Version française ICI.
It is four in the morning and the extraordinary "Ten Years of Ad Noiseam" night is in full swing (Balkansky & Loop Stepwalker are just putting an end to their powerful set, and Niveau Zero is next up for even more heavy-fucking-sound). I'm in a kind of bathroom, but without a toilet : a three-by-two metre room, with black walls fully covered in stickers. The smell of alcohol and cigarette smoke fills the air. This room is the Batofar "VIP lounge". Sitting in the corner of a small L-shaped bench, I wait for Matta to return with some beers. The interview is yet to start and I am already being offered a beer by the band. Awesome !
The tune I heard while waiting ("Kora", by Balkansky and Loop Stepwalker).
The two guys look nice : I think that the unshaved Andy would fit well on a huge dance floor with his scarf wrapped around the top of his head ; James, whose face is a bit rounder, is almost permanently deformed by a smile that covers half of his face. After the dark and heavy set they played less than an hour ago, it is very strange to see them semi-drunkenly chatting with me as though I were an old friend. As we start on our beers, I take a cigarette from the young lady whose way of interrupting our conversation every ten minutes or so to hand out her flyers is soooooo pleasant (I would have taken the whole pack if I was not such a nice person) and we laugh at the way another young lady, far more agreeable than the first, attempts to explain some taxi company hotline employee how to spell "Balkansky". When cab 3940 is finally sent to the Batofar, we decide that this interview will be named the three-nine-four-oh interview.
In real life, the one on the right just won't stop smiling.
Half drunk myself, I am struggling to remember the questions I want to ask Matta, and to ask them without spluttering too much. I must find my power animal ; quite hard, as I am still high on the sound, sticky with sweat, and a bit sick (as we are on a fucking boat and I am fucking seasick). After asking them the standard, mandatory questions, I learn again that the duo met around 2005, influenced mainly by the drum'n'bass from the mid-nineties and, of course, the twenty-first century dubstep. "Andy also has a lot of metal influences", James says, "and I have sort of UK garage and hip-hop influences, so… It works in terms of being able to fuse them together, but it's sometimes a struggle." "Sometimes out of chaos comes the best music", Andy adds very seriously, while James starts to mock him for this line.
Fig. 1 : source of high quality music.
How do they create their tunes ? "We pretty much do everything together, although we work on our own sometimes We work monday to friday, every single day, and we kind of get in a room together and work our way through it. I think it's very important that the sound we come up with is from both of us in the room, drinking cups of tea, having nice biscuits…" As I can hardly believe what he says (I thought their style was more like "beer and pot", not "tea and scones"), James insists on this being serious stuff. "Sometimes we go down to the shop and get some chocolate, and within thirty of forty-five minutes work it's done. Then we have a relaxing time, for an hour or so, before going back to the song. You have to actually take a time out to make something, stop listening to it, and then come back to it and realize what you've actually done. When we do that, we can hear what is right and cut it apart, put it on the top and work on it for the next two or three hours ; that's when our ideas, that we had in the past, will succeed or fail. I'd say we are very very critical : if something isn't perfect in our eyes, if it isn't something we'd both call great, we stop it." But they don't necessarily leave it behind : "We write all of them down on a list, and maybe there will be a day when we don't feel massively creative, then we will come back to them and see what we can do with them. Nothing goes to waste, everything is catalogued."
Fig. 2 : the B-sides to be released.
What kind of perfection are they aiming at ? "To be honest, there's no sound we want to have. It's basically what you want at a time." It seems that the duo wants to keep this immediacy ("If something doesn't work the second time you hear it, it's just done. You just leave it off the bat.") as a source of originality : "We want to be very original with everything we do. That is number one : trying to be original. Whether we succeed or not is up to the listener."
This was a triumph. I'm making a note here : "Huge success".
Nicolas Chevreux, head of Ad Noiseam, thinks they succeeded, anyway. James is still quite emotional when he recalls the day Nicolas invited Matta to join the label : "We sent a demo to Nicolas in the past, and I think it was "Mass", "Suicide Stutter", and "Inquisition Part III". He sent us a email back, very late because Nicolas tends to work very late at night ; we were both drinking quite heavily. I phoned Andy and said casually "just check your e-mails". He texted me back, and it was something like "OH SHIT !!!". Nicolas basically made all our dreams one e-mail in terms of "I'd really like to release your stuff, and to have you playing in different countries" and we were like "we'd really love to travel, thank you !""
666 44 0 7777 44 444 8 111 111 111. The only possible response.
Ad Noiseam, aka James and Andy's dream : "A major influence that led us to Ad Noiseam was Broken Note. That guy's a legend ! "Terminal Static" is incredible. I bought this album about two years ago and every time I listen to it I'm just like "What the fuck is going on ?" I listen to at least one Broken Note tune a day." It seems that their encounter was... special : "We had the pleasure of playing with him in London a couple of months ago, a very nice guy, he didn't disappoint us, that guy is a proper fuckin' sickhead ! He did leave his cigarettes backstage at the London gig so, if he wants to pick them up, he can call, but... basically, we stole Broken Note's cigarettes, motherfucker !" Then he quickly adds : "And we want to apologize."
"No problem, guys !"
Apart from the music itself, I am really interested in the visual aspect of Matta. I therefore ask them how the music video for "Mass", by the Spanish artist ID:MORA, was born. "It was basically the fact that he liked the track and it added meaning to the project he wanted to do. He seemed to get every aspect of the track right." Andy seems really pleased by this video : "James has a background in graphic design, and I kind of went to art college as well, so it makes us very proud that there are people like ID:MORA, and the great work that he has done… We are so proud of what he has done, and seeing what some people can visually do to our music."
I guess you shall be proud, yeah.
And what about this deer stuff in the music video for "Release the Freq" ? When I ask the question, James laughs loud. "It's so Kim ! [Editor's note : Kim Holm, director of the video.] Kim's a crazy man with a lot of talent. When we met him, we said to him that we loved what he'd do for Hecq, on "Sura". And we just asked him if he could… possibly… do a video for us. He ended up saying yes, and he didn't tell us about the concept at all, it was really secret before the moment we saw it. He refused to tell us anything." Maybe they finally learned more about it ? "We know the concept, it's basically about men versus animals, in terms of how they perceive each other, about how beautiful they are... but, at the end of the day, they are all literally food, sustenance."
Yeah. But I saw a lot more than that !
Before running out of this somptuous artists' lounge to see the end of Niveau Zero's set (and I can sense that Matta are also looking forward to it -- of course they are !), I ask what the projects of the duo are. "A couple of EPs, a couple of collaborations, Niveau Zero being one of them, probably for Ad Noiseam, and Loop Stepwalker probably going to be another one. Basically, it's just trying to be slightly different from what we have been doing for the last two years or so, we just want to branch to see what happens." Andy goes on : "Our music is going to evolve but it will still be heavy. The thing is, on any given day, we write a track to whatever mood we're in. As our lives progress, our music will progress the same way, so who knows where we are going to be in a year's time ?" Then : "Hopefully in a happy place."
The tune we heard by the end of this interview : "War in the Making" by Broken Note, remixed by Niveau Zero.
Another happy place is waiting for us : we spend the following twenty minutes on stage, next to Niveau Zero, jumping like tards. God, it's so good.
Thank you, James and Andy, that was great. I love you, guys.
Thank you, Nicolas, I would not have had this great time without your support.
Last but not least, thank you, Socks, for improving my terrible English.
Last but not least, thank you, Socks, for improving my terrible English.