Accepting the challenge

Michael Morris plays at Dog with Two Tails next Saturday.PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Michael Morris plays at Dog with Two Tails next Saturday.PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Fraser Thompson talks to Michael Morris ahead of his homecoming Dunedin gig. 

Until recently, Michael Morris was making down and dirty rock n' roll in Dunedin with The River Jesters.He toured New Zealand and Australia, released a bunch of records, started a production company ... and then moved to Paris.

The reason? Well, there were a couple.

"My partner is French," he explained. "And I've toured New Zealand and Australia quite a lot over the last few years. I've wanted to get over and have a crack at doing Europe for quite some time, so the timing just worked out.

"It's been awesome, I've loved it. It's been a real challenge starting again, like here I have a network of places I can play all around the country or, you know, you just end up meeting a lot of the other players in the game. Over there, I basically started by knowing nobody and had to work it up a bit.

"It's been cool. It's been a challenge, but I think it's been going pretty well."

While "over there" he also released his first solo album Slow Loris, the culmination of a year and a-half of writing and recording, which received rave reviews.

Right from the first track the complexity of the songwriting challenges, lurching from a dramatic ballad to almost ska-esque alt-pop in seconds. But within it all is a strong emotional core. If I were to pin it near an existing work I'd probably go with Mr Bungle's California.

It is very technically impressive, both the songwriting and his dynamic, spacious, Albini-esque production, which is some of the best I've heard from a local release, but it's not an easy listen. And he knows it.

"It's a risky or a experimental kind of thing that, in my opinion, is not that nice to listen to ... but maybe it's interesting.

"I was just kind of following any kind of way that something went rather than trying to sit down and write a conventional song.

"But, yeah, it has had some really nice things said about it which is lovely, but it's also been quite a difficult thing as a first and only album to have out because I think it has so far closed some doors for me because it's kind of quite confronting.

"But I am really proud of it, and I'm really proud of what it has achieved for something that's so out there."

Now that he's back home briefly for a solo "homecoming" tour of New Zealand, which will see him play at Dog with Two Tails next Saturday. While he's here, he's also going to record his next album.

"I've noticed quite a big difference in what I'm writing. This new work is coming out quite differently to the first album, which is something that I'm actively pursuing, trying to do something slightly different.

"But also it's just organic - a change of scene kind of equals a change of mindset and, therefore, a change of result, of creative output. So, yeah, the move has changed what I'm doing quite a bit, I think.

"It's great, the recording's going really well actually. I'm trying not to overthink or overplay or overdo anything to the extent that maybe I did last time. It's something I'm trying to change a touch."

Based on his first release, I'm looking forward to hearing what he comes up with.

The gig:

Michael Morris Dunedin Homecoming with special guest Fleur Fauna, Saturday, March 30, Dog with Two Tails, 8.30pm, free.

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