Retribution: Lorn Interview

Images courtesy of Ninjatune / Featured image Nathan Osterhaus

Haunted, oily and smeared

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By James Joseph

Underground Shoes

In Stylenoir’s first ever print issue back in 2013; The Retribution issue, we had the pleasure of interviewing musical genius Lorn. Below is the full interview, in a fascinating question and answer.

Over the last few years, Lorn has become one of the most talented and loved producers in music. His signature sound of a haunted and isolated timbre brought Lorn to our attention with his first album “Nothing Else” which was released on Brainfeeder in 2010. Since then he has signed with Ninjatune and released the incredible follow up album “Ask The Dust” which Lorn himself describes as “haunted, oily and smeared”.

We sat down with the troubled beatmaker to talk about his inspirations, experimenting with new sounds, writing for Black Swan and the catalyst behind his macabre music.

JJ: I suppose a good starting point for the interview, is many creatives’ starting points; inspiration. Who are your musical influences?
LORN: There are too many to name, Aphex Twin, Technical Itch, The Black Dahlia Murder, Drexciya, Erik Satie, Domenico Scarlatti, SebastiAn, The Doors, Murcof, Clark, Big L, Biggie, Mobb Deep, Mr. Oizo, Pink Floyd and John Maus mostly.

JJ: How did you actually get into making music, is it something you grew up with?
LORN: My grandparents got me a rapmaster 300 kid’s keyboard when I was maybe 3 or 4, it has a keyboard, 4 drum pads, a scratch pad and a built-in voice changer that can pitch audio down or up. I still have it.

Growing up my mother played a lot of R&B, Funk, Hip-Hop and classic rock but I didn’t start making music until I was about 13 after hearing Aphex Twin’s ‘Come To Daddy’ and being introduced to the world of turntablism and scratching. The first record I bought was Drexciya, Molecular Enhancement. I got deep into underground resistance and drum and bass. There was always a lot going on but eventually I started making my own loops to scratch over. It wasn’t until I took LSD that I realised music was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

JJ: Both albums ‘Ask The Dust’ and ‘Nothing Else’ seem to have this beautiful sense of isolation throughout the core of the music, is that premeditated? Are you a person that enjoys time alone?
LORN: I don’t really premeditate anything when I’m making music, its my time and place, but yes, I prefer to be alone, working late at night when the only thing wandering around is my cat.

JJ: There’s certainly a refreshing experimental side to your music, do you enjoy the process of creating tracks like ‘Grandfather’?
LORN: Absolutely. Minute long tracks like that are my favorite, little things that are built and then destroyed almost immediately. There’s no prolonged story or handholding going on… just a few frames from a memory. The playable end of a melted tape. Tracks like ‘This’ on Ask The Dust. I love making things sound like they were kicked around for a while, oversampled fast and slow through analog tape or burned through valves, recorded parts of its own self played in different locations. ‘Grandfather’ was an early venture into that but I’ve fully gone off the deep end lately.

JJ: What’s the most peculiar sample or sound that you have used in one of your works?
LORN: A few of my tracks use a plastic bottle filled with varying degrees of chewing tobacco and spit. Pitched down, EQ’d, and layered it just has this nasty wet ‘donk’ to it. If there’s a shaker in one of my tunes it’s probably a piece of the Berlin wall in a film canister that my grandparents gave to me. I do a bunch of stuff like that, record the filth I’ve surrounded myself with. Garbage, tools, hunks of metal from my old car. I build my own reverbs as well so a lot of the spaces in my tunes are places I’ve been to.

JJ: Behind the beats and the music one can really tell there is a unsettling, macabre nature behind the sounds you produce, was there ever a catalyst for this?
LORN: I grew up surrounded by alcohol and drug addiction, no father, tossed around between family members. I was taught I was a piece of shit by racists in Arkansas. My older brother cut my middle finger off with an ice skate, beat the shit out of me, and later threatened to shoot me in the head with his Glock.

I moved around a lot, went to three different schools, always restarting as a stranger. I learned to hate cops fast, spent a year on probation after being arrested for graffiti. Sucked at school, could never and still can never concentrate too well, nearly failed high school had it not been for some art awards I won. At 19 I was institutionalized against my will, met people who hadn’t been outside for 15 years because they weren’t allowed.. met the same people for the first time again and again every morning who forgot everything because of their shock treatments.. eventually got myself out. After that shit I quit school, took acid as I mentioned earlier and put everything I had left on the line into music and here we are.

JJ: Achievement and success aside, was there a specific moment in your career so far where you had the most creative and artistic satisfaction?
LORN: I’ve been very fortunate in many ways so far, but satisfaction, I haven’t found that yet, not sure there’d be a point to all of this if I ever did.

JJ: When you create songs, has a track ever started with a haunted idea? ‘Army Of Fear’ makes me imagine a hooded paganistic group marching across woodland. Do stories ever evolve the music you make?
LORN: Not really, no. I’m not into these fake ritualistic themes or ideas of brooding collectives. That’s for good doom metal. I’m not about that. I’m just looking for barren places that shut me up inside.

I guess with all the loudness and brashness I use I’m trying to take up that violent space. All of that is the negative space, the fear, resentment, anger.. the real core of the music. For me at least, it is what’s left; what perseveres. My mixing style informs a lot of that as well; each sound is part of a place and that place can be different every time, even if the track is more lighthearted or outright funny. Hard to explain. That’s why I’m not a writer, I guess.

JJ: We heard a rumour you were asked to create part of the soundtrack to Black Swan, it seems a fantastic pairing, whether used or not, did you get to finish a piece and what were your inspirations whilst in that process?
LORN: Mary Anne Hobbs invited me and arranged all of that. It was very exciting as I was a big fan of Aronofsky for years prior. I took part of the main structure and progression of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, re-wrote it with new instruments and wrapped that around some drums that would sort of swell up and then get spat back out. In the end, after I signed it over and everything, I got no thanks, no heads up, just silence until I had to ask what was up. The whole thing had me pretty sour for a while until I actually saw the film and the music in the entire scene was drenched in reverb anyways.

JJ: Finally, what projects are you currently working on, and what can you tell us about what is on the cards for the future?
LORN: For the past year I’ve been working on an original soundtrack for an upcoming PS4 game. It has been very exciting and is constantly pushing me creatively but I won’t be announcing what it is for unless the developers do.

So outside of that I’ve also finished an EP for Ninja Tune called DEBRIS which should be coming out this spring. Also have started work on my next LP, my next batch of giveaways in Self Confidence Vol 3, another beat tape akin to DRUGS, maybe a live show eventually. 2013 will be a lot of building for me.

lorn music

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Stylenoir Magazine cover with luke newberry