Filed under: Interview
Formally trained but now tearing up the rule book, electro experimentalist and innovator, Mathew Johnson, gives HigherFrequency the pleasure of his company on his latest trip to Japan.
Interview by Laura Brown (ArcTokyo)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : You have heard it a hundred times before but for a Japanese audience they might not be familiar with what you do, and so how would you best describe what you make ?
Mathew Jonson : Well, I guess technically, at home I use analogue equipments so my live set is comprised of basically just samples of a lot of the gear from home, as far as bass lines, patterns and keys and things like that, and I do all the drums live at the show, with the machine drum and just go from there.
HRFQ : Great, so in terms of the technology you use, you don’t use software ?
Mathew : No
HRFQ : So what kinds of analogue equipment do you use ?
Mathew : It’s pretty much SH101, on almost all my tracks, I use a little bit of Nord Lead 3, JX3P, as far as drum machines pretty much all the studio stuff is TR909, TR808, Siemans STS800, a whole lot of facts….blah blah blah you know……In my live shows though I use Ableton Live, as well as electro machine drum, and I usually have a 24 track mixer, and two SPX900’s for effects.
HRFQ : From Listening to the stuff on your albums, it seems deep, as though even for a moment one can almost conceive of the thought process and emotion that has gone into producing the tracks, and so when producing the music how much do you consider the reaction of an audience that essentially wants to dance and how much would you cater to them ?
Mathew : Well for the records I make, and if I am making a track, a lot of the time it is specifically geared to DJ’s as far as the records go. I spend a lot of time I guess just kind of experimenting and not recording anything on my own, and thats what i just do for myself, so when it comes to hitting record, and taking a track usually that is very much thinking about the dancefloor, well maybe not neccesarily the dancefloor but it is thinking about having that energy or whatever for DJ’s to use or people to dance to. But there is also an element of me and my head, going into my own idea, which doesn’t have too much to do with that because I just end up losing myself a lot of the time when I am making music,
HRFQ : Ok, so how much of the live sets are down to pure improvisation ?
Mathew : All the drums are improvisation, and all of the mixing is improvised as far as the way things happen and are lined up. As far as the general…..I mean the sequence of the bass line, or more of the sounds, the bass lines and the pads and things like that, thats things I have written before hand, that are loops and then I’ll kind of mix and match a lot of different parts of that, so it’s not quite like I am making up the bass lines and stuff as i go, as I would if i was playing at home, but with juristrictions and stuff there is no way I can bring all that equipments over anyway.
HRFQ : Ok, you have had a lot of praise from a lot of internationally renowned artists over the last couple of years and with this idea of being pigeon holed and linked to a specific genre becoming something of a negative strain, or limitation on the DJ’s, where would you see the future of dance music going, or electronica going ?
Mathew : Well, I guess I don’t really feel like I am getting locked into some sort of genre whatsoever actually because I write drum and bass, I write Hip Hop, techno, house all sorts of different things I play jazz, you know, and so for me it’s like, I don’t really know where i would see my music going, or even neccessarily dance music going, it seems to me that all music is changing and evolving all the time, I guess for me it’s more a matter of what I have done so far, and then just trying to come up with something new myself. I’m pretty much detached with the electronic music scene in many ways, as far as influences go, I guess when I am playing techno in the clubs and that, I am not really listening to alot of techno at home, so it’s kind of coming from a lot of different places. I don’t know what to say as far as where it is going.
HRFQ : So you were quoted on a website, as saying, “it’s just luck that the music I make happens to resonate right now with the scene that’s going on,” and so with that in mind, how would you describe you own influences and how your sound developed ?
Mathew : I guess my sound, comes originally when I started making music, it was 1986, so I was listening to 2-Live Crew, heavy metal, NWA, lots of different sounds, breakdance electro stuff, is what I was into on the electronic side, but I was also playing in a jazz band. I was quite young at the time, so i guess it came from a lot of different things. I didn’t really go to any raves or meet anybody who was playing techno music. I didn’t hear a DJ play until I was 17, so I was pretty disconnected from a lot of what was going on at the time, but yeah I was pretty infatuated with the whole breakdance kind of thing.
HRFQ : Did you breakdance yourself ?
Mathew : I used to be into, trying’ to breakdance when I was young, I love dancing now but it is not breakdancing, just dancing.
HRFQ : Although having been involved in music all your life and been part of Cobbleston jazz, it seems tracks like,”Typerope” and “She Is He”, having made the rounds all over Europe since the releases have started bringing your name to the forefront of dance music do you enjoy the limelight, and how do you feel about the whole fame thing ?
Mathew : ha ha….yeah it’s great. I live in Vancouver, so I am a little detached from the whole fame thing, so I don’t see it very often, so I can’t say that I feel like I am famous in that many ways. When I go on tour it is getting more evident every tour I am on. But more than anything, it just makes me really happy that people enjoy the music I make. It is just nice to know that people are having fun with it.
HRFQ : In referring to Canada, how are things in Canada and how would you describe the scene there ?
Mathew : The east coast has always had a bit more going on, just ‘cos it is closer to Europe, and they get a lot more people from the states and stuff. On the west coast of Canada, it has been kind of up and down, we had bigger times, and lower times when the police started cracking down on things quite a bit, but it seems to be on the up now. There are lots of people starting new labels in Vancouver and Victoria, and with that, the scene is definitely growing everybody is a little bit older now, so there are more spaces to have parties at. It is definitely a changing scene, but it seems that things are definitely on the up and up.
End of the interview
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