Interview: mau5trap’s Morgin Madison Bares His Soul on Debut LP ‘Living the Phantasm’

Throughout the last decade, mau5trap has consistently discovered some of the most talented up and coming producers. Today mau5trap releases Living the Phantasm, the debut LP from Boise-based producer Morgin Madison. Releasing his debut album during this challenging era, the dexterous producer showcases the broad spectrum of his talents over the twelve-track LP, while baring his soul. 

Madison quit his day job as a lobbyist several years ago, but the music industry seemingly crumbling in 2020 left him pondering what he truly wanted to say while he was still here on this planet. Facing serious depression, he asked himself the vital question, “if this is it, what do I want to say before I go?” Hence, Living the Phantasm was born. 

Taking his listeners on a sonically rich and introspective journey, Morgin Madison chronicles his experiences while showcasing his artistry. On Living the Phantasm, he fuses genres ranging from club to IDM, glitch, electro and progressive house. Perhaps what makes this album remarkable is that while it is is able to intermix so many different sounds and genres, while carrying a consistent sound.

From the first track, the attention grabbing, "Initialize the Phantasm" to the spell-binding and euphoric, "Far From Home" featuring Gregg Sgar, Madison captivates his listeners throughout the 49-minute album. "Far From Home" serves as a hopeful anthem amidst these turbulent times. Living the Phantasm ends with the surreal "All These Worlds," leaving listeners pondering existential thoughts long after the album is over. 

I recently had the chance to connect with Morgin about the release of his debut album, his creative process, and more. 

Listen to Living the Phantasm below. 

SB: What was it like getting recognized by Apple so early on in your career? 

It was wild. I remember sitting at my desk at my old job, and the head of artist relations at Tunecore emailed me saying Apple wanted to use the assets of my self-released album (under a different name) in the marketing for their new product. I didn’t know at the time, but that product ended up being the homepod. My album artwork was all over the Apple website and elsewhere, which was insane because I made it myself. It really gave me the confidence I needed to believe in myself and my vision, especially when it came to my preferences for visuals.

SB: How would you describe your creative process?

MM: It’s extremely sporadic these days. With my previous mau5trap EP Some Nights, I tried this method where I would only create music from 12AM to 5AM, and I found that it really changed my productivity level. I create in short, extremely productive bursts. Sometimes I won’t create anything for a month, and then the next month I’ll do 20 songs. For a long time I kept a very rigorous structure for my creative process, but for now I’m enjoying the free-flow style. Other than that, I don’t really plan much out. If an idea for a track sticks around in my head for a while I’ll act on it, but most of the time my track ideas are improvised.

SB: Where did you come up with the name for your debut LP Living the Phantasm?

MM: I love this question. One of the definitions of a “phantasm” is “the illusory likeness of something.” Pursuing music is already wild enough by default, but when COVID hit, the whole industry (and world really) sort of plunged into a tense and toxic state. It felt like we were all living in some weird, dystopian, alternate reality. I started to realize how volatile my career was and how fragile the industry really is when there isn’t any touring. So basically, I started to realize I may be done with music… so what would I like to say before I go? Living the Phantasm is both a reference to me pursuing my dream of music, and a reference to the crazy time in which the album was created. It has a feeling of finality, and it is the culmination of a lot of different feelings and stories from throughout my life.

SB: What has it been like working with mau5trap?

MM: It’s honestly been so great. I love how much care they put into every release. Plus Joel (deadmau5) and the whole team are great people with a lot of experience. I think what I love most, though, is that they really want me to be my authentic self. It gives me a lot of comfort. 

SB: What has it been like quitting your career and going full force with music?

MM: I’ll be honest – it’s incredibly hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life by a long shot. Many days I’ve wondered if I can keep it up, and then something great happens that gives me the strength to stay passionate (so far at least). Even as early as I am in my career… I’m starting to really realize how much you have to sacrifice. It’s a lifestyle more than a job, and I’ve learned more about myself so far than I ever thought I would. It’s completely changed me as a person, in a good way.

Morgin Phones

SB: What has kept you motivated and optimistic over the last fourteen months?

MM: Well, I wasn’t hopeful or optimistic for most of that time. I made the album almost as a farewell during the late summer of 2020. It seemed like things just kept getting worse. I remember being pretty close to rock bottom, and then I got a call to go open for deadmau5 in Atlanta. If it wasn’t for all the negativity of the last 14 months, this album wouldn’t exist. So, in a weird way, despite all the negativity and tragedy, it allowed me to grow.

SB: What is the experience like releasing your debut LP during this pivotal time in history?

MM: It’s surreal. I try to spend every day being present and appreciating the fact that I at least get to do an album… let alone release it at such a crazy time right when touring seems to be coming back. I think I’ll look back at this era of my life with a strange sense of nostalgia.

SB: Who or what are your greatest musical influences?

MM: Deadmau5 – specifically early deadmau5 – had an enormous impact on who I am as an artist. I’d say on the same level as that are the earlier albums of Linkin Park, Andrew Bayer’s If It Were You… and Above & Beyond… those are all pillars of my musical DNA.

SB: What are you most looking forward to for the rest of 2021 and beyond?

MM: Lots of music and hopefully shows. When I made Living the Phantasm, I produced enough music for two or three albums. We’ll see if another album is the best format for it, but definitely count on me releasing lots of music and trying new things while staying true to who I am. Overall, I’m just excited to take it all in.

SB: Anything else you'd like to say to fans?

MM: Honestly, just thank you. Thank you for listening. Thank you for hearing my story. If 10 years ago I got a glimpse into the future and saw what I’m doing, I wouldn’t believe it. When I first started doing music I was so aggressively productive and obsessed with the grind. I feel now I have finally gotten a chance to start appreciating the process. And that wouldn’t be possible without the listeners. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart.