When something is a tad bizarre it captures my interest immediately. It is the appearance of something that gains my attention, but it is always the sound that keeps it. I recall the first time I saw a Morfbeats instrument. It was a Carter McLean video with a groovy melody showcasing this unusual cowbell looking specimen. However, it wasn't the same as a cowbell in appearance or in sound. It was something much more than that.
[a quick timeout for one sec......
The following passage should be read in the voice of Frank Zappa during the monologue at the beginning of "Muffin Man"; more specifically, the performance featured on "Bongo Fury"] A body, reminiscent of Pyramid Head. Tall springs jutting out and trailing down one side of its shiny metal body mirrored by a harp-like apparatus stretching down its carefully welded edge to a sharp rear peak......Marvin turns to us and speaks......some people like cowbells better. I for one care less for them.
While Morfbeats creates many different instruments, it is the Marvin that I seek. So aptly named somehow. Sonically, it is haunting and eerie, just like you probably imagined. Visually striking, The Marvin looks like it could be a film prop or sound device for a Stanley Kubrick film. Morfbeats, both as a company and a product, is compelling and unique. The mixture of crude materials and fine execution is the beauty that I see in Morfbeats' instruments.
After watching several Marvin videos posted on Instagram, I felt it necessary to contact Adam Morford of Morfbeats. I just had so much curiosity about The Marvin. Where did the idea to create this abstract instrument come from? Who all is involved in making it? Who IS Marvin!? In this interview, all of these questions are answered. We are told the story of how The Marvin came to be and we get a little insight on the people behind it's creation.
DG:The Marvin. How/when did you come up with this design and what is it capable of?
AM: It was mid July 2016. I was spending some time trying to create and I was trying to make something that was like other traditional mountable percussion. I was just experimenting in the beginning. I thought to myself- “This isn’t really me. If I want to do this and I want to create something I should try to be completely myself.” So I was sketching late one night before bed and just thought- "Lets go a little bit bigger. Lets build something at least double the size of what I've made so far." And then I began to think- "How can I expand on that?" Then the springs started getting sketched on top. I essentially started thinking about all of the sounds that I wanted to make and how to put that into one instrument.
It just starting evolving on the paper in front of me and I remember vividly laughing out loud because I knew I was onto something. I knew that I had never seen anything like this. I just thought- "This is really neat, lets wake up in the morning and lets get going."
My grandfather gave me his welder in Nov of 2015. I told him that eventually I was going to make some sort of instrument and name it after him. And that is why we have The Marvin.
There are 5 different sizes of Marvins. The smaller ones can be mounted. The bigger ones I wanted to have stand alone so you could play them by themselves without any additional accompaniment. So that is why they got bigger. More springs, more tones, more notes and all of that sort of stuff.
DG: Besides the Marvin, what other instruments does Morfbeats offer?
AM: We offer a bunch of different things. Gamelan strips, Block bells, Auras, 5 sizes of Marvins and there is a long long list of other ideas that I have not had the time to get started on yet.
DG: Do you have a team at Morfbeats?
AM: Yes, I work with my brother, Austin Morford, who takes care of the hammering and engraving aspects of the business. And we have a shop assistant, Chelsea Cashman, who is great at what she does. She answers all of the emails, invoices and orders. So we have a little trio that we are rolling with and trying to keep up with these days.
DG: How does hand hammering affect the tone of an instrument?
AM: As you hammer something, it applies tension to the metal and that tension can be manipulated into different shapes to achieve different sounds.
DG: List your top 3 records of all time.
AM: 1. Anything Frank Zappa 2. Anything Medeski, Martin and Wood 3. Lake Street Dive - Bad Self Portraits
DG: Your instruments feature an interesting aesthetic. It reminds me of “Pyramid Head”. Where did you get your inspiration from?
AM: Once I got started experimenting with things, it was kind of like “Hey, can I make something like that cowbell?” And then after a while I was like “Hey what’s an instrument that I would want ALL of the sounds off of?” And it started to become something that I originally thought would be for me personally. (I had no idea the amount of support and interest I would receive) I wanted to make an instrument that would make the sounds that I wanted and make it in an artistic way that is functional. I wanted a wow factor of “What is that?!?” I wanted to make an acoustic instrument that sounds like it does, in order to get some of those sounds effects that you would have to alter in the studio. I wanted to make an instrument that could expand on the idea of sounds that you would hear in movies. I ultimately wanted to create an instrument that was not in existence that could create the sounds that I love.
DG: Beyond Morfbeats, are there other projects you are experimenting with?
AM: I play in a band called Tallgrass. Also my brother and I are working on a group that uses the instruments of Morfbeats. The goal is to make the foundation of our sound. We also run a studio out of the house that is called GPM Studios, after Austin and my father, Gregory Paul Morford. There are also a lot of other things in the works thanks to the connections that we have made with people being excited about our instruments.
DG: Where can people purchase Morfbeats gear?
AM: Morfbeats.com will be up and running very soon. People will be able to order directly from there. In the meantime, check out instagram @morfbeats and we can be contacted at email@example.com to place a direct order. Otherwise, Revival Drum Shop in Portland, OR carries our stuff.
DG: Would you ever consider making a Goliath Marvin?
AM: The Ultra Mega Marvin is reminiscent of Goliath. Once I have a little more space, I’m sure I’ll make a bigger one. There is pretty much Marvins stacked on Marvins in my house.
DG: What do you see in Morfbeats future?
AM: After the overwhelmingly positive response from artists that I admire and other people in the drum community, I know that my future quest for sounds and discovery will be supported and encouraged. Just with the response alone I am inspired to keep being myself and search for those things that are unique and special. I believe that more new and exciting instruments will be created. There are some coming out in 2017 that are pretty special. I am excited to work in tandem with very creative artists to make instruments that only one can imagine.
With each passing article my brain melts with the instruments being created these days in the drum industry. Morfbeats is a very standalone entity I think. There is NOBODY making something like this. This interview has temporarily scratched my itch for curiosity, but I feel like this was just the appetizer. Besides....the guy is a Zappa head.