Morr Music merges electronic and indie musical disciplines, so that many consider the label to have invented its own genre. Its roster is certainly a testament to this fact – the likes of Sin Fang, Sóley, Lali Puna, Múm, Isan, Orcas, Fenster, Masha Qrella, Tarwater, FM Belfast, Pascal Pinon, Opiate and B.Fleischmann making for an impeccable roster. With more than 130 albums in their catalogue, Morr Music is a label that truly has something for everyone. Same goes for Thomas Morr, the founder of the label who has something to tell everyone. In our in-depth interview with Thomas you will able to find out everything you always wanted to know about Morr Music and the secret of running an extremely successful label. Thomas also prepared an exclusive mixtape for Sounds Of A Tired City, full of delicious pieces released on Morr Music.
How did you first get involved with music?
I had several different music related jobs like working in a club, promoting shows on my own and working for a concert promoter, a record shop and one of the biggest German music mailorder while I was officially still a student. All that started in 1988 and my network from back then also helped a lot when things got more concrete.
When and how did you get the idea to give birth to Morr Music?
I’ve been playing with the idea to start a label. In August 1998 a friend brought up the idea to start a new indie distribution company and fill a gap as Revolver Distribution USA was about to close their European office and that’s when I realised I could build up and control my own infrastructure that’s needed to get the music out there. Late 1998 I decided to start the label with a record of my new roommate (and I moved from Berlin to close to Munich to work with the distributor), Markus and his girlfriend Valerie aka Lali Puna and then only b.fleischmann from Vienna finished his release a little earlier to be our first artist.
How would you describe the sound of Morr in 5 words?
The Notwist, múm, Tarwater, The Postal Service, Sóley… That’s how a far away living aunt would maybe understand too.
What is the concept of the label?
In the beginning I was totally in love with all the great new UK 7″ labels of the late 90’ies, there were so many new artists (and labels) to discover that I wanted to transfer this idea to an album format, realising after 6 months that it’s going to get a little busy if you want to continue working with ‘our’ bands plus discovering and working with new bands all the time. At the same time I always liked 4AD, Touch, Mego and others for their clear musical AND visual concept. Graphically mainly all more or less electronic labels set new standards at that time, I guess we also have to name Warp here!
Whose idea was the logo, who made it?
It came up in the process when working on the first album cover, the logo had another purpose in the beginning like a ‘news stamp’ and then it just turned into the logo idea made by Jan Kruse, a very old friend who did about 100 artworks for us.
How do you usually find and select the artists/music you’re going to sign to your label?
Artists mainly find us! Mostly via filters like our own label artists, managements and/or other labels and every two years it might be a surprising demo that leads to an actual signing. For me personally the people we work with come first, as we made a commitment putting out their albums already which means we should keep space for them. A new band always means a big investment in time and money, which means the mix of new and old bands is important. Selecting music is pretty easy, I like it or I don’t. 95%+ I don’t like and know for sure after 15 seconds, the rest I’m just listening to for longer and then it just needs to click first musically then hopefully also personally.
What do you find the most stimulating/disappointing thing about running a label?
Finding great new people and music you’d give the shirt off your back for/ finding out it’s actually not even worth your time by various reasons.
Do you think that in our digital era the non-musical elements – eg. album artwork – are overlooked and not appreciated enough? How important are these kind of aesthetics for Morr Music?
I hope when you look at our cover gallery you could see that we spend a lot of time on such details, including the grammage of our vinyl covers etc. In fact, even if specific aesthetics only make sense at their time, I still like most of the artworks we did and looking back I maybe like the ones the least that I was too tired to start an argument about. Looking at details simply means a lot of extra work and the need of a team that knows what they’re doing. I guess a lot of people tend to undervalue that. I don’t! I like all these almost invisible decisions also about technical and likewise aspects.
How does a ‘regular day’ look like at the Morr office?
Usually we’re 7 people at our Berlin office and one working from Munich. We usually get in between 9-10 and leave 18-20, so yes it’s a regular 8-10 hours office day. The job is quite demanding, but on the other hand we work with people we like on things we like. Being a father since January also means I have an excuse to leave earlier than for the past 15 years, so I maybe work 40 instead of 55 hours per week! 🙂
As we run a webshop, there’s orders going in (from labels we like) and out every day. We run a digital and physical distribution company, and we coordinate the growing team of experts we need for the growing amount of topics we work on. Most of the people in the office are active artists, former label artists or former label runners, our shop team constantly surprise with new bands as well and actually all of us have a ‘similar’ background and are constantly digging vinyl releases out of the boxes coming in ourselves. I guess beside getting things done properly and being hard working there’s no question what we’re all doing this for and if I’m allowed to say that’s why I like coming here day after day.
Are there any artists you would secretly love to sign to Morr Music?
I could maybe list a few artists here but I also like the idea that artists have their home, as long as they have a nice home. 😉 I could list a ton of albums here that I would have loved to release myself, some in fact we could but it’s also important that I could imagine Morr Music to be the long-term home for an artist at the exact moment I listen to the music and sometimes the world is just not in sync! The artists on my secret wishlist know anyway and start with b, d, h, j, n, s and other letters.
Do you have a personal favourite among your releases? Which one are you the most proud of?
Most of these releases have a story about meeting a new artist or doing something fun together. They are personal stories that make the releases special for me. there’s always new candidates as well…
- B. Fleischmann – Pop Loops For Breakfast (1999): The first record we ever put out will always stay magical. First test-pressings, first cover, first everything.
- Lali Puna – Scary World Theory (2001): This is the album that changed it all for us, it opened a lot of new doors.
- ISAN – Clockwork Menagerie (2002): Our fourth ISAN release, containing a few of the tracks that, looking back, maybe made me start a record label.
- Various Artists – Blue Skied an’ Clear (2002): A tribute to one of my favourite bands ever, Slowdive.
- Múm – Yesterday Was Dramatic – Today Is OK (2005): Simply one of my favourite albums ever. It made us very happy to re-release this album about five years after I first heard it.
- Sin Fang Bous – Clangour (2008): For me he’s one of the greatest guys we ever worked with and he also introduced Sóley to us.
- Sóley – We Sink (2011)
- Dump – Superpowerless (2013): Reissues of albums I loved for 20 years, working on the re-release for 3 years!
Do you remember a particularly wonderful moment in the history of the label?
There’s countless to be honest! I’ve been so to say travel-djing a lot to festivals and with bands for 10 years and looking back that was a lot of fun! Meeting some of my old heroes like Depeche Mode, interviewing Radiohead for a German music magazine, a goodbye kiss from Björk on my right cheek and such memories are great.
What kind of advice would you give to someone who is interested in starting their own label?
Find a team you can rely on ASAP, maybe start with a tax consultant to avoid certain surprises ;).
What are the latest news at Morr Music? What should we keep our eyes and ears on?
We have a lot of releases lined up for late 2014 and 2015 starting with Óbó from Iceland, Slow Steve from Berlin/Paris, Aloa Input, Sóley, Sin Fang, Ms. John Soda, a lot of follow up albums, but also a few things I cannot talk about yet, which is always very exciting! 😉