Lorn touches down in Wellington tomorrow (3rd March) at The San Francisco Bath House. Here's an interview from Martyn Pepperell to give a little insight on the man himself...

Lorn: desolate, forlorn, abandoned.

Words… Words have power, words have meaning. And for a young Marcos Ortega, at age nine, already a world weary wanderer of America, the word Lorn, the nickname turned performance moniker (by which he identifies himself to his day) represented the start of something new.

As he explains via phone, early one evening in January, “I remember sitting in my mother’s chair in the living room, this really old uncomfortable, dirty, coarse chair… I had come to the realisation that my father hadn’t been around. Marcos is a very Mexican name and my other family is German. I guess it was my little bit of youth rebellion, just saying fuck Marcos, I’m coming up with my own name. At first I didn’t think it meant anything, like I don’t think Dave means anything. I just thought it was a name. I just liked it, so I kept it. Then, when I got older, you know, the friends I had and I made, they called me Lorn. When I was a teenager, I looked it up, and I was like; holy shit. It just fit with my upbringing, and where I was at, because I was always moving as a child. So I didn’t really have a home, or a specific family member that I was living with, so it just fit.”

A lifelong music lover who caught the bug for DJing and electronic music production in his early teens, Ortega was raised across America by a single mother with a penchant for drug and alcohol abuse who had DJ boyfriends coming in and out of her life as much as she moved cities (by age fifteen Ortega had lived in a dozen cities) as well as his grandparents and aunt, who all took turns looking after him. Describing some of his earliest memories as dancing to mixtapes collected off his mother’s boyfriends, Ortega’s childhood was filled with classic hip-hop, pop and rock. And while as he puts it, “I never really felt like I had a real home or place I belonged,” Ortega could always invent things in his mind. Which in this scenario manifested as, as he puts it, “My ideas of music and my ideas of relationships and friendships. What it meant to be a man. How a man should be. How a family should be, things like that.”

Exposed in Chicago at age thirteen to the anarchistic drill’n’bass labyrinths of English electronica innovator Aphex Twin and the Black Atlantis imagining techno of Drexciya, Ortega’s mind was blown by the possibilities of sampler and synthesiser powered electronic music. Picking up turntablism in a friends basement, Ortega obsessively scratched over classic electro breakdance records, taught himself keys on his grandparents ancient piano and disappeared into a secret universe of computer program and sampler based music creation. ” I was just messing around, ” he laughs. A thirteen year old kid just suddenly discovers all of this shit, and I was hooked.”

At some point in the early 2000s, Ortega surfaced as a central figure in an internet chat room centralised community of turntablists, who would download his free-for-use darkly textured half-time beat loops and utilize them in their scratch DJ routines. ” It seemed like people all over the world were interested in these beats and it sort of gave me a little bit of a following,” he recalls. “It wasn’t electro, it wasn’t hip-hop, to me it was something else. I think other people caught onto that.”

From here things get murky for a few years. An aborted attempt to live in New York here. A dubstep sounding scratch record released in Paris there. Radio support on Triple R 102.7FM (Melbourne, Australia) on a tangential tip. Connections with DJ/Producer figures like NOSAJ THING, The Gaslamp Killer and eventually Brainfeeder Record’s Afrofuturist architect Flying Lotus, who with a single album release would change everything for Ortega. Throw depression, anger, thoughts of suicide and his grandparents house in Wisconsin (a locale he describes as, “by a big lake out in the middle of nowhere”) into the mix and you have a reductionist road map to Nothing Else, his Brainfeeder released debut album; at that stage intended to be his last. He explains, “After I failed in New York I moved up north to my grandparents in Wisconsin. I guess once I got there it kind of gave me time to reflect on everything and really get down to what I gave a shit about, and that was Nothing Else.”

Thickly textured in melody and atmosphere and richly detailed in rhythm, Nothing Else is future b-boy music for a dystopian Blade Runner world which hasn’t quite arrived yet, and concurrently, a personal response to John Milton’s cult 17th century poem Paradise Lost. Coloured by a re-occurring sound and energy Ortega defines as “this whole idea of conflict,” due to his low mental state at the time, Ortega put everything into the record, seeing it as both the alpha and omega of his career. “Nothing Else meant that this was all there was ever going to be for me, you know?” he admits with an ironic laugh. “It was some sort of existential piece of music.”

These days, Ortega, the desolate, abandoned Lorn, exists in a new location. A location where, as during his struggles he continues to do the only thing he has ever really done, make music. However, as opposed to a place destitute, Ortega now works from the vantage point of one who has embraced the wider world, been embraced back and has that ever important extra bit of spare cash in his pocket when his unconventional working week is done. “I’ve been in a few magazines and I’ve been approached to do music for film,” he enthuses, baffled. “I’ve been around the world practically; and now I can pay my rent.” Pausing for a moment, he repeats his words with a grateful emphasis and an extra, down to earth phrase to boot. “I can pay my rent! Feed my cat!”

By Martyn Pepperell

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