‘I heard that there was a DJ by the name of Matthew Johnson in Boston.
I wonder if he is collecting some of my royalty checks.’
Canadian techno auteur Mathew Jonson is playing live at Together for Sweet Shop at Good Life on Saturday, May 18. You may free-associate him with “trance,” “Marionette,” or (more intelligently) decades worth of releases on labels from Sub Static to Kompakt—but we bet you didn’t know how funny he was.
Naturally, that came out when we asked him about Canada.
You’re playing live this year. What do you play on? and what’s the best part about performing live?
I re-create the same environment on stage as [when] I mix in the studio. The only difference is that the synths that are too big to come on tour are recorded into separated parts on the DAW. There are 24 channels filled with three stereo pairs from the computer and the rest contain drum machines, synths, and effects.
What’s the best part about performing live?
The people are what makes a great party.
When the sound is good and the time is right, playing live can be a magical experience. It’s amazing how music can bring rise to all kinds of abstract feelings from things like time and space being distorted to weather systems moving through a room, or the physical sensation of accelerating down a runway before take off.
You’ve made some all-time classic dance anthems. Do you ever tire of playing something like “Marionette”? How do you keep it fresh?
Instead of programming a live set from beginning to end, I would rather give the music the freedom it needs to develop in a way that is unique to the specific feeling of the space. It’s about reading the crowd and their body language and then taking the music where it needs to go. I like to fly between improvising and prepared tracks, as it has an element of risk that is exciting but also pays off in the end with music that is better thought out. It’s kind of like taking solos between songs I guess. If you’re in touch with what’s happening around you and play the music that is right for each moment, it’s never tiring.
Congratulations on your full-length record [out on Crosstown Rebels June 2013], how do you approach creating an album?
I guess it comes down to picking music that expresses something as a whole, and feels good in this context. With this album I wanted to include tracks that reflected my current mental state and path in life.
Her Blurry Pictures is a play on the idea of bringing things into focus and being present in life rather than trying to escape.
I don’t think I have at all mastered the idea of albums yet, and that is why I am enjoying the idea so much in the last years. It’s a learning process and it lets me explore, adding new meaning to my work.
Crosstown Rebels is a substantial label, responsible for breaking our hometown heroes Soul Clap in a way, do you know Soul Clap? What’s your take on them?
Yeah, I’ve met them and they’re both great guys and fun DJs to listen to, of course. It’s nice to see people having so much fun with their music!
You’re also a substantial remix master, any suggestions for young producers looking to tackle a remix? Any advice?
Remixes can be really tough. I guess my advice would be do your best and if it works out, then great. If not, don’t be afraid to tell the label that it’s not happening and you’re not going to work on it anymore. There is no point putting out anything you’re not feeling. I guess this goes without saying, but don’t make promises you can’t keep. It’s best to walk into these situations with both parties understanding that there is no deal on the table until the remix is done or stopped and that the remixer reserves this right to choose. Not all tracks work out, so there should be no expectation that a remix will either. I end up passing on probably half of the ones I take on, to put it in perspective.
For one reason or another, Together has a considerable amount of Canadians playing this year, what makes Canada such a strange breeding ground for new music?
I wouldn’t say there is anything strange about it. The moment you cross the border into Canada the temperature drops 30 degrees and the sun disappears behind walls of ice and snow.
Due to these extremes, we are unable to leave the confines of our igloos for anything more than the brief 30 minutes of heat that the noon day sun provides us with; this time in which we use to hunt for our sole diet of moose.
The rest of the time, we play music.
This festival is called ‘Together’, how have you seen the physical manifestation of this word through making and playing music for people?
I’ll be serious again. I see music as being very much a universal language. Having the opportunity to travel and meet so many people from different cultures really opens your eyes to this.
I’ve come to realize that most of the people on earth are very similar, in that they love their friends and families and really just want to live a peaceful life. It’s quite a privilege that music has allowed me to experience so much. The world is a beautiful place.
Do you have any particular foods you like? Are you a vegetarian?
I prefer to eat a vegan diet most of the time as I think that’s what makes my body feel most healthy. It also feels like a good choice ethically, of course, as it’s better for the environment and the animals involved. I’ll eat meat or fish on occasion though if it’s caught in the wild. Farming practices these days are in a pretty sad state.
It must be annoying when people spell your name with two “t”s. Sorry about that. Not really a question sorry…. but is it?
Sometimes yes. In the end, I’m used to it though, so all I can really do is blow it off. It happens all the time.
I heard that there was a DJ by the name of Matthew Johnson in Boston. I wonder if he is collecting some of my royalty checks.
SWEET SHOP WITH MATHEW JONSON (LIVE)
28 KINGSTON ST.