Becoming a young artist producing music since the age of 16 and working with musicians such as Nick Cave, 39-year-old MATTHS has made his was across London's diverse music scene performing alongside the best engineers and producers. Performing at one of London's most popular music venue Rough Trade East on June 27th Modèle discuss his current music styles, electronic techniques and exculsive insights into what anyone missed during his performance.
Name the most memorable moment within your electronic music career?
Working with the original Radiophonic Workshop at Perter Gabriel’s recording studios was a real highlight for me. Being part of such an amazing legacy and to work with people that have inspired and shifted the popular view of music meant so much to me. Supporting Rival Consoles was also a great moment as I love his approach to composition and the ideas behind his music. But I must say, having my recent release on a physical vinyl has made me proud and has highlighted a marker in my achievements. It sounds cheesy perhaps, but as a lad who grew up in the North East of the UK with little in terms of inspiration, to have come to be putting out electronic music on a great label and in a physical format has helped me see that hard work is paying off. I guess just seeing a physical interpretation of your music and having a team support you in that process is something I have had to step back and be happy about.
Your favourite & least favourite thing about the electronic music scene in London?
The diversity on offer. So much interesting music. People making music on the fringes of the various scenes really interest me as they are often the ones pushing the boundaries and I would say that there is an abundance of nights, clubs, bars and festivals who are more open to celebrating these artists and their work. We need places to play and promoters to champion us and that is here in London for sure.
Not strictly London, but why do all electronic gigs have to start at 11 pm and go on until the early hours? Why can’t we start gigs at more reasonable times? I think the culture of having to be out until the early hours just to listen to electronic music is so stuck in the dark ages. Start a gig at 6/7pm and make it more accessible to everyone and less isolated. Perhaps it would change peoples attitudes towards the music, drug use and the scenes that surround them.
What should the crowd expect from your set at Rough Trade on June 27th?
For this show, I was asked to do a stripped-down ambient set. There will be no percussive elements at all and those who know my musical output – big drums are a big part of my sound! So instead, what I have prepared is an immense and evolving piece that grows and grows and takes over the space we are in. The power of ambient music can be best experienced when it is pushed to the point of dominance and no longer reduced to a fragile whisper. It can, therefore, act as a reminder that sound can be so dynamic and powerful when it needs to be, pulling the audience into a new kind of connection within themselves, acknowledging the way they respond to the experience before them. Being more of an introvert myself, dark, low-lit rooms are the places I would naturally gravitate to for playing live – maybe that’s why I gravitated to working in windowless recording studios from an early age!? There is something impactful when standing in a large indoor space which is almost pitch black. Your senses go into hyperdrive as you try and make sense of your sensory visual deprivation and your hearing becomes heightened which throws your body into an unnatural balance. I love those experiences.
You're most treasured techniques when creating electronic music?
Everything I do in the studio is a reaction. At the start of the session I react to how I am feeling, which in turn pushes me to look for a particular sound, then I react to that sound and build other sounds to it, I then react to that and introduce new elements and so on. Once I have a few ideas working that I feel I connect to I then react to the whole piece by performing with it in real-time and recording this. As I perform, I ’m responding to my own emotions, desires, and technical ability when composing. The premise for my music is to create a constantly evolving flow of changes to pitch, length and volume across all attributes and never let them stand still so that the mind is led by a narrative. I’m interested in providing the listener with great melodies and generating a connection in that the music is accessible, but I then like to push and pull melodies from the focus of the track unexpectedly. So, at times I will exaggerate certain notes or parts of a melody and at other times hide them. The listener is, therefore, kept guessing – I can’t stand repetition too much which is unusual given that I am working within what is essentially Techno. This is often the output you hear, with no or little editing. You are hearing reactions and connections. I’m essentially a conductor and performer in one and all of this gets captured in real-time. This approach to making music in this way imbues energy and movement that you just wouldn’t get when programming with a mouse and keyboard. But all of this can get lost in translation to the listener as they then apply their own set of values and connections as they interpret what I have done.
How many performances have you done before, name your best one?
So many performances – too many to count. I have learned so much from playing live in that I get inspired again when I get back to the studio in so many ways – therefore creating a kind of feedback loop. Initially, a lot of my performances were too nuanced and to detailed and much of this was lost when playing live – no one was really listening intently on the very microscopic sounds which I had spent hours slaving over and all of that got lost. This drove me to create a sound which is always immersive and big when I play live. It must be powerful, immersive, dominant and yet melodic. I want to dominate the space and the senses of the audience as much as possible and draw them into what I have to offer. I think my best performance was in Berlin recently when I played 2 shows in one day, a heavy, intense and relentless techno performance and a more psychedelic fuelled show which featured a live drummer – both very different but both as equally immersive. I think I enjoy playing with the live drummer the most because they can respond to what I am doing and visa-versa and I miss that interaction when playing electronic music live. Some people say that electronic music isn’t performance art, and maybe that’s true at its core, but with new technologies and a wider diverse approach, electronic music can be so much more of performance art than the traditional rock band.
Would you be interested in doing collaborations with other artists?
I am always open to collaborating. I work with live drummers a lot and the idea of the MATTHS project is that it is scalable. I could play live as a one-man musician or I could have a drummer with me or even a bassist or more! I can respond to the desires of the audience for a particular gig. Just because the roots of the music I make is predominantly on the fringes of techno, it doesn’t mean I am solely chained to that world. I am looking at how to diversify within that scene and the framework that techno presents itself to me. I would, however, certainly love to work with Brian Eno for sure. I am drawn to the kind of intellect he possesses, not just about his views on culture and the world, but also the maturity he imbues about not being so mature about music. Childlike approaches to composition draw me. I suppose at this point, would have now listed all my favourite artists as a list of those whom I would want to work with but that would just be a selfish pursuit and I don’t think working with them would necessarily conjure anything meaningful. But I am going to say Andrea Belfi as I think the way we can connect his ideologies within his approach to percussion and my performative approach composition could create new worlds.
What are your biggest aspirations within your electronic music career?
Aspirations are difficult. Desires like this, I find, only create a negative hole in your life because you feel you need/want to ascertain something you don’t have. To not to have that can lead to depression in this area. I like to see that I already have what I desire and that more will come to me when it is right. I am a believer in the law of attraction and that we can tap into the power of the universe when we need to in order to grow the reality you want to achieve. After all, you and only you are responsible for the reality you experience. The plan is just to keep going and working hard and that will inevitably attract new experiences and connections – that’s all I can ask for in anything. It is hard work though but I have learnt that the more you put in, the more you get out.
Upcoming plans for MATTHS in the next upcoming year after Rough Trade?
Two more shows semi-confirmed in the UK and there is also my new EP which will go out on Fat Cat Records FCR label. The EP is something I am focusing on right now in the studio with the intention to essentially work along with the same aesthetic as my current release ‘Loop’ and ‘Velocet’. I am also recording 5 tracks with a live drummer to see how those tracks work on the recorded medium and to reflect on how that relationship works moving forward. You may not know that I do do a lot of live streaming from my studio via my YouTube channel which allows a more personal insight into my production methodologies and allows me to connect to the world, so do drop by and say hello.
Photography by James Kendall