Monday, August 21, 2006

More with Matthew Herbert

I know y’all out there are avid Newcity readers, but just you case you didn’t pick one up this week, I’ve got a great interview in there with Matthew Herbert who’s in town this week promoting his latest sonic masterpiece, Scale. Don't get me wrong, it’s not that I think I’ve achieved journalistic greatness with this article, it’s just that Herbert was a really interesting interview. It was one of those rare occasions where the personality not only lived up to the mystique, but it actually lead me to appreciate the artistic output even more. Even if you’re not a fan of dance or electronic music, you’ve got to appreciate the amount of thought and effort this man puts into his craft. (and if you are a fan of this type of music, you've got to appreciate how he's able to make these amazingly complex sounds and politcal statements into a record that you can enjoy just as much while shitfaced on Sparks late night at Sonotheque) I probably ended up with enough material for two Newcity features, but as usual, their loss is RFC’s gain. Here’s some additional excerpts from my conversation with Matthew Herbert: The new album is a statement against the oil companies and our relentless pursuit of fossil fuels. It’s a timely subject, but then at the same time it’s one the world has been struggling with for a quite a while. What made you decide to pursue this topic at this particular moment? (continued) The problem is that our consumption of oil is going dramatically upwards, it’s not going down. And our discovery of new oil has fallen rapidly for years. And it’s whether that adjustment is going to be extremely dramatic, bumpy and terrifying or it’s going to be smooth…but I don’t seem to see much preparation for it politically unless it’s going on backstage or something. So consequently it’s quite a strange time to live through with that knowledge that we’re living through one of the most glorious moments of human civilization in terms of access to resources…and also it’s great failure as well. Tell us about your "Personal Contract for the Composition of Music" and why you decided to bend the rules a bit for Scale. The main part of the rules is basically to take as much responsibility for every sound and every decision on the record, not just rely on the technology. Basically one thing that we have a real problem with (well, another thing that we have a real problem with) is we are not taking responsibility for our actions. Music is the one place where I have that organize my world according to my own rules. So rather than sample other people’s music, I do it myself. But because with this record I wanted to make a point about distance and scale…a distance between the things we consume and where they come from (and the consequences of that), I wanted a record to be made by somebody else. So basically every sound on the record was recorded by my assistant, Alexis Smith. At the same time, there was an answering machine that we set up and we had maybe 200 messages from people around the world leaving a sound, which I used on the record. The end result is that I can’t take full responsibility for every noise on this record. And that’s kind of a deliberately political action. But the spirit of it roughly remains the same in that I’m not sampling any other people’s music. (from the press release) "Scale also features live drums recorded in bizarrely diverse conditions: under the sea, in a hot air balloon, in a labyrinth of subterranean caves, and in a car travelling at 100 miles per hour. "I wanted to record them on fire as well," he says, "but we never got around to doing that..." So, how do you record drums in a hot air baloon?? There’s video of it at… We waited three months for the right weather. (it’s not often you wait for good weather when recording an album) We jumped in the balloon with as many drums as we could fit in (which was a very small number because it’s a small basket), just go up, record real quickly, and come back down again. Finally, tell us a bit about your "Country X." It’s a virtual country where you can immigrate to…anybody can join. You can immigrate because you believe what it stands for. Not because you were born somewhere, not because you were born into privilege… It’s a place where we have the opportunity to describe a new way of organizing ourselves. And a place where we can do so without risk of violence against us or physical danger or something. Consequently it ends up being two things…it’s a way to resist the way power is used by our governments and corporations and things like that. At the same time, it’s a place to kind of invent a new space, you know? A place to imagine the world differently. Matthew Herbert will be performing a live DJ set tonight at Metro as a part of Summerdance 2006. Admission is no excuses for missing this one. Also, for you downtown cubicle dwellers, Herbert will be stopping by for a chat at the Borders on State today at 12:30. Download: Matthew Herbert - "Something Isn't Right" (MP3)


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