Matmos’ Drew Daniel and Martin Schmidt make some of the most interesting and experimental music out there. Returning to Mutek, Montreal’s largest electronic music festival, for the first time since their groundbreaking 2001 performance, I caught up with the duo over the phone and tried to keep up…
Daniel and Schmidt are a great interview. They finished each other’s sentences (possibly because they’re also a couple), made a lot of self-deprecating jokes and, perhaps most significantly, made some fairly complicated concepts make sense. Which is important when trying to explain Matmos.
The duo, now based in Baltimore, use keyboards, guitars, percussion, samplers, computers and field recordings to create a sound that’s been associated with the musique concrète (“real music”) movement which, for lack of a 1000 words to explain it, takes a much wider approach to what sounds can create a song. The type of field recordings that Matmos use, and what they do with them, are where things get really interesting. To name just a few, they’ve recorded and created songs out of: slowed down whistles and kisses, liposuction surgery, human skulls, field recordings of conversations in hot tubs, a steel guitar recorded in a sewer, rhinestones on a dinner plate and records chosen by the roll of dice. I spoke them recently and tried to make sense of it all….
Brendan Murphy: Do you still remember the last time you played Mutek, in 2001?
Drew Daniel: “We were having fun with Richard Chartier and Matthew Herbert, who are kind of opposite ends of the Mutek aesthetic…”
Martin Schmidt: “We kind of had too much of a good time…”
DD: “We got very decadent there (laughing), I guess we needed 9 years to recover..”
MS: “Longest hangover of my life! (laughing) But, you know, our work is very different than many of the other Mutek acts and it’s cool that they acknowledge our work as part of the spectrum.”
BM: When it comes to the sounds you use to create music, I always gets stuck on “amplified crayfish nerves tissue”. I mean, how does one get started doing that?
MS: “It’s an incredibly rich field that was really opened up by (musique concrète pioneers) Pierre Henry and Pierre Schaeffer. That was what it started with- when we first met, that was what we talked about. It was a common point.”
DD: “The permission to make music out of any objects in the world, it’s something that’s inspiring and challenging. You don’t want to repeat yourself. And now that there are Nissan commercials that have corny drum and bass made out of the sound of latest Nissan, being innovative becomes all the more critical.”
MS: “For instance, we might start with one object and see what happens- we got an entire song out of the sound of a latex t-shirt. But then other pieces start with, say, drumming on a book, but that isn’t enough to craft an entire song but oh, it sounds a bit like a British jazz rhythm. From there, the song starts to propose to you what you’re going to need.”
DD: “It’s like making friends with people- some people really want to watch bowling, some people want to stay home and watch Marx Brothers movies, but you don’t really know until you start getting to know them.”
MS: “We follow a free association while keeping the object in mind. But, in other cases we have designed other influential factors into the song-making system. Like, oh, “all of these objects are chosen from this person’s life” and then we begin to figure out what they’d be.”
BM: You’ve moved from San Francisco to Baltimore- what effect has your new home had on both you and your music?
DD: “Baltimore has rubbed off on us in a number of ways. For one, it’s not really a laptop city. It’s a place where people are building and designing their own gear. There’s homegrown personal relationship to electronic instruments.”
MS: “It’s very DIY. It’s poor, basically. But there’s a real joie de vivre in the face of real deprivation. And people love music there and they especially love weird music. They do not like normal. Honestly, Dan Deacon and us are some of the most normal things going there.”
Wednesday June 2nd, 8:00 PM, Q&A, Thursday June 03, 1:00 Pm both events at Monument-National