MEET THE ARTIST: MATT HOWDEN
Hi Matt! Congratulations on your recent work, "Radiate-Power-Words". It's a really astonishing piece of music. When did this idea come to your mind?
Thank you. I'm very proud of what Jo and I achieved with rasp. Initially we just played a gig together, both on the bill, at a concert I set up in Sheffield, my home town. We both thought it would be lovely to do a project together, but both are busy with our own commitments. So I hatched the plan to do everything; write; perform and record the album in two days!
You worked together with Jo Quail. When did you meet her for the first time?
We met twice in the space of two weeks; a small concert in Birmingham, then both playing our solo shows at WGT in the Centraltheater. Loved her music, and her approach to music, from then on.
How would you describe Jo? What are the characteristics you like most about her?
She's a lovely person and musician; earnest in what she wants to do artistically, always keen to improve and develop what she does. And open; open to new ideas and trying new things. We felt like a perfect match; and often whilst playing the rasp I would go to a really odd note, only to find she had already gone to the same one.
Although this an album which has been recorded within two days, you certainly had to take some preliminary lead time, didn't you?
Nope, not really! She prepared a couple of simple loops; as did I, and a couple of lyrics, or starting points for lyrics; and it all just flowed from there, in just two days and three sessions! In the first we had a live writing session, and sketched out the basic of ten 'songs', with an audience in the room and on the net. That evening we played the material and our first rasp show, after both doing solo sets as well. the next day we recorded the album in a beautiful space, at Sheffield's Club 60 Recording Studio, again in front of an invited, live audience.
Which experiences did you take with you after this collaboration?
It was a rush from start to finish! Obviously there were many practical things to sort in putting on effectively three concerts in two days, all of which were recorded. The oddest things was the live writing session: I am not used to 'baring my soul' in public; my writing is always done in a secluded place away from people. Although we were engrossed in the writing, we still managed to chat a little with the audience there, to let them know what we were doing. For instance, we'd often play the same song, or portions of the same song three times over, making adjustments each time. The audience seemed to enjoy seeing 'the background' to a musician's work.
The rasp documentary captures some precious moments from the recording sessions. What was it like for you to record on two locations, as the club 60 certainly has an atmosphere of its own which differs completely from the one in the theatre?
Indeed. In the end, we're both experienced performers, and although we had 'blank pages' - or at least by the concert in the evening we both had hastily scribbled notes on pieces of paper - we were relaxed and enjoying the tension this creates. I feel we're both intuitive performers too, who can change direction and feel at will, so we just revelled in this really, and enjoyed the journey as it was happening.
There are some songs with sampled spoken words such in "Psychic Experience" or "Rain Falls". Where are those text fragments from?
Ah, these were prepared also. One was a friend from Germany, who recorded and sent me an account of his 'psychic experience'; another was a Trinidadian DJ whom I know, with a sweet melifluous voice and a lovely manner to him. Instantly i thought both of these would fit the rasp 'vibe' and Jo and I both enjoyed fitting loops and lines behind these spoken word passages, which I simply triggered from an ipad.
You recorded this album in front of an audience. Did they talk to you after it? How did they react, and what did they say when the experiment was over?
The funniest thing was after the first song. We stopped. Then people looked around, knowing that the recording was taking place; unsure as to whether they were supposed/allowed to clap. A beautiful few pregnant seconds of kinetic silence. Then a real release of feelings. it was great! Also, we were recording to good old-fashioned analogue tape and knew the tape would run out approximately halfway through the set, giving us thrity minutes x 2 - we decided not to arrange the set to fit within, rather just leave it to chance to see where the tape would run out and the recording finish. With serendipity, the tape ran out just after I had sung the phrase "radiate power words". Some people chose to watch the tape go round, and hear the album going down to tape, in the control room, rather than watch the live performance, which was also great to know :) Afterwards, people were pretty amazed, it has to be said. Many questions about how many weeks preparation was involved, or what we had written before. And they were quite astounded to find out only a couple of basic loops, lyrics, spoken word etc had been prepared before. Some people followed the 'experiment' from the writing session to the recording, the whole way through, and reported loving the whole experience.
To you, what was more fun: Writing or recording sessions?
Recording! Writing sessions are private and furtive. Actually so is my recording, generally! But writing is the more painful, and requires a different headspace to recording. Though sometimes I do both at the same time; writing, whilst recording the results and manipulating them.
How important was the presence of the audience, the "live energy", to you?
They were vital - and great :) The whole event felt special, and people knew they were seeing something, experiencing something they had not been part of before. I used my students (i teach Music Technology in a local college) as technicians, door staff, merch sales, and social networking throughout the events, and they added a great vibe by themselves - they were mostly 16 or 17 and thrilled to be in an 'underground' venue and part of the album recording. Their energy comes across in the recordings; a beautiful and hushed tension throughout the night.
So "Radiate Power Words" holds on a work-in-progress situation, a one-take-recording. Isn't that difficult as many artists want to release a "perfect" piece of work?
Yep, but I've 'got over' that feeling, something I used to cling to desperately. I'm an old dog, and made many an album, and have come to think of them more as 'snapshots in time' - always striving to develop and expand what I do, but aware that it's not just the notes, and the way you play them, but the whole mood and vibe between you, the place, and the other musicians. And what more intense way to highlight this than two very intense days working with Jo on rasp.
Will rasp remain a unique event, or will we hear more from you and Jo in the future?
It will be occasional 'unique' events, we think. When the time is right, we'll do it again, and the next concert will be the next album! It may well be in another country, possibly in conjunction with an organisation or college there. We'd write music specific for the location and the event, as well as allowing ourselves to 'carry over' three songs from the rasp repertoire to make the second disk, too, in their new form. Would be interesting to chart how these ones change and develop, contort to fit the new surroundings and audience. Or rasp may take place in another shape and form. I will let fate decide that. I simply know that it won't be a 'band' that plays on this or that line-up. Both of us do that anyway, with our solo projects.
|| INTERVIEW: DANIEL DRESSLER | DATE: 12/01/14 | CONTACT || [READ IN GERMAN] ||
READ MORE IN ENGLISH? HERE ARE SOME EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS TO ENJOY
Andi Harriman & Marloes Bontje, Authors of the 80s Postpunk/Goth Compendium, "Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace"
Sophie and Marianthi of Marsheaux talk about their forthcoming Depeche Mode Tribute, "A Broken Frame"
Paul Anstey (Bloma) talks about his debut
SIEBEN PHOTOGRAPHY © CHRIS SAUNDERS.
<< HOME || KEEPING UP WITH UNTER.TON? MEET US ON FACEBOOK >>
© ||UNTER.TON|MAGAZIN FÜR KLANG- UND SUBKULTUR||