Q&A: Ron Morelli

The man from L.I.E.S. talks about his latest work for Hospital Productions, 'A Gathering Together.'
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Few people are synonymous with their record labels in the same way as Ron Morelli. His brainchild, Long Island Electrical Systems (L.I.E.S.) has been home to the grainy house and techno that’s become synonymous with New York electronic music in the past few years, and heavily draws from Ron’s punk aesthetic and background. He is relentlessly loyal to his artists, and his commitment to a singular artistic vision for his label has been the backbone of L.I.E.S. Having an old-school New Yorker personality, he is either incurably driven or prickly, depending on where you stand. Before he ran L.I.E.S. full-time, he was working at the East Village’s legendary A-1 record store—but as much as he is associated with NYC, Morelli moved to Paris after becoming fed up with a city that showed almost no resemblance to the New York he grew up with.

Ron’s only departure from L.I.E.S. has been his output on Dominick Ferrow's Hospital Productions label, where he’s just released his latest LP, A Gathering Together. His records increasingly rely on found samples and droning ambience, as opposed to the driving rhythms that L.I.E.S. has become known for. A Gathering Together marks his most ambient-tinged effort yet, with most tracks lacking the sort of rhythmic structure one would associate with the sound he’s helped cultivate; his characteristically dark and gritty sound, however, is still there. Although it doesn’t seem intended for DJ sets in the same way that his earlier releases were—it’s a significant departure in style and structure—sonically speaking, the album still manages to feel very much like the man who made it.

With your name so synonymous with the L.I.E.S. record label, can you talk about the decision to put your LPs out on Hospital?
A couple of years ago, Dom had asked me to do a record for his label, thus I made it my business to finish music I had been working on with a set deadline and present it to him. I enjoy working with Dom and I feel Hospital is actually a perfect fit for my music, as the label is consistently full of surprises, pushing the limits and is without restrictions on any end.

Is part of it to give yourself some distance from always working on L.I.E.S.?
If I were to give myself deadlines to put out my music on my own label the music would most likely never come out.

How did your move from New York to Paris affect the way L.I.E.S. operates?
Being in Europe and constantly being on the road gives the label a physically human visibility that couldn’t have achieved staying in New York. Unfortunately, the U.S. doesn't have the infrastructure where one can be on the road every weekend all year. If you’re lucky, you can tour the States once a year. Thus being on the road overseas with other artists on the label makes our presence felt with a much stronger resonance then if we were kicking around the same places in NYC.

L.I.E.S-14 Ron morelli

Has the move changed the way that you work, or the way you make music?
The move has not changed the way I work or how I make music. The m.o. remains the same as day one.

Was there anything that changed in the way you produced this album as opposed to the last record? Recording equipment, process, etc?
This was the first time I used a heavy dose of samples and combined them with outboard electronics. I also used the samples in an unconventional manner at points; processing them, looping, then resampling again before recording certain parts.

You’re known for having a very raw and unprocessed approach with your own records. Could you talk about the mixing on this album and how you went about it?
The album was presented in a cohesive manner, there were nine tracks with no "extras" so it was what it was. There was no dropping one track to add another or anything like that. It was presented in its final format, thus making it a fully focused effort. I went into my friend's studio for the final mixdown to get all the levels correct, as well as to get it sonically right for maximum punishment.

"Stress is everywhere, in all different forms: mental, physical, emotional, societal."

In the past you’ve described your material as stress music. How does that play out on A Gathering Together?
Stress is everywhere, in all different forms: mental, physical, emotional, societal.… Whether it’s the simple impatience of waiting on line to pay for groceries, being stuck in traffic, or having to pay the government their due taxes, I take it for what it is. The energy can be used in many ways—positive and negative.

There’s a sense of dread or anxiety on most of the tracks. Could you talk about that?
I would say that’s inaccurate. If anything, I think this album pushes and pulls emotions rather than focus on something as singular as "dread" or "anxiety". There is a beginning, middle and end; there is rising action and a resolve. So I would tend to say it’s more full spectrum than dwelling in one place or another; it’s constantly moving.

Can you talk about the relationship between the music you make and the records you release on L.I.E.S.?
They are unrelated, and not influenced or affected by each other. They are clearly separate entities which do no overlap or inform each other. I just happen to be a guy who runs a record label and also makes music—like thousands of others out there.