A wide-ranging discussion between two underground lynchpins.
Earlier this year, Ron Morelli announced plans to release Eric Copeland’s Logo My Ego, a five-track mini-album with the warped grooves of melted vinyl and enough twists and turns to keep heads swiveling. Press materials billing it as “pop music for the demented” are definitely accurate.
But while it was the first time the prolific experimental artist (and Black Dice member) landed on L.I.E.S., Copeland and Morelli’s story extends back more than a decade. The following free-flowing conversation between the pair charts the origin of the record, how L.I.E.S. differs from other labels, the state of the New York scene and more. Logo My Ego is due out on September 23.
Eric Copeland: I think we met a ABC No Rio, if I remember correctly.
Ron Morelli: I think it was 2000, 2001 around there. It’s kind of a blur, right?
EC: I was new to the city, I had only been there a few years. I didn’t know a ton of people in Brooklyn. That’s probably how Ron and I stayed friends, he was one of the few people I knew.
RM: For me, around that time, I had just moved back down to the city from upstate New York where I was going to college. Before that, I was hanging out in the city all the time; I grew up in Long Island and I’d go to all types of shows in the city, skating… all that kind of crap in the ‘90s. I was getting re-settled in Brooklyn. It was a strange time, I was getting out of a lot of music. I was highly disinterested in bands because I had been around those people and I was really hating that shit; I was more into singular, electronic music that you can do on your own. But it was a super weird time in the city, but cool at the same time.
This project is completely born out of our friendship of 15 years or so. A lot of days and nights drinking at bars, jokes… it’s a friendship, man. On my end, it seemed like the time was right to do something like this with the label. If this was the fifth release, it wouldn’t resonate, but with the 51st release, there’s an audience for it now. It wouldn’t have helped either of us to do this earlier. I would hope that it brings his music to people who haven’t heard it before.
EC: I just make music a lot. Ron just wrote me out of the blue and I had been thinking about his label. It made sense, I was psyched. I like what he does, I know he’s not going to burn me, or try to use me. To be quite honest, it’s been the smoothest record process ever.
RM: There’s a no-bullshit approach to doing this. There’s no promises. We’re going to do something, we’re both pumped on the music and we just try to make it as smooth as possible. The main thing, and I’ve said this many times in the past, is the importance of having a personal relationship with the artist. I have close personal relationships with 95% of people on the label — I don’t want to work with fucking strangers. You don’t know what you’re dealing with. I don’t want people with agendas, I want people who are into putting out music. Like, “here are the cuts, let’s do it.”
EC: That’s not how it goes with most labels. If I write Ron an email, he writes back [laughs], it’s as easy as that. It’s not either of our first records, it doesn’t need to be dramatic or anything.
EC: This record was just the music I was working on at it time. I don’t think about noise or techno when I’m making it… I know it’s out there and people are talking about it, but I don’t put my shit anywhere close to that.
RM: On my end, Eric just sent me the tracks – “I’ve been working on these jams, here you go.” A lot of time I receive demos — not that I accept demos — and people say “I made this for the label” and to me, that defeats the whole purpose, because you’re already having some preconceived idea of what something is when it generally isn’t. The tracks could be amazing, but it turns me off immediately. There are over 50 releases on the label, so take your pick of what sound it’s supposed to be, man. It makes no sense to me. With the label, there’s a certain scope and an idea that ties everything together, but it’s not some sort of silly genre thing.
EC: I kinda always use the same approach: I like every ingredient to be independently good – I want to be psyched on the drum track. I use combinations of numbers so it’s not one just four-on-the-floor. I have no problem with that, but I like to suggest different combinations. I’m getting more into bass sounds because I’m not really good at that; I don’t have the equipment for that but I’m trying to manufacture it differently now and making fuller sounding records. I like it to be upbeat, that I can enjoy and not feel uncomfortable with.
EC: I make a lot of decisions to do what I do. Some of the stigma I’ve received has come from the noise music world, where people release every single thing they fart out, and it’s appreciated for that reason. I just work a lot and that’s why I have a lot done, but it’s not like I release everything I make or don’t spend time on things.
RM: That was always the one thing about Black Dice, was how much you guys would rehearse. To me it was always, “where you going?” “Dice rehearsal,” “where you going?” “Dice rehearsal”. You guys were constantly practicing and writing stuff.
EC: I feel like we had a good work ethic. I think it’s just important to do your thing all the time. Dice were always being called improvisational, stuff we didn’t have much of a relationship with. It’s weird because you don’t have control over what other people think of what you do.
RM: To me, you were just executing songs. You could go to a set and see songs from different albums all put together. It was obvious that it wasn’t improv, it was rehearsed and practiced and made to be heard as a song.
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EC: I want people to be psyched with Logo My Ego, I want it to be their favorite record. That being said, I have no idea what anybody thinks about what I do. I have no idea if I sell one record, it’s totally a mystery to me, I have no idea if people have heard it.
RM: To me, it’s like every other record: listen to it; if you dig it, buy it, jam it. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. It’s quite cut-and-dry. There’s no intention… if someone wants to take this and DJ with it, then goddamn it, man – if you can do it, that’s great. There’s no scope or direction of what you’re supposed to do with it or take from it. If you’re pumped, fucking jam it. Go for broke.
RM: Different artists have different view of own music. Some artists say they don’t give a fuck, and they’re happy if it reaches a few people. Generally speaking, if you’re making what is a traditionally a dance record, you would want people to play it, and if no one plays it in the club, you’re going to be a little bit bummed.
EC: I think when someone has a model that they’re aspiring to, whether it be a techno record or Led Zeppelin or something, if it’s apparent, it’s not going to be as good as the model. It’s just a reflection of what you’re trying to make. I’ve never tried to do that; I enjoy finding the things that I like and having enthusiasm at the end of the day – liking it without knowing why.
I feel like a lot of the music of L.I.E.S. made me feel that way. It didn’t seem that it was trying to offer anything but new ideas on music, and I think that’s cool. That’s not usually what succeeds. So much stuff is based on somebody else’s work — and that’s cool and I dig some of it — but it’s just not where my heart is at the end of the day, or where I want to put my resources or time. In some respects, I think Ron operates that way; my impression is that he’s more stoked on new perspectives and ideas.
RM: Since the beginning, I’ve just really just worked with the people around me and a general distaste for other stuff around me. I’ve always been a victim to my own confines. As I’ve said before, everything just happened at once. It was unintentional, but people had tracks and no resources to get them out, and I happened to start the label at that time. I get all this credit for this, that and everything else, but I’m just a guy that shoots off emails — I’m a competent office worker. Luckily I have good people around me. None of the core people on the label have had any grandiose ideas where they were going with it, and to me, that’s real.
I see a lot of record labels that are really fruitless endeavours. If I hadn’t been in New York at that time, around those people, none of this would have happened. Running a record label is a thankless endeavour, for the most part – we all know this. If you want to break it down to the most base level, it’s an expensive calling card for the artist to present their work and legitimize it. Because if not, why not just release it digitally; anyone can do that. It’s about making the financial commitment to the artist and presenting it in a way that’s real and tangible. If you’re putting out music from one guy in Australia, two guys in London, some guy in America — it works for some people, and it’s not a knock on them — but to me, it doesn’t foster anything really.
I’m lucky; it’s kinda right place/right time because people just had the music. If you look at Factory Records, Underground Resistance, Bunker Records… things like that documented a certain group of people doing something at a certain time, and that’s what this label tries to do. Eventually people will move on and all of this will fade away, but the document will be there in the end and it will make sense and not look like a ransom letter.
In the beginning, I didn’t treat it as a job, but it definitely is one, and you have to have that attitude. Running a label, you have an obligation to the artists that reaches beyond just putting out the record. You should break your ass for these people who have put their music in your hands. It’s the least you can do, because in this day and age, there’s no real money involved in it. No one’s taking the year off because they did a record in LIES, you know what I mean?
RM: I may not be in New York, but there’s a core that’s still there, and it’s fostered a younger generation of artists there. Even if there are 10 knockoff labels, maybe there will be three artists that are interesting and have something to say.
EC: Who are the people in New York?
RM: Guys still left… it’s Shawn O’Sullivan, Bookworms, Matt Morandi, Marcos Cabral. There are a bunch, but a lot of people have left. Steve Summers is definitely leaving, and he’s the OG dude.
EC: I have plans to move; my wife and I are planning to move in the next six months. My brother, who I play with in Black Dice, moved out to L.A., and we’re kind of in limbo. My days in New York are numbered.
RM: For me, it doesn’t matter where I am. My life is here in Paris, I’m married, I’m not that young anymore. I think I can say this for both me and Eric: you don’t want to be stuck in one place for a long time. There’s a lot of world to see and opportunities. I think both of us deserve a bit more than what New York offers at this point. [laughs]
EC: New York doesn’t help you at all. That’s the hard lesson that breaks most people. New York is not a gentle place: you have to hustle all the fucking time, and it’s not that healthy. I think we all deserve a healthier, more affordable lifestyle.
RM: It’s great when you’re young and don’t give a fuck about anything and you can run wild. When you’re 38, that’s old news. Seriously, man, I want to be watching Curb Your Enthusiasm in bed by 10 o’clock, and you can do that anywhere.