Creating The Darkest Beats In Modern Electronic Music: An Interview With Lorn
There are countless basement producers in the world who fantasize about the message Lorn received a couple of years back on his MySpace page. Considering that Brainfeeder, the Flying-Lotus-led collective, only recruited artists local to the LA scene, the fact that the honcho himself reached out to a kid in a middle-of-nowhere town in Illinois was unprecedented.
“It had to do with FlyLo hearing an early version of ‘Tomorrow’ before Nothing Else was finished. ”He was interested in hearing more, we got to talking, had a few phone conversations, and eventually he invited me on board Brainfeeder. Huge moment for me. Changed my life," recalls Lorn.
It was a life that, at that point, was fraught with personal struggles. The way Lorn describes it, “I never had a real ‘home.’ Rather, a bunch of strings on a map. Drug and alcohol addiction, no father, blah blah. Constantly being uprooted and changed. Always starting over. Nothing defined.”
Lorn took refuge in the creation of music, channeling his melancholy reality into intense production, forging the sound he’s now known for: one embodied perfectly in the press image of a stressed looking man with blood on his hands. There’s a disturbing nature to the sound of Lorn’s music, or rather it is what you’d imagine as the soundtrack to disturbing events. Built with clean, calculated sounds pieced together with all the sharp, metallic edges facing out, you can see an aneurysm forming in a brain X-ray, or hear the sound of a chainsaw hitting bone. Dark is the name of the game.
This sound isn’t Lorn’s invention. Rather it’s an amalgamation of the sounds he came upon as a youth, through classic rock, gleaning over G-Funk, finally landing on the direct precursors to his style. Listening to blippy, sterile electro like Drexciya and Underground Resistance, and hard jungle like Dom & Roland and Technical Itch, it’s hard not to hear why these kinds of irreverent rhythms would appeal to a troubled youth. Nothing, not even punk rock, fuels angst quite like the fast and furious pace of darkcore drum and bass. And if you note that Lorn’s production has a refinement that’s not as present in the thrash-happiness of some of his influences, “Wasn’t long after that I found Aphex Twin, and by that time it was game over.”
An early Lorn track, released on Self Confidence Vol. 2, a collection of past work
His first major LP, 2010’s Nothing Else, stood out on the Brainfeeder catalog like a shard of glass. While nearly everyone else on the imprint swam in modern day psychedelia, floating, textured sounds, and off-time, post-Dilla drum beats, Lorn’s album was technically more akin to cut-time UK club beats, though it didn’t fall cleanly into that category either: A true bastard in a fragmented world of scenes and clicks and subgenres. It’s refreshing enough to make you want to lock more suburban kids in their basements with gear, but until any such experiment gestates, Lorn will remain the unlikely golden child of modern electronica. At the time of his emergence, some important minds took notice.
Even before Flying Lotus hit him up on MySpace, Lorn began receiving love from a British icon whose influence on global electronic music is far greater than most fans outside the UK even recognize. “I owe a lot to Mary Anne Hobbs, who has been playing my music since 2006, invited me for guest mixes twice for BBC Radio 1and ”http://www.mixcloud.com/MaryAnneHobbs/lorn-mix-xfm-090612/" target="_blank">XFM," says Lorn.
It was also Hobbs who saw potential in Lorn’s style for Black Swan. “She was curating part of the soundtrack and invited me to create something original. I was really excited about it, made something I felt was solid, but it didn’t end up being used.” And the world is worse off for it. There are few twisted pairings that seem as apt as Lorn and Darren Aronofsky, and there was no better evidence of Lorn’s cerebral, light-defying collaborative power than a mixtape that appeared at the tail end of 2011: Lorn and Dolor’s DRUGS.
“We had a great time making that. We’ve been good friends for a while now, but basically I hit him up with the idea of DRUGS and he was into it. Started with the saying ‘Drugs. I’m doin’ em,’ and over the course of a few months we were sending beats back and forth almost daily and eventually I cut and pasted them together into a mixtape. We put them in three parts because it was meant to bump on tape. Tape 2 currently has a blank side as we finish Part IV. The parts become their own thing, with the titles being taken from s**t we had on our desks. I’ve always got Black Ice car freshener around. Dolor would agree with me in that DRUGS wouldn’t make much sense as a bunch of tracks in a playlist.”
The collection was phenomenal, and blew away scores of mixtape-hunting beat heads. While it seems that many current fans know of Lorn through his official releases, it was DRUGS that gave him credibility in nerd-world (or, as I prefer to call it, “Aficionado-ville”).
2012 saw the next steps out of the basement for Lorn’s career. Following Brainfeeder’s distribution agreement with the godfather label of alt electronica, Ninja Tune, Lorn became a full fledge Ninja Tune artist, a happy experience accompanied by the signature gloom that seems to follow Lorn around. “Exhausted after touring, lugging a 75 pound backpack with all of my stuff in it around, I left Ninja Tune HQ into a straight downpour with nowhere to go save for my buddy Laurent’s place down in Brixton. That was a long walk, but one of the best.”
It’s on the Ninja Tune imprint that Lorn released his new album, Ask The Dust. With it, Lorn graduates to a sound more organic than the cold steel of his previous releases, though the hard edge remains.
Music Video for “Ghosst(s)” from Ask The Dust
“The response to Nothing Else over the years has been amazing. Never thought it would take me to this point. At the same time, I wasn’t and am not interested in making Nothing Else Part 2. I don’t see the point in making the same thing again and again, especially when I love to explore and build. With Ask The Dust, I let things stay that I would’ve normally overdone with previous efforts. Take ‘The Well’, for instance. That track is complete paranoia. I left the first two minutes undone. At 4:10 it gets cast out into itself and I let it ride… let it record… no edits. ’The Gun’ is another example of that… just going. I recorded my mantra and let it go.”
In this way, the aesthetic is evolving, and you can hear that while it’s still dark, there’s less desperation between the beats. The tracks just breath more. Perhaps the fact that the world outside of Lorn’s basement is hearing his music is having an effect on what he’s making. Much as his strife drove the mood of his early work, his increasing prowess, along with the recognition he’s receiving, make for the most mature Lorn album to date, a touchstone in what promises to be a monumental career in music.