Multi-talented, multi-tasking, focused and ambitious, Glenn Morrison is the archetype of the modern DJ/producer star. The 25-year-old Toronto native is as happy rocking an underground house party as he is performing at an exclusive oceanic rooftop venue; as adept at composing an international club anthem like ‘Contact’ as he is at concocting a creepy ambient soundtrack for a Nintendo game.
His name alone gets 850,000 social networking and Internet hits a month. His productions have featured on 700 compilations in the last three years. He has enjoyed the support of DJs as varied as Armin Van Buuren and Richie Hawtin, David Guetta and Luciano. For three years he was resident at the world's best club, Ibiza’s Amnesia Club. His label Morrison Recordings has put out 95 releases, his podcast series gets 12,000 downloads a month, and he’s remixed Queen, the Pet Shop Boys and the B52s. And he is perfecting a sinuous, hooky sound that combines the eerie beauty of pure techno with light rains of melody and flashes of emotion.
In short, Glenn Morrison is one of the most dynamic and accomplished talents in electronic music today. Period.
But whether it’s producing music or playing it, versatility and passion are at the heart of what Glenn Morrison does. Above all it’s about connecting with the audience. “I love being able to elicit emotion in people,” he says. Morrison is a difficult DJ to pigeonhole and that’s what makes him such a fascinating talent. One minute his sound is ruthlessly minimal and funky; the next it’s washed in color and vocals and emotion.“I want to able to straddle the line between doing underground parties and underground records, and a more commercial sound,” he explains. “ I don’t ever want to be stuck in one sound.” His has been an unusual career path. He started off as a classical pianist, a preteen prodigy, performing – and winning – competitions. Then came a life-changing encounter with electronic music.
“When I was 14, I was at a high school house party, and there was somebody in the basement with two turntables and a mixer playing techno,” says Glenn. “It was new, it was fresh, it was underground. It was something I had never heard before. And I embraced it in all of its forms.”
He discovered classic mixes by DJs like Sasha and John Digweed on the Global Underground series, got lost in Adam Beyer’s techno excursions, tripped out to Paul Oakenfold’s Goa mixes – and started buying records. “I started DJing during the vinyl period. I was buying a lot of records. It took me a couple of months, practising in my parents’ house and it consumed my life,” he says. Soon Morrison and his friends were staging their own house parties – DJs in the basement, girls around the pool. By the time he was 17, he had talked himself into a job at Toronto’s Release Records – both a store and an underground label. And that was it. “I knew what I wanted to do.”
When DJing offers started to come in, Glenn Morrison took them. He would play anywhere, sleeping on promoters’ floors in smaller cities in Brazil and China and Eastern Europe, soaking up the vibe. “It was a great learning experience to play in the club; no one can teach you. And I wanted to completely saturate myself.” And as a classical pianist, the move into production came naturally. He worked with fellow Canadian producer Deadmau5, then struck out alone. Everything changed in 2007 with the release of his hit ‘Contact’, an emotional, yet minimal trance record with shivers of delicious melody and a crisp, funky beat that left no dance-floor unturned. Tiësto put it on a compilation and it shot to the top of the World Dance Charts.
‘No Sudden Moves’ followed: a driving, progressive house number with compulsively funky beats galvanized by shards of metallic melody. It too topped the World Dance Charts. Glenn Morrison had arrived. He studied law at the University of Toronto and had a place to study an MBA at Harvard. But post graduate education was going to have to wait. As a DJ, Glenn Morrison is now a major draw on the world circuit. He has played over 300 events worldwide in the last three years and has developed into a consummate DJ performer. “I love being able to play with people’s feelings, to build the night,” he says. “For me it’s about creating an experience. Starting at ten o’clock and then building the intensity.”
He is a relaxed, grounded character, driven to create. And he is as versatile a DJ as he is a producer. He will tease the crowd with minimalist deep house, throw them into raptures with his inventively twisted techno deconstruction of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, then lighten the mood with a fluffier vocal number. “When I’m DJing I feel great if other people are happy,” he says. “It’s a party at the end of the day, and it’s your job to make people have the time of their life.”
But fresh, contemporary DJ stars like Glenn Morrison know that making your own records is the way to stay in the game. And he continues to produce: recent tracks like the haunting and hypnotic ‘Green Valley’ or the lusciously emotional vocal number ‘Mine and Yours’ capture feelings and paint pictures with sound. Production continues apace in the new mastering studio Morrison has built in Toronto. Be it sound design for video game companies like Nintendo, EA Sports, Activision or Rockstar, or his own productions, he simply doesn’t stop making and playing music. “I don’t have a life. I spend all my time making music or playing music,” says Glenn. And he looks everywhere for new influences.
Glenn was at the Grammies – but to look and learn, not see and be seen. Movie soundtracks are a major influence behind his music and his next project is to create a live band to perform the album he plans to produce. It will, he promises, be much more than a club soundtrack, much more than electronic music.
His track ‘Love Lost’, composed after a break-up with a girlfriend, is a tantalizing taster. It is an exquisite solo piano piece that sounds like the theme to a classy, romantic movie scene. Deceptively simple, without drums or electronic trickery, ‘Love Lost’ is a glimpse of the creative ambition yet to be realized. “I try to put ideas into reality. I don’t always succeed,” concludes Glenn. “But if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it properly.”