Depeche Mode and Matrixxman teamed up for the production of the band's new album? Reason enough to ask Charles Duff aka Matrixxman a few questions about the collaboration with Martin Gore. One thing stands out: for him, attitude is an important aspect when it comes to music production and DJing.
For the new Depeche Mode album, bandleader Martin Gore called DJ and producer Matrixxman into the studio. In the interview, he tells us how it came about.
Hi Matrixxman, it's a pleasure having you here on our blog! First of all: How are you at the moment and what's going on in your life?
Thanks. It's a pleasure to chat with you guys also. I'm doing well. Things have been super hectic albeit good. My routine consists of travelling to go DJ and then returning home to make music in between gigs. When I lived in the States I would only travel a few times a month but in Europe, things are substantially different. There's much more of an appreciation for proper underground dance music out here whether it be techno or house.
You recently worked with Depeche Mode, helping them out on their new album Spirit. How did that happen?
Sometime early last year Martin Gore called me up and we had a little chat. Discussed music and stuff. He said he liked my sound and thought I'd be a good fit for the album. I later caught wind from someone in the camp that the band was a tad apprehensive about me being some obnoxious American. But James or someone reassured them with something along the lines of, "It's ok. Charlie is not your average American dude. He is self-aware so there's nothing to worry about." I had a good laugh hearing about this after the fact.
Culturally speaking, it was very interesting as I had never been around a bunch of British dudes for such an extended time. After spending a solid 3 months in isolation with these Basildon lads I came out of there equipped with all sorts of Cockney rhyming slang and useless, naughty British colloquial expressions that an American should never know. Hell, I should have been paying them for this cross-cultural education in retrospect.
You recently spoke on Facebook about a collaboration with Martin Gore. Did you just work with him or the whole band?
Ah yes. That was referring to my role. I was perhaps spending more time with Martin than others but we all worked together with the whole band on the album. Things progressed quickly hence we had some time to kill once everything was finished. It was decided randomly that Martin, Kurt, and myself would make "alternate versions" to be included on the deluxe edition since the band didn't want the extra studio time to go to waste. And rightfully so, because we had nothing else to do while the mixing was taking place.
How can I imagine you producing an album with these guys? Did you bring your Yahama DX21 and show them how to press the keys?
Haha. No Yamaha DX synths made the cut unfortunately although I did manage to convince Martin to bring in his Roland TR-909 and his Oxford Oscar. During the initial evaluation phase when I spoke to Martin, he asked if I was knowledgeable about modular synths. I told him I wasn't particularly well-versed and he laughed his ass off replying "Well, you might want to get familiar with them."
Fast forward several months later to the first studio date, I walked into the spot in Santa Barbara and my jaw immediately dropped. Martin only brought in a mere quarter of his rig and it still spanned the entire studio. There was an obscene amount of Eurorack stuff and only a few polysynths (which was hilarious because I am definitely more of a traditional synthesizer dude). I was properly fucked. But I love a challenge so I dove right in and sussed out how to make things talk to each other. It was super intimidating at first but I suppose that is to be expected. I was lucky to play with some cool toys that made quite an impression. There were certain things we kept coming back to like the Koma Komplex sequencer, Mutable Instruments Clouds, various effects by Make Noise, and a Moog Model 15 reissue...among other stuff.
What do you think of the outcome?
Hmmm. The outcome seemed to impress everyone involved. There were some real visceral, primal energies we tapped into for this album and I think it reflects in the sound. It's quite beautiful while remaining dark and even apocalyptic at times. Obviously, I am a tad biased but compared to their last few records, this one strikes a chord in a unique way, which is remarkable for a band at this stage in their career. There are many social issues that were addressed that couldn't be more relevant to the very strange cognitive dissonance we are experiencing as humans at this point in time.
Let's talk about your own projects. You released Dekmantel Sector I & II. What's next?
I've just finished a few more EPs so I reckon I'll have 5 or 6 vinyl come out before the end of the year. I tend to beat myself for not putting more music out but I suppose enough is happening that it doesn't really matter.
What ingredients are required to cook a Matrixxman track?
An analogue drum machine and a deranged mind.
While we're on it - how are your cooking skills?
I make zero claims to be adept in the culinary department but with that said, I can make something that won't gross you out at least. I am a fan of nice salads and sautéed vegetables. A little fish. Basic stuff.
My friends wondered why you're calling yourself "Matrixxman"? And more importantly, is there a connection to the Matrix movie?
The impetus for the moniker is entirely unrelated to the movie. If anything, it's more William Gibson than Wachowski-oriented. I'm obsessed with technological singularity and transhumanism. Initially, the alias started out as a joke of someone being stuck inside the machine, so to speak. But over time it resonated more and more and I found myself genuinely drawn to the notion of mankind somehow evolving past the limitations of corporeal existence.
Please give me some advice. What does it take to become a good DJ these days?
Avoid what people say is cool and go dig. There are DJs who play the popularity contest and then those who do it for the love of music alone. Discover things for yourself. Find stuff that excites you and chances are you'll find some shit that few people know about that still bangs hard. People are tired of the same old routine so don't play it safe. Take risks. If you're at a house party play an unexpected techno track. If you're at a techno event throw in a disco or deep house cut. Anyone who doesn't appreciate a bit of diversity is probably a puritanical Nazi who you don't need to impress anyway. The odd curveball is your best friend.
Thank you so much for chatting with us and we wish you continued success in the future.
Matrixxman: It was nice to chat with you guys. Thank you!
Interview by 45rpm.ch staff writer Colin.