Matmos: “The live concert is like a cooking show. [You] show people how to chop up potatoes and then you open up the oven and you pull out a tortilla that’s ready”
By Ariana Díaz Celma
To speak of Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt as mainstream musicians would be a terrible mistake. The tandem, which hides behind the pseudonym of Matmos, has been consolidated over the years as a musical project that came to the world in 2001 in the shape of no less than a masterpiece: A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure, a record made from recording sounds in an operating room. Such genious endeavour caught none other than Björk’s eyes, who called them to collaborate in Vespertine (2001) and Medúlla (2004) while still working with the label Matador, their home for years. More than a decade later, the experimental electronic duo returned to visit the Sónar festival, hosted by the Dôme stage and curated by the Red Bull Music Academy, where they presented their last work Ultimate Care II, published in Thrill Jockey and composed entirely by sounds extracted from a washing machine.
It’s been more than a decade since you last came to Sónar. After roaming around the festival these days, how do you think it has changed?
Doyouthinkpeoplereallyneeddrugstounderstandyourmusic? Or, on the contrary,justareallyforwardmindtogetintoit?
D: Ithinkanybodycouldunderstandthefeelingoflisteningtoawashingmachineandfindingitsortofpsychedelic, Idon’tthinkyouneedtobeonLSDbutIhavefunmemoriesoftakingmushroomsandlisteningto certain artists atSónarFestivallike16yearsago. Idon’tfeellikeIneedtodothatnow, youknow? ButI’mgladIdidit, ha ha.
M: IplaythewashingmachineandDrewplayscomputersamplesofthewashingmachine. Yeah,it’sasortofduetbetweentherealandthedigital. Theliveconcertismaybelikeacookingshowwhereyou’reshowingpeoplehowtochopuppotatoestomakeatortillaandthenyouopenuptheovenandyoupulloutthe other tortillathat’sready. MartinischoppingthepotatoesandIhavetheoneintheovenreadytogo.
It is a good metaphor to picture what it’s like. By the way, in some of your promotional photos you’re wearing Sonic Youth’s Washing Machine iconic t-shirt. Is ‘Ultimate Care II’ a kind of tribute?
D: Yes! Well, IrememberreadinginterviewswithSonicYouthwheretheyweresayingtheywereinspiredby the Germans Einstürzende Neubauten. They werethefirstpeopleIwasawareofasateenagerthatwerebangingonmetalandpercussionitemsfoundinjunkyards. So, thesetechniquesarenotjustmadness, lotsofpeopledoit. Theseideasgoaroundincircles [likeawashingmachine]. ImustadmitIwasdisappointedwhenIsawthatSonicYouthrecordandIthought, “it’sgonnabeallmadewithawashingmachine!” andthenitwasjust, youknow, music. Sowethoughtwe’ddoitourselves. We’remoreliteral–minded,we’reverysimplepeople, wewantedtobethepurething.
Theliveconcertismaybelikeacookingshowwhereyou’reshowingpeoplehowtochopuppotatoestomakeatortillaandthenyouopenuptheovenandyoupulloutthe other tortillathat’sready
Let’s rewind a few years now. You became very famous thanks to ‘A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure‘, an album made from the sounds of an operating room. What kind of musical background do you have to have to end up doing something like that?
I was sure that you’d answer that your main influences are your mothers when cooking or your nephews playing with Lego. You’reeverydaylifemustbefullofmusicthen, if you are in a restaurant and listen to something you are probably imagining a new track, music that can be on your next album.
You have spoken of the influence of other cultures, especially of the African. Do you think that in Africa they could understand your music even if they’d never seen the objects you used to create it? A washing machine or Legos, without going any further.
M: IworkedinarecordstorecalledTheTrueVine, Ilovethatplace. Wemakenomoney, butwehavegreatrecordsandit’ssortoflikeaplacewherepeoplefromthemusiccommunitycomeandhangaround. Imean, wesellsomerecords, wepaytherentbutnotthebills, ha ha.