Deep Field Audio’s latest release comes from relatively unknown US producer Matt McGowan. We caught up with him to get the lowdown on his musical youth, the creation of Guardian Angel and the state of the US Scene. Read on…
DNB Dojo: First up, for those who aren’t familiar can you introduce yourself to the DNB Dojo readers?
Matt McGowan: I’m Matt McGowan. I live in Tucson, Arizona where it never snows but I’m originally from Syracuse, New York where it snows constantly. I’ve been producing drum & bass for about 5 years. I started sharing my music with the world on Soundcloud in late April of 2013 and here I am a few months later talking to you guys. On September 9, 2013 the third release on Deep Field Audio will be my tunes, Guardian Angel and Catharsis. My first release, Life is Waiting/On Top came out on August 26, 2013 on Brain Network Recordings. I can’t seem to come up with an alias so I use my real name. I’m 30 years old and I’ve been a musician for 27 of those years.
DD: What inspired you to start producing Drum & Bass?
MM: I think my first encounter with Drum & Bass was back in 2002 or 2003 when I borrowed the Dieselboy Project Human CD from a friend. I don’t think I even knew it was a Drum & Bass CD at the time. I was later introduced to Jungle/Drum & Bass officially by a different friend who had been involved in the scene back in the late 90’s and early 00’s. I don’t know whatever happened to him but Pete if you’re out there, thanks. I didn’t get into production until about 2006-7 when I started recording the music I wrote for guitar and vocals. I was in danger of losing my health insurance if I didn’t enroll in school so I took a class on electronic music production at the local community college and I got hooked almost immediately. My guitars have been collecting dust ever since. Drum & Bass became sort of an obsession that I never got bored of. I have a wide range of musical influences from many genres from punk to hip hop to funk to jazz to rock to classical and so on. I like the fact that Drum & Bass is constantly evolving. As technology changes, so does Drum & Bass.
DD: What’s your musical background? I understand from the DFA guys you’re classically trained?
MM: Yes, that’s true. I’m the son of two professional classical musicians. Believe it or not, I actually started playing the violin when I was three years old; my first violin was a Cracker Jack box taped to a ruler that was meant to teach me how to hold the instrument properly. I learned through the Suzuki Method which is a Japanese method that focuses on learning music by ear starting at a very early age. I’ve never known what it’s like not to be a musician and even though I don’t play classical music very often any more I still see things through that perceptual filter. I’ve played the electric bass for many years and the guitar for at least a decade. If I can hear it, I can play it. Everything I do with music is based on intuition and instinct. I didn’t really know or use much music theory until the last few years. I played in an orchestra all the way through high school. I was supposedly quite good at the violin but my passion is creating music not just playing it. I was sort of a problem child and there were many years where I got an A grade in music and failed every other class. Playing the violin was always sort of an odd quirk that didn’t really fit with the rest of my identity or how people perceived me. I haven’t played it in years but I might start again if I can ever afford to turn it into a MIDI controller.
Music is in my DNA. I also have a background in punk rock playing the electric bass. As a bass player I’ve always been into funk and reggae because the bass is so fundamental to those styles. All of my musical experience before D&B was as a performer and I hope to make use of that more in the future with electronic music. I came into this from the musical angle but not as a DJ. I still don’t know how to DJ but I’m planning to learn. I forgot to mention that I can play the saxophone and trombone too. The weird thing is that I don’t really use any of that skill with drum & bass other than my listening skills and intuition. I’m really right-brained and ADD so learning to produce was not as easy as people would think. I hated computers for many years because they were just too left-brained for me and now the computer is basically my instrument.
DD: Is there much of a scene for D&B in Arizona?
MM: There is but I’m not really qualified to comment on it as I’ve never really been involved with it. I was involved in the rave scene back in New York when I was younger. There was a big crackdown on anything and everything related to electronic music in the area of upstate New York where I lived. I wasn’t so much into the music back then and was there for “other” reasons if you get what I’m saying. I guess I was part of the problem back then. I cleaned up my act and I’m into Drum & Bass because I love the music and I haven’t had much time to check out the scene here in Tucson or Arizona in general. Somebody’s gotta come dust me off and help me escape my studio because that’s where most of my time is spent!
DD: The internet is awash with varying opinions on the rise of dance music state-side, how do you feel about the current craze for “EDM” that’s sweeping the US?
MM: I guess we were a little slow catching on to electronic dance music. We didn’t figure out how good Jimi Hendrix was until he moved to London. I guess we miss a few things once in a while. The whole dubstep craze seems to have opened people’s eyes to EDM. I guess it’s a good thing. They don’t consult me when they decide what “good” EDM is but I’m willing to take the job if it pays high enough.
DD: Most underrated record you’ve heard this year?
MM: I honestly don’t know…hmm, Life is Waiting/On Top by Matt McGowan. Can I say that?
DD: Tell us a bit about the writing process for your new beats for Deep Field. Did the tunes come together quickly, or have they been in gestation for a while?
MM: The two tunes could not have been more different in the way they came together. They were made in succession with Guardian Angel coming first. Guardian Angel was a tune where I really planned things out and Catharsis was the total opposite. I take quite a long time to make a tune. I don’t really have any set way of doing things but I like to be thorough with all aspects. Guardian Angel started with the intro which is about the closest thing to evidence of my classical music background as you will find. It’s all sustained strings and stuff like that. I couldn’t find a break to fit with it for some unknown reason. Then the lower intensity musical stuff goes south in typical D&B fashion and the rest you’ve just got to hear for yourself. There are some sneaky subliminal sounds during the drop that nobody has picked up on so far.
Catharsis is heavier than Guardian Angel. It switches back and forth between halftime and straight D&B. It’s a different tune in the scope of things. The second drop is nice if you’re into the halftime “Drumstep” style. I think my style is constantly progressing but these two tunes are a good example of the raw type of sound I seem to prefer. I’m a little rough around the edges and it’s about putting part of yourself into the music. That’s how people know it’s you. Right now I’m really at the beginning of my career. I didn’t send out the first few tunes I finished or even the first 10 or 20. I waited a long time until I felt my music would really have an effect on people before I let anybody hear it. The events of my life have shaped the person I am and thus the music I make.
DD: If you could collaborate with any musician living or dead, who would it be?
MM: Only one, hmmm, that’s about the toughest question imaginable. Bob Marley.
Check out the Guardian Angel single below and watch out for the release on September 9th!