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Morpheus: Mainstream Chillout CDs are about 'Persuading People They're Hip'

Author: Jonty Adderley
Friday, November 2, 2001
Belgium downtempo guru Morpheus is best known for his chillout compilations Freezone, which he's been releasing since 1994 over approximately annual intervals. Now up to number 7, he's also spent years DJing in spots around the world including Ibiza, London and Brazil in the process transforming himself into one of the world's foremost experts on down tempo electronic music. This knowledge and reputation have served him well, since Freezone is distinguished by featuring only exclusive tracks, many from people he's met along the way. Robert Hood, Ananda Project, Tim 'Love' Lee, and Dzihan & Kamien are just some of the 23 names on 7, which is out now on SSR Records.

Flying into London this week for a series of downtempo London shows, Belgium's finest musical export since CJ Bolland and Plastic Bertrand, DJ Morpheus took time out to chat to Skrufff's Jonty Adderley about his new Freezone compilation and the rise of chillout in 2001. Setting himself apart from the TV advertised world ruled by Ministry, he nevertheless concedes that such tactics have worked.

"Their emphasis is more on the album's artwork and persuading people that they're hip by buying it," said Morpheus. "That works unfortunately because it appeals to lots of middle age people, who talk about it with reverence."

Skrufff: Starting with the vibe in Belgium, there's certainly a sense here in London that terrorists might strike here, do people in Belgium feel similarly at risk-

Morpheus: "Generally, people are worried, that's for sure. I read an article in the paper about possible places in Belgium that could be candidates for attack, such as the European Parliament. Security everywhere is tighter. For example, my wife flew back from Vienna recently and they were confiscating nail clippers from the men and nail files from women."

Skrufff: you've been one the first DJs to champion chill out music, why has it become so popular this year-

Morpheus: "There was a rise in the popularity of chill-out music around 1994, the ambient period of the Orb and bands like them. Then it faded away pretty much. Even Ibiza went more towards house music and chill-out became scarce even at supposed temples of chillout like the Cafe Del Mar. There's been a resurgence over the last two years where lounge music became popular, in places like Paris and Amsterdam."

Skrufff: In England it appears to be TV adverts which have popularised many chillout tracks such as Kinobe's Slipping Into Something, what's your view on songs in adverts-

Morpheus: "Kinobe's problem is that they had one big song, Slipping into Something, which is a cool track but it was played everywhere. That's a danger for a group when they're already associated with one song. Then they put it on an advert, so people have heard it even more. It'll be hard for them to change their identity after that."

Skrufff: Has the arrival of companies like Ministry in the chillout arena changed the business side, for example, by raising the prices labels have to pay to license tracks-

Morpheus: "It did in the way that a flood of compilations started coming out but most of them were very dreary. They might have a couple of good tracks then loads more that have already been circulating on other compilations. So the freshness is gone. On the other hand, when they licence world music they don't know which are the good tracks. The emphasis is more on the album's artwork and persuading people that they're hip by buying it. That works unfortunately because it appeals to lots of middle age people, who talk about it with reverence.

I think this approach is a load of crap. I think I escaped that path by maintaining an open minded from the start. Freezone 2 for example, was the first compilation to break out of the ambient mode to include what I call downtempo music, like songs with different influences from house drum & bass and techno. After that, I started asking people for exclusive tracks, so I selected artist