Ed Matus might be blaming fatherhood on his recent lackadaisical attitudes towards shaving, but we all know that's some straight up bunkum. The truth is that we don't know what Dickensian fortitude has inspired such facial growth, but we do know that it isn't for any hipster-like leanings. Ed Matus is no hipster. Even at his hippest, he's still not that hip.
What Ed Matus is, is an institution of South Florida's music scene. His trail blazed through the '90s in the forms of Subliminal Criminal, Cavity, H.A.L.O. Vessel, and into the 2000s with the Waterford Landing. That's not even counting the hundreds of side-projects and assists that he has lent to other musicians down here.
Shit, he even gave Juan Montoya a reason to raise a racket in the guise of a struggle. Matus recently released his latest solo effort, an EP of provocative and informed IDM/future sounds on the local darling Schematic Records. We had a chance to catch up with our hairy homeboy and this is how it went.
With Omar Angulo as Plata O Plomo
Before we get going on this, talk to us about yourself musically since the last time the Waterford Landing made some noise locally and moreover, what's going on with that? Do you still dive for sponges in Tarpon Springs?
Matus: There's nothing going on with the Waterford Landing. Though we never officially broke up, I don't see anything happening in the future. After the Waterford Landing, I've done guitar work for some of Alex Caso's solo stuff, which is fun since there's no pressure and I just get to be the guitar guy. I worked with Bert Rodriguez on Spielberger which is a great project because of our approach to music and our method of work. That resulted in three releases within a year and a half. We actually have more music than we know what to do with at the moment. The last time we counted, I think we had enough for about three more releases.
I also started collaborating with my old friend Omar Angulo on our improvisational project Plata o Plomo. We've been playing live here and there for the last couple of years and are getting ready to record. I've also been working with Ed Artigas on a very guitar driven recording project which he's almost finished with. Currently, I'm collaborating with 156 which is Adel Souto's project, and I'm also collaborating with Takeshi Muto. One thing I'm no longer doing is diving for sponges. My last dive was disastrous and traumatic. It occurred to me that I had never tried the method the ancient Greeks used which involved tying a rope with a rock to my ankle. Big mistake. Never again.
Please tell us who is acting like they know?
The album title is directed at the listener. I wanted a title with a cryptic phrase meant to sound like a secret code or even casual advice.
Putting aside all your work that I've heard before, from Cavity, Subliminal Criminal, HALO Vessel, WL, etc... I'm sensing a level of seriousness at play here that's curtailed by your inherent humor. These are obviously progressive digital missives, but where there's a supposed layer of paranoia, you manage to elevate it into the subconscious with some playful poppy-ness again, I'm trying to ignore your musical past, but there's something about you that screams musical subversion, and I'm sure there's more at play than what we hear.
As a fan of music, I always gravitate to music that gives me what I want, but also unexpectedly shoves me in a direction I don't expect to go in. I've always had a problem with how uniform things tend to become within genres. The whole "you can't do 'this' if you do 'that'" mentality is bad for the enjoyment of music and conformist at best. In a way, that's what I'm trying to subvert. The Waterford Landing was all about the subversion of what people perceive as pop music. "Yes, here's a singable melody with a good floor stomper, and yes it's 9 minutes long with a very spooky part in the middle." Why not? The very concept itself is very humorous because of some people's reactions against it: "It's not supposed to be long or make me think!"
It was the same with Subliminal Criminal. "Yes it's loud, it's fast, it's gonna make you want to beat up your teachers, but it's gonna be in 7/4." Why not? With my solo electronic music, it's about it being organic, noisy, futuristic, and serene all at the same time.
"They're All Thieves"
Would you say that this album is more of a dialogue opener than a perpetuation of electronic music? Are there any artists in the current digital landscape whose work you enjoy? Anyone you'd like to work with?
Hopefully it's both a dialogue opener and a perpetuation. There are many artists doing great stuff. I'm obsessed with the latest Boards of Canada LP. I'm also a fan of Actress, John Hopkins, Trentemoller, and lots of stuff on the Bunker label. I really enjoy what Joe Lentini is doing as well as Badun and the others on Schematic. There's also David Font's music, and Omar's solo stuff as Audionaut, Dino Felipe, Sharlyn Evertsz, and of course Otto von Schirach. There's no shortage of interesting and inventive electronic music.
How did you hook up with Schematic?
When I first started making electronic music, everyone kept telling me I needed to meet Romulo. Once I met him, I figured out him and Josh were the same guys from Soul Oddity. They were really cool and were very open about showing me what they used to make music. I was still using a 4 track and cheap gear so watching them work was a real education. I also became friends with his brother Mioc, and that resulted in Canibal A:Freaux which was our noise project. Every time I visited their place, Romulo always introduced me to new stuff or he'd give me a copy of the latest Schematic stuff and I'd go home and eat it up.
When Romulo asked me for music, it was when I was waist deep in TWL, and I didn't get around to showing him new stuff until last year. That's when I appeared on the Nourishment by Radio compilation.
How would you say that family has "changed" you in the last few years?
Family life, and specifically being a stay at home dad, has forced me to apply strategy and structure to every aspect of my life. I'm actually more productive since I have to wisely take advantage of whatever spare time I happen to have. Sometimes, I'll involve my son in the process. I let him program a beat for Plata o Plomo's performance at this year's International Noise Conference. He even did it in 5/4! I was so proud!
What are your goals with this album? What kind of "live" experience can we expect?
My immediate goal is to get as many people to listen to it. Especially people who wouldn't normally give this kind of music a chance. It's very cinematic and very cool driving music. It would be very nice if people spent money on it too! The live experience will be loud, bass heavy and sonic as hell. It would be great to incorporate a very heavy visual element, but that's always tough because it's hard to find other people interested enough to do it right. We'll see.
How cinematic in scope were you thinking when composing these tracks?
Being that the music is instrumental, I always tend to think cinematically. Some pieces are entire movies, while others are scenes from an imaginary movie. It's very abstract, though. That's another reason for the cryptic titles for some of the songs. I want to imply a mood while allowing the listener to have their own interpretation of "what's going on."
I was having a conversation with my brother last night about the EP and he noted that there was a not-so-subtle reference overall to Blade Runner, from a "pyramid city" to the number four, even the cover art and the digital billboards of the film. Any truth to this and if so, what can you tell us about the film/novel that inspires you?
That's interesting. In regards to the cover, Romulo showed me the image and I started messing around with it. I sent him four different versions of the cover an he said he was partial to the "Blade Runner one." From that point on, we kept referring to it as the Blade Runner version. I didn't intend for it to be that way, but the film is so ingrained in my subconscious that this stuff tends to find its way into my work.
In regards to "Escape from Pyramid City" I'm referring to the Shimizu Mega City Pyramid. It's a hypothetical project for a city which is supposed to house 1,000,000 people to deal with the lack of space in Japan. It's supposed to be built off Tokyo Bay and it's a city housed inside a Pyramid. One of the reasons why it hasn't been built is because they're relying on materials that haven't been invented yet. I wanted to continue the tradition of writing songs about escape or running away that you hear in so many pop and rock songs. At the same time, though all Blade Runner references are unintentional, if the listener wants to think of Roy Batty leaving the Tyrell Corp building when they hear "Escape from Pyramid City" they're more than welcome to imagine what they want.
If there's a running theme to my electronic stuff, it's the future and the benefits and hazards that come with technology. It's not hard to imagine one day when someone becomes dissatisfied with living inside a pyramid and wants out. It's a very Blade Runner-esque concept: Even with flying cars, videophones and all the cool technology, one can still feel isolated, lonely and in need to seek out "something better." When you think about it, it's dissatisfaction that keeps everything moving forward.
I am a big fan of Blade Runner. It has flaws, but the world is so believable and so real that I can imagine myself living in it. I first saw it when I was twelve, and it became the kind of work that made me seek out other stuff. That's how I became a fan of Moebius (Jean Giraud), the work of futurist designer Syd Mead, and of course, Vangelis. Right before the soundtrack by Vangelis was finally released, Omar Angulo recorded the whole movie on a couple of cassettes. We listened to it and we were in awe at how full of sound the whole movie is, excluding the music. I've actually bought that damn movie six times! I had the original cut and the director's cut on VHS, then got that first horrible transfer on DVD. Then came the proper DVD transfer followed by the last release that has all the cuts together, and I just had to have the suitcase version too. Ridley Scott should send me something in appreciation for my patronage. Or hire me to score one of his sci fi films.
I've long been very miffed that the crayon (yellow by the way) in my Subliminal Criminal CD's jewel case is cracked in half... Is there a current address for former Space Cadette honchos that I could write a strongly worded letter of grievance to regarding this clear breach of packaging assurance?
I happen to be good friends with the current head honcho. I'll talk to him and see what I can do for you. And for me too: I only have one copy and I don't wanna open it!
You can pick up the six song EP here for a measly $2.99.
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