Eska & Ghostface – ‘Sticks & Stones’ (prod. Morgan Zarate)
Morgan Zarate isn’t particularly new; in fact, as one third of cult band Spacek, he was making music over a decade ago.
He is, however, certain to reach a whole new audience this year, shunning the major labels that have hindered his development as much as they’ve helped it to sign an album deal with Hyperdub, January’s Hookid EP a taster of the rawer new direction of a producer who’s traditionally tailored his music for vocalists.
After Spacek split up, Morgan left London for LA, where he worked with acts such as Musiq Soulchild, Frank ‘n’ Dank, and – most notably, on single ‘Sticks & Stones’ – Ghostface and Eska. After returning to the UK two years ago, he’s now finally home – both geographically, and in terms of his musical approach.
To those unfamiliar, who is Morgan Zarate?
“Well I guess my music history is that I was part of a band called Spacek. There were three of us, Steve Spacek, Ed and myself. Together we did two LPs, one called Curvatia in 2001 and the second in 2003 called Vintage Hi Tech. After that Steve did a solo LP that I produced some tracks on and around 2006/2007 the band ended.”
What did you do then?
“I went to live out in LA for a while, I’m very much from a hip-hop and soul background, and when I was in LA worked with a lot of people. I did some tracks with Raphael Saaqid on one his records, did a little work with Musiq Soulchild, Sleepy Brown, Freestyle Fellowship, Frank ‘n’ Dank – those kind of people.”
But now you’re back in London?
“Yep, I came back a couple of years ago and started working with Eska Mtungwazi who’s a soul singer and worked with Zero 7. All the work we did together was for an album that didn’t come out because the record label folded. A lot of people heard track called ‘Sticks & Stones’ that was produced by me and featured Eska and Ghostface.”
“It’s kinda made me go back to when I was first starting to make tunes, that fearlessness of just making music and not worrying about what box it ticks.”
What happened with the track?
“’Sticks & Stones’ got some radio play and a few radio and club DJs had it… a few labels approached me to do sign the album but the management I was with at the time wanted to do a bigger thing. So I just decided to not do anything with it at all and carried on working on production for other peoples records and some TV music and ad campaigns.”
So fast-forward to now, how did you get together with Kode9 and Hyperdub?
“I first met Kode9 as I used be flatmates with Loefah for a few years. Myself and Kode became friends and we used to chat about music and we always got on really well. It always intrigued me the kind of direction he came from, I’ve always liked what he made, the process and they way in which he was putting out to the world. But I was in a different world, working for majors, doing more commercial things. I had management who were telling me that I shouldn’t go ‘underground’, so I never really thought about putting anything out on Hyperdub, although I always respected what they did.”
So what changed?
“For me it was really the time I heard Kode on Benji B’s 1Xtra show, he came in and did a Hyperdub special. He spoke about the label, his music, inspirations and I agreed with him, a lot. Then I found out he loved the two Spacek albums, so I gave him a call and told him I wanted to play some music to him … I had this whole album that I was going to release on a label called Sound In Colour, but as I say, the label folded. Then he got in contact with me as he wanted to use a track I made called ‘MAB’ in his DJ-Kicks mix and that’s when we started talking about what i could put out on his label.”