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Premiere: Alphabethead Shares New Single 'The Red Planet' + Interview

Premiere: Alphabethead Shares New Single 'The Red Planet' + Interview

Wednesday 22nd November, 2017 12:30PM

If you’ve ever caught Wellington turntablist Alphabethead (David Morrison) live you’ll have experienced his whirlwind of infectious energy and free-thinking approach to music making. When he’s not wowing audiences solo with peerless skills on the decks, he's pummeling them into submission as part of drums/turntables/throat-singing group The All Seeing Hand. Alphabethead is currently touring the country with the trio, and has shared futuristic track ‘The Red Planet’ from his upcoming third album Topography.

The album will launch this week with shows in Port ChalmersWellington and Auckland, and is available on self-released cassette for pre-order via Bandcamp. Morrison kindly took time out from his travels to share his thoughts on Topography, listen to the new tune below and read on for our chat with Alphabethead…

Congratulations on your new album David! The record is called 'Topography', were you visualising different landscapes with each track?

Year! It’s music for imaginary landscapes/worlds. Not so much frozen snapshots of these places but soundtracks spanning their evolution. Time is compressed to a point that you can hear transformative geological processes at work, the ensuing comings and goings of flora and fauna, mass extinctions and new life!

Were there any specific visual or sonic inspirations for your album?

Visually, a bunch of stuff has left an indelible impression. Most recently the long train rides through China. In the space of minutes our we’d pass through copy-and-paste blocks of impossibly dense residential high rises, acres of futuristic solar farms then right into green mountains untouched by human-hand save the odd temple. Wharariki Beach at the topmost point of the South Island embodies the compressed time concept at work in the music too. Witnessing the extreme winds and sandstorms on that beach in winter is like viewing the birth and death of macro mountains in real-time!

Sonically, I’m serious when I say I love it all! Bubbling synths, gamelan, Duke Ellington brass, kubuki, minimal techno, car horns, appalachian dulcimer, rusted gate hinges... I’m most interested in unheard music unions and contrasts between previously unrelated sounds. Smashing together disparate sound sources and see what happens! Can the cathartic screams of a noise guitarist be calmed and made melancoly when accompanied by 1950’s romantic string section? Can a frogs mating call carry the head-banging weight of a heavy metal if fused with just distorted drum?

You’ve got one of the most unique setups and playing styles I’ve seen in New Zealand. What is your current live solo setup and how did it evolve into it’s current form?

It was initially just the standard two turntables and mixer. Then as time went on I incorporated more guitar FX pedals and discovered how to create intentional feedback with the DJ mixer. Vinyl is such beautiful, malleable medium but gah - so perilous! A wobbly table, accidental bump or heavy-footed dancer can send the needles pirouetting across the record and the whole piece falls on it’s head! I’ve gradually added samplers and drum machines to not only broaden the palette but in an attempt to keep things on an even keel when disaster strikes. I’ve had a shows where I’ve had to do the unthinkable; ask the audience to not party so hard because the needles were skipping like crazy…

You famously performed at the DMC World DJ Championships in 2002, do you still participate in or head along to turntable competitions?

Oh I miss those days! When I was a teenager all I entered was hip hop DJ battles and DMC mix comps! Haven’t done so in seven years. Loved that era but to stay at high-level it really was a full-time thing! I wanted to play in bands and shake off the time and stylistics restraint of competition. The pressure-cooker, practice, practice, practice environment of the competitive world really elevates the technical side of DJing; but sadly sometimes sacrifices the musicality.

Who did the artwork for the new album?

I whipped up the art. It’s a visual analogy to the music. A volatile, molten world, almost spent and yet civilisation is still trying to stake its claim. The most common through-line in the songs is the dance between the natural world and the weight of new forces (general a new ‘intelligent’ species). Will it be a duel to the death or can the forces harmonise! The song ‘Replaced By Machines’ (from Topography) depicts a fully industrialised world and we watch (listen) as biological life slowly claws it way back into existence one cell at a time…

Alphabethead’s new album ‘Topography’ is available on self-released cassette for pre-order via Bandcamp.

The record will launch with shows at Port Chalmers Pioneer Hall on Friday 24th November, Wellington's Meow on Friday 15th December, and at Auckland's Whammy Bar on Friday 22nd December. See below for more info...


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Fri 24th Nov
Port Chalmers Pioneer Hall, Port Chalmers
Fri 15th Dec
Meow, Wellington
Fri 22nd Dec
Whammy Bar, Auckland

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