Having released two records over the past four years, Wesley Matsell isn’t exactly in a rush to satisfy our musical appetites. After a tip off from Nathan Fake back in our interview in February, who praised Wesley’s productions, we started to take note of the Welshman’s output.
Early 2012 saw the release of Wesley’s highly acclaimed ‘Zones Within Zones‘ EP on Axel Boman and Petter Nordkvist’s Studio Barnhus label, a combination of jacking house grooves and heavily swung synth arpeggios. Wesley also released an excellent remix of Taragama Pyjarama’s ‘Balibat‘ and a cosmic remix of Phil Kieron’s ‘Le Carrousel‘. From what we’ve been told Wesley has big things lined up for 2013, including a potential release of a new record on Border Community.
For those of us who are based in London, The Hydra have invited Border Community to see us off into the New Year and Wesley Matsell will play alongside James Holden, Nathan Fake (live), Luke Abbott (live) and special guest Ivan Smagghe. Tickets are almost gone, so you better be quick.
Please can you introduce yourself and tell us what you’ve been up to over the past few months?
My full name is Wesley Rhys Matsell and over the last few months I’ve been working on a few remixes for Taragana Pyjarama, my pal Harald Bjork, and other little remix projects for friends, and struggling to finish actual tracks for myself.
Can you explain how you created the mix you recorded for IA plus the artwork you created for the cover? What’s the reasoning behind the tracks you’ve selected?
It’s just a mix of stuff I’m into. Tod Dockstader is my favourite early electronic composer – old school acousmatic, or electro-acoustic music, whatever you want to call it. Some Lory D, STL, Aleksi Perala, Kenny Larkin… Solcyc is an old project Mark Broom was involved in, released on Baby Ford’s Ifach label. It’s incredible, the track starts to get a bit loose about half way through but it just sounds like some kind of hardware sequencer MIDI lag… Ghetto. There’s a Vessel track at the end too. I think his album was one of the best albums of the last 12 months – gritty, dusty and raw – super nice production. Also, you should definitely check Treetops out. Most of his stuff is only available on cassette…
The artwork was originally going to be a scan of a collage I finished recently but my scanner refuses to work since I’ve moved house. The image is taken from a walk-bridge in the mountains not that far from where I live. The bus is en route to Pontsticill.
What’s your musical heritage? What music did you grow up listening to, top three albums perhaps?
I spent the majority of my teenage years obsessing over Aphex and Autechre records. It wasn’t until about age 14 when I started hearing stuff like speed-garage, Thomas Bangalter’s Roulé records, and the strange techno stuff that John Peel used to play, that I started to take 4/4 kick tracks more seriously. I started tracking back through time getting loads of old house and techno records like Underground Resistance, old R&S Records, Drexciya, and old acid stuff. The first Boards of Canada LP blew my mind too, along with the Rephlex reissue of 808 State’s “Newbuild”. I’m in danger of just giving you a massive list at this point… I got really absorbed by computer music / microsound and more experimental stuff while studying art in uni and people like Florian Hecker and Russell Haswell really influenced the way I thought about sound and music with their visceral, alien noises.
Three albums? I’d say Autechre’s ‘LP5’, Hecker’s ‘Sun Pandamonium’ and maybe ‘Music Has the Right To Children’ by Boards of Canada.
How does living in Merthyr Tydfil in Wales influence your approach to music?
At the moment, living in Merthyr doesn’t particularly influence my approach to making music in a way that someone listening would recognize immediately. Without doubt I’ll be influenced subconsciously by my surroundings and I suppose sometimes the aesthetic environment, living near the mountains and stuff, will affect my music in some way? I think the main way in which I’ve been affected by my location is that I’d never really been to any clubs, or particularly big gigs until I actually started playing in clubs myself. I grew up listening to old school rave, acid house and Detroit techno tracks all in my bedroom or on headphones – it’s quite a different experience hearing them in clubs, which still feels like a relatively new experience to me sometimes. I’m sure that’s affected my approach to making / hearing music.
When we interviewed Nathan Fake back in 2011, he spoke very highly of you and your productions. When did you first meet each other?
We first met each other in London at a gig I was playing in Plastic People (my first ever bona fide gig!) with the BC crew sometime at the end of 2008. He’s a proper pal.
Has Nathan helped shape both your musical taste and methods to produce music? If so, what are the most prominent of these influences?
Yes of course. Any friend you are in regular contact with, with shared interests, will help inform your ideas of that shared interest. Nathan and I both love a lot of the same music, we’re both massive Autechre heads, and love the same speed-garage records, and B12 records and so on. I guess the main influence Nathan, and James too, have had on me is their artistic integrity, the almost uncompromising approach to their creative output. That sounds a bit pretentious, but I think when I started getting reviews / feedback left, right and centre, I was making music that almost pandered to those reviews and lacked integrity and authenticity. I needed to re-focus on what I was actually making, and why…
In 2008 you released your debut ‘Bernwerk’ EP on Border Community. Can you expand how this record came about?
I had a massive stockpile of strange sound-pieces from my time at uni, and a handful of ‘dance’ tracks that I’d made after escaping the academic fine-art environment. My brothers were nagging me to send some demos out and BC was one of the labels I sent a CDR to. I think I wrote Bernwerk in 2006, the other tracks even earlier… After a lost-in-the-post parcel or two and some staggered email contact, James and Gemma persevered and Bernwerk came out. I’m really grateful to them for their perseverance!
You also created the artwork for ‘Bernwerk’ EP. What was your concept behind the design of the record cover?
I was really into fractals, symmetry and the colour yellow at the time. That’s about it really.
Which artists, designers and architects do you admire and why?
One of my favourite artists is a guy called Steve Roden – his stuff is super charming and sincere, aesthetically rich and usually makes me smile. Some other names that come to mind are: Philippe Weisbecker, Jonas Delaborde and Shoboshobo. When I was studying I was really into post-digital / hyper-digital sound stuff from people like Hecker, Kim Cascone, Curtis Roads. As for designers and architects, I don’t really know so can’t really come up with anyone…
Your follow up ‘Zones Within Zones’ was released earlier this year on Studio Barnhus, a label curated by Axel Boman and Kornél Kovács & Petter Nordkvist. – Why did it take 4 years to release the record and how did it end up in the hands of Axel Boman and the Studio Barnhus crew?
I sent a few tracks to Petter and he played them to Axel and Kornel and they were into them so decided to put them out. I have no idea why it took so long to get round to sorting another record out. I’m a pretty slow burner so most of the tracks, or clusters of tracks, I finish are usually quite spread out over time.
You sent over a bunch of new track for us to check out and we have to say you’ve got some killer tracks. When are you planning on releasing them and which labels are you thinking of releasing them on?
Yea, I’ll happily release them all… I’m pretty badly organized when it comes to getting them out to the labels. I think it would be unfair to speculate as to who’ll release what, but some of the tracks you heard will be on the next BC record.
Amongst these tracks features your remix of Taragama Pyjarama ‘Balibat’. Were you aware of his music before you were asked to produce a remix?
I actually wasn’t.
How do you go about creating music?
There are usually two different types of “studio sessions” I’ll have… 1. Sampling and editing – this will be stuff like working on and saving synth patches and samples. Watching youtube clips, listening to old sample-able bits and pieces; and: 2. Making tracks – I’ll either start with sketching a beat out, or with a chord sequence. Sorry, that sounds so mundane…
Can you describe your studio for us, what instruments are central to your productions?
My studio is basically my PC, a sound card and my midi controllers. I occasionally use some of my ultra-budget Casio/Yamaha keyboards with some FX pedals, but that’s stuff a fairly embryonic set-up. The single most important and pivotal piece of equipment in my studio is my monitors. Having spent nearly 15 years producing on a variety of fairly poor hi-fi speakers and headphones, switching to some proper monitors was the best studio £s I’ve ever spent. When it comes to analogue gear, I’ve literally got none. Actually, my Casio HT-700 has analogue filters I believe…
Are there any instruments you use, which are out of the ordinary?
I guess the most ‘out of the ordinary’ stuff I use is my own home-brewed Reaktor ensembles. The main one being the ‘Hyperdeath Sound Suite.’ It’s yet to feature on a record, but I played live with it at Corsica Studios a few years back, in the Drone Zone BC night. It’s basically a massive granular sample processor with almost every parameter being assigned it’s own scalable random controller.
Over the next two years what are you aiming to achieve with your music?
I guess I really want to, and need to, make an album – at least one album in the next two years. A live-set would be luxury, but that’s sort of a long-way off with my current set-up.
Do you see music as a hobby or as a career?
I don’t know, both really. Or potentially both at least… It definitely started off as a hobby for me anyway.
We haven’t seen any music videos for any of your tracks yet, who will you turn to when a video is required?
I have no idea… Whoever did the graphics for the old Games Master TV show maybe. ha
On New Years eve you’re playing at The Hydra: Border Community event in London – there’s no doubt this is THE party to go to this NYE – how are you feeling about playing at the night and what can people expect from your performance?
I’m really looking forward to it. I played up to midnight on NYE at the Melkweg last year in Amsterdam and I was so nervous it was ridiculous. I ended up playing ‘Energy Flash’ at midnight, that was a fairly last-minute decision but it worked out really well I think. Lots of people were happy that I played it so that’s always a good thing. I remember when it was 1999-2000 ‘millennium eve,’ I had a personal minidisc player with Mr Fingers – ‘Can U Feel It’ ready to play at midnight because I wanted to be listening to something I loved. I love that track. I was only 17 and in a rubbish house-party somewhere in Merthyr…
Do you have any words of wisdom?
You can take a horse to water, but you cannot drink it.
A bird in the field is worth two under the bridge.
Chefs make soup.
Actually, I’m a massive advocate of creatively working with the tools you’ve got, and not constantly striving to buy more synths, VSTs, and always getting the newest of everything etc. Conserve the energy you spend on pursuing the newest / best equipment, and spend it on getting creative with what you have. Much love and peace to all.
1. Tod Dockstader ‘Travelling Music’
2. Treetops ‘At The Edge Of The Sky’
3. Lukid ‘Riquelme’
4. Population One ‘Episodes’
5. Call Super ‘No Fun (Madteo’s Cosa C’e’SoTTo Bemix)’
6. Austin Cesear ‘The Beast’
7. STL ‘Moving Deep’
8. Kenny Larkin ‘Harmonics’
9. Robert Hood ‘Motor City’
10. Aleksi Perala ‘Over Land And Sea’
11. Shxcxchcxsh ‘Fffnnfnnnfn’
12. Lory D ‘Acix9999’
13. Darqwan ‘Said The Spider (Surgeon Remix)’
14. Solcyc ‘Of The Man’
15. Legowelt ‘Danger in the Air’
16. Merzbow ‘Mantra 3’
17. UUUUUU ‘Shakatari Mound’
18. Vessel ‘Silten’