How a distaste for ’80s music helped Morcheeba cultivate their sound

How a distaste for ’80s music helped Morcheeba cultivate their sound

Words by Fergus Neal

Having defined the ‘chill-out’ genre with tracks like ‘The Sea’, ‘Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day’ and ‘Otherwise’, there are few who can’t sing along to Morcheeba’s beloved anthems.

Morcheeba leading lady Skye Edwards has one of the most recognised voices on the planet, but it wasn’t until she met Ross Godfrey at a party that the spell-binding experience of Morcheeba could turn into the success they’d both envisioned. 

“It’s all I wanted to do, there was no other plan,” says Godfrey. “We discovered Skye when we met her at a party and afterward we got her to sing some of our songs. She was shy at the start but she had something magic about her. We went to a studio together and recorded ‘Trigger Hippie’ – it was a fusion of laidback soul, hip hop, psychedelia blues, and we found it was a winning formula, we got a record deal from it.

“When music works it’s surreal. But you can’t plan for it. I’ve found that anytime you plan for anything it never works in music. You just kind of stumble across things and happy accidents happen and you just pretend you meant to do it afterward.”

Morcheeba’s authentic sound partly manifested as a reaction to Godfrey’s distaste for the ‘80s music he’d grown up on. This allowed the musical pioneers to go on a path of discovery and pioneer a new genre called ‘trip-hop’, which drew from a multitude of influences that were floating about in the ‘90s. 

“When I was a kid in the ‘80s I couldn’t stand anything that was going on, it was just so cheesy and horrible and superficial. Then in the ‘90s it started to get a bit better, people started to play better guitar sounds, grunge came along. I loved grunge and at the same time, there was some really good hip hop music that came out. That kind of defined our generation,” Godfrey says. 

“We wanted to bring in some more disparate influences. So we introduced some dub-reggae and country music, even ragtime blues. On the second album Big Calm we spread our wings and it was very successful, so we were buoyed up by that constant pursuit of innovation.   

“We continued to follow our instincts and tailor production to the song rather than trying to fit into the scene or a sound. That’s what we’ve done to this day. The new album Blaze Away is quite a varying album – there’s a big spectrum of different kinds of music, the theme that runs through it is Skye’s voice and the songs we’ve written together.” 

Through their unique style, Morcheeba found a sound that transcends cultural barriers. Their melting pot anthems see the band tour places all across the world – in the late ‘90s, it even afforded them the opportunity to play in China. When asked about the trip, Godfrey recalls the tour as a cultural eye-opener.    

“It was fucken weird. We spent a lot of time trying to lose the minders that we had. They seemed to think that we were spies and that we’d formed a band ten years before as a cover to go to China. 

“We were constantly being followed around, we went to a lot of places where nobody spoke English. There were only four or five foreigners in the city out of ten million people. Things have changed quite a lot, they weren’t ready for bands then. If we stood up there was military police telling us to sit down. I think they thought we were going to ignite some revolution.” 

Morcheeba play 170 Russell on Tuesday April 7. Grab your tickets via Bluesfest Touring. They’ll also perform at Bluesfest when it goes down from Thursday April 9 to Monday April 13.