For MISOGI, there’s always been a divide between the world around him and what’s going on in his head. “I was never living in the present moment – I was always daydreaming about this or that,” the 24-year-old musician and producer explains. It’s a split he brings vividly to life on his new album ‘Escape Artist’, crafting inventive other realms to abscond into through giddy, addictive J-pop-inspired earworms, ambient synth instrumentals, amongst others.
As the record’s title suggests, escapism is at its core and music has frequently provided some form of that for the artist. When he first started playing around with his own sonic creations two weeks before his 13th birthday, it began as just another hobby for him to occupy himself with; a temporary interest until something else grabbed his attention. But, with its seemingly infinite genres and sounds, music never loosened its grip on him, instead offering up endless rabbit holes for his voraciously curious brain to dive into. “I think you could be obsessed with music for a lifetime and never get to the bottom of it all,” he says.
MISOGI should know – his musical journey so far is so varied and wide-ranging you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s been trying to reach that floor. On his debut release – 2014’s ‘Occult’ – he experimented with samples and shadowy electronica while, two years later, he explored industrial sounds on ‘PLAYMISOGI’. More recently, 2019’s ‘Blood Moon Underworld’ delved into shoegaze and his latest release – the ‘Little*Stars’ EP – took an experimental but atmospheric path. Think that’s a lot? It’s far from an exhaustive list of the dabbling he’s done in a career that’s also seen him add yet more creative strings to his bow by producing for the likes of AJ Tracey, Lil Yachty, Lil Pump, to name a few.
‘Escape Artist’ – his first output in almost three years – marks both the evolution of MISOGI’s tastes and a return to his roots. “I’m embracing the things I got into at the beginning,” he says, nodding to Clams Casino and Friendzone as early inspirations whose presence can be felt in his music once again. “I’ve noticed that, in my pursuit of music that’s true to me and is somewhat timeless, it has to somehow link to what I’ve always liked [from the start].”
The new album isn’t solely a full-circle moment, though. It also pulls together everything the musician has experimented with over the years, acting as a meeting point between the many avenues he’s ventured down and a coming together of the different incarnations of himself each represented. Beneath the glitchy production of ‘Void Fallen’, his vocals don’t feel too far removed from those on the Midwest emo album ‘Death Metal’, while ‘Blonde, Towards Eternity & The End Of Me’ is a more hyperactive sibling song to those on ‘Little*Stars’. “This is probably the most MISOGI album ever because it’s basically bits and pieces of every other era in one,” he assesses.
It’s not just the sonics on this record that point to its creator’s growth, but its lyrics too. He notes that this is the first release with “words that somewhat matter”, capturing his experience of living between reality and his imagination.
As part of Gen Z – the first generation to grow up totally in a digital world – technology and the internet opened up countless new worlds for MISOGI from an early age. It gave him access to a wealth of things to obsess over – video games, films, books, music – with each new fascination adding another layer to the fantasy world in his head. “It’s almost a coping mechanism for living the same day over and over – the suburban lifestyle,” he reasons. It’s a process that ‘Escape Artist’’s lyrics – which frequently reference dreaming and sleep – encapsulate brilliantly.
‘Imagine Technicolour’ is a prime example of that, a vibrant, crisp tapestry of sound that feels like it’s been transported in from another orbit. Its title is an allusion to the original film adaptation of Alice In Wonderland and the moment the titular character’s world bursts into life. “The movie’s in black-and-white until Alice opens the door, and then she walks through, and there’s all this colour. I can just imagine what it must have been like to watch that at the time [it was first released] – it’s like stepping into a dream and leaving the monotony of the rainy UK or the place you came from behind.”
Being part of an online world has influenced the music of MISOGI in more than just giving him unlimited inspirations. It’s also introduced him to friends and collaborators across the world, including his Pink Noise collective, with whom he runs a label and a buzzing Discord server. That forum provides the group – comprised of MISOGI, Ginseng, Cedric Madden, Ryan Jacob and Mike Frost – with not only a platform to keep their audience intimately updated with their releases and activities but a community where emerging artists can interact and share inspirations.
“I grew up in communities and I understand how important it was for my development musically,” MISOGI explains. “I want the easiest way to be able to connect with these people and I didn’t want to be a label that was hands-off. In the Discord, there are different friend groups that have formed and people who work together a lot. That’s exactly how I wanted it to go.”
Before the label, though, there was the song ‘Pink Noise’, which also appears on ‘Escape Artist’. The track embodies the sound the collective make – a soft, sonic sugar rush that fizzes through your speakers. “Cedric made an instrumental with Jay Trench and they sent it to me. They’re both my favourite producers right now and Trench’s sound is insanely unique – there’s no one like him. But we were brainstorming for ages what the right name for it would be and I thought ‘Pink Noise’ sounded perfect – the music we make just sounds like pink noise.”
‘Ultrablast’ – a track that could easily soundtrack a retro video game – also has strong ties to the fraternity around MISOGI’s label. In 2022, the artist held a remix competition for his single ‘Gossip’, with the winning track set to be uploaded to his SoundCloud page. But one submission “floored” him so much he wanted to give it the attention it deserved. “It was by Grass Arrows and I asked him for the stems to that remix and then removed the ‘Gossip’ a cappella and the drums, structured it my way and added a bunch of stuff to it,” he says. “I just recorded my own song on top of it. It goes to show that online collaboration can end up with you doing something you would never imagine.”
Elsewhere in MISOGI’s digital spaces, he’s also struck up a firm friendship with Dirty Hit’s No Rome. Together, the pair have worked on 2020’s ‘Heart Chained’, while MISOGI also remixed his collaborator’s song ‘How Are You Feeling?’ last year. The rippling ‘Shoegazing’ sees them link up creatively once again over a beat created by MISOGI, Cedric Madden, Jay Trench and Ginseng.
“I thought the beat was so amazing and I wanted to use it so bad, but with more rap beats it’s hard for me to find my footing. It’s hard to make it sound not cringe because I’m not a rapper. I was struggling with writing something and then I gave the instrumental to Rome and he just hummed a melody on top of it. It was perfect to me – I just didn’t understand how he was able to navigate it so easily. It’s another example of how he’s a genius, basically.”
Whether collaborating with his extensive community of like-minded musicians or working on his own, MISOGI is an ever-evolving, always inventive artist doing things his way. As he hones his sound after a decade of exploration on ‘Escape Artist’, he stands poised to make another dream bleed into the real world. That, he sums up, is “doing things that are important and capture a moment. I want to make great, unique music that speaks to who I am, and I just want to connect with people that will understand me.”