Words like fresh, unique and original probably get bandied around a little too willy-nilly in the music press. However, one persons music that I’d attach any of those words to without hesitation is Chris Pell’s aka Murlo.
Pell’s route into music began with djing; he crafted his high-octane mixing skills at University, mainly at parties organised to fund course shows whilst studying illustration in Brighton. Soon after he progressed into production where he began to hone in on a sound that works with threads of Grime and Dancehall, cross-stitching them into a patchwork quilt with dream-like textures. Murlo tunes are almost instantly recognisable in a club, his ethereal melodies scurry around like the soundtrack to a DMT-fuelled remake of The Jungle Book. These highly enjoyable elements are often underpinned with a tough Grime backbone and the general positive aura of Soca and Dancehall in equal measure. This years Adder EP for Unknown to the Unknown is a good example of that. It has been a steady ascent for Pell over the past couple of years but it seems like it’s all coming together for him at the back end of the year of 2013.
Ahead of the release of his Last Dance EP for Glacial Sound on Monday we took a bit of time out together to discuss Soca, Grime, visualising music and Lamb Roti…
(He has also kindly given us his track ‘Pit Lord’ to give away to our readers – download via the player below.)
I grew up in a small town in the West Midlands, how was life growing up in a small town in the East Midlands?
Yeah pretty quiet, wasn’t really exposed to much whilst I lived there musically. Neighbouring places like Nottingham had good nightlife but I couldn’t afford to go out there most of the time, ha.
How does a chap from Shepshed get into Soca and Bashment?
I got into it a few years back when I was living in Brighton, I listened to Funky and Grime at the time and it was just the case of coming across it whilst I was delving deeper into the sounds that inspired those genres.
Who are some of your favourite Soca and Bashment artists, who would you recommend to people just starting to discover these sounds?
Some of my favourite producers are Ward 21 and Equinoxx but that’s the new sound of Bashment, I’d say producers like Dave Kelly are a good start in terms of what I really rate in Dancehall production.
When did you start djing?
I started probably 5 or 6 years ago, I was studying in Brighton and we threw parties to fund the course shows. I didn’t really take it seriously until about 3 years ago when I started producing.
You’re also a really great illustrator and animator; did you study in that area?
Yep I studied illustration at Brighton. The CGI stuff is a recent thing though, began learning that earlier in the year.
Is that your main job?
Nah, I tried to balance working freelance with music and art whilst keeping down a part-time job and its tough. At the moment I’m finding any excuse to use illustration with the music though. The videos and artwork are keeping me busy!
Your style of illustration is pretty labour intensive, right? Could you talk us through the creative process…
Yeah it can be, all my line stuff is drawn with pen before it gets put through a scanner which can be a long process, it’s how I’ve always worked though so its a force of habit. With the CGI I haven’t got a typical process yet, I’m still tinkering with different methods, sometimes I download CC licensed meshes and manipulate them with a sculpting program, sometimes I make the meshes from scratch, it all takes a bit of time but that’s mostly down to my inexperience and shite pc.
You create a lot of the animation for your own videos and artwork right?
Yeah I try and do everything.
I’m interested to discuss the relationship between the two. At what stage do you envisage the visual element to (your) music? Before? After? During?
It happens throughout I think. Sometimes I’d be working on a track and then a melody would make me think of an image, like the Last Dance tune for example made me think of like a French regal dance set in a Château in the 1600’s or something haha.
Do you find a lot of music has this effect on you? Or is it more common with your own productions?
I do mainly get it through the process of making my own stuff, I guess it comes from a similar place so it’s easy to add visual ideas to stuff your making. I do get it from other bits though, I listen to music whilst I draw so it works both ways.
Is it important to you for those two worlds to co-exist?
Yeah I think it’s essential.
Why is it essential for you?
Before I use to make music I use to design artwork for sleeves so I guess I’m pretty bias, haha. I think the visual side to a release really affects the way people take in a piece of music, it just makes it complete for me.
When listening to the the track you’ve given to us, ‘Pit Lord’, I imagine a fight scene from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Splinter and the turtles are having a scrap in a sewer with Shredder & Co – a lot of your tracks remind me of the turtles for some reason. Anyway, did anything spring to mind when you were making that one?
Haha – Ninja Turtles is new one, never had that before. When I was making Pit Lord I imagined making a soundtrack to an arena fight, hence the name.
Who and what do you draw inspiration from in the world of animation and illustration?
I’m a fan of classical stuff. Painters like Caravaggio and Bosch, also sculptures from ancient Greece and I’m a big fan of old etchings too. I think CGI is an exciting place at the moment purely for the fact that it’s so accessible to people wanting to learn. I pretty much learned everything from YouTube tutorials.
Lets talk about Grime for minute. When did you first start listening to the music and what stuff were you listening too?
First release I can remember hearing was with ‘Boy In Da Corner’ I reckon, I think the fact that the instrumental’s BPM range went from 100 to 160 also had a big impact on me,I think. Slackk’s old radio rip and mixtape blog was something I used to check a lot as well. I can remember there was an Essentials tune I use to just rinse everyday for like a month I got from his blog. Wish I could remember the name of the tune!
It’s well documented that Grime is in a very healthy state at the moment, what do you think have been the main factors that have contributed to its revival?
Not really sure if I’m honest. Partly down to just a lot of producers spurring each other on I think. Twitter has helped in the way that it’s acted as an open forum for people to trade tunes and ideas. With the new Grime instrumentals and also the darker 130 stuff it’s just a case of a lot of people having a shared incentive; to make interesting electronic music. Keysound and Butterz have been essential in developing a space for it to exist too I reckon.
Name a few of your favorite producers at the moment and some of your favourite dubs…
I got sent this tune called ‘VClipse’ by Zora Jones and Sinjin Hawke that got me really excited. Such a beautiful tune, I think there’s a video on vimeo of it where they’ve used footage from the 1998 film Belly, works so well.
Also there’s a guy called Shriekin’ Specialist who’s been sending me some great bits recently, really rich and vibrant tunes. Look out for his orchestral re-edit of Kakarot’s “Port Harcourt”.
How come you avoided the Dub Warz? Didn’t fancy sending for anyone?
Haha yeah I’m more on the side of Mr Mitch and his Peace Edits! Was fun seeing people slug it out over Soundcloud, the majority of it were just friendlies though and a good laugh. I made one but it was just a beat I made in like an hour.
Tell us about your release on Glacial Sound, how did that come about?
I made all the tunes in the space of like a week, early in the year. I wasn’t making the tunes intent on releasing them but Slackk suggested I should go for a vinyl release, and that’s when I was approached by Glacial Sound and that’s that. It’s my first solo vinyl release so I’m really excited.
Lamb Roti or Jerk Chicken?
Lamb Roti! From my local Roti Stop!
Murlo – ‘Last Dance’ EP is out Monday 25th November on Glacial Sound. Pre-order here.