Ahead of his his 8 hours at the end of year culmination of A Night With... last weekend, R$N caught up with musician and DJ extraordinaire Matthew Dear for a chat about touring, the ghostly methods in his production style and his dog Artie......
After the intensive year you’ve spent touring the festival circuit with your band, bound to repeat a set list at each event; are you looking forward to having complete creative freedom for 8 hours? What can we expect from your set?
DJ sets have to be a minimum of 3 hours for anything exciting to happen. I am of the ilk that does not like to prepare ahead of time, so I feel like it takes me an hour to find out just how I am feeling that day, and what kind of music I feel like playing. Eight hours is wonderful, as it gives everyone time to adjust to that feeling together. I’ll probably play a wide variety of things in the beginning, perhaps even beat-less music. It really just depends on how we are all feeling that day.
I found it interesting in your podcast for Beats In Space earlier this year; you said you get ‘sick playing all your own music’. Do you think an element of boredom is important as a musician to keep the urge to create alive?
When I DJ, I tend not to play my own released music. It just seems so predictable for a producer to play their own tunes. Something about it seems like a big advertisement, like charting your own tracks or remixes. I do like to play unreleased music of mine, as it’s a treat for people to hear, and gives me a good idea of what I may need to alter or re-mix when I get back to the studio.
Your music network is amazingly broad and far-reaching; that seems to cross boundaries of live and DJ events and stylistic genres. Is there any competition between yourself and your contemporaries when playing at the same event? Does it make you want to push yourself a little bit further?
I don’t think there is much of an admitted competitive nature out there. It is healthy to hear someone’s new album, or single, and think to myself, ‘Oh my... How did they do that?’ and then go home to the studio with a small bout of envy. I am always listening for change and using it to give me a boost in my own musical activities.
It’s interesting how your initial audience was gained because of your DJing and electronic music production and now that audience is broadening due to your different musical projects, your band for instance. At what point did you feel comfortable to risk potentially confusing or alienating your initial fan base by pursuing and expanding your own musical direction?
[laughs] Well in retrospect, I was not concerned with alienating my audience at all, when perhaps I should have been at least a little bit. At the label, we were always more concerned with what was coming next, rather than focusing on what I had already laid down. That’s why I was releasing so much different music at the same time. If someone else had been overseeing the whole process, they might have told us to slow down a bit and spend more time on each strategy a bit longer. I don’t regret doing things the way I did, but I’ve definitely devoted more time to development over the past two years. I am making music solely under my own name at the moment, and touring that music live with a band. I did just finish my next album, and immediately made an Audion song after that. Perhaps another shift will come at the end of 2012.
There seems to be a theme in the names of the labels you set up- Ghostly International and Spectral Sound. Why did you choose to reference beings stuck within the nether world of the living and the dead?
That is a question for Sam Valenti IV.
And there certainly is a haunting quality to your production, as though both nostalgic and yet futuristic at the same time, created through echoes, refrains and the extensive use of reverb when singing. Is this for purely stylistic reasons or can we look further into finding a meaning behind such devices?
I don’t use very much vocal reverb in the studio, but instead prefer a very layered choral effect. I love dense, wide vocals that are very present, and sit in front of the music, but not too far from it. I’d rather my voice fit like a glacier within the mountain, than a snowy cap on top of it. Live however, I play with very large reverb splashes and modulated delays. These come from pedals on the ground that I can trigger on my vocal channel.
In Bayer In Brooklyn’s vimeo interview with you, you talk about songs floating in the ether and musicians being conduits to make them audible for everyone’s consumption. Can you explain that further?
Songs are out there for the taking. While it’s a combination of events and experiences in your life that add up to the direct meaning and lyrics, or even melody, there is something intangible that only comes from letting go, and letting something else in. My best songs are written during that time of letting go, when I don’t even feel like I’m in control. The subconscious mind is far more intellectually aware than we are. If you can let it lead, you’ll get much more interesting results. The conscious mind should only be there to operate the machines, push the buttons, and bring the coffee to your lips.
How much are you still involved with the operational side to Ghostly now you’ve moved to New York?
Even before moving to New York I had little left to do with the operational side of Ghostly. I worked regularly in the office in the beginning, dealing with distribution and odd jobs. Ghostly has since grown into a multi-faceted business, with many people at various helms. I am still involved with A&R and keep my attention toward new music for Spectral, and occasionally suggesting acts for Ghostly.
The new Ghostly Discovery app (is brilliant btw!) seems to provide the perfect interface for merging contemporary technology with the humanist aspect of literally tapping into the emotions of the people who are using it. As an artist who uses a lot of electronic devices in your music production, what do you feel about the huge surge in accessible software via apps in regards to the quality of the music that can be produced? Can there be too much of a good thing?
It really all depends on where you are in the course of your career, and what you have already succeeded with. When I first began producing on computers, after switching from an MPC 2000 and some old drum machines, I was using simple programs like Making Waves, Fruity Loops and Reason. These were pretty much glorified apps by today’s standards. Back then however, I knew of nothing else, and could not afford anything better. I knew what I wanted to sound like though, and strove to make my software sound like that. I wanted to sound like the Germans, and I manipulated my samples and sequencing to sound like the records I was hearing. If young producers have a goal like that in mind, they can make Garage Band, or iMaschine sound like anything they want. If they don’t have a sound in mind, then chances are, they will churn out predictable preset based music.
In this time of rapid interconnectivity and social networking- you have your own tumblr, twitter and facebook accounts; how important as an emerging artist is it to tap into those resources now? Where do you think we will go from here? From my point of view there is so much accessibility that it becomes hard to find a filter to reduce what I want or need to hear.
I am extremely careful with my social networking and agree with your point of view on over saturation. When I post to Tumblr for example, I often leave out any descriptors or captions on the photo. I want people to guess where I am, or maybe look at my tour schedule and connect the dots themselves. We have to leave room for desire and self-diagnosis in this day and age. At the same time, there is so much we can creatively share now that we couldn’t merely five years ago. There is something extremely beneficial happening with that capability. I am intrigued by artists that stand a few feet further from the lens so-to-speak. Give people a lot more content, but make them sift through that content to figure out what is really being said. I’m not talking about mystifying your tour dates. Factual content can help you and your fans feel connected, but there is a lot more to hide than we allow for these days.
You have multiple aliases (Audion, Matthew Dear, False and Jabberjaw) that you use to define the style of music you are performing. Which one of your guises is closest to the real Matthew Dear?
The obvious and true answer is music as myself. In the past, it may have not have been so, but after focusing on this side of things for the past two years, I’ve really begun to feel the most honest in this mindset. I still can’t decipher half of my lyrics or song meanings, but at least I feel they are closest to my being.
It must be really hard spending so much time away from your dog Artie. How do make it up to him when you are at home?
When I’m home, we just relax together. Long walks, and scratches behind his ears.
For more info on Matthew, including future shows check his website here.