We invited Marrow to answer some of our best questions in connection with his upcoming EP release on Full Flex Audio, 'Neo Viscera'! Check out what he had to say about the release below:
Q1. What does 'Neo Viscera' mean to you?
'Neo Viscera' was a project I started during my Master's study and continued to refine afterwards. It means a lot to me as it feels like I am finally getting closer to being able to eloquently express a story through music and visuals in a domain where pure innovation often overpowers storytelling at the same time as developing a signature sound that listeners can instantly recognise. It also means a lot to me that I was able to complete every element of this project myself and that FFA saw the vision and allowed me to present it in the way I imagined.
Q2. Tell us a little bit more about each track, featuring on 'Neo Viscera'
I did a (fairly lengthy) write-up for each track for my final dissertation; what a fortunate question!
'Cyberspace' - a term mentioned in William Gibson’s 1984 cyberpunk novel 'Neuromancer' – was created in a ‘future riddim’ subgenre style of dubstep which has a sound to me that is not dissimilar from the ideas that hauntological research revolves around (songs in this style make use of ‘old-school’ style vocal samples in a completely new, hyper-modernist context to draw on both ideas of nostalgia and futurism). Complementing this ‘future riddim’ style with emphasis on frantic, highly digital or futuristic sound design and sporadic writing helped me convey a sense of the complexity that advanced, heavily computerised civilisations would be built on and led to the inspiration behind the alternate single artwork and Lovecraftian video content which accompanies this song.
'Dread' - more industrial-sounding and less melody driven than 'Cyberspace'; I wanted this song to be representative of body horror tropes in sci-fi horror media so I opted for a more methodical, weighty and mechanical sound to mimic the machinery used to complete the acts this subgenre is infamous for. Body horror is a subgenre that depicts – often to a theatrical or gratuitous extent – transformation, mutilation and bodily harm with the intention of spellbinding, shocking, and capturing a gritty closeness to ‘realistic’ decay and dismemberment for the sake of experimentation and even pleasure. As to be expected, these tropes can be taken to abhorrent extremes; my association with this subgenre from a storytelling perspective was a more audiencefriendly one, choosing to focus on bionics and the pursuit of technological improvement gone awry in a more stylistic, comic book style with my composition.
'Airlock' - 'Airlock' is intended to be bleak – more focussed on soundscape and use of negative space to portray the Burkian terrors of 'Vastness', 'Infinity', 'Solitude', and 'Darkness' with a title that grounds it in grim realism: mechanical failure condemning an astronaut. Media that shows the magnitude of Space and the consequences of being lost or abandoned are particularly terrifying to me, inspiring me to create this song. Many of Lovecraft’s writings describe ‘Elder Ones’ or ancient gods who reign over the Vastness with madness and fear, only vanquished by banishing them back into the Cosmos which served as an additional consequence when considering the sci-fi elements of this song’s story for the stranded astronaut.
'Deathwish' - this track takes inspiration from aspects of ‘analogue horror’ which aligns with hauntology in its emphasis on phenomena occurring within and around (usually outdated) technology to inspire fear. Web series’ such as 'Gemini Home Entertainment' and 'The Mandela Catalogue' often use tape as an eerily manipulable medium to subvert audience expectation. These series’ take the form of lost archives and ‘real’ instructional videos with dark and sudden twists, telling stories about conscious planets, viruses from space, and warped ‘alternates’ which mimic and prey on humans. Building on tropes from first-person and 'found footage' horror films, the audience is made to believe they are watching tapes they discovered themselves, removing a layer of safety that watching characters in a horror film offers to a voyeuristic viewer.
'Mainframe' - here I relied on nostalgia through composition – written in a ‘future garage’ style which uses rhythms and vocal processing from UKG and garage tracks but with experimental sound design while maintaining 'attitude'. The intro sequence and theme were based on the soundtrack for the Portal series of games, incorporating the sense of vastness and lurking danger that is revealed to be occupying Aperture Laboratories through motifs and sound design in 'I Made It All Up', 'Comedy = Tragedy + Time', 'The Future Starts with You', 'TEST' and the 'Robot Waiting Room' suite. As referenced in the title and covered in the videogame series, I wanted this track to depict a sense of exploration through a clinical, digital environment which acted like a hivemind: a sense of complexity and overwhelming control that is mirrored in the composition.
'Agony Protocol' - intended to portray a sense of crushing defeat; hyper-intelligent robotics overcoming humanity with ease in the sci-fi future. Using distorted sounds of familiar instruments, I created a sense of familiarity with staple elements and twisted them to create something more avantgarde to make something ‘alien’ and frightening. The second drop uses techniques from film music to create a powerful closing track with a focus on drama, pacing and sound design choices; within film music 'it is crucial that there is a sense of the larger form for a climactic dramatic shape'.
If anyone wants a copy of my final written document, they are welcome to it!
Q3. Which track took the longest to make, and which track took the shortest time to make?
The whole EP was written on a cyclical basis to ensure continuity; I started with with 'Cyberspace' and moved onto 'Dread' after a week, cycling through the songs on a weekly basis to ensure anything new I learned could be applied. In technicality, that means they all took around the same amount of time but I think the most hours went into 'Mainframe' and the least into 'Agony Protocol' from what I remember!
Q4. As an artist, what techniques do you use to avoid the dreaded writer's block?
I wrote my final dissertation in undergraduate study about beating writer's block partially. My top three tips are probably; force yourself to work when you feel like you can't, even if its for a little while; write a journal of your process (I journalled the entire writing process for this EP, from August 2021 to around July 2022) to hold yourself accountable; and use the Pomodoro technique to ensure that the time you spend is productive.
Q5. What are your most used plugins/VSTs/etc that have been used in Neo Viscera?
I focussed on a couple of plugins to ensure further continuity, by chance. Output's 'Portal' plugin got used frequently as did the Kilohearts suite and Goodhertz' 'Lossy 3' - an honourable mention is Ozone's 'Trash 2'. I wanted the sonic damage I did to soundscapes and sound design in general to be uniform and create recognisable artefacts throughout the EP.
Q6. What advice would you give to upcoming artists that are starting out on their music industry journey?
Something I still struggle with but has only given me positive results is feedback: asking for, receiving and giving (all in equal measure). This process allows you to be critical and allow others with fresh ears to focus on your track's best and worst features and how the worst can be improved. It's important to remember that this is all still just opinions with the occasional hard fact so take the feedback with a pinch of salt. I don't like letting people hear what I'm creating until I'm ready for it to be heard which I why I struggle with this but I think it can really help refine your ideas, decide what you like about other people's music and how to apply that to your own and it helps you network with likeminded producers who may become your friends!
Q7. Who inspired you to start making music?
I've been a musician in one way or another since I was 5 when I started taking guitar lessons (in as much as a 5-year-old can be considered a 'musician'). My first guitar teacher is someone I will never forget - I always remember him being so encouraging and as having belief in me when I started producing and I showed him my first (truly unlistenable) ventures into electronic music. I also owe a lot to my family who all love music and gave me the space I needed to experiment with the way I wanted to create music. In a backwards way, I owe almost everything to being picked on and being made to feel uncomfortable to go outside at breaktimes in secondary school - without this and the nudge from a friend who knew of a free online DAW that he recommended, I may have never even known about this side of electronic music until much later.
Q8. If you could change anything about the music industry, what would you change and why?
The laws surrounding sampling and copyright need adjustment; they have not kept up with the times and have blatant injustices still written into them. Part of this project was a rebellion against copyright law and my belief that paying homage and practicing respect and good faith usage largely nullifies a lot of the 'no-exceptions' approach that copyright law seems to uphold. Hidden within this EP are 19 instances of sampled material (all documented in my dissertation) as well as a large amount of recreated sound design from sci-fi horror media (all inspirations/references also documented separately) - I would be really interested to see who spots what!
Q9. Do you have any hobbies outside making music?
I love to cook, I love to work out and - as may be obvious from some of the additional content on the EP - I am slowly falling in love with/getting to grips with CGI and digital artwork.
Q10. Describe 'Neo Viscera' in only 3 words!
Just. The. Beginning.
Neo Viscera drops on all stores, Thursday!