DOORSTEP INTERVIEW: Five Pence Game | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Welcome to Doorstep Interview, where we find out more about the amazing bands and artists we have right here in the north east. This time, Five Pence Game’s Ally Morton tells us about his electronic project and working with ILSER and Skull Puppies.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you, where are you from?

My name is Ally. I’m from Durham, but I live in Newcastle. I sometimes exhibit as a painter, but I’m probably better known for my electronic-punk band Massa Confusa and gigs I put on as Massa Confusa Presents.

What inspired you to first start making music?

I owe a lot to my brother Tony (Symmatik, Preqwal). He got me into a wide range of music. As teenagers we both bought guitars and began to play together. He was heavily influenced by Liam Howlett and started to record and produce our music. We have had a ridiculous amount of music projects together over the years, but we never really settled on anything. I learnt from him how to record myself, and developed my own methods from there.

Who would you say are your biggest influences?

Writer-producers like U.N.K.L.E., particularly their first album Psyence Fiction. I love the way that the album works as a unit, but each collaborator adds a whole new element to the sound. I’m also influenced by Bonobo, The xx, Tricky, Sneaker Pimps, Massive attack and Her Space Holiday.

How would you describe your sound?

Five Pence game happened by accident. It began as a compilation of tracks that didn’t fit Massa Confusa, but has since become a collaborative recording project where I invite musicians from other bands to make something new. I ask them to choose an instrument and we write and record in the moment. I prefer people not to come prepared, but some pre-prepared lyrics can be useful. Yourcodenameis:milo did a similar project too called Print Is Dead, but they had a set time-scale for the recordings, whereas Five Pence Game tracks take as many sessions as they need.

The core sound is essentially a mix of breakbeat drum samples, simple bass-lines which I play and record during or after the session, and various electronic samples/VST plug-ins; but the rest depends on who I work with. I’m finding that the newer recordings are more guitar based because I’m working with Rachael from Ilser, Ian from Space Hawke, Aran from We Are Knuckle Dragger, and Jack from Skull Puppies. They aren’t really used to making electronic music which brings an element of spontaneity to the sound. Some tracks feel quick rocky, some quite dreamy, and some quite dark. It really is varied.

Where do you see yourselves fitting into the local music scene?

The debut gig was billed as a Massa Confusa Presents show, and I plan to put more electronic shows under this banner too. Yes, the line-ups will be different from Massa Confusa shows, but I don’t want to create a new moniker as the whole purpose of Massa Confusa Presents is to bring different aspects of the scene together. I am also working with Matterhorn group who put on gigs with a more electronic focus though.

“Some tracks feel quick rocky, some quite dreamy, and some quite dark. It really is varied”

Tell us a bit about your live performances. What can we expect from a gig by Five Pence Game?

Five Pence Game live has a different feel to that on recording because some of the collaborators are working together as a band instead of working individually, and the impact of live drums makes the songs sound much stronger with more a of a “rock” feel.

The line-up for my debut gig was Jack from Skull Puppies doing guitar/drums/vox; Rachael from Ilser doing guitar/vox; Ian from Space Hawk doing drums/guitar/vox; and myself doing bass/vox/keys/laptop triggers.

Can you tell us what gigs you have planned in the region in the near future?

I’m not sure if it’ll be the same live band as my debut, but Five Pence Game is playing as part of an all-day electronic show organised with Matterhorn at Empty Shop, Durham with artists like What We Call Progress, Worry Party, and Topaz Gang.

What do you think has been your biggest achievement so far as a band?

Listening to BBC introducing play Five Pence Game and Massa Confusa on the same show has been my biggest achievement, but also finally self-releasing my first two EPs on CD, and of course playing live!

Have there been any major challenges so far in your musical career?

For Five Pence Game, the biggest challenge was the transition to how I could perform these tracks live. Some people on recording don’t want or are unable to play live so I have to translate their tracks into a different version with a different vocalist, guitarist etc. I found that some tracks work well with a backing track, some with a live drummer, and some with both. I like these challenges though as I don’t aim to replicate the recording, I want a different experience live.

What else have you got planned for the future?

I’m working on an album and planning to work with new collaborators to see how this project can develop. I’m potentially working with Zyna Hel, Lord Swans and Laura Victoria which I’m pretty excited about!

Five Pence Game plays at the Empty Shop, Durham as part of the Matterhorn All-Dayer on Saturday 20th June.

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