Matmos: The West

Introduction: Navel-Gazers #47 is an interview with Drew Daniel and Martin “MC” Schmidt aka Matmos who are going to talk to us about The West. This is one of those records which - even if you haven’t read the explanation of how it was created back in 1998, from Drew’s retrospective liner notes - sounds as though it must have a backstory or two. What I’ve always found special about Matmos is that like many electronic artists, they’re best known for activities such as sampling, clipping, processing and composing, rather than instrumental performance of any kind… and yet with these guys, the source material seems always to be either something they created themselves, or something tethered in some way - often a thoughtful way - to their own personal surroundings. And ‘The West’, in soliciting the participation of additional players, is a work that could be said to have externalised many of the techniques the duo had previously been using. I guess that’s the thread which keeps me coming back to Matmos: the music is participatory. They invite us to navel-gaze along, to be active listeners rather than passive observers, and they’ve certainly welcomed me as an interviewer to do the same as we dig into this premillennial classic. Let’s go west, there’s gold in them hills!

AC: Thanks for joining me on Navel-Gazers! Today we’re talking about ‘The West’, a record made 25 years ago. What was going on in your lives back in 1998? What do you remember about that time period in general?

Drew Daniel: Martin and I were living in the Mission District in San Francisco. I had started grad school, and Martin was working at the San Francisco Art Institute. We had put out two albums on our own vanity label Vague Terrain in a row. We lived with my friend Katie from college, whose boyfriend Robert Waller is the one that is credited with playing telephone, because he called Katie while we were tracking the strings for Sun On 5 at 152, so that’s the telephone noise…

So that’s the domestic context, living in the Mission, cohabiting with Martin… I can’t remember how long we’d been living together…?

MC Schmidt: Some years actually, because we’d moved out of our apartment in the Tenderloin where we made the first two records, and into a proper house. ..which in one year we were duly evicted from. I’m sure that house is a 2 million dollar house now, even though it was just a two-bedroom.

Drew Daniel: I think we made Quasi-Objects in that house, which I remember programming there with Katie. We were moving pretty fast between ‘Quasi-Objects’ and making ‘The West’. I think ‘Quasi-Objects’ came out maybe the previous year.

MC Schmidt: Yeah we were on fire. We loved doing it, we’d had positive responses from people, and…it was pretty easy to do! Haha. Or you know, it was a pleasure.

Drew Daniel: Yeah an obsessive pleasure. We had a lot of time to just get really lost in sequencing and chopping up sounds.

Martin you had quit smoking at the age of 30, and I think I gave you Cigarettes Are Sublime as a book to read, because you were really in the first years of being on the patch instead of smoking. And I think the first song Last Delicious Cigarette, we have this quote in the liner notes from that book… and that seems like the pretentious kind of book I would have given Martin when I was a first year grad student. Not that I’m any less pretentious now, let’s be very clear here!

MC Schmidt: It really didn’t help me not want to smoke, a book about how awesome smoking is.

Drew Daniel: We had an actual bedroom for the first time, because in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, we had one room that was the studio and we slept on the floor of the closet. So when we moved in with Katie we actually could flex because I had a room to be a grad student in, we had a bedroom, and we also had a studio which was also Martin’s office.

It’s interesting to look over the list of gear, and what was around then, and also to listen to the record and hear something like the MonoPoly (Korg). Sampling-wise we were using still two Roland W-30 samplers where you had to use a 3.5 inch diskette to store your samples, so very little sampling time. We were also starting to flex a bit more in terms of what computers could do in terms of the digital editing of songs.

So… we were much younger people that were really in love, and really obsessed. It was so much fun to make music and have the chance to just do that all the time. I had a lot of freedom in grad school as far as my time. I was 26 years old, Martin you were 31, you’d quit smoking when you were 30 so you were only a year deep into not smoking.

MC Schmidt: …I mean I didn’t really quit. Yeah it was a year deep into not smoking, except all the smoking that I did. I started a 25 year habit of wearing the nicotine patch, except I would take it off like.. three times a week and go get a pack of cigarettes. While drinking generally.

AC: Do you smoke now?

MC Schmidt: About a year ago I had a little heart thing, which scared the shit out of me and I have not worn the patch or smoked a cigarette since.

AC: That’ll do it.

MC Schmidt: Yeah there’s nothing like the terror of death.

Drew Daniel: In terms of what was going on as well, we were straddling a bunch of scenes and worlds which in hindsight look self-evident, but when you’re in the moment it isn’t always actually that obvious what is happening to music. I was DJing at KALX, the radio station and Martin would come with me and we would hang out and basically DJ together. Technically I was the DJ but Martin would have lots of ideas and we would do stuff in dialogue.

MC Schmidt: More ideas than Drew wanted, often!

Drew Daniel: Haha yeah. I was DJing from midnight to 3am, and the rule at KALX was you were supposed to vary the genre three or four times per show, so you couldn’t just show up and do only crust punk, or only dub, or only classical music… it had to flow. And that sort of mandate where you must know about lots of genres of music was a sort of model for us, where the fun thing to do was to have something turn into something else and then turn into something else.

That was what DJing was about, but then it was also happening in a lot of the records that really influenced us. I was really impressed with what Tortoise did with that 20 minute track DJED for example, and that approach.. 20 minutes that’s actually seven different mini-songs but they all flow together.

Then you were also hearing it in some of the more forward thinking productions coming out of the rave scene and drum-and-bass and jungle. There’s a track by 4Hero called The Paranormal In 4 Forms, an 8 or 9 minute song which is really a series of two-minute, different-tempo, different-arrangement things, but it’s really structured to slide around.

So that kind of model started to be appealing to us and the result is Side B here, The West, that long piece.

Obviously we were also inspiring each other. Martin could do all kinds of things I couldn’t do, I was getting wonky about things you could do with samplers where I couldn’t wait for Martin to come home from the Art Institute to play him something I’d just made that day. So we were catalysing each other but were also absorbing tons of these things that were happening in indie rock and drum-and-bass and noise and experimental music.

The Bay Area also had this turntablist scene around the Invisibl Skratch Piklz and a lot of Filipino and Asian American DJs who were doing incredible things with turntables. Turntablism is a big influence on ‘The West’ too, you can hear it very directly in all the scratching and vinyl manipulation on ‘Last Delicious Cigarette’.

Like Martin said, people were starting to write to us because of the two albums we’d released ourselves, especially after ‘Quasi-Objects’ got into the bloodstream a bit more.

MC Schmidt: There was a thing in The Wire…

Drew Daniel: Yeah Robin Edgerton wrote about us in The Wire.

MC Schmidt: …which at that time, there wasn’t an “internet” really the way that we think of it now. Being in the Wire was pretty much as good as it got in terms of experimental music. And god-damn, it was you know, from another country.

It was a totally different world, now when you think about it. We didn’t have a photo - they asked for one - and we scanned Drew’s student ID.

Drew Daniel: Haha yeah. That’s all we had.

I think I also have to shout out Aquarius Records. They were hugely influential for us in terms of exposing us to cool music, and creating a little micro-scene where there were people who would sell on consignment a record you made yourself. We were selling the first Matmos album at Aquarius, and when they got into it we felt legitimated. We thought Aquarius Records, they’re so discriminating, they’re such interesting weird people and they like what we’re doing, so we must be doing something right.

‘The West’ specifically happened because of a different record store though. When I was in grad school at Berkeley, I was going to the Berkley BART station and I’d pass Mod Lang Records which was a record store run by some California mods, people that rode vespas and had Brian Jones haircuts and had a lot of records from the UK. There was this sweet kid Mike Martinez that worked there, he was in a sort of post-emo band.. in the Moss Icon sense of emo, not the Hot Topic, uh… shit sense of emo. He was in a band called Cars Get Crushed and he and his girlfriend Danielle were starting a label called Deluxe. Mike really loved the Matmos records and I used to hang out and chat with him, and he was the one who said he’d love it if Matmos would do a record for Deluxe. So Martin and I talked about it and we said why don’t we do a co-release that’s really Deluxe but it says Vague Terrain on it. Vague Terrain was our label.

AC: It did end up being a co-release? I was thinking it was just Vague Terrain.

MC Schmidt: I think they paid for it to get pressed actually.

Drew Daniel: Yeah it says Deluxe on the spine, and has a catalog number and then it says “Vague”, but doesn’t have a Vague catalog number.

AC: I think I probably just thought it was a “deluxe edition” or something.

Drew Daniel: Ah, no no, Deluxe was this label run by Mike Martinez and Danielle Damasius.

So I think that’s more evidence of rock music and electronic music flowing into one another, because of what happened with post-rock, old school punk and hardcore people getting the clue that actually, techno and electronic music is where creative formal thinking was happening at this explosive rate. So people who used to go to rock shows and hear bands started to go to raves, or started to buy 12-inches… if you take 10 steps back, the evolution of Matmos is maybe part of that story. I’d been in hardcore bands, Martin was in noise and electronic industrial bands, but we were drawing ideas from drum-and-bass, and - kind of a weird term, but at the time - “trip-hop”.

MC Schmidt: I didn’t know anything about drum-and-bass though. Drum-and-bass at the time was so obscure in the United States. Drew went to school in England, and came back talking like that was a real thing, with legs. And except for record store nerds who track shit in England, in 1998 that was not a thing here.

Drew Daniel: Yeah depending who you were - I mean, I was very evangelical about it. You can hear it in the way there are double-time breaks made out of Steve Goodfriend’s drums at the end of ‘Sun on 5 at 152’. And even, lots of low, looming sub-bass figures that are very repetitive and are very slow, but then fast double-time intricate stuff happening at twice the tempo.. that kind of architecture is a drum-and-bass approach. Even though there’s a lot about ‘The West’ that’s about folk music and country music, or is about krautrock - the classic krautrock shapes - it’s a record that’s all over the place but it has that cluster of influences.

AC: All those influences are apparent on the record, and what also comes across is the excitement of that time and place which you were describing.

Drew Daniel: Yeah.. and there’s some grad school in it too. A Martin Heidegger sample - Heidegger saying the word “technish” appears inside ‘Last Delicious Cigarette’. That’s a sample from a record of Heidegger’s lecture on the question concerning technology. Then “the sky is always the hardest part”, that’s Wittgenstein from “Philosophical Investigations”. So, some of my escaping from a philosophy degree to do a literature PhD is sort of hiding in these weird, pretentious Easter eggs hidden in the record that nobody’s going to know.

AC: I never knew the story behind this album at all before reading the notes on Bandcamp where you describe a spontaneous recording spree with some houseguests at your apartment in San Francisco. This is intriguing, tell us more about that! How exactly did it all unfold?

MC Schmidt: One of my best buddies from high school ended up running a restaurant in San Francisco called Bruno’s, which was wildly more successful than any of us guessed it was going to be. It was a fancy-ass restaurant, $35 a plate.

Drew Daniel: It was in a beautiful old steakhouse with banquettes, so it had this classic feel.

MC Schmidt: It was the kind of place that would still work now. You know, the restaurant scene in San Francisco was always a brutal, backstabbing shitshow. ..but anyway, what happened was, the wedding was actually at the restaurant, and everyone drank way too much… we lived in a house at this point, not a tiny apartment, so a couple of people going to the wedding were slated to stay with us. I don’t even remember who it was that was specifically staying with us but our house became a sort of hub for people going to the wedding to hang out.

The wedding was not terribly traditional. There wasn’t a priest or anything, or a wedding breakfast or any of that horrifying stuff… you know. It was just a bunch of people hanging around, and then there was a ceremony for relatives, but in our restaurant.

When I went to high school, my real musician friends, Steve Goodfriend primary among them, he went off to Cal Arts to study music - composition school - and he became best friends with this guy Mark Lightcap. And they were all much more in a sort of L.A. scene, I guess what you’d now call an alt-country indie rock kind of scene. So Drew and I always kind of looked at them as these unattainably skillful, real musicians.

Drew Daniel: Yeah just in terms of the basic who/what/where/when/why, the wedding was Steve Goodfriend the groom and Katerin von Ledersteger the bride. Steve is the drummer on the vast majority of ‘The West’, and he’s Martin’s best friend from high school. Martin and Steve were incredibly tight for years, and I think it’s fair to say Martin became a musician because it would be a way to hang out more with Steve.

MC Schmidt: Definitely true.

Drew Daniel: So these were not random friends, they were super tight friends, but they were people who had a lot of chops in ways of playing music that had pretty much nothing to do with what we did. Martin and I had flirted a lot with acoustic instruments in live performance, where Martin would play the banjo and I would manipulate it, which became a song on ‘Quasi-Objects’ called The Banjo's Categorical Gut.

MC Schmidt: …which is not to say that I can play the banjo in any way whatsoever! The key is: I have a banjo. So I’d put it in my lap, bang on it, play the resonating surface on it as a drum, stick shit in the strings, bow it… it was also a terrible banjo, I literally bought it from a homeless guy for $20. The strings are way too far off the fret board… basically I was playing it like a weird…sarod, or something.

Drew Daniel: So we’d had fun with approaching instruments in a void. As in let’s play a guitar as if we don’t know what a guitar is, let’s play a banjo as if we don’t know what a banjo is, but it was through having fun making songs like that we thought: what if we ask people who could really play? We got Mark Lightcap to play an acoustic guitar and we got Steve to play drums, and combined that with Martin on banjo. Martin you play some guitar on this record too..

MC Schmidt: Yeah it’s sort of just looking at everything as fodder for editing, rather than making a song where you know what the song is going to be in the future, you just sort of assemble all these little fragments, which is the only way you can do it, if you don’t know what you’re doing with an instrument. You get lucky for a few seconds, and then hopefully you can ram things into being in the same tune.

So you can hear how that’s the case with this whole record, it’s all these scraps of cloth that are sewn into a quilt, sort of.

Drew Daniel: There are moments where neither Martin nor I are making any sound at all. There’s a chunk in the middle of ‘The West’ (title track), the very quiet part, that’s just Mark playing acoustic guitar and then the electronics is J Lesser circuit-bending, taking a soldering iron and circuit bending on the circuit board itself to create these burps and blips and very strange sounds. He gave those to us as a source to use, and then what we did was just overlaid a J Lesser solo and a Mark solo, but they’re not playing with each other, they weren’t hearing each other. It’s just us collaging other peoples’ sounds without contributing any sounds at all.

The record is quite social. We only knew J because this teenage kid, Kid 606 had been emailing me and said his friend J Lesser lived in San Francisco now and that we should get to know him. He wound up being a really good friend and close collaborator.

So Martin’s right, it was a lot of: oh you’re here, why don’t you sit and play some guitar for awhile, and Mark would play guitar for 5 or 10 minutes, not really think much about it, not playing anything in particular, but we’d obsessively chop and build something. Then we drove to L.A. and said ok we’ve made this thing, will you play on top of this thing we made? So gradually a form would emerge.

MC Schmidt: More and more on purpose.

AC: Right. So when exactly did you decide that you were working on a new Matmos album and that it was called ‘The West’? Broadly speaking how do your projects come together in terms of the intention vs the title/s vs the arrangements vs the sounds themselves? What comes first?

MC Schmidt: The sounds came first, for ‘The West’.

Drew Daniel: Yeah for ‘The West’ it was based on the sounds first. Martin came up with the title, but not before we were working. When we started it was just a bunch of fun we were having with our friends, making sounds.

MC Schmidt: A great metaphor would be.. you know what it’s like with hard drives, you build up all these little scrap files that have names, sort of like you have a giant table, if you were a collage artist you’d have piles of paper, little faces cut out and hands and whatever, and you pick em out. You’d think: oh shit, blue! That would go great with this piece for example. And it’s the exact same thing with the sounds.

The more other people were interested in what we did, the more freaked out we got thinking we were so full of shit. …that we needed to be doing something on purpose, needed to have a theme. But then it wasn’t purely that, it was also fun to have a theme, rather than just doing whatever/whenever, to let’s only make sounds out of, say…

Drew Daniel: Let’s only use X.

MC Schmidt: Right. Which leads eventually to the fuckin …washing machine and whatnot.

Original press release for 'The West".

Drew Daniel: Yeah there’s a collage sensibility that’s very broad, but even in our early albums we had this conceptual habit which was: let’s make a song only out of X or only out of Y. What happened is on the early records, the concept used to just be binding for a song, not an album. An album was a grab bag of things that sound good together in a certain sequence. The first “concept” record we did was really A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure.

MC Schmidt: Where we made the decision beforehand.

Drew Daniel: Yeah. Up until that point the records were more intuitive. I gave ‘Quasi-Objects’ the name “Quasi-Objects” so I think we also started this rhythm of taking turns. Martin had this idea that “The West” is a title which evokes a landscape and maybe that could organize the feeling of the music in some way, really an intuition. At one point we were joking, let’s do The South, The East, and The North. I’m glad we didn’t but life is long, maybe someday we will.

MC Schmidt: Who was that guy that was going to make a record for every state?

Drew Daniel: Haha yeah Sufjan Stevens.

MC Schmidt: And he made like three.

AC: Yeah if you guys had just done four you would have surpassed him.

MC Schmidt: That’s a doable idea!

AC: What was it about David Pajo’s guitar material that slotted into what you were doing here? Did it seem to relate stylistically or thematically or was it more of an incidental thing which you happened to have on hand?

Drew Daniel: I grew up in Louisville Kentucky which had a hardcore scene with a lot of people who morphed into indie music “auteurs”. That includes David Grubbs, Will Oldham, and the band Slint which Pajo was in. I knew him in high school. He was someone I really admired, I was younger than him and kind of hero-worshipped him. Then when I was in England he was playing in Stereolab, and we hung out at that time and stayed in touch.

So I asked him to record some parts for Matmos, which he recorded on DAT and sent to us in the mail. He was living in Kentucky then.

MC Schmidt: We were always following our nose. I guess Drew, the specific choice of why Pajo then, do you remember exactly what made you ask him then, for this record? You must’ve just seen some random thing which reminded you and said yeah, what about Dave.

My point is that we do a lot of stuff that way. It isn’t very planned at all, but wow did it work out well because Pajo’s things are so beautifully timed, and really had nothing to do with anything we generally do. So it pushed us in another direction.

Drew Daniel: Yeah it wasn’t a master plan. I kept going back to Louisville in the summer to see my old friends from high school and it was always pretty random who you’d run into and who you wouldn’t. It probably was also because he’d been playing in Tortoise and I was so inspired by Tortoise. He had been a hired gun in a lot of bands at the time with very different styles - you know, he’d played in Royal Trux, he’d played in Stereolab, he’d played in Tortoise.

MC Schmidt: So yeah, the reasoning being: he’s probably down. And in fact - he was!

Drew Daniel: It’s funny because in hindsight it seems like Pajo shows up and he plays on a lot of bands’ best albums, and then he peaces out! And maybe if you think that ‘The West’ is Matmos’ best album then the Pajo rule kind of strikes again.

But it was an interesting track to make, Action At A Distance, because we combined Dave Pajo’s guitar, which is very beautiful and languid and open, with the sound sculpture by Michael Brown.

AC: Yes, Michael Brown is credited with “copper, water and contact mics”. This struck me as an unusual credit, what was Michael Brown up to?

Drew Daniel: Michael Brown is a sculptor who’s a friend of Martin’s that he’d known forever, a queer guy in San Francisco who’s part of Martin’s college crew. He’d made a sculpture out of copper that had water dripping on it, and he’d amplified the copper sound as water drops hit, and so it was just a very physical, tactile, cool sound. And Michael Brown is not a musician, he’s a sculptor who provided us with audio which documented something happening that was very material.

AC: Where did you record that? Did he bring it over?

MC Schmidt: No, we went over there. Part of working at the San Francisco Art Institute is that I ran an equipment cage. My department was originally called “Performance Video” - really it was a performance art department, but the only way you could make performance art meaningful in the long run was by videotaping it. It ended up being this sort of combo department in the art school, and someone had to be in charge of all the video cameras that students would borrow, and that was me.

So after they bought a bunch of video cameras, they thought: oh, we should have audio recording and microphones and cables and tripods… so I was a guy who sat in a big closet filled with tech stuff that I handed out to students every day. So this was very convenient for Matmos because we had all this tech stuff that we couldn’t afford, which is an advantage of going to art school too, is they have all this stuff you can use that you couldn’t buy yourself.

And so that’s how we recorded a lot of stuff. They had a bunch of nice expensive microphones that we got to use, and portable DAT machines.

So yeah we went over with equipment to his house. Mike is a sculptor who - and this is sort of how he started - he makes big, public sculptures.

Drew Daniel: Yeah like giant clock towers in Dallas…

MC Schmidt: He has an installation on the corner of the London School Of Economics, which takes data from what books are being checked out in the library and turns it into this sort of giant LED display on the outside of the building…

AC: Is that there now?

MC Schmidt: Yeah, probably. It’s that kind of major, permanent kind of artwork.

Drew Daniel: But at the time he was just our friend the sculptor.

MC Schmidt: the time he was a guy that I had sex with a bunch in college! and then we all moved to San Francisco, and he just had a different kind of practice. You know, we wasn’t a fuckin musician. He’d do things like buy huge sheets of copper and bend them around.. at that time I think he was making fountains for rich peoples’ backyards, out of copper.

Drew Daniel: He’s also the source of the plastic object that became our song The Crying Pill on Plastic Anniversary, and he’s the person who figured out how to rig the pump when we toured the washing machine live. It’s another case where we have friends with all these skills that we don’t have, and they take the band a lot further than if it was just Martin and I.

So we decided to pair that copper sculpture with a very soft, quiet sound, which.. you know when you have a bible and it’s that onion-skin paper which is super thin? Close mic-ing a bible and turning the pages of the bible.

…so those are the elements in ‘Action At A Distance’, and the title is because at the time I was in grad school and I studied the Renaissance, and a lot of Renaissance ideas about magic involved so-called sympathetic magic or “action at a distance”, where something can cause something else, but across a distance. So you can create change in the world with your mind, or someone can influence your crops by casting a spell. And it seemed like a little joke on the fact that Pajo’s guitar was mailed in to us, someone in Kentucky contributing to a California band.

It’s the same as the other people who play on the record. “Mailed guitar” just means we got guitar through the mail.

AC: What is the source or story behind some of the words heard here, such as the voice saying “As If” on the title track?

Drew Daniel: There are a bunch of samples on ‘Last Delicious Cigarette’ that were determined by rolling dice. We would roll a die and it would pick a stack of records, then we would roll a die for how many records in, then which side - odd or even would be Side A Side B - and then roll a die to pick which track you sample. So we automated through dice rolls a lot of the samples that are on ‘Last Delicious Cigarette’, but I wonder if that same process would have taken us to a spoken word record.

‘The West’ (album) has a lot of samples of other peoples’ music, sometimes in that randomization way, so on specific songs, there’s a little bit of Xenakis’ “Medea” which is happening in the second half of ‘Last Delicious Cigarette’, and the opening groove of ‘The West’ (song) that determined the tempo, I think that’s from a country Moog record, which is called “The Moog Goes Country” and has a cow flying in outer space on the cover.

MC Schmidt: Right and it has a speech balloon, and the cow is saying: “Moooog”.

AC: Ha!

Drew Daniel: Haha yeah…so there’s a one-bar loop, a little piece of DNA from that which is in there.

But I don’t know what the “it was as if” comes from, I wish I did, we’ll have to keep digging. It sounds like one of these sort of white, voice-of-authority voiceover guys from the 60s.

MC Schmidt: Yeah maybe a Folkways record…

AC: You guys are known for capturing the sounds of everyday objects for much of your source material. So we can definitely hear that sort of thing on this record, any other memorable examples?

Drew Daniel: The sound of a match and smoking a cigarette is inside the breakdowns on ‘Last Delicious Cigarette’, and the question for me is whether Martin smoked in the studio to capture that. Do you remember Martin?

MC Schmidt: Of course! Of course, why would I miss an opportunity? …oh you mean I have to smoke now? Ok! I’ll run across the street and buy a pack of cigarettes, if we have to!

Drew Daniel: Haha yeah I wasn’t sure. ..but it’s funny to see the rise of ASMR culture and people getting really obsessed with how exciting and how physical and intimate and weird and tactile it is when you record a close-mic’d, very quiet sound. That was a huge part of our practice and was part of the fun of doing this.

…in some ways to take it back to what Martin pointed out about the Art Institute, having digital tools and digital editing changed your relationship to very quiet sounds and to silence itself. You could create digital silence and you could create absolute silence. There are spaces and gaps in this music, places where it just cuts to nothing, which is another habit of ours, and it’s often Martin who in editing says - wait, what if everything went away and there was just one little sound? That’s often Martin’s instinct, sort of sonic de-cluttering.

Also, we’re often getting very boomy sub-bass out of acoustic instruments. That huge bass on ‘The West’ (track) at the end I believe is from bowing…either a guitar or a banjo?

MC Schmidt: Well I don’t know how interesting technical stuff is to you… but we were still using an interface by the company that made ProTools (Digidesign), and for some fucking reason it didn’t give us… bass! So I bought a rack-mounted box called the “Oral Exciter With Big Bottom”, which literally had a tag on it that was like a butt - a pink, dye-cut printed butt, which hung there in our studio off that thing for a long time.

So we were adding this crazy bass because that interface that we bought - I fuckin hated Pro-Tools, it was called Sound-Tools then, wasn’t even called Pro-Tools yet - I hated the interface, I hated the way it sounded, I hated the software… and eventually, shortly thereafter we went off that to Digital Performer. But so there’s a lot of interesting sound to that record because we’re using this bizarre technical workaround, because the interface didn’t work the way it was supposed to.

…anyway this is all very nerds-only.

Drew Daniel: I like it, it’s very

I guess the other thing technically that I hear is that we’re still using a program called Sound Edit which we really loved and which arguably, Matmos exists because Martin and I fell in love while fucking around editing in Sound Edit, which was a simple to use destructive editing software package. Sometimes we’re taking the entire mix of a song into Sound Edit and manipulating it and collaging it more, so that’s what happens on Tonight, The End.

AC: Yes I particularly like that one.

Drew Daniel: I have to say not my favorite! I think of it kind of as the dog in the manger, it’s the one that wasn’t on the vinyl but we put it on the CD when the record did really well.

There’s a killer lineup of people on that song, about 8 people… but I don’t think my drum programming is any good on that one, I think it’s a little bit of a flaccid groove, and so I started to edit it and chop it, so all that chewing and mangling and falling apart, that’s all done in Sound Edit 16. I do like the horns a lot, and I think the other sample - if I’m going to snitch on myself about the sampling - the voice on Tonight, The End, that’s Patty Waters, from her version of “Moon, Don’t Come Up Tonight”, I just took the word “tonight”, and if you flip backwards it sounds like she’s saying “nniENT”, like she’s saying “the end”.

AC: Yeah maybe I just enjoy your mangling of your track that you weren’t happy with! I like the way it evolves, gets more and more mangled as it goes along.

Drew Daniel: Yeah it’s pretty doomy and gloomy! …and I like the vibe but yeah, there’s a reason it didn’t make the cut for the vinyl, I find it’s a more satisfying end to the album at the end of the title track ‘The West’.

AC: I love the latest Matmos album Regards​/​Uk​ł​ony dla Bogus​ł​aw Schaeffer, not the catchiest title for “western” audiences but I would really urge our readers to check it out! Great cover art too.

Drew Daniel: Yeah that’s all down to Robert Beatty, another Kentucky mafia person. He’s not from Louisville, he’s from Lexington.

AC: …what’s next for you guys, any upcoming projects or anything else you’d like to mention while you’re here?

Drew Daniel: We have a new record that we’re working on right now, we’ve already gone into the studio to work on it.

MC Schmidt: …a new, new, new record.

Drew Daniel: Yes, and we’re going to play some shows. I’m on sabbatical in the spring of 2024, so people should look for a bunch of Matmos touring then. We’re going to finally go to all the places that have been that have been mad at us that we didn’t go.

MC Schmidt: Are we! Is that what we’re going to do?

I have a bunch stuff going on, but it’s not Matmos.. such as a four day festival of improvised music in Baltimore called High Zero.

AC: When is that?

MC Schmidt: It’s September 21-24. People from all over the world and all over the U.S. and from Baltimore. It’s an amazing event.

AC: You’ve done it before?

MC Schmidt: Yes, it’s the 25th anniversary this year. I haven’t been in charge of it for 25 years, I’ve been in charge of it for 4 years, and in the collective for probably 10 years. And with that same organization High Zero, I run a festival Diffusion that’s octaphonic music, electro-acoustic multi-channel music. This year we’re bringing Lasse Marhaug to do a review of Norwegian electro-acoustic music, and he will do a bunch of his own stuff and then as usual there’s a bunch of pieces from all over the world too.

AC: Sounds incredible!

Well - I really appreciate you guys talking to me.

Drew Daniel: It was nice to be asked to reflect on this record from 25 years ago. I hadn’t listened to it in probably 10 years.

Calling it navel-gazing is good too, because it sort of preemptively admits: ok there’s something narcissistic here but I think… well my belly lint is tasting really good today!

AC: That’s just it!

MC Schmidt: Really we’re so lucky that we’ve never had a popular record. For people who’ve actually been popular, what a pain in the ass it must be to be someone who had a hit record ten records ago.

AC: Yeah then you just have to talk about it again and again.

MC Schmidt: Exactly, where you’ve got a new record out… and having to say “yeah but what about”… Her Majesty’s Secret Service or whatever that fuckin record is called.

AC: Haha right. Speaking of which any plans in the UK?

Drew Daniel: Yes we will be coming to the UK to give a lecture at Oxford and play at the Contemporary Music Festival in Huddersfield, in November. There are a lot of cool people playing in that festival, we’re being brought in courtesy of Jennifer Walshe.

AC: Nice, I will keep an eye out for that! Thanks again.

MC Schmidt: Thank you, it was a pleasure!

Drew Daniel: Thanks Andrew!

Matmos can be found at their website and on Bandcamp.

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