In a parallel universe, the trippy, floaty, cinematic DJ mixes of Mixmaster Morris would be top of the charts — essential for any post-club after-party wind-down.
Well, now they are! According to Mixcloud anyway, the streaming site that many DJs are turning to as a result of dissatisfaction — for one reason or another — with SoundCloud.
Mixcloud have just started doing popularity charts, dividing mixes into themed genres, and Morris has come out on top of the Ambient/Chillout section. In effect, it reasserts his position as the top ambient/chill-out DJ in the world, and is the culmination of a revitalisation in his fortunes over the past couple of years.
Mixmaster Morris was responsible for turning many in the dance community onto ambient electronic music in the 1990s. Pioneering chill-out zones in clubs and at festivals, he released tracks and albums on labels like Rising High and Ninja Tune and was one of the founding DJs of the Big Chill festival.
Known as much for his encyclopaedic knowledge of music as for his shiny silver suits, Morris championed many techno, leftfield, dub and electronica artists early in their careers. He was instrumental in exploding ‘chillout’ into mainstream consciousness, but then suffered somewhat career-wise in the noughties when ambient electronica started being effectively excluded from clubs and festivals.
Now however, thanks to some long-standing supporters and early adoption of new platforms like Mixcloud, he’s back in the game — turning a whole new generation onto radically beautiful electronic music. DJ Mag caught up with Morris for some words on the re-emergence of the chillout genre…
Hi Morris, nice to talk to you again. Briefly, what is this Mixcloud chart all about?
“Mixcloud is a popular streaming site for DJs with over 600,000 uploaders, and they do an end of year chart. Last year I came 23rd overall which was good, but this year they have split people into genres, and I came out as #1 most popular chillout DJ. Which definitely will surprise some people.
Is it fair to say that your Mixcloud mixes have helped revitalise your career?
“What it has done is give me a platform to show how much great music there is out there. And to prove that I can do lots of other styles like soul, funk, disco, jazz, reggae, broken beat, chillstep, psybient, vaporwave, electro-swing… and some we don't even have names for yet.”
Back in the early/mid-90s you were pioneering the chill-out sound in the underground dance scene until it got co-opted by the mainstream. What’s your take on the way it exploded into mainstream consciousness?
“I was the first chillout DJ on the front of DJ magazine. And some would say I made the first chillout compilations like ‘Chill Out Or Die’. With my jobs in press and radio I helped create a wave of electronica more for the home than the club, but soon there were too many artists and the quality went downhill.
“I knew even back in 1989 that chillout would grow to a huge size — after all, everybody needs to relax sometimes.”
Why did clubs stop having chill-out rooms?
“By 1995 there was always a chillout stage at every rave and I was sure that this would continue. But then everything changed, parties stopped having an ambient room entirely, and started having house music on every stage. At the same time a new wave of chillout started to come out that was more suitable for bars and lounges than big techno parties, so I stopped doing raves and started a residency at The Dogstar called Nubient, which is still running nearly 20 years later at The Big Chill bar.
“The rise and fall of ambient were both my fault. Although we had some good supporters in the press, we didn't make enough allies and the first chillout revolution was easily dispersed. And we weren't making piles of cash for the music industry.
“But chillout music continues to grow and mutate, and now there are more artists and DJs than anyone could ever listen to.”
Have you had a hard time of it personally the past few years?
“Yes, I've had hard times and bailiffs on my doorstep. I didn't however start this thing in order to get rich, but to make the world a better place. When I wasn't getting work in the UK, the Japanese saved me from extinction. And my experiences playing there opened up new styles of music again. Now I have more work than I can manage — which is great!”
What have you been up to lately?
“I am in the middle of making a new album with Youth for his re-launched L.S.D. label — can't tell you about it, though! I’ve just done a remix for Chris Coco, and we went on a tour in Japan together. I always enjoy his Melodica show, and it was his success on Mixcloud that inspired me to sign up.
Any interesting projects on the horizon?
“I went to Bali for the first time and loved it, so I'm going to start something there. I hear that Berghain have a new chillout area, so I have my eye on that too. I got invited to play at Deep Space in NYC later this year, and I'd love to do that.
“And I'm really getting into iOS music apps. I worked with Coldcut's Matt Black on the Ninja Jamm remix app. In fact, the track I did for that is my new single, ‘Higher State Of Mind’ — out now on Psymatics. I'd like to develop some software of my own one day.
“And I'd like to start an iPod band. Touring would be so easy compared to the usual nightmare of temperamental synthesizers and cable spaghetti.”
“My summer is always taken up with festivals — Glastonbury, where I program the Heaven stage in Shangri-La, and Bestival — where I'm returning to the Ambient Forest — are always awesome. Extreme Chill Festival in Iceland is a must, and I fell in love with Fuji Rock last year too. So far I'm doing Sunrise Celebration, Shambhala and Nachtdigital too.”
Check out some of Morris's mixes here
Copyright Thrust Publishing Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.djmag.com as the source.