Q+A: 5 minutes with Das Mörtal
It’s been a few years since Das Mörtal released his first album, which we covered (read our feature on his 2020 album Miami Beach Witches here). The synthwave producer has mentioned that he plans to release another LP (though when precisely we cannot say) alongside his newly shared single, “‘WASTED’ is the first single taken from my forthcoming album, which, unlike the two previously released ones, will be more personal thematically,” he says, hinting at a project.
Stream / Download: Das Mörtal – ‘WASTED’
Released via Lisbon Lux Records, his latest offering is a unique take on the classic synthwave tropes. Instead of the usual straight kick, snare, kick, snare, format, the record was constructed around a more complex series of drum patterns, rich in rolling hi-hats and lively kicks. For the love of synths and rhythms, let’s speak with the creator himself, Das Mörtal.
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
No reason. It just happens. It’s just a form of expression and everybody expresses themselves one way or another. By just talking or body language. I enjoy making music to express the things I like, or I’m drawn to. A lot of the stuff I like is horror movies, video games, etc… So there’s a lot of my work that references those things.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
It depends. Sometimes I’m just experimenting with sounds and it eventually becomes interesting enough to attach an idea to it. Or it could be the other way around. I have an idea I want to get across and try to find which sounds and rhythms would fit it better.
Does your material feature any collaborations?
It does. In the past, I had the singer from Ghost Twin feature on the first album and on the third one I can already tell you that Dance With the Dead, with whom I did two extensive tours with, will be in it.
What’s on your current playlist?
Leftfield, Autechre, Lorn, FSOL, Modeselektor, Boy Harsher, Carly Rae Jepsen, Tommy Cash.
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
For DJ sets, it’s always been pretty great since there’s an easier action/reaction thing going on, but on live sets, it’s different since the concentration level needs to be way higher to make sure there are no mistakes. So it’s a bit harder to pay attention to anything else other than the performance. I do make up for it after, though, by making sure to talk with them or sign their stuff at the merch table and such.
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
I like using bitcrushers a lot. I originally experimented with it for the soundtrack I did for the movie Deadcon and then started putting it in almost everything I do. I reduce the bit depth or sample rate by small amounts but enough that you can start either hearing aliasing or a subtle noise in the sound. Because they are on multiple instruments and with different values, I end up with this noise or hiss that adds a nice texture to the final mix. A lot of people are searching to achieve what is called ‘analogue warmth’ but to me, digital warmth also exists, and this achieves it. I think my love for it comes from the “chiptune” scene.
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
There’s no recording studio. It’s just a PC in the corner of my living room, and it usually starts with 1 or 2 hours of just trying stuff like beats or tweaking synth sounds until they’re fun enough for me to begin thinking of a melody to do with it. Sometimes I sing something in gibberish or hum a melody to help me find the key I want to be in. There’s some experimenting until I land on something I like.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
Touching a synth for the first time. At the same time, it wasn’t like “this is what I want to do” because I was way too young but more of realizing I like making sounds.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
Water is life, and honestly, the only thing you need during a set other than the gear I play with.
Any emerging artists on your radar?
Not really, not because there isn’t anything good out there but mostly because I haven’t taken the time to search for it.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
Movies, artwork, other people’s music, and just life of course.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
Just a plain old PC with FL Studio as my main software. My main synth in it is Vital right now but it used to be Pro-53, which was a clone of the Prophet 5. Unfortunately, it’s been discontinued for a long time and the other alternatives for it are good and even better emulations of the actual machine, but they either take too much CPU or just aren’t as fun. I didn’t care that it didn’t sound close to the real thing, I just liked the sound and ease of use. Would really like for Native Instruments to revive it with Reaktor rather than being on the Maschine software. I do use actual hardware like an MPC One or Polyend Tracker, but they’re mostly for making random stuff when I’m bored or experimenting with things, and they are never in the final tracks I release.
Any side projects you’re working on?
With a bunch of friends; we made a Vaporwave band, or maybe more of a collective named フライドポテト、チーズ、ソース (frite, fromage, sauce). It means, in English, fries, cheese, and sauce, which are the ingredients for a famous Quebec dish called Poutine. I’m actually very proud of the tracks I did for it.
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
I don’t really know other than having my things more organized than they used to be. The techniques I use are a bit different for sure, but at the same time, it has mostly stayed the same. I started doing music more seriously when I was a teenager and got a hold of the Fruityloops 3 software, and I’m still using the same software, albeit an updated version of it. The biggest change that happened to my workflow was mostly switching to using a desktop PC rather than a laptop. The industry itself hasn’t changed anything I do or skewed me in a specific direction; I just do the music I wanna listen to whenever I can or want to.
Break down the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
I’ve been working really hard on the next album but have had a limited time to do so because of just what life is in general. But we already released the first single ‘WASTED’ and a second one will be dropping later this year. The full album will also be released this year, and this one will be more personal. It’s about how life has affected me in the past few years since the release of the last one.
Famous last words?
Listen/watch Das Mörtal‘s single ‘WASTED’ below:
Follow Das Mörtal:
Image credit: Ariana Molly