Ducky1_Meredith Dooma copy

San Francisco native Morgan Neiman has been making music as Ducky for as long as she can remember. “I had a pretend bass I used to play when I was seven or eight,” Neiman recalls. “I was always building my own tiny instruments. When I got older, the Postal Service was probably overworked delivering all the electronic gear I ordered.” For a final high school project, Neiman decided to produce her own CD and perform it. She bought a copy of Logic Pro and a microphone and wrote, recorded and produced her own CD singing over loops she created on her computer. “A lot of parents came [to the assembly,] so I sold a bunch of copies of the album and had a brief moment of fame on Myspace.” Neiman took lessons on clarinet, drums, guitar and piano, but the freedom of making her own music on the computer was what she found most appealing. She was spinning records at clubs and house parties by the time she was 14 and started releasing singles and self-produced EPs of her own brand of moody dance music shortly thereafter. She moved to New York to study electronic production when she was 17 and kept releasing noteworthy tracks including “Air,” which was accompanied by an avant-garde video put together by director Rylee Jean Ebsen. Her new single, “U Turn Me Up,” dropped on October 15th. SOMA spoke with the artist between sessions of a Web Development/Computer Programming class she was taking to stay on top of the latest technological developments in her field.

Is there a story about your nickname that isn’t too embarrassing to tell?
When I was a kid, my dad had a friend who worked at the zoo who let us go behind the exhibits and see the animals. I got to feed an apple to a giraffe and give peanuts to a porcupine. One day, I had a fit and ran away from my dad. I stole a duck and they had to forcibly take it away from me, so I became Ducky. I guess I was a rebel from an early age.

You dropped out of high school when you were 17 to attend the Clive Davis School of Recorded Music at NYU. It’s not what one usually thinks about when you hear the words “high school drop out.”
[Laughs] I started taking higher level classes from the start of high school. By my sophomore year, I’d finished every math and science class they offered. I used to give the answers to everyone at my table, but the teachers were not having it. Since it was a private school, I had some leeway when NYU told my teachers they’d let me make the jump if I got an equivalency diploma. I got a degree in audio engineering with a math minor, as well as taking a variety of other courses. I graduated a year and a half ago.

Your music has hints of punk as well as electronica. What did you listen to growing up?
I had a boyfriend in a hard-core band and I liked The Dicks and Black Flag, even though they were before my time. I have a broad musical palette and listened to everything, not just electronic music, but the more electro stuff I heard, the more I got obsessed with it.

You once called your songs “introverted party music,” an interesting dichotomy.
There’s a weird balance in my work, because I grew up in the club scene and when you make music to dance to, it tends to be mindless and groove oriented, although you can’t really turn off your brain, even when you’re dancing. My roots are in emotional expression and that comes out. When I’m programming tracks, which I build note by note, editing them and carefully controlling them, it’s a very intense process and that spills over into the lyrics.

Do you prefer fashion or style?
As an artist, the best thing you can do is have a true sense of who you are and what your message is; that will help you develop a look. Style is a sense of what you like after you filter out the buzz and discover what makes you feel beautiful when you put it on. It’s not about what you’re told to wear. When in doubt, dress in all black.

Do you have any obsessions?
Oh my gosh, do I ever. Chocolate, shopping at Trader Joe’s, computer programming, which I think everyone should try…I could go on and on. I’m a complete Tumblr nerd and I think Tina Fey is a goddess. I can almost quote the entire script of every episode of 30 Rock.

Text by J. Poet
Photography by Meredith Dooma