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Adam Matza and His iPad: On Making Music a New Kind of Way

Some people will remember Adam Matza from his days with the Baboons, pioneers of South Florida's genre-defying musical amalgams that blended from everywhere and filtered out one heavily percussive party of lackadaisical fun. He's been a poet and spoken-word performer before that was really a "thing" locally, and he's also experienced the highs and lows of life, as an artist and as a person.

For a while now, he has turned his musical attentions to experimental sounds and has fully embraced and immersed himself into the developing technologies of tablet-based music/instrumentation applications and is set to release his latest album, Refractions & Echoes, next month. Matza is also one of the most earnest and involved supporters of South Florida's varied underground, and we had a chance to catch up with him and discuss his work's evolution and process as an artist.

See also: The Weeds Move From Beat Poetry to Ambient Sounds

Talk to us about your transition as an artist from spoken word and more traditional music to experimentation and noise.

I've always been an experimentalist. I'm a restless spirit and am always wondering what's possible. Starting in 1989 and continuing off and on until 2004, I was a solo spoken-word performer and then a frontman for a couple of pretty popular South Florida bands, the Baboons and the Weeds. When I began, people had no idea what spoken word/music was. I knew I was part of a long tradition, but it was alien to a lot of people. Both bands were highly rhythmic, energetic, and percussion-heavy, and I was a nutcase behind the mic.

By 1996, spoken word/music was being accepted into the mainstream, and the Weeds had some interest from Mercury's Mouth Almighty Records. Unfortunately, they skewed heavily toward the Nuyorican poetry scene in New York and ultimately chose to not sign the crazy guy from South Florida, even though we put out a kick-ass cassette release called Beer. That was disappointing and led me to shelve the band for six years. I got inspired and picked it up again in 2003 with a new release called In Between Stations, which was really well-received. I rode that wave for about a year and a half and then decided it was time to grow up and get serious about my life. It's funny to say that now, but at the time, it was what I needed to do.

In 2012, I got together with the guys from the Weeds [drummer Jim Seidel, bassist Ed Ethridge, and percussionist Rey Diaz] to see if the old magic was still there. After all, the world was ending in December, so we were taking stock. Unfortunately, it felt like I was doing a Weeds cover band and it turned me off. I wasn't surprised. My poetic output had slowed after 2004 and my life became career focused. I lived in San Francisco for a few years and had a tragically long relationship that should have ended within eight weeks, rather than the eight years it took. I worked on a poem called "Satellite Star After You've Been Popped" for almost a decade. I really love the finished product, but one poem in 10 years?

After the Weeds reunion, I felt like I had something to express, but for the first time, words did not feel like the way to do it. Then one day I caught a YouTube video that showed Kimbra performing solo at SXSW. She was using an iPad as part of her set up and was doing vocal percussion loops, while singing multiple parts over them. All on the fly. All live. I was intrigued. I researched what she was using (it turned out to be Loopy HD) and that's when I discovered the Animoog iOS synth app. From the first moment I touched the screen, I was able to create interesting sounds. My musical partner at the time started calling me the "Jimi Hendrix of the iPad." It was pretty heady hype from a musician I respect.

For a year, we created improvisational ambient compositions as the Weeds, releasing two recordings, This Is Jambient and Blee. I continued to discover and incorporate more and more synth apps and drum machine apps. At times, I played two iPads simultaneously. Once Audiobus -- an app that links musical apps -- came out, I no longer needed two iPads. These instrument apps are deep and expressive, and remarkably affordable compared to hardware. With Audiobus, I can combine multiple synths, drum machines and effects. It is a constant experiment.

About a year ago, my musical partner had a psychotic breakdown and I found myself on my own musically for the first time since I was a solo spoken word performer. One night, in anticipation of a show at the Poorhouse opening for the Johnsons, I got together with Sharlyn Evertsz and Kenichi Ohme at the Shack in Hialeah. I intended to do spoken word with their music, but just for the heck of it, I brought my iPad. After a little bit of spoken word, I fired it up and started jamming with them. I quickly realized that ambient and noise worked really well together and that I needed to focus on sound rather than poetry. In the months that followed, I experienced an explosion of creativity. It felt like I had been released from captivity.

With the iPad, you can play and record at the same time. I record almost everything I do and release at least 90% of it on Soundcloud, where I have built a nice following that includes people all over the world. Eventually, I choose the best stuff and release it as an official digital album on Bandcamp. Refractions & Echoes is the third album I've released in the last 18 months.

The link between what I did before and what I do now is improvisation. The Baboons was improvisational out of need because the players rarely remembered the arrangements and I was then forced to figure out how to work with what they were giving me. The Weeds was purposely improvisational. We considered ourselves an anti-band and never rehearsed. We just played all the time. Improvisation is where I like to be creatively; in the moment and doing it for the first time right now. It's like being on the high wire without a net. That's when, where and how my best stuff comes out.

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Abel Folgar

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