Interview: Matmos (part 2)
Published on February 11th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Here is part 2 of Rocksucker’s interview with Matmos – click here to read part 1, otherwise check out this cut from their stunning new album The Marriage of True Minds and then read on for their thoughts on such topics as their friend and erstwhile collaborator Björk, a gamelan orchestra comprised entirely out of spanked asses, and how the rampant anthropomorphism of our age can be curbed by music…
Martin: Oh yeah – we sort of came up in the same world, except they were really famous, popular and successful! We’ve known them for a long time and we’ve always been inspired by the weird sort of balance they strike between being poppy and fun and sounding really fucked up. Socially, they’re great – we’ve hung out at a lot of random festivals, so it’ll be fun to do a show together.
It’s a billing I’d love to see in the UK.
Drew: Book us a night! We were really looking forward to playing again with [London-based multimedia artist] Vicki Bennett, also known as People Like Us – she’s an amazing video artist and fucking hilarious, and I’m really upset we weren’t able to to make that work.
A question about your live show: what inspired the rhythmic ass-slapping?
Martin: (Laughs) We’re not averse to stuff that’s funny! I wanted to do a gamelan orchestra that was all spanking – there would be an arrangement differently sized asses, and I was thinking there could be a huge, fat person as the big central gong. I thought I could write hilarious percussion music, sort of like Steve Reich but with ass-slapping. I genuinely thought: “I will do this.”
One of the fun things about living in San Francisco is that there are so many perverts who are completely day-to-day about their perversions, like: “Oh yes, I belong to a spanking club.” People are really matter-of-fact about it, so I thought I could just put an advert on the leather and S&M websites and say, “I’m looking for twelve gimps who don’t mind being spanked in public, or would actually enjoy being spanked in public.”
I was in a bar one night and there was this boy there with an amazing, sprightly butt – I got good and drunk, got the guts to go up to him and ask him, “Hey, could I spank you in a video? For an art project for my band…” Fortunately he’d heard of us and was like, “Yeah!” Filming it was sort of like taking up porn – you know, there are actors taking their clothes off, but then the room’s filled with sound people, camera people, lighting people and so on, so it was at once very un-erotic and also very erotic. I started thinking about music as I was spanking the poor kid, then realised I’d been spanking him for half an hour.
Drew: His ass was tomato red! Fortunately we could realise the gamelan idea through video editing, by layering four different rhythms at slightly different polyrhythmic patterns out of the same spanked ass. I think someday we’ll do the real thing.
Weren’t you making your own synth?
Martin: That’s more me helping someone much smarter and much more skilled than I: Karl Ekdahl, who has a company called Knas and is a genuine electronics genius. My primary role has been that of the evil capitalist – I put in the money that allowed him to get started…
Drew: And you design the packaging.
Martin: Yeah, I help him with the logos and the interface design, and we [Matmos] have tested a lot of the prototypes. Karl’s developed a new synth called The Polygamist, which follows his first product The Moisturizer, and we’ve been talking to him about what we’ve been hearing. He shares different prototypes with us as they get closer. Karl’s a genius – he has a very vivid, very singular mind.
Drew: It’s just a challenge to do something on your own terms, even if you just send off a bunch of stuff out to China and have other people do everything. When you want to do something yourself, there’s so much involved in creating all the aspects of it but the end result has an integrity that’s pretty unique.
Do you keep in touch with Björk? Might you work together again in the future?
Drew: There are no plans as of this morning, but you never know. We run in the same circles socially when we’re in New York because there’s a certain set of friends who all wind up together and run into each other. We DJ’d at the party after Biophilia in New York, which was the last time she was playing near us, so we’re pals. It’s just hard to say.
She thinks in very long cycles, as do we – Biophilia involved a lot of planning and then the touring itself, so it’s spread out over years. I think of these cycles like planets: there’s a right time when they all come into alignment.
Would you be able to name your albums of 2012?
Drew: I really like the Holy Other album Held and the Helm album Impossible Symmetry on Pan. I found myself listening to the Traxman record Da Mind of Traxman quite a lot – I think that’s one of the more interesting footwork albums – and as far as metal is concerned, I went and saw Pallbearer last night. I highly recommend Pallbearer if you’re into doom, they’re amazing. I guess Chicago Human Rhythm and doom metal provided simultaneously the fastest and slowest records that I enjoyed this year.
Finally, which albums are you looking forward to in 2013?
Drew: I sense that the next album that Horse Lords make is going to be amazing – they’re a Baltimore band, we’re going on tour with them and they practise in our basement so obviously we’re biased, but I have a feeling they’re going to do a kind of quantum leap. I’m also excited to know that Lower Dens are in the studio making a third record – I thought Nootropics was a really interesting and brave change of sound for them, and I think the next thing they do is probably going to be rad.
The other thing I really want to hear is from Wobbly, who’s been working for a while on a record composed entirely out of animal sounds, only sourcing the sounds generated by animals, and I think it’s going to fuck with people quite a lot. I mean, on the internet we’re constantly bombarding each other with anthropomorphic fantasies about cats all day long, and in the process I think the difference of animals is suppressed in favour of this weird sort of ‘puppet show’ attitude to them.
I think sound is an interesting way to redress that – to really here something as inhuman is important, and in a weird way I think a whole composition out of animals could take us further than just field recordings of them. I’m excited to hear what Wobbly does with that.
Matmos, thank you.