petite mort In this issueSomething from Nothing No.3 2005
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Matmos
  Martin C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel, aka Matmos.

 

MAIN IMAGE ABOVE: Live with tap dancer at Mondo Kim’s 2004. Is it Jamming or improvising? You decide.

Leave it to the experimental duo Matmos to find the rhythm in rats, extract music from human auras, and conjure up the musical spirits in instruments... These and other secrets methods are revealed as we caught up with them via pan-american phone lines for this interview. (Wiki: Matmos) -New York/San Francisco, Sept. 2004
I. IMPROVISING vsí JAMMING III. THE CIVIL WAR IN MY HEAD
II. THE ART OF TEACHING IV. BIG BALL RAT LOGIC

*RITMOS, the only word I know that rhymes with Matmos, is Spanish for rhythm, referring to the Rat Relocation Program where Matmos recorded a wild rat's sound and incorporated it into their music.

 

 

 

 

MATMOS DISCOGRAPHY

1998

Matmos ST

1998 quasi-objects
1999 The West
2001 California Rhinoplasty EP
2001 A Chance to Cut is a
Chance to Cure
2002 Matmos Live with J Lesser
2003 The Civil War
2004 Rat Relocation Program EP

 

 

I. IMPROVISING vs JAMMING

Do you guys work at home most of the time?
Drew: We were just playing some music actually, when you called.

Playing some music? Not making music?
D: yeah, we distinguish the two: making music is sort of process oriented and playing is just kind of… rocking out. And I would describe what we were doing is rocking out. [laughs]
Martin had an acoustic guitar, and I was cutting up some drums we recorded in Los Angeles.

You guys just jam every once in a while?
D: Well, I don’t know, jam is sort of a dirty word. In fact, we had some funny conversation with David Hawkings and Jay Lesser about improvising versus jamming. It all depends on whether you got a degree or not. [laughing]

The degree is the improvising I guess?
D: Yea, if you’re stoned you’re jamming. You know, if you went to Mills then you are improvising. Sort of like the erotica versus pornography distinction, which is typically a “class” distinction. You know, poor people consume porn, and rich people, you know, deliquesce on their erotica. (Wiki: Mills College)

Speaking of improvising, I missed your show back in September 2004, you guys played inside Mondo Kim’s?
D: the Kim’s show was rad! We had a tap dancer there.

Was that spontaneous?
D: Well, Martin had run into her at our show the night before. So we hooked up with our friend Isis from Miami and we said, “Oh what are you up to here in New York?” And she said, “I teach tap dancing.”
Martin: We had no idea she had anything to do with tap dancing. I was like, “You tap dance well enough to teach other people how to tap dance?!” She said, “Yeah.” Then I said, “Why don’t you come to our show tomorrow and just start tap dancing at some point?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Students know that the market place that's going to consume them doesn't give a shit what they think about Beowulf, FDR, or Chicano literature [...]"

D: When she showed up she was wearing normal clothes and her tap shoes. At first people thought she was just some weird tap dancing narcissist. Then we had rhythm that resembled her tap-dancing and we did a little duet. It was fun! We did it at Other Music the next day too.
M: Yeah, some people gave her a little bit of an evil eye. Like, who the hell is this person? But I think they figured it out when we started playing with her. But like I said we hadn’t prepared anything particularly.

So I guess that worked out right?
M: Yeah, worked out great!
D: Well that’s what a performance should be about. There has to be a bit of risk, and a little bit of romance like what’s gonna happen next? Or there’s really no point.

I think a lot of big artists have all that stuff planned and rehearsed. It’s really boring to watch actually. There’s no room for error.
D: Yeah it’s weird. I understand the temptation to do it, cause if you ever play a really shitty show, there’s no worse corner of shame. You feel like you've just pissed on the floor or something. So I can see why people want to protect themselves from it, but you can over do the safety plaster...

I think a shitty show can sometimes be more exciting. I mean, I’ve been to Catpower shows that were pretty white knuckle hell rides of stress, but they were way more memorable than an adequately professional show.


II. THE ART OF TEACHING

So I hear you guys are now teaching. Is that new for you?
M: It’s new for me. It’s not so new for Drew who had been teaching at UC Berkeley for a while. I taught a 12-year-old before and for ten years I've been working at the San Francisco Art Institute, in the New Genres Department, where we're teaching and torturing people, but it’s different from teaching a classroom full of people.

What is the course that you're teaching?
D: It’s called Theory and Practice. Martin practices and I’m the theory.

And how are your classes, are they bursting with knowledge hungry students?
D: We had a lot of interests at first. But we tried to scare off as many people as possible.
M: By simply making it clear to them that you should only be in college if you are actually interested and want to be there, because there are too many people eluding the guilt they would feel from mommy and daddy if they didn’t go to collage. They are just kinda like- you know- jerking off with no real purpose.

Do you find that a lot at San Francisco Art Institute?
D: That makes the education now. I mean, I think there’s a very cynical generation coming through the collages of America. And they know that the market place that’s going to consume them doesn’t give a shit what they think or say in their essay about Beowulf, FDR, Chicano literature, or anything like that. It’s sort of tipping of your hat -it’s the last time in your life that you pretend culture matters, and then after you graduate you buckle under to the market place of the economy. Now there’s much more of a sense of “Yeah I’m just treading water for three years because I have to have a piece of paper before I can get paid,” you know. So it’s pretty fucking cynical. Luckily art schools are filled with more people that are, I think, generally of the crazy optimistic sub-species of that generation, where they want to be a sort of an exceptional person that makes a living off making fine art. You know, which is such a crazy dream at this point, that I actually kind of admire anyone that would go to art school for sheer balls. So yeah, I like teaching at art school… that’s my long answer. (Wiki: San Francisco Art Institute, Beowulf, FDR, Chicano)

You guys were recently guest artist on display at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Four in a Row exhibition (11/04). Was that new experience for you guys too?
D: Yeah totally, I mean we are not visual artists you know. We had a piece at Whitney’s Bitstreams show in 2001 that was sort of our first dipping our toe in the art world. That was pretty much a sound piece you listened to on headphones. Work Work Work, the piece we did here at Yerba Buena was truly an installation. Not in a sense of object making that people come and look at, rather it was sort of a combination of a performance and a time based conceptual piece. Every morning the first person who walk in the door I would interview, make a song about their life, and burn it on to a CD and give it to them by noon. I ended up making 17 portrait songs and Martin tape curated a lot of

"people [were] saying, 'After I saw your installation I started making music,' [...] They weren't musicians when they walked in, so I guess we dimystified it [...]"

RIGHT: Work Work Work, a part performance part conceptual piece that lasted 2 weeks at the Yerba Buena Art Center. Visitors like the man on the far right, had to wait hours for Matmos to create a personalized song for them.
Matmos conceptual performing piece at the Yerba Buena Center for the Art.

3 mp3s from Yerba Buena Songs for guest:

1. Matmos and Coelacanth
Wood and Tooth 7.5mb

2. Matmos and Sagan
I will not deny, though my memory
4.1mb (Edited)

3. Matmos and Sagan
Be the Rose Panther 3.2mb (Edited)

(download the rest of the mp3s in this series
from Matmos' website)

 

conversations every day. We were there for a total of 97 hours, you know, continuously, whenever the museum was in operation we were there with all of our studio equipment. It was a way to bring people in to the process and show them how it’s made. It was cool, we have gotten letters now from people saying, “Oh, you know after I saw your installation I started making music,” and they sent us their tracks. They weren’t musicians before they walked in, so I guess we demystified it a little bit. And I think that’s a good thing because too much of the electronic music people have a tendency to act as if they’re splitting a fucking atom or something when they’re really just making beats -like come off of it!

So you really inspired some museum goers!
D: One woman sent us a stylophone. You play it by moving this little metal dial across the plate. It produces different tones in different parts of the plate. It was a very popular novelty in Britain. (Wiki: stylophone)

 

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