Bristol-based music producer Globular is well on his way to becoming a superstar in the realm of psychedelic dub. In admiration, I picked his brains about his creative process and what it’s like being a small artist in a big interconnected world.
Otherwise known as Morison Bennett, or Mori for short, his debut album ‘A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy’ instantly became (and remains) one of the top rated albums on the online music platform Ektoplazm. Since then Globular has released three more full-length albums as well as a handful of EPs. His online stats are impressive for such a niche culture, with over 125,000 downloads on Ektoplazm and half a million YouTube plays. He’s played shows across the world and shared the stage with genre-heavyweights including Ott, Shpongle and Hedflux.
When he’s not pushing speakers to their limit to a field of swaying, beautiful people, Morison is down-to-earth, friendly, and thoughtful, with a trace of an accent that betrays his Devon roots.
His rural childhood gave him an unfairly artistic start in life – his parents an art teacher and a punk-rocker turned antique dealer extraordinaire, with a taste for eclectic music.
“My dad – to this day – has the biggest music collection I’ve ever seen,” says Mori. “There was a lot of first wave punk, ska, reggae, jazz, blues, world music, classical, everything.
“On top of their essential collection, my dad trawls CD stalls at car boot sales most weeks. It’s an awesome way to find music, and he ended up with some amazingly obscure and bizarre finds.”
Thanks to this method there was always music playing well into the night at the Bennett family home. Parallels can be drawn in this assorted pre-dawn music and the huge range of samples, both vocal and instrumental, that Morison draws upon in his sound creation. Odd and unexplainable, but at the same time rich and fascinating. The key difference being, of course, that there are a few more people listening now.
No going back
Music has always been integral in Mori’s life – from jamming on the guitar, singing, or playing the piano. However, it was hearing psy-explorers Shpongle that marked a pivotal shift in his musical evolution.
“I was perfectly happy messing about with my four-track tape recorder, making crappy punk songs full of clichéd angsty lyrics, until I was switched on to the possibilities of digital music-making”, he recalls. “Going through music college was an eye-opener in terms of what was possible, how deep you could go, and introducing me to electronic music.”
“My path changed when I first heard Shpongle. They made new impossible sounds, and my mind was well and truly blown. From that point onwards there was no going back.”
These days you are most likely to find Globular hidden in his home studio in Bristol crafting a bouncing bassline, or experimenting with sounds from musical traditions from across the world. I asked him to walk me through what goes into a track.
“I guess the idea is to create the feeling of a narrative so that the listener can impart their own journey onto the music. This way we all forge our own personal connections to the sounds in a very individual way.
“It’s actually pretty rare that a track will be directly inspired by a real-world experience. Mostly they come from experimenting with sound and melody and just playing about until something cohesive emerges, but I think my emotional state is probably the biggest predictor of when a good tune will make itself known.”
Because Morison’s music is so focused on creating an atmosphere through sound and melody, rather than lyrics, his admitted penchant for overthinking can come in handy.
“I think in general for electronic music overthinking is an asset. You don’t generally have such an organic creation method as other types of music, like playing the violin, for example, so you can just keep noodling away at all the little things that aren’t quite right until they are. Whereas if you overthink a guitar part, you’re more at risk of ruining it, due its direct, visceral and intuitive connection.”
That constant drive to improve a track, and get as close to perfection as possible means that a huge amount of Morison’s work, like many artists, goes in the bin.
“It’s actually quite an integral part. It’s important not to get too attached to anything in the production process. Just keep the great parts, cull the rubbish and evolve with the music.”
“If I’m raring to go, I’ll just sit down at the computer and dive straight in, and I’ll keep going until the juice runs out.”
Patreonising the arts
Although a deeply moral person, when it comes to music Morison is focused on emotionally engaging with his audience, rather than bringing any external philosophy between him and his listeners. However, one consistent idea for Mori is that getting hold of his music should never be out of reach for anybody. All of his releases are freely available for high-quality download through his bandcamp.
Although this might seem counterintuitive given that translating popularity into a steady wage has often proved something of a challenge for artists of all kinds, Morison has found a solution that seems to fit him and his fanbase perfectly. Patreon has provided his most regular source for income for the past couple of years.
“Patreon is a really interesting concept,” he agrees. “The idea is that individuals (patrons) commit to a small monthly payment to the creators they follow, in exchange for a closer connection and exclusive content. Creators can be anything from writers to visual artists, to musicians, podcasters, anything creative really. It’s a great way for us to get a steady income, as the financial insecurity in the creative arts can be a real issue.”
Thanks to the rise in paid-for streaming services such as Spotify and iTunes, the average music fan is spending far less per track than back in the era of CDs, tapes or vinyl. Patreon fits around this new model by making content exclusive to supporters and a more intimate connection with artists through access to exclusive, often more personal content, like handwritten lyrics, online hangouts, and (for higher-paying patrons) physical meetings and private concerts.
“I give away exclusive mixes and unreleased tracks each month to those that support me, and for those contributing a bit more I send out remix packs and tutorial videos. But it’s tricky to explain my creative process in such a structured format.”
The consistent income from Patreon has allowed Morison to make a living from his music. Another peer-to-peer platform, Kickstarter, has enabled him to crowdfund the release of albums. Allowing fans to preorder a copy, with added extras, it frees artists of financial risk when they need to pay out large expenses, like printing CDs and artwork costs, but most fundamentally it allows the artist to execute their vision as they intended. That can get lost in the traditional record label release model.
Crowdfunding is now an accepted mainstream investment model (nearly $4 billion US has been invested through Kickstarter alone). Morison’s early adoption of the system is in large part thanks to alt-rock musician Amanda Palmer, who gave a TED talk several years ago on the new relationship between fan and artist.
“I recently went to see her show, and as I watched her incredible performance, it dawned on me how much I owe her for opening my eyes up to the world of crowdfunding, and the power of engaging with your audience. It really helped cement my ideas around the way that I wanted to release and fund my music.
“It’s also just super fun, and they usually entail some kind of countdown process, building up until the funds are raised, which can be great for promotion and adding a bit of hype to a release. Plus they create room to add extra perks such as bespoke posters, t-shirts and vinyl, which would be impossible for a small artist otherwise.”
Is sharing caring?
For most of his career, Globular’s music was unavailable on Spotify, but now the entire back catalogue is there.
“I did abstain for a long time, on the grounds that their model is deeply flawed – again, especially for smaller and independent artists. All they really are, is a brand, an algorithm, and a shit tonne of servers, and yet they take the lion’s share of this vast amount of creative content that they have custody over.
“Millions of people have poured their hearts into their art, only to get pennies or less for their troubles. The actual calculations of how you’re paid are complicated, esoteric, and can vary from artist to artist.”
“I eventually caved and joined in due to fan requests for my music to be on there. I want to reach as many people as possible. It’s sad that it has to be this way, but maybe something new will pop up in the next few years.”
That possibility is not out of the question. The way that we consume music is in a persistent state of evolution, with new players constantly emerging and industry giants all wanting a piece of the action. A problem for artists is keeping on top of changing trends when all they want to do is be their creative selves.
“I think the music industry is in a pretty experimental phase at the moment. I’ve kept half an eye on the plethora of streaming services that have sprung up using blockchain in various ways,” says Morison. “But I’m not convinced any of them have a sustainable model.
“Peer-to-peer models will continue to serve a central role in my music, and I’ll keep crowdfunding my releases for as long as I can. In the wider picture though I’m really not sure of the future.
“P2P funding isn’t without its issues. For example, crowdfunding as a complete newcomer is almost impossible. You need a reputation and a following already behind you to make a campaign successful. Patreon also has a built-in issue, in that the more creators start to use it, the more patrons have to divide up their limited funds.”
Regardless of the industry he moves through, Mori’s music is on an upward trend. Each album adds another layer of complexity to his sound and the latest release ‘Entangled Everything’ is no exception.
Overall, it’s an impressive piece of work, I tell him. “Thanks! Yeah, I’m actually super stoked with it. The reception has blown me away, to be honest. The general consensus seems to be that Entangled Everything is a big step up from my previous releases, and I’ve had some amazing feedback from both fans and peers. Couldn’t be happier really!”
On that positive note, I’ll leave Globular in his creative cave. Long may the good vibes and free tunes continue.
Look out for a remixed version of Entangled Everything coming soon.