After living and traveling all over the planet, Steven Machat recently moved to Florida, full time, with the intention of staying. His condo sits bayside, overlooking the weird majesty that is Miami Beach. This expanse of clubs and sunbathers is where the former lawyer, record label owner, and music industry guy has decided to work with SoBe Institute of the Arts. His goal is to foster an "organic music scene" by teaching a ten-week series, "The Secret and Sacred Knowledge of Music: From Creation to Exploitation," starting this Wednesday.
Machat is the son of late entertainment lawyer Marty, whose clients included the Platters, the Drifters, Sam Cooke, the Rolling Stones, and even boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. He learned contracts starting at age 12 and remembers reading a 1964 Rolling Stones contract before puberty. According to his bio, the younger Machat's first record deal, one between CBS Records and ELO, was the largest of that time.
"He couldn't get into property law," he says of his father, "because he was Jewish." At that point, Machat goes on a tangent about the word "Jewish," which bothers him because of its Roman roots. Machat is a man interested in taking a hard, analytical look at just about everything. And he has a story and opinion about any musician you can name, all sorts of politics, and the expanse of human history.
Machat attended University of Miami undergrad and then Vanderbilt law school. "Now, I'm not in the mood to practice," he says of his former career. "I don't believe in screwing people, and that's what this system is made for." Instead, he recently penned a book, a memoir of sorts, Gods Gangsters, and Honor. "My dad was my god, and I ended up becoming his gangster later on."
The book's goal is to, "share with fellow men and women about coming to my consciousness," Machat points out, "understanding who and what I am in spite of what society tries to tell you." He thinks society is all about "me, me, me, me," and men are alone valued by the money they possess. Machat once lived that life. "I've had the riches, but I didn't have friends."
So he changed.
Over the years, Machat has worked with everyone from Bobby Brown to Ozzy Osbourne, Khia to Donnie Osmond, and even currently with Ariel Pink. And all over the world, from Mali to London to Japan. He even produced films like Bird on a Wire, a documentary of Leonard Cohen's 1972 European tour.
He calls Donnie Osmond's rebirth, and other sort of rebirths he worked on in the past, "frauds." Of Osmond at that time, he remembers friend Gianni Versace refused to clothe him. The late designer told Machat with concern, "Your ego is out of control." What was the point of doing this kind of work? Looking back at the failed comeback of the singer, Machat agrees, it was "wasted time." What he's come away with is, these days, he's not big on egos.
"Jay-Z, as talented as he may be, is one of the worst things in the world," Machat proclaims. "He's a gatekeeper. He's not going to sign someone more talented than him. His ego is so out of control. Beyoncé, she's a performer, but she's not going to get young girls and encourage them to test the art." It's not with anger that he expresses these thoughts. It seems a sort of Buddhist reexamining of the important things in life for a man who's had much success, and now, time for reflection. He wants to share the creation of music and knowledge within a community.
Real artists, he believes, have confidence, and when they lose their confidence and rely on money, or matter, as he calls it, that's when they stop creating. The goal for him is mind before matter. "Peter Gabriel was once one of my favorite clients, but all of a sudden, it just ended. I loved working with Peter Gabriel," he remembers. While it's OK to move into their next phase of life, he has a problem with the old guard "hawking your old wares." He remembers, "When I met Mick Jagger, he told me, 'there's no way I'll be singing "Let's Spend the Night Together." No way."
Currently, Machat works with his own son Barron on their London-based label Hippos in Tanks. The name came from a line in a Jack Kerouac book his 25-year-old son picked out. They represent artists from around the globe, like Arca from Venezuela and Dean Blunt from London.
>For now, his goal is getting South Florida to hear his message and start playing music. You can sign up for Steven Machat's SoBe Arts class at sobearts.org.
"The Secret and Sacred Knowledge of Music: From Creation to Exploitation." SoBe Institute of the Arts, 2100 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. 10 Sessions, Wednesdays, March 13 to May 15 7 to 9 p.m. Cost is $50 per session or $450 for the series (when purchased in advance). Register here, or call 305-674-9220. Check out the event schedule.
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