m not going to judge you. I know what I like, I know what the people around me like. I’m just going to do what I want to do, basically. But on paper, pressing vinyl doesn’t make sense. You don’t make money off of it. Not that you make money off of digital, because you don’t. But to me, it’s important to have something that’s physically tangible in your hands. If you just do a digital release, that’s not even real; that doesn’t exist. That’s not a commitment; it’s not a testament to music. I mean, you know, it’s not something that outlasts — no one’s going to find it years and years from now. It exists as a digital file — as a footprint in this world that’s, like, nonexistent, in the world of wires. Where you have records and that’s a very tangible thing. Whether or not it means anything, who the fuck knows? But I’m just doing what my personal preferences are, which is to have records. I like playing records. I play CDs sometimes too. It’s alright; it’s very convenient, you know? But I’d rather play a record, man. You know, get your hands dirty and shit.
New York is hardly the bastion of dance music that it was back in the day — what’s your read on the city nowadays?
There’s definitely a renewed interest in younger people in electronic dance music and in electronic music in general. I also think there’s, like, a ridiculous fetish among people in bands having analog synthesizers and this shit. None of that means shit at all. You know, it’s very hip to have a fuckin’ synthesizer band with the drum machine and all this. I could give a fuck, man. I don’t care if you go up there with a laptop. What matters is if you’re beating it and you’re pushing it and you’re making good music. The thing that’s most interesting to me is that a lot of indie bands or bands on the fringe are trying to experiment more. Or even the harsh noise scene is making leanings towards being more interested in 4/4 dance music and shit like that. There’s some cross-pollination happening. I don’t think necessarily much of the music is good, but it’s interesting, and eventually someone’s going to get it right and do some mind-blowing shit because someone’s going to be informed enough and make something that’s really fuckin’ badass and push it. At this point, not so much yet, but it’ll happen.
People are coming out and, like, accepting this kind of music. Especially these indie rockers, they’re like, “This is kind of cool, whatever.” As far as going out to clubs and DJing, that’s not interesting to me, but I think there’s going to be some very interesting music coming out of this city, for sure. There’s always going to be a ton of bullshit, but at some point someone’s going to make some badass shit. And even currently, there’s some cool stuff out there, I think.
Do you think it’s a natural reaction for these bands who pick up analog electronic gear to start exploring dance music?
Sure. For a lot of white-bread people from Middle America, they have a really bad connotation of dance music. Which is like this guido bullshit thing, which is not far off. If you go and you look deep into the roots of where everything came from, it’s all intertwined in punk rock, no wave, hip-hop, dance music. It all stems from each other; it’s all cross-pollinated. Soul music, it’s all the same thing to me, right? So it’s like when people get over their fucking guitar fetish, and people start loosening their fucking tie, maybe some cool shit could happen. I’m kind of out of touch, man, I don’t really know. I see some positive shit happening, but there’s a ton of bullshit too. I just think people need to push it. I want to see some passion and intensity within the people. It’s just, like, going through the motions most of the time, you know? It’s like the same shit over and over again.
I mean, dance music itself tends to refer back to where it came from. We’ve been going through a couple years of people making Chicago tracks.
Yeah, I mean how boring is that shit, you know? It’s like, “Let’s fuckin’ move away from that shit, man. That shit sucks now.” It’s like, “Come on, man.”
Do you think there’s anything positive in people looking back to what came before?
Yeah, of course. You know, you draw your influences — everyone draws their influences from that. Of course, if you’re a young kid and you hear some Liaisons Dangereuses or some fuckin’ Nitzer Ebb, or Kraftwerk — in a very young kid, your mind is fuckin’ blown. If you’re making music, maybe you’re going to try to make something like that, but it’s not going to come out like that. All this Chicago throwback shit — it’s sounding too much like it, man. It’s really just, like, Juno-6, 707, some effects, some fuckin’ strings, and then some person saying some dumb shit over it. If anything, people should have been making psychedelic Dance Mania tracks. That’s what I much rather would’ve heard, you know? If you’re going to rehash Chicago, rehash the 90s Dance Mania shit that was badass.
How long have you been DJing for?
11 years at this point. I mean the formative years were a mess. Like, really ugly, as probably most people were. It was just playing hip-hop, dub, fuckin’ who knows what else. All sorts of shitty stuff at a bar with an old friend of mine. I was never a working DJ. There are very few people you’ll talk to who were working DJs in New York: someone who did a real, true club night where you were a resident at a club on Friday. In probably ’98, ’97, maybe even earlier, that kind of world — the clubs started closing, and your days of being the resident somewhere were over. I mean you have your warehouse parties that are — you know, it’s up for debate whether they’re good or not.
The sound is an issue, man. No people are getting the sound right. That’s the main thing. This was not an issue in the 80s; every place has fuckin’ sound, dude. Things have changed, you can’t expect it to be the same. There was a true infrastructure of clubs where DJs and artists could really make money. All that disappeared in the 90s. And then of course with technology and this and that, the value of the DJ has gone down, right? Because anyone can do it now. You download shit, you have Serato, you play an iPod. That means, like, any Joe Regular off the street could say, “Hey, I want to DJ. I’ll play for drinks all night.” So why should you pay someone 500 bucks, a thousand bucks to do a night when you could pay Joe Regular fuckin’ drinks and cab fare to do it? And the crowd doesn’t give a shit.
Why do you think this heyday of clubs and everything ended — in New York, at least?
People got older. You know, there was the whole Giuliani crackdown on nightlife. You know, they wanted to make the city a nicer place. Less underground venues, regular club venues. But it’s like that everywhere — everyone complains in the UK it’s the same thing, Chicago, Detroit, California. It all depends on your local laws, but in New York, it was basically like when Giuliani cracked down, wanted to clean up the city, have a better image of the city, don’t want people pissing all over the fuckin’ place, on drugs, wilding out for days on end, you know, make it attractive to tourists, regenerate money into the city, blah, blah, blah, blah. Make it nice so people would move here, all this shit. That was a contributing factor to it, undoubtedly.
And it’s for everything, you know? Music too. Music venues, how many music venues have opened and closed? There’s always going to be an underground, and it’s always going to be a struggle to have underground venues and somewhere where it can exist and everything like that. It was just back then — you work in a fuckin’ office all week at some bullshit job, what do you do? You know, it’s like all the songs, you live for the weekend, you go out, and you party. And you go, and they’re playing good shit: Sharon Redd, “Beat The Street,” all that stuff was on the radio, all those Prelude Records. Everyone knew that shit, man. Shit’s all over the fuckin’ radio, you know? And people wanted to go out and have a good time. There’s the same problems, it’s the same people, but there’s less of a passion for it. People are more beaten down, maybe. I don’t know, it’s just not going to exist on the same level. You probably need a college professor or something to explain why, but there’s been some societal shift that I can’t articulate as to why — why everything has just gone to shit, but it has.
Do you see that reflected in the music that’s put out?
Some — I mean there’s angry music out there. There’s always going to be young punk bands coming out, but when you see this gross pop music coming out, that’s, to me, the most angry music out there. That’s the most apocalyptic music, for me. Not some, like, harsh noise or something like that. It’s this pop music that’s out there that’s a direct reflection of how fucked up things are.
If that’s what people are willing to accept in mainstream society. I mean it is truly the most mindless stuff happening. I mean, dude, I like “The Candy Man,” I like to hear some fuckin’ ignorant-ass shitty stuff. I can appreciate some bullshit AutoTune, man. You know, I can laugh at it, but people aren’t laughing. They’re going to clubs, they’re going to concerts and seeing this shit. They’re paying money for it. You can’t expect much from the world. I mean that’s why everything exists on the level that it does. Everything’s pushed down into the underground. It’d be great if it was, you know, 1992, and everyone making house music could sell 15,000 records and buy a fuckin’ Cadillac or some shit. I’d be stoked. Everyone else would be, but it ain’t going to happen. Or if you could be in a band and make a living off of being in a respectable band. That doesn’t happen these days. Things are fucked up. Isn’t art supposed to reflect society, or vice versa, or something like that?
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think that anything I’m doing on my label is some groundbreaking, legendary, life-changing shit, because I absolutely never think that. I’m just doing what I personally like — put out shit that I like, that has some meaning to me, and maybe certain people around me, and hopefully other people will dig it. I’m doing no one a service or, like, putting out some high art or anything that’s life-changing. This shit has all been done before. It’s all a mutation of the past, you know? You hope to make something a little bit special for you and the people around you and be happy with that. But there’s going to be a bunch of people stuck below this one line, right? You’re all swimming in a sea of shit, right? So whether you make some insane fuckin’ feedback-laden house music or you make some kind of pop music — to me, I just got no room for the pop, man. And I guess it’s other people’s aesthetic. Maybe they truly like that music. Like, some vocal, soft-ass, boring shit. If you’re going to step over the line, just step all the way over, dude. You might as well just try to get a fuckin’ Grammy; it’s one way or the other, to me. Just go buck wild. I’m an extremist in that sense, and I can’t see a middle ground. Just try to get a major deal and juice some major label for a bunch of money or some shit. Like, that Storm Queen record, everyone was like, “This is the best record ever.” That’s a pop record. It’s very well done, as far as that’s concerned. You know, there’s definitely an art in making pop music. I don’t disagree. But it’s still in the world of the underground, but it’s not underground music; that’s a pop record, you know? It should be a hit, man. That should be a European airport hit that should be getting played in, like, the terminal and on the radio or whatever.
15 years ago maybe that would have been a big pop hit. Now maybe it’s only underground because of the time were in.
Because of the circumstances, yeah. Maybe it’s just dictating itself. It’s unnerving to me, you know? I feel like if you’re going to sell 500 copies, you might as well just fuckin’ try to annihilate people. It’s like Jeff Mills, he doesn’t give a fuck. He’s been doing this for years, and he just hits people over the head. He truly wants to be somewhere else. I’m sure there’s, like, minutiae to everything that he does that only he thinks about and he’s trying to push that I’ll never know, but the guy’s a genius. That, to me, is special music; I see a lot of passion in that.
Do whatever makes you happy, and if you’re happy making pop music, then that’s cool. I just don’t see the need for it. It’s out there already, the world doesn’t need anymore of it. But whatever, it’s preference, man.
Tell me about the mix you made for us.
It was recorded live at A-1 Records before opening the shop on two Technics 1200s with a Urei 1620 mixer that has no crossover/EQs. I think it has some pretty alright tracks on it and hope you all enjoy it.
Talking Shopcast 15: Ron Morelli (75:56)
Tracklist: (largely as provided by Morelli)
01. Stinky Steve & Ron, “Intro”
02. Jahilyya Fields, “White Cabbage” [L.I.E.S.*]
03. Svengalisghost, “Mars Out of Range” [L.I.E.S.]
04. some Chain Reaction record
05. some record by a guy from Chicago
06. Tevo Howard, “Arena” [Tevo Howard Recordings]
07. Bigod 20, “Body to Body (An Afternoon Of Aggression)”
[Techno Drome International]
08. some beat track
09. Kevin Reynolds, “Liaisons” [Nsyde Music]
10. some Jersey shit
11. Marcus Mixx, “Do You Love Me” [super nasty bootleg version]
12. Circuit, “Release The Tension” (tape version) [4th & Broadway]
13. Hammon Decks, “Disgo” [Running Back]
14. some Baltimore tape version shit
15. some deep New York house shit
16. some remix of some stuff from a couple years ago
* denotes tracks that, as of the time of publishing, are unreleased