An Introduction To:

Morc Records

by Liero Plantir

︎     ︎     ︎

Born at the end of the 90’s, Morc Records is a label based in Belgium that has built an identity for itself through its breadth of experimental and acoustic sounds. The kind of music that just has a gut feeling to it. I had an in-depth conversation with Wim Lecluyse who has been running the label for the past two decades. We spoke about a range of things from origins, artists, sounds and releases, as well as his own reflections and stories from running the label.

You’ve been running Morc for over 20 years. To go back to the beginning, where did it all start?

In the late 90’s I was in a couple of bands and probably as most small labels start out, it was a way of putting out my own music. Then via compilation you have a bunch of connections and before you know it you’re running some sort of label.

That’s what happened in the late 90’s, the first releases were back in 1998 and then around 1999 I started to release other bands. I was still a student back then so I had plenty of time during my studies to work on the label, however when I started working I only had time to put out three or four releases a year maximum. With a day job I became more selective and said no more than I would have liked to.

Was it more difficult to release music back then?

Not necessarily, back in the day there were budget restrictions because I was a student and that limited me to four or five releases per year. It's easier to make connections these days than it was back then. If you were to order something from a small tape label you basically had to send cash well hidden in the mail, which would be almost impossible to do now. From that perspective it is easier for people to get to know your music and to get in touch. It’s definitely different, I don’t think it’s necessarily better or worse.

The label is based in Ghent, have you been there your whole life?

I grew up in a small village about 50km away from Ghent and then as a student I moved there. When I started working I moved to the Netherlands so Morc was based in Hilversum near Amsterdam for around 5 years and then back to Ghent in around 2006.

Being in Ghent do you feel any responsibility to represent the talent there or is that not something that shapes the way you think about releases on the label?

Not really, there are quite a few labels that think locally which is fine but I have quite a lot of international friends whose music I like. It all sort of comes down to the pace. If I were putting out 20 releases per year I would probably look more into doing Ghent stuff, but I’m happy that I can release music from anyone anywhere in the world.

There are definitely interesting things going on in Ghent and I’m happy to release something by those people. There are a couple of things that I tried putting out but it just didn’t work for some reason, so it’s not something that’s on my agenda.

Did the music scene there have a big influence on you in terms of creating the label or were you just sort of doing your own thing?

In the late 90’s I saw that everyone was sort of just running their own tape label, which was the easiest thing to do at the time and then at some point I started tape trading, and from that people from outside of my circle got to know the label. I also ended up getting some international connections which was pretty fun so that changed the whole idea of where Morc was going.

For the first two or three years it was a bit of a joke. It was basically like you were putting out a demo and putting a label name on it. But even amazing labels like Touch and Go started out that way. However, at a certain point it becomes unsustainable only releasing your own music. I don’t know many labels that have gone on for over 20 years only releasing the music of the people that run it and I wouldn’t be interested in that myself.

When I started to notice that more people were interested in the label it got kind of embarrassing just putting out my own music. Whenever I’m putting out a record by an artist that I’m truly enthusiastic about I have no problem in saying I really like this music and I think that people should be listening to it.

Do you remember a time when you started becoming more intentional with what you were doing at Morc?

I think it was probably after a couple of years when people started noticing the label and I had some international connections. All of a sudden I felt a certain responsibility to the way I ran the label. I definitely don’t want to exaggerate it because it was just editions of around 50 or 60 at the time, but when someone goes through all the trouble of letting you put out their music you do feel some sort of responsibility.

There are plenty of labels around that you can ask, ‘hey can you put out my tape?’ and they’ll do it in an edition of 5 copies and it’s like why bother you know. I’m definitely not doing huge editions or anything but I feel bad about releasing something that no one is going to hear in the first place.

Do you ever have goals with releases or do you sort of just go with the flow?

I definitely go with the flow but I find that if I’m doing more than four releases a year it gets a bit busy for me. I have a day job, I have a family and I have other hobbies as well. I could definitely put out more than that but I want to do it in a way that I’m proud of.

You release physicals for each of your releases, such as vinyl and tape. Is the physical aspect of releases important to you?

That just connects with my own interests to be honest. I hardly listen to music that’s digital only so I listen to most music in physical form. It's natural for me to release records that way. Obviously they’re available online because I know people listen to music just streaming or whatever but it's not the way that I prefer listening to it, so I can’t really see myself doing digital only releases on Morc.

When I release something I think it's natural that I do it in the same way that I would listen to it myself. I’m not interested in releasing music that I don’t listen to myself so the same goes for the format I guess.

Did you have an idea of the sound you wanted to represent on the label or was it just releases that you wanted to hear?

Throughout the years I’ve noticed that there is a sort of Morc style which has definitely evolved, but it also has to do with the fact that, as I mentioned, I’m only able to do around three or four releases per year, so I tend to pick stuff that I feel isn’t going to be released elsewhere.

If I know that a certain artist is going to be put out by another label I’m happy for them. But if it’s a release that otherwise might get ignored or only be released in an edition of 10 copies, I’d be happy to do it myself instead, so I focus on those records. They tend to be more like drone, folk, minimal inspired stuff that you hear on most Morc releases these days.

Despite the different sounds, I do think a lot of the releases feel as though they’re branches from the same tree, which does give the label a cohesive feel.

Yeah exactly. For me it all makes sense because these are all records that I like and there’s definitely some sort of connection between them. If you compare something like Roxane Métayer and soccer Committee, the two releases of last year, they’re different but they have elements in common. For most people I guess that’s kind of relatable, but at the same time I’m also putting out Bingo Trappers which also makes sense because they have a certain directness.

I think all of the releases on Morc have a lot of gut feeling in them. The artists are not overthinking their releases which I think is important and there’s some sort of spontaneity in it, which I think is necessary for all the records.

John O’Donohue talks about silence being the music of our own spirit. It’s something I keep coming back to when listening to a lot of your releases.

I really like it when artists are not afraid to use silence as an element. A pretty obvious reference are the Talk Talk records, when they started to incorporate silence. I’m a big fan of John Davis who used to be in Folk Implosion. His first couple of records are mainly acapella and I was totally hit by those records about how sparse they were. Within some of the first releases there’s some relation to soccer Committee. However, at some point he got a bigger budget and started replacing the silence with string sections. It also sounds amazing but it makes me wonder how the first couple of records would have sounded if he had the budget in the beginning.

I’m never too sure if silence is an element that musicians really want to have in there. Instead of using a crappy arrangement would you rather go for silence instead. It brings me back to Talk Talk whereby some of the first records have so many crappy sounds in there. They probably wanted to have strings or horns instead, and if you replace those parts by silence you'd have really interesting records. Often it’s not clear if it’s a conscious decision whether someone uses it or not which makes it very interesting for me.

In terms of releases do you request artists to release on the label or is it more that they have music already that you’d like to release?

That depends. For an artist like soccer Committee I’ve been working with Mariska for over 15 years. I got to know her by accident in the Netherlands and eventually she contacted me about an Annelies Monseré release. We started talking and set up a couple of shows and at some point it felt natural to ask if she wanted to do an album on Morc.

Then she disappeared/stopped making music for a couple of years, so I was quite surprised when she came back and asked if she could do another record. For some artists we have this long standing relationship outside of working on a specific record. There are people that send me demos, though there’s not that many that eventually get released.

Éclipse des ocelles by Roxane Métayer was also a pretty interesting story. She made the artwork for Klein Eiland, the R.O.T. release which is also a band I’ve been working with for over 15 years. The main musician from R.O.T. has a gallery in Mechelen from which he did an exhibition for Roxane’s visual work and mentioned that she’d started making music recently. Then he sent me some of her recordings and I was really impressed, so I contacted Roxane about it and she was into it.

It definitely depends from one release to another, but for most releases I’m at least aware of the musician. For instance, an upcoming release is a CD by Delphine Dora. I’ve known of her music for over ten years and I was able to see her live last summer in Antwerp where she was doing a show. She lives in France in a small remote village and came to Antwerp for one show. We’ve been in touch for a very long time and then late last year she mentioned that she’d done some organ recordings. I don’t know if she sent it with the idea of releasing it but I listened to it repeatedly for months on end and I felt compelled to put it out so I’m hoping it will be released by the summer.
 Tell from the grass 
soccer Committee

Somewhere Someone
Annelies Monseré

The long standing relationships you have with some of the artists on the label, how do those relationships come about, it feels like there’s a small community within the label?

Well, Annelies Monseré is my wife so that’s a very long standing relationship! I think a lot of the artists on the label know each other now, but even if not I think with every single artist on the label I can think of a direct connection with another artist. I got to know Drekka whilst they were touring Europe with Iditarod. That’s how I got to know Michael [Anderson] and a couple of months later he came back on tour with Jessica Bailiff who I’d been a huge fan of for years. I was actually starstruck the first time I met Jessica and I managed to play it so cool that she didn’t notice, it was only three years later when she realised I was a fan of her music.

Once again, if you’re only putting out 3 or 4 releases per year I definitely want to like the people as well. I don’t want to spend time promoting the music of someone I don’t like as a person. There’s definitely some sort of friendship element involved.

You make music as Circle Bros. Do you have any other aliases?

That’s the only alias that I use, but I’ve been in a couple of bands. I’m still releasing my own music but not necessarily on Morc anymore. I’m also not as busy creating my own music now as I once was. Sometimes it occurs that I’ve not been playing music for a long time and the same goes for the label. Sometimes I’m doing three releases a year, sometimes I'm doing six but I also have years when I only did one release.

You’ve collaborated with artists on the label such as Drekka and Karina ESP, what’s the process like for you when you’re collaborating with artists on records?

With Circle Bros I’m definitely not collaborating a lot. The two artists that you mention are literally the only ones because that’s again the story of how I got to know these people. Karina ESP I got to know around 2000. There was an English magazine, Bliss Aquamarine, who did a review of a Circle Bros tape and they said that it sounded a lot like Karina ESP who I wasn’t aware of at the time. It turned out that Chris from Karina ESP also read that review and was like I have no idea who Circle Bros is.

We got in touch, traded tapes and realised that it did indeed sound very similar. A couple of years later when I went to London I met up with Chris and we became friends and he comes over every couple of years. We only played together once because around 2006 I’d just moved back to Belgium, Chris was coming over for a couple of days and had all this gear with him and we did some sort of improvisation one evening. The fun part as well that evening was that Drekka was around as he was doing a show. He was actually staying and recording at our house for around 3 weeks or something so he got involved as well and the three of us played together, but that was the only time.

So it wasn’t an intentional thing, it just happened by chance.

Yeah and that was like 15 years ago. I think I played music with Michael once or twice as a guest musician and with Chris I’ve never played with since. When we sporadically see each other once a year we’d rather hang out than make music.

Do you have any favourite releases on the label or anything that’s particularly notable for you personally?

Not a single favourite release. But I was really happy with the soccer Committee 10” from last year because I didn’t expect it to ever happen again. Mariska pretty much stopped making music around 2009 but we stayed in touch throughout the years, occasionally seeing each other. We went to visit her two years ago and she mentioned that she had started making music again occasionally, but I never thought that would result in new recordings that were better than her original works. I was totally blown away by that. I think every release has its own story which is why I like it enough to put it out.

Over the years, what are some of the biggest things you’ve learned from running the label? Are there any particular things that stand out or has it been quite smooth sailing?

I think it’s made me more relaxed as a person. I can’t be worried about or bothered by that many details anymore. Eventually something might go wrong and that’s okay but I’m not having sleepless nights over the label anymore.

At the beginning when Morc became a more serious thing, I was living in the Netherlands and we were doing the first split 7” with a different label that we were going to do together. At that point, around 2002, no one was pressing vinyl. We eventually found a pressing plant in the Czech Republic: GZ, which now presses a lot of the vinyl for larger indie labels.

We wanted to skip on the transport costs, so with a bunch of other Dutch labels we had someone to drive over and pick up the records. They drove over and then on the way back they spent the night in Prague with a friend and the next morning they got up and the car was stolen.

There were around 1500 records with about five to ten different releases by five different labels. All the vinyl was gone and we all had nothing in return. As our first vinyl release it was a total nightmare. Eventually, there was some sort of fundraiser which all ended up pretty well but it was very stressful at the time.

Over the years, I’ve learned to keep a certain distance. When you first start running a label you need to keep some pace, distributors especially, tell you that you should have a new release every three months but I could never manage to do that. I decide on my own time, if there’s a year when I only have one new release then that’s okay. If I have a year with six new releases, okay that’s fine as well. It depends on what’s possible for me, not what the distributor wants. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to manage that for 20 years otherwise.

You have to keep some sort of distance otherwise you’ll end up burning out in a few years. I’m totally fine that some labels are in for a short run, that can be fun and I can totally imagine that, but if you want to do it for a longer period of time you have to make up your own rules.

You also have a show on CAMP Radio, how do you approach it? Do you see it as an extension of Morc or is it more just playing records you want to play?

That’s a very recent thing and is once a month which is fun to do. I usually like playing whatever I’m listening to at that very moment and sometimes I try to throw in an unreleased song just for the fun of it, but I’d be embarrassed to see it as pure promotion for Morc. I think people who enjoy the label will probably enjoy what the radio show is about.

I think the radio show is a bit broader, you probably can’t tell from listening to Morc releases but I’m a big fan of garage rock, like pretty primitive guitar rock. This is quite far from releases on the label but I definitely hear connections between bands like the Gories and something like soccer Committee, it probably doesn’t make sense for everyone but it does for me. I do like listening to those kinds of bands and putting them in the radio show and they’re similar to bands I often play in as well.

Do you have any vision for the future of Morc. Is there anything you’d like to change or are you content with the way things are?

For the time being I want to stick to around three or four releases per year. Hopefully I’ll be able to set up a couple of shows again in the not too distant future and see some friends touring again which will be fun. I still enjoy it and I’ve been doing it for 20 years so I have no big plans to change that in the upcoming years. There’s also going to be a Morc evening in Brussels in late April with Roxane Métayer and soccer Committee.

In terms of future releases you mentioned Delphine Dora, are there any other releases in the works?

Yeah, so the Delphine Dora record is coming and the LP of Luster is at the pressing plant right now, which I hope will arrive before summer. Luster is also a band that I’ve been working with for a while. I did their first release in 2015 which was a split with Hellvete. They only finished their debut album pretty recently which they’ve been working on on and off for years, I was very impressed by the album.

In the Rheidol Valley
Michael Tanner & Sharron Kraus