Locals: Joseph Morris takes many forms in shape-shifting Druid Cloak
Joseph Morris established Druid Cloak with the idea that the music could take virtually any form, pulling inspiration for the project from the druid in "World of Warcraft," a shape-shifting character capable of adopting myriad guises.
"I wanted an outlet where there weren't any bounds, and I wasn't going after any specific genre," said Morris, 31, who headlines an Apothecary Compositions showcase at Double Happiness on Saturday, Dec. 19. (Morris heads up the experimental label, which has embraced a similarly eclectic approach in its release schedule, featuring everything from organic sound collages to the buzzing electronic output of Interferon, aka Columbus resident Sean Conner, who is also featured on this weekend's bill.) "I had always dabbled in making music, but it was always within the framework of a specific type of genre - drum and bass or techno or whatever - and I wanted to stop doing that."
Morris admitted he was initially slow to dissolve these musical boundaries- "Even though I wanted it to be a loosely defined thing, I wasn't pushing it far enough early on," he said - though in recent times the music has become increasingly more free-form, shifting between airy electronic numbers ("Throne Wars," an epic-sounding tune that conjures images of imposing castles surrounded by rolling green fields) and claustrophobic, clattering turns like "Molten Peak," which sounds like it was constructed using field recordings exclusively obtained at blacksmith shops and steel mills.
"When Druid Cloak started, the music was simpler and more club-based, and it's moved away from that over the past three years," said Morris, who is currently putting the finishing touches onLore: Book Three, the final movement in a planned album trilogy (Book OneandBook Two surfaced in 2014 and 2015, respectively). "I'm getting into stranger stuff, and I'm applying more techniques and different sounds in [the music]. I don't want to be defined."
Early in Druid Cloak's existence, this desire to maintain a degree of mystery extended into the musician's offstage guise, and in initial media appearances Morris attempted to remain anonymous, cloaking aspects of his personal life, as it were, in an attempt to keep the focus solely on the music.
"It started out like that, but as I started doing more interviews I shed the [anonymity] because I didn't want it to become some kind of cheesy branding thing," said Morris, who received his earliest introductions to electronic music in the late '90s via acts like Daft Punk and Basement Jaxx. "I wanted people to know that I'm a real person, and that I do want to connect with the people that are listening."
The desire to connect with an audience is a relatively new concept for Morris, a Marysville native who used to perform with his back to crowds while fronting a variety of screamo and noise bands as a teenager and early 20-something - a practice he adopted as a means of coping with his more introverted tendencies.
"Aside from my family, music is the only thing that has made me incredibly happy throughout my life, so I was willing to go through that uncomfortable part in order to do this," said Morris, who was born to an auto worker father and a mother who was employed by a title agency. "To me, the best part about making music is still when I'm just sitting down on my own and creating."
An ingrained desire to create is part of what finally compelled Morris to forgo the more traditional band structure in favor of solo electronic recordings.
"I had the need to make music, but I didn't have the connections or time to make music with a band," said Morris, who first dabbled in electronic music composing hip-hop instrumentals with vintage computer programs in 2001. "Organizationally, it's way harder to put a band together than … to make music alone."
Additionally, the creative possibilities within the electronic realm felt limitless - "That's one of [the genre's] gifts and curses," Morris said, and laughed - allowing Druid Cloak to shift identities with the effortlessness of Jaqen H'ghar, "Game of Thrones'" shape-shifting Faceless Man.
"[Druid Cloak] is open-ended. I'm not always going to make full-fledged, electronic-influenced music," Morris said. "I've even included acoustic guitar and my own vocals in the songs - minimally, anyway - because I want the possibility of trying something different to remain open for the future. I'm going to keep taking chances, and I want to inspire other artists [to do the same]."
7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19
482 S. Front St., Brewery District
ALSO PLAYING: Interferon, Wild Kid, Noelsferatu