What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation? Or if you prefer, a brief bio about you.
My reaction to music has always been visceral and body-oriented. I was lucky to grow up with a cool older sister, who was old enough to go through a rebellious phase when my brain was still forming. She listened to a lot of music that elevated her mood, which was quickly changing between stoned and angry. I owe a lot to her for exposing me to psychedelic music like Mazzy Star and fuzzed out music like L7 at a young age. I used to play guitar or keys in a lot of punk and psych bands, because it’s a very Southeast Michigan thing to do. It’s cold there for a lot of the year and so people there internalize a lot of frenetic energy and like to express it wildly. That’s a harder thing to do in a place like the Bay Area, though there are definitely people that do it well. The transition to ambient music is partially because I can’t be obnoxiously loud in my apartment, and because I’m in a more introspective phase in my life.
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
Of Shores is made up of two ambient pieces broken into four movements each. Each piece is made up of looping and delayed drones and motifs. The first piece, Mist of Copal Smoke takes up space in a somewhat high register. At a quieter volume it feels like a distant dream-scape. At a louder volume it reveals the chaos of mist. The second piece, Latah, is named after a psychological condition that causes command obedience or trancelike behavior. It’s often related to echolalia, in which someone arbitrarily repeats words spoken to them. Echolalia is often experienced by young children who are in the stage of language development. This piece wasn’t created to induce obedience, but it does explore repetition and trance and how they either form or dissolve meaning.
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
I’ve always been very inspired by artists and musicians like Laurie Spiegel, Brian Eno and Giorgio Moroder who treated studio technology like an instrument, or extension of their own creative process. As well, artists like Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Aaron Dilloway, whose pieces use the physical natures of magnetic tape to create sonic and formal structures. I work with tape a lot, at work and in the studio, and it has really affected the way I think of memory. Computer memory chips can access a memory perfectly and instantaneously, but we used to have to print grooves on a disc or oxide particles on a tape to remember a sound. The physical carriers had to be pulled across a stylus or tape head to be written to or reproduced, and are at risk of damage or corruption while doing so. In that sense, these older physical media carriers are better metaphors for the mutable nature of human memory, and probably why I find them more organic and relatable.
I also get inspiration from the sound of HVAC, refrigerators, and other appliances that shape the spaces we inhabit, which we usually don’t even notice until they turn off. I have a downstairs neighbor who regularly yells at me for playing music. I wonder if I just had a constant drone going all hours of the day how loud I could get before they’d notice.
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
Unlike some other ambient artists who seek to create negative space, I often find myself working to destroy it. The music on Of Shores is the sound of me attempting to reign in feedback loops and generative processes that would otherwise take over entirely, or become otherwise unmusical. Sometimes it’s successful, and sometimes it’s not, and balance between chaos and restraint are what create the distinct movements of each piece. I tend to find distortion and chaos calming, though I understand that’s not necessarily relatable for many people. These pieces are an attempt to bridge that gap and express to others why and I like finding ways to express that to others.
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
My desert island albums are White Light / White Heat by The Velvet Underground, Funhouse by the Stooges, and the Pärson Sound album. These are albums that changed me the moment I heard them. The levels of ecstatic expression coupled with intense repetition bring me to an elevated state every time.
My desert island movies are Rock and Roll High School, Ganja & Hess, and The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant. They’re all beautiful stories about fights against destiny and the status quo, for better or worse.
Books would be The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake, Against Nature, and Miss MacIntosh, My Darling. To be honest I’ve only read sections of these, but they’d last a nice long time on a desert island and have a lot of details to pour over.
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
Humanherb is mostly a studio project due to the physical constraints of dealing with the equipment. There’s a mix of intentionality and aleatory that is afforded by having lots of equipment to mess around with. There’s so many permutations of plugging this thing into that thing and routing it through these things, and that’s a huge part of my creative process. I sometimes find myself using almost every piece in the toolbox to just make one sound, which isn’t sustainable in a live setting. I’m currently in a phase where I see the studio as an instrument, and the current “shelter in place” situation has given me a chance to lean into that. However, I can imagine that once cabin fever starts to set in I’ll be craving the experience with playing to or with an audience, and I’m looking forward to the creative challenges it will pose.
Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?
The first time I played a synthesizer live was at a youth center in the neighborhood ice arena. I borrowed a Korg EA-1 to play in a band called “The Best Friends”. A buddy of mine had been asked to open for a local metal band and asked at least 15 people to show up and play an improv set with him, with the purpose being to get kicked off stage as fast as possible. Everyone did their part and we got the electricity cut off about 6 minutes into our set. My approach to music has changed dramatically since then, but I’ll never forget when I learned just how powerful the “cutoff” knob on a synth is.
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
None of the tracks are unique, by design. They were composed to create a space that’s at once familiar and hazy. The use of long phrases and repetition allows the listener to remember the piece as they listen to it, the same way our conscious experience of a dream is limited to our ability to remember it.
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
There are currently plans in the works for two digital releases. These are going to be more song-oriented than movement-oriented, however they’re still very much focused on texture and environment. I’m also looking into soundtracking online meditations and yoga classes held by friends.
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity…
What are your favorite horizons?
I’ll stick to physical horizons for now. Here are my favorites, in no particular order
1) The salt flats and mountains visible from Zzyzx road. The cover of Of Shores is a manipulated photograph of this horizon.
2) The tops of South Philly houses viewed from the roof of my friend’s house, aptly named The Dreamcastle.
3) The view of the East Bay hills and valleys from the top of Tilden park, especially during the rainy season. You can see this in my music video that Glowing Dagger recently released.
4) Looking out at Villarrica Lake from the patio of Hotel Antumalal in Chile.
Curated by: Christos Doukakis
Connect with Humanherb:
Humanherb doesn’t have any dedicated social media pages, but these are realted pages:
- My Bandcamp page has various Humanherb releases. It can be access via https://ultraworld.bandcamp.
- My personal twitter is a mix of music, video, art, and archiving: twitter.com/av_morgan
- This instagram page is for Oceans Of Phantasy, which is my video art project. There’s a lot of crossover between Oceans of Phantasy and Humanherb. https://www.instagram.com/