MATTHEW THOMAS INTERVIEW
Emerging out of Australia's barely-known dance-floor techno scene, Matthew Thomas has produced a series of well-conceived, thoughtful electronic releases. Although his "Mind Virus" and "Architecture" CDs did not cut the ties to the world of techno completely, they did feature a more sedate take on the genre, on a level with the minimal soundscapes of Mika Vainio, and perhaps especially, the delicate dub-techno of Germany's Raster Music label. Matthew's most recent full length, the "Modulations" CD on renowned Australian experimental label Dorobo, home of Alan Lamb and Shinjuku Thief, jettisons the dance-floor connection entirely, for a deep and frightening excursion through an alien world of mangled detuned radio sounds, without beats or melodies.
1. Could you give me some brief biographical info - How old are you? Where do you live, what do you do apart from music?
I am 24. I live in Adelaide Australia, a smallish (1 million) city. It is a very affordable, peaceful city, sitting on the coast. It is easy to escape from too - into the country, down the coast etc. I am completing Doctoral research examining the use of information technology in learning - which eats up all my time and leaves none for much else.
2. I gathered from the Synaesthesia catalog that you perform live - can you describe your performances, locations you've played at, etc.
I have played various festivals, outdoor shows, club gigs - the standard stuff - around Australia. Lately I have just been taking a bunch of old and home made radios to perform with. Sometimes with a sampler... sometimes just using CD players. I have also been working intimately with a dance company here, as well as having work commissioned for other dance companies. Working in a theater - where everybody is still and quiet is great.
3. The labels that released "architecture" and "mindvirus" - have they released anything else?
Mindvirus was released by a loose collective of Australian graphic designers and computer freaks. It sits in the middle of a number of other projects - but really the only one with dedicated music content.
4. Is there an electronic music "scene" of any sort in Adelaide?
Well there is occasionally! I used to put on a night with a great friend, zyzx, once a month. it was called "mesm.eon" and stands as a recent highlight of sonic shenanigans in Australia. Since zyzx has jumped countries for extended playtime/work with FM at el in Vienna and Hamburg that night has stopped. Radioqualia have been instrumental in keeping the "scene" alive - by putting on a few events and coordinating such things as gallery installations, so it is all happening still. Check out Radioqualia
5. The "architecture" CD is, I think, a very impressive piece of work - Can you describe your working process for this CD, or how the tracks on this release were constructed? Is there a significance to the title and are you satisfied with the way the CD turned out?
I had been thinking about the CD for ages before I started writing material for it, and then it took ages to finish. The music was all written at home (in my bedroom at that stage) with fairly primitive equipment. As far as working process, it was a matter of representing (in usually an abstracted form) a sonic space, or elements of architecture. It was fueled by a passion for concrete and the work of such architects as Tadao Ando. Sound, and its relation to space fascinates me, as do the aesthetic similarities between architecture and electronic music. I am not completely satisfied with the way the CD turned out - and am currently re-working it for a full length release (the original is only 36 minutes). Elements of the first CD will stay, but it will be augmented by what i think are better (and more recent) pieces of work.
6. What gear did you use to make the "architecture" and "mindvirus" CDs and what are you using now?
Gear wise it has always been an Ensoniq 16+ and various analog bits and pieces. Old Alesis effects etc. I now have a Mac which is a whole new world, but I notice that I'm still using the Ensoniq heaps.
7. What was your working process for the "Remodulations" CD? How did you hook up with Dorobo?
I hooked up with dorobo by the odd chat with the label owner, Darrin Verhagen, whenever I was over in Melbourne. I sent him some music - which he was rather critical of (the mindvidus CD...) and as I appreciated his frank manner. I sent him some more (which ended up as "remodulations"). The working process for "remodulations" was simple. Take my clock radio, twiddle each day with the tuning for a few minutes, get interested in static, write a CD... seriously - it involved finding nice source material (static) then manipulating it (with only the ensoniq 16+ for gear spotters). it was mostly composed around the idea of two relationships, between sound and silence, and between 'purposeful' broadcast, and serendipitous 'music' in the static. I really wanted to explore for myself some of the ideas of musique concrete... just in regard to making music from found environmental sound.
8. Can you tell me some more about the "mesm.eon" nights you and zyzx used to put on? Were these DJ performances, or "live" or both?
"mesm.eon" was a mixture of live and DJ'd music, though we always approached DJ'ing in much the same way as we do composing. In fact i love performing live with cd players, mixers and a heap of CDR's. it has become just "one of those things" that the turntable and the cd player can be just as much an instrument as a sampler or a guitar. We had a pretty free form ideal for mesm.eon. No structure, just let the sound take us where ever we felt like going. Chairs tables coffee couches chatting laughing scratching heads fingers in ears food video cameras lugging speakers were all part of the nights each being an integral part of mesm.eon.
9. Are there any other musicians putting out CDs/records around Adelaide that are compatible with what you are doing?
There are a number - and some of us recently have got together to put out a CD which records a series of sound installations we did a month or so ago. I suppose I have been the one which has been the luckiest with releases, but there is fair bit going on down here.
10. What are some of your upcoming releases?
My collaboration with Masahiro Koyanagi has been released as Mould and Matthew Thomas (self titled) on Masa's label Depressive Forest. Masahiro Koyanagi is a Japanese guitarist who produces sublime and delicate music. Long, almost isolationist tracks of considerable beauty. He is starting to release CDs. Other pieces coming out soon include collaborations with the "what is music?" crew from Sydney and some vinyl on Synaesthesia (or whatever Mark [of Aussie mailorder outfit of the same name] is to call his label).
11. Who is/are the '"what is music?" crew from Sidney'? Any idea when and where this will be released and in what format?
"What is Music?" is an annual festival of experimental music which runs for a week in Sydney and a week in Melbourne (or thereabouts) the organizers are Oren Ambarchi and Robbie Avenaim, who have recently released an absolutely stunning album on the Tzadik radical Jewish culture series. They also appear in various incarnations and combinations as Phlegm, Menstruation Sisters, etc. Keep an eye out for their stuff. Some pieces I worked on with Oren Ambarchi will be released soon - on another Japanese label. Details not finalized though...
Matthew Thomas Discography:
"Particle Accelerator" 12" EP Undefined Recordings
"Architecture" CD Undefined Recordings UDR CD01
"Remodulations" CD Dorobo DOROBO015
"Mindvirus" CD Mindvirus #01
"P3" 3" CD Dorobo DORLTD3
Mould and Matthew Thomas - CD Depressive Forest (Japan)
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