The Civil War
album you guys came out with in 2003, would you say it’s a little
bit more pop than your other albums?
D: Gosh! [laughs]
M: I don’t know… it will be hard for me to
say that it was pop, but I guess. It isn’t as long and
with straight sounds as other ones I guess.
D: [laughs] I think it's because we started
writing a lot of the songs with an autoharp. (Wiki: autoharp)
There were a lot more actual chords and chord changes that are a little
bit closer to capital R and capital M, real music.
A lot of our songs usually start with sounds that gradually become musical,
in The Civil War a lot of sounds were already
musical from the start. I think maybe it’s an easier record for
some people to get, but with that said, not easier for people that were
already fans of our work. We have a process when we make music where we
cut things up and reassemble them. It’s consistent. It’s not
really a genre or a style, but I think people still want to beat that
dead horse of a process in our direction, just a little bit.
Was The Civil War a theme album from the beginning,
did you mean for it to have a political atmosphere?
D: Well Martin better answer this one, because the
name was his big idea.
M: Honestly, the name of the record came after making
the record. The names of the songs were done in post as well. So obviously
we had worked on an American theme, and there’s this sort of English
folk music obsession in there as well. Pretty much the name was sort of
like a vision, we were in the restaurant and I just said, “Oooh!
This album should be called The Civil War!”
There isn’t a heavy-duty conceptual reason behind it.
Whether you were conscious of a theme or not, I don’t think
any artists or musician can really remove themselves from this heavy political
cloud surrounding us today. When I hear the tracks like Regicide,
Reconstruction, and Stars and Stripes Forever, I couldn't
help thinking of certain current events.
D: Yes, I guess while titling and choosing the order
of the songs I was sort of constructing a little narrative in my head,
but I have to say it was after the fact. For Regicide,
I gave it that name because of that real surge of violence in the middle,
but I guess that melodic sour grape of that song, Regicide,
is what you might be connecting with the title.[laughs]
Do you see a danger in artists letting their audience know what
their political stance is? Because I noticed in the online notes for The
Civil War that you try to steer clear from making any opinionated
statements, for the most part you just sort of allude to certain things.
Was that on purpose?
D: I think it’s a vain hope that you can control
the meaning your art gets. You know, it’s sort of like why don’t
I just go door to door with everyone who buys the record and sit down
with them, and while they’re listening say, “O.k., this part
represents the unassailable totality of media circular logic.”
It would be annoying if you tried to do that. [laughs]
And you might get frustrated too, because even spelled out, some
listeners might still not get it..
D: Yeah, it would also appear like you don’t trust
people to think for themselves, and that you need to control the way it’s
perceived. There are some musicians that are very good at combining their
music and their politics, like Krass and Public
Enemy. So I thought if I would be able to do it on that level
then I would, but frankly it doesn’t suit me. I think you’d
know if it’s a component that your music needs. (Wiki: Public
Would you say then that you are neutral?
D: Oh, I don’t know about being neutral.
I don’t mean in your personal life but aesthetically?
D: Well, I guess it’s neutral. It’s not music
that made out of feelings we have and then illustrate with music. It’s
music where we pick some objects that seen compelling, and then the objects
kind of take control. So I don’t really regard the songs as self-expression.
You know what I mean? In the way the Catpower is self-expression,
Eyes, etc.(Wiki: Bright
Eyes) It’s almost like there’s a spirits in objects
that’s leading us, rather than us pushing them around… When
you pick up an object and start to tap it and sound it, it’s
giving you some kind of clues about genres, and about it’s mood
or it’s personality. Matmos’ music is, I
think, primarily about that.
In this day and age do you think music can really change things
politically in relation to other art forms, without coming off as just
being a pop commentary? For example, you have paintings like Picasso’s
Guernica that present an everlasting bold statement about Spanish
Civil War. (Wiki: Guernica)
M: I think there are different audience sets that are
more reactive to these sort of things. I think the people we are talking
to, the people who are picking up our records, are generally already
pretty educated, which often translated into being either more political,
jaded, or cynical. Am I being too unkind by saying that?
D: Maybe this sounds weird but this is an age of Info/Visual,
and that’s often an exploited tool for seduction, whether you are
talking about advertising or politics. But I think the ability to just
sit down and listen to music and experience only the sounds can make you
a more critical thinker. And if you do it often enough it can make you
a more abstract thinker as well. As a result that might give you an ability
to resist some of the visual angles of promotion that we all get bombarded
within our life right now. So that’s my only hope as far as what
music can do. It’s not really only through listening to lyrics that
you are moved.