While going through some old magazines the other day, I decided it might be a good idea to start archiving some of my old pieces for posterity. So, earlier today, I picked out an issue of IDJ at random and flicked through to see what I could find.
It didn’t take long to find something of note: a short interview I’d done with Metro Area man Morgan Geist about his third solo album, Double Night Time. I can’t actually remember doing the interview, though I did meet “MG” earlier that year in NYC while over there to interview Hercules & Love Affair for a cover feature. This was a separate interview, though, conducted via email (as the piece makes clear in the second paragraph).
Anyway, here’s the text in full, from the October 2008 issue of IDJ magazine.
Metro Area man goes pop
It’s a brave man in the trainspotting, chin-stroking world of dance music who admits to a love of pure pop, especially one with as impressive underground credentials as Morgan Geist. Yet the Metro Area man’s not worried – he loves smart electronic pop music, and he doesn’t care who knows it.
“I’m a big fan when it’s done right,” he explains via email from his New York studio. “I thought I was stuck in the ‘80s with my memories of New Order, OMD, YMO, Pet Shop Boys, even Alphaville or – and this is terrifying – Erasure when I was younger. Kraftwerk, YMO…I love that stuff. I also loved truly weird electronic pop, too, like Severed Heads, who were probably one of my most important influences philosophically.”
Geist is outlining his love of quality electronic pop as a way of explaining the sound of his new album, ‘Double Night Time’. A very different beast from his only other solo set – 1997’s deep house and techno influenced ‘The Driving Memoirs’ – ‘Double Night Time’ takes his love of analogue synthesizers and deeply electronic soundscapes and applies them to the ‘techno-pop’ idiom. The resultant set is brilliant; a deeply personal affair that seems to be constantly torn between the upbeat and the introspective.
“I love the interplay between those elements,” he says. “I think it’s a reflection of how I was feeling when I made the record. Public self reflection is potentially embarrassing, maybe even something you’ll regret – you have to try and temper it a bit with contrast and contradiction”.
‘Double Night Time’ is full of contrasts, the bittersweet lyrics and upbeat stylings of ‘Most of All’ and ‘The Shore’ being the most obvious examples. It’s obviously an album that Geist has given a lot of consideration to over the past couple of years.
“I was struggling with a lot of problems while making the record, and it’s hard to get the emotion out sometimes just doing dance music,” he sighs. “I also find dance music pretty conservative and boring, especially for a genre that prides itself on inclusion, open-mindedness and experimentation. I think doing a record like this one, a record that wasn’t caring much about DJs and dancefloors, was my way of expressing that opinion musically.”
Whether born out of frustration, personal strife – he later mentions being racked by self-doubt over the past decade – or the mere idea of giving dance music a two-fingered salute, the music on ‘Double Night Time’ is some of Geist’s finest yet. While primarily pop, it’s a very Morgan Geist record – all warm, touching melodies, sprightly electronics and bubbly synth deepness. Over half the tracks feature vocals from Junior Boys’ Jeremy Greenspan – whose voice suits Geist’s productions like a glove – while there’s also room for Kelley Polar’s infamous vocal harmonies. Perhaps more impressively, almost all the lyrics on the album were written by Geist himself.
“It was terrifying!” he says of his attempts at songwriting. “It’s difficult. I tended to want to express really complex, detailed ideas, or say too much in one song. It’s like I forgot everything I learned making instrumental music, which is that less can be more, or that there is a real elegance in simple ideas. The lyrics are about 50 per cent of what I wanted. I hope to improve. I still think they’re good enough, and man, the bar is set pretty fucking low in pop right now.”
With ‘Double Night Time’, Geist has raised the bar considerably. Pop music will never quite be the same.
(First published in IDJ magazine, issue 105, October 2008)