Monday, 1 September 2008
Matty G Interview
Taking You Back To The Old Skool!!!
I remember hearing 50,000 Watts first the first time at London dubstep weekly, FWD, drawn by Loefah on an exclusive dubplate in early 2007. It literally tore the roof off and nearly blew the Plastic People sound system. Fast forward to the 2nd DMZ Birthday, (March 2007) bash at Mass, Brixton. A now legendary party, the vibes were electric, and nobody who was there could forget the five (if not more) reloads of both the original and Loefah remix of Matty’s now seminal tune. These moments have now passed into dubstep folklore. His follow up West Coast Rocks, confirmed not only his talent but also he ability to blend classic hip hop sensibilities with emphatic bass weight for truly devastating dancefloor material. Backed as ever by Nick Argon and the Argon record label, the Santa Cruz resident who prefers locking himself in a dark room creating beats instead of enjoying the climes of west coast America, is dropping his debut long player, Take You Back, and gets lyrical with Mark Gurney on his inspirations, placating his long-suffering girlfriend and playing Star Wars records on his Fisher Price record player.
I suppose the biggest/ most difficult question you can ask a musician is what function does music play in your life?
Haha, that is a big one. Music helps and hurts me both at the same time. I love it so much that it can distract me from my priorities. Music has been a positive influence in my life by giving me an outlet for my free time. I haven't had T.V. since I moved out of my parent's in '98, and music is much more constructive, and personal form of entertainment. It's also played a large part in me being self-confident. When you love something, whether it be a sport, art, anything, it makes you feel good to succeed at it. (But) It's also taken a lot of time away from my girlfriend and friends.
Do you have an earliest musical memory? A first vinyl, cassette, cd etc? A family member or moment that turned you onto the music?
Well, it isn't really musical, but my first memory of vinyl, was getting the old 45s at the grocery store, that came with a book of pictures to look at while it told you a story. I specifically remember Star Wars ones, and I had all of them. I'd sit and listen to them on my Fisher Price record player. An early musical memory is of my Dad. He is big on guitar - Bob Dylan, James Taylor and a bunch of classical stuff. He used to jerry rig a lamp post, and turn it into a mic stand, with these terrible mics, and make tapes while playing his guitar and singing. I was probably four or five at the time, and sang on some of the tapes with him. My first tape was Thriller, when I was five or six. I still have it.
What influences outside of music influence your music the most?
My environment. The city I'm in, or places I've been. I have really wanted to have a laptop when I’ve been on trips because I get so inspired. The trips I've made to London have been very inspiring as well. I often feel disconnected from what's going on over there, where the bulk of tunes are being played, so it's crazy to see what blows up a club!
You’re a trained musician playing the Baritone Sax, do you still play and does it find it’s way into your musical creations?
I haven't played the sax in awhile. I'd love to own a bari, but they cost $2-4000 dollars. I do own an antique tenor sax, but haven't played in years. Last time I did was when a friend came into town. We didn't have any money for beer, so I went downtown with the sax, and played for a half hour or so 'til I got enough dough. It's kinda like singing. The musical skills I developed being a part of school bands is invaluable though. Learning time signature, structure, tempo, scales, notes, and then getting to the point as a soloist, and hearing melodies in your head that automatically translate to your fingers...these have only made the computer process easier.
You wear your hip hop influences firmly on your sleeve, and your album, Take You Back, is perhaps the first dubstep album to overtly push this element. What sort feedback have you been getting on the album?
The people who have heard it have been positive about it. I know it might not be everyone's cup of tea, but they respect what I'm doing. I feel that the dubstep community is very open to new ideas, and respects individual's perspectives on the music. Without this sense of openness, I wouldn't be here. The album especially would not exist, because as I've gained moderate recognition, I have felt that I can do more of my own thing.
The hip hop, funk and the Roland 808 drum machine really slaps you in the face on your album, were you trying to make hip hop with shit loads of bass or was this the kinda thing that came out when you thought about making dubstep?
It's just the music I make. Before dubstep, I was making bass heavy beats at a variety of tempos. They had a hip-hopish beat, some used breaks, and some had reggae elements to them. Dubstep was the closest thing at the time to what I was making, so I made my tempo consistent, but utilized a lot of the same elements. I've always tried to stay true to myself and not make "dubstep" if that makes sense. As the genre is becoming more definable, there is a "dubstep" sound out there. But if people will continue to allow me to be part of the scene, I'd like to help expand the boundaries by creating the unknown, instead of trying to make something that has already been done.
The Bay area is notorious for its low-slung hip hop, especially the Hyphy sound and artists like E-40, Too Short and Keak Da Sneak. I can hear their bounce in your music. Were these kind of artist’s influential to you?
Yeah, to an extent. Gotta love too short, the man is classic, and he has mad funk. So does old E-40. I drive around a lot for work, so I'm sure it definitely sneaks itself into my subconscious while listening to the radio.
Or was it the more old skool T La Rock & Eric B style producers? As I can hear those bass, kick and snare breaks on the likes of Cold Break Ill, Last B-Boy and Cuttin & Scratchin?
Yeah, this is what I'm feeling more of though. I'm crazy for old Mantronix songs, old LL, Whodini, definitely Eric B and Rakim. Paid in Full is the dopest album; there isn't a single cuss word on there if I remember correctly, yet it's one of the hardest albums of all time. Dr. Dre though is definitely the bomb. If you think about the level of production he had in the early 90s when the radio shit was mad cheesy, then you gotta give him respect. NWA shit in junior high was crazy for me. Wu-Tang of course is a huge influence. It might not come out in my productions as far as the elements are concerned, but the Rza has a dirty style, and I try to keep my beats a little rugged.
Your skits are straight up hip hop album techniques to link tunes. Night Time Skit is particularly hilarious. Is that your girlfriend on there? She sounds hot. I wouldn’t be going to make a beat.
Haha! Yeah, that's my girl. She had to get on there for all the shit she's put up with. That skit is basically how I came up with the second drop for 50,000 Watts. I was working on it, went to bed, and then got a bassline in my mind that I needed to get out. I couldn't go to sleep. I woke her up when I got up, and needless to say she wasn't too happy. The idea for skits in general is to make the CD more of a listening experience though. It might not seem like it, but out there somewhere are dubstep fans who are not DJ’s. This album is for them.
Is Jazzy Ways a kind of homage to Snoop?
It was just an instrumental at first, and I'd been wanting to collaborate with Audio Angel forever. I thought she'd be dope on it, and when we linked up, she asked if she could re-work La Di Da Di by Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh. I was totally down, 'cause it's a classic. She definitely worked her magic on it
Matty’s Theme sounds like blaxploitation sound track classic. Where was your head at when you made this?
It was originally an intro for Last B Boy, and I made it as a special tune for Dave Q to play at the DMZ two-year anniversary. I was pumped he was gonna play, so I busted out what I thought would be a sick intro for him (Matty's Theme), with some shout outs to Dave/ Brooklyn in between, and then Last B Boy. A year later, I thought it would be a dope intro for the album, and wanted to use Last B Boy by itself.
Rasta Dem Nah Run has some interesting instrumentation featured. Is that a bowed double bass that morphs into a more analogue bass line later on in the track?
Yeah, that tune has gone through a couple changes, but the cello in the beginning has always been a constant. I felt like I was going out on a limb with the pianos, but what the hell. I wanted to give Juakali's vocals more room to breath than the original instrumental allowed, and was also starting to incorporate more of the funk/soul into my style, i.e. the piano and clavichord.
The digital reggae sound really comes through on Don’t Wanna Be and 80’s Crush. Is this a conscious sound emulation or re-visioning of the music you love into a 2008 form?
I don't want to get in trouble, but it's mainly samples from tunes I grew up with. 80s Crush is built around a tune that I used to listen to in '95 all the time, and most of my songs have some roots in my musical past. Long before I was a producer, I was cataloguing songs that I'd love to rework. You put it perfectly, because I do see myself basically as updating the music I love to the current time.
You’ve worked with a number of vocalists including Juakali, Luv Fyah and Audio Angel. How did you find the process working with real vocals instead of samples?
It's a huge challenge. Each experience was different. The only recording I was present for was Jazzy Ways, so I was able to influence the process a bit. Luv Fyah's vocals were recorded at a friend’s house, on a beat of mine without me knowing. Juakali recorded his lyrics on the east coast, and sent them to me, so they were all unique projects. The hardest part is to make sure you do right by the vocalist. There's a responsibility to represent them well as an artist. When you work with someone you know, the tune isn't just yours anymore, you have to share it with the vocalist, and keep their creative contribution in mind, whereas with samples you can do whatever you want 'cause you think you'll never meet them.
Saddle up evokes a rather jaunty frontier man riding into the distance. Is there a story behind this track?
Haha. Yeah, well, often instead of saying, "let's go," I'll say, "saddle up". The tune had an unintended cowboy feel to it, so I called it Saddle Up as kind of an inside joke. The skit went with it as a light-hearted joke as well. It's one of those tunes that could give you a nostalgic feeling as you embark on a road trip or an adventure.
Do you have any favourite moments on Take You Back?
I love the whole thing, because there are so many stories behind all the elements, which makes it very personal. One favourite is hearing the voices, and beats of my friends on it. Ugene, who collaborated on Cold Break Ill, is a great friend and got me involved in electronic music to begin with. To be able to include him on the album means a lot to me. The same with my girlfriend, even though she hates the Night Time skit, haha. She has been very supportive over the years, and has played a big part as a source of inspiration. The vocalist collaborations are all special too. I saw Audio Angel MCing at the first drum and bass party I went to, and never thought we'd be working together. Juakali and I happened to be playing a show together, which led to my first collaborations with a vocalist. The Luv Fyah tune is crazy, 'cause my friend Dashiel recorded it over the Don't Wanna Be beat at his house. When I heard it, I had to build another beat around the acappella. As far as tunes, I love that the 808 bass is on there. That's probably the oldest song on the album going on 3 years now, and it's a nice way to finish it off...I feel I can get lost in that tune.
Are you planning on doing any DJ dates in support of the release?
Nothing specific right now. We're in the process of setting up an album release party sometime in September that will hopefully include all of the collaborating artists. A trip overseas might be in the works as well.
Matty G – Take You Back LP is out very soon on Argon Records. For more info check www.myspace.com/mattygbeatz and www.argonrecords.com