Interview: Mathew Jonson
One of the most innovative and experimental producers the techno genre has ever seen, Mathew Jonson, notoriously known for his fealty to analogue equipment and real time play, a rule breaker and explorer ready to cross pollinate genres. The producer and DJ has created the most memorable of tracks, distinct creations of electronic, emotive energy that seeps from the speakers and onto the dance floor.
Plenty of musicians claim to be ‘classically trained’ but Mathew Jonson has been a musical prodigy since a young age. His main focus being classical drums, piano and percussion, in which he played an under 18’s concert at the young age of 11. His main influence was his Father, who showed a keen interest in electronic music and drums. It was then that Mathew Jonson began to learn and experiment with keyboards, sequencers and sound modules – it was here that Jonson threw the rule book away and began cultivating his own electronic style, that boasts a carefully crafted skill set, turning his club nights from a mere ‘gig’ to a live performance.
Despite his quick ascent through the ranks of the techno elite, Jonson hasn’t just stayed personally grounded. He’s devoted much of his energy to supporting his own close musical family, both in the groups Cobblestone Jazz and the Modern Deep Left Quartet, and with his Wagon Repair label, which he cofounded with Jesse Fisk, Graham and Adam Boothby, Frank Meyerhofer and Konrad Black.
With the end of 2016 slowly approaching we caught up with Matthew Jonson, to talk about his favourite parts of the year, his booking at XOYO for Heidi’s Friday night residency Jackathon, as well as the new music he released towards the end of last month, which includes a collaborative 12 inch, with Swedish producer Sebastian Mullaert.
“No ambient Piano to be found inside those walls…”
Lets start of with one of the most exciting news stories of November. It looks as though Fabric nightclub is here to stay. You recently featured on the #SaveFabric compilation, how did it feel to see one of your tracks on an album that will now go down in history?
I’m still trying to understand why they got shut down in the first place. The fact they get to stay open now though is fantastic. It would have been a huge loss. Regarding the compilation it just shows how much love there is for the club!
The temporary closure of Fabric burnt a huge hole in UK dance culture, are you looking forward to now one day returning to the club?
Of course. I always play there a couple times a year.
You recently featured on BBC Radio 1 alongside B Traits to celebrate Canada day along with fellow Canadian Clarian. Your 30 minute mix received such a huge response; it really defined and demonstrated how musically gifted you have become. A track that received particular attention is the piano composition, that featured as the last track. What inspired you to write this track and what is the track I.D?
Thanks I’m happy you liked it. I couldn’t have done it without the people I collaborated music wise though – Tyger Dhula, Danuel Tate, The Mole, Hreno, and my brother Nathan. The last track of the recording is a new solo project I have been working on. It is based around music I have written for the Fender Rhodes and Piano. It is accompanied with Korg Trident, Roland System 100, and Sequential Circuits Prophet 5. Many of the other tracks are in the same vein of melancholic ambient music. That one is titled “A Beautiful Morning at Labyrinth”.
Did it receive the response that you had hoped for?
I think I was a bit out of the loop as to see the response. But I’m happy if, as you say, people enjoyed it.
Your in depth knowledge of classical piano must almost be of natural instinct now. What advice would you give to anyone learning a musical instrument?
I wish I could make that claim. My piano/percussion skills are intermediate level at best. I am still not capable of performing live. But I am practicing as much as I can. If I was to give someone advice about studying an instrument I would say that you are as good as the amount of time you practice. The top performers I know spend many hours a day playing their instrument. To be honest I think that the press has made me out to be more trained and better educated than I really am in regards to classical music and jazz. After making electronic music for 30 years though, now I can say that experience has taken me far. It’s in the electronic world I feel at home.
2016 has been an unbelievably busy year for you, with both club and festival gigs. What has been the most iconic place you’ve visited this year?
In Cranz Montana, Switzerland was by far the best party this year.
I’ve been reading about your mammoth 24 hour Berlin studio session and that should definitely feature as a big achievement! It was of course the birth of the debut album Units and Measurements which was released last month and is out on BLKRTZ. What was it like teaming up with Hreno and The Mole?
We have been friends for many years and have spent many hours in the studio together. What happened that night was something otherworldly. I think I can safely speak for us all that it is the highlight and biggest achievement of the year for us musically.
The costume choice on the RA Sessions video was extremely cosmic, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one left hoping to see these psychedelic costumes once again?
You can thank my girlfriend Isis Kuaygarond as she did our styling and also helped with art direction. That’s us in our natural form.
You have recently collaborated with Sebastian Mullaert, when did you first meet Mullaert and what inspired you to both work together and how did you come up with the track name?
We met some years ago at Labyrinth Festival in Japan. The Minilogue guys asked if I wanted to play a few shows with them. It was fun but didn’t last as they split up. I went to visit Sebastian and we did this record over a few days. The name Pollen 4 Life comes from the fact that we were recording honey bees with condenser microphones outside his studio and using the buzzing as a sound source.
The collaborative 12 inch will be released on Hypercolour. It’s hard to believe that it has been 10 whole years since Jamie Russell and Alex Jones started Hypercolour. How does it feel to be a part of this eclectic journey for the label?
They have been asking me for music for some time so I’m happy it worked out finally there was something to give them.
This month you will play on the same bill as resident DJ for XOYO Heidi and Mike Servito. It has been a while since you stepped through the doors of XOYO, what excites you the most about the night?
I have been friends with Heidi and a fan of hers for a long time. It’s going to be a party for sure!
Heidi has had a strong residency at the club and digs deep to find house and techno tracks the dance floor almost forgot about for her hugely successful ‘Jackathons’, what can we expect from your set? Can we look forward to the sounds of calming classical piano as the night draws to an end?
No ambient Piano to be found inside those walls… .
Mathew Jonson will be Heidi’s guest on Friday 9th December 2016 at XOYO, London.