Name: David Morales
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current event: David Morales plays Boogaloo Weekender (Camber Sands, UK, 15th October).
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Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
To be honest, it really depends on what’s going on in my head. It could be a feeling or a thought when it comes to songs. When it comes to instrumental tracks then I get into DJ mode. I stay away from politics. I do like gos[el though.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
There is no planning, that’s the beauty of creating. The ideas come as the project evolves.
There’s a difference between creating a song and an instrumental track.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
I’ve been producing music for over 35 years, so no there is no preparation really. I sometimes will work on something and then sit on it and come back to it at a later date.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
No, I don’t have any rituals except that I don’t listen to any music before I play.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
It really depends. It can be a keyboard line (bassline or piano chord) or a lot of times I start with a beat and create a groove.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
They can both emerge from a place of their own. I write music, so normally send a writer or singer the track. Sometimes I will sing a melody line on top and they will put it into words.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
I love intelligent lyrics. I hate your normal ABC lyrics. There’s many ways to describe a subject without being obvious. Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys taught me about intelligent lyrics.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
Good questions, and every song is different. Some songs I’ll listen to for at least 1,000 hours before I’m done with it. Some songs are faster than others. It really depends.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
Well … writers and producers are two different games. So yes, a writer writes to the track but that’s it, because they’re not the artist that is singing the song. I’ve added words and top lines to other writers' work. That’s what a producer brings to the table.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
I think that that happens to all writers and producers. That’s the beauty of creating in my opinion. There really is no formula, no rules.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
I’m a spiritual person in general, but no. I just love making music. There’s something incredible about creating music. It has to be in your DNA though: it’s not something that can be forced.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
One thing I will say is this: you need to know when to call it a day, because you can go on for as long as you want. Sometimes less is more. Taking a break and knowing when to leave the studio is really important for me.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
I don’t know about other people but I tend to test my music on my show as I work on it.
You have to trust your ear and not be confused. After all, it’s art and not everyone is going to get it. That’s why some writers and producers are more successful than others. It’s like riding a bike for me and the evolution of the technology has been phenomenal.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
I get very, very involved in the whole process. But I don’t pretend to know that I can do it all, either. Some people actually can but I don’t, I know what I’m best at and I’d rather hire others that are good in what they do. I have the final say on how the mix and the mastering is supposed to sound like. I arrange the song then sometimes depending on the track or song I may engineer it myself because it needs to have a particular raw sound.
I’ve worked with a lot of great engineers in my career so I have an idea of what a good mix should sound like. There’s a lot of detailing that goes into a mix. For instance, level balance is very important.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
Every producer feels confident about their work and believes and hopes that it does well in the market but there are no guarantees. Yes you can be disappointed that the song didn’t do as well as you’d hope for but every big artist in the world has gone through the same thing. Not every song off their album is a hit. But an artist or producer makes songs because it's a creative outlet. Your hardcore fans will always support you. When you have a career of making songs you don’t do it to make money really otherwise so many of us would give up.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
There’s no comparison whatsoever. There’s nothing mundane about creating something unique that expresses one’s emotions through music. A cup of coffee is just made with water. No matter what brand of coffee it is. Writing a song is like telling a story.