Image Courtesy of Scott Matthew
As a person heavily embedded in the music industry, winding up at far too many gigs than my wallet can handle, in places that my 2012 self could not even fathom, I still find it incredibly difficult to breathe any word to justly describe Scott Matthew and his beautiful music.
Initially receiving critical acclaim for his collective – Elva Snow – in the early 2000‘s, Matthew has since truly become one of the most important artists of our time. Both in the sense of tangible success and the deep and longlasting connection he seems to have with all who listen to his music.
Ladies, gentlemen, Timelords, Countesses, punters, artists and fellow lovers of music – this is an evening with Scott Matthew.
Phono Pop Festival. European Summer. Incredible Line-up. Russelsheim: smallest and kitsch-est town I have ever seen. Matthew was one of the headline acts for this rather underrated festival, held in what seemed like the space between four abandoned warehouses from the fifties. Most people that we had met had Matthew as one of their “must-see” acts, with most of the patrons coming from Frankfurt. Though at first the audience seemed quite small for a festival, it had grown substantially by the second and final day, filling most spaces, but still having enough room to move. Around the hour before Matthew was due to play, we had heard news that he had just landed in Frankfurt and was en route. In front of the smaller and more intimate stage, what was just space was soon filled with long and iridescent benches in anticipation for Matthew’s set.
|| Janine Estoesta: The tour. So, you’re doing a lot of festivals?
Scott Matthew: We’re doing some festivals, not a lot. I mean, this tour is very kind of minimal. My record just came out and then the real tour will start at the end of October. So, this is just kind of like an interim tour. We’re doing some shows in Portugal, some shows in Italy and now doing some in Germany and Austria. But, only for like three and a half weeks.||
Coming from a country where good festivals are scarce and attendees are sometimes ruthless, I was perplexed at first. Though, as the crowd inevitably began to occupy the benches and the cold bitumen, I must admit this incited some intense “warm fuzzies” and respect for German punters and music lovers. Observing them every now and then during sets, they were either singing along to these artists as though the songs were theirs, or just listening. Only a euphoric smile adorning their face and and a tall pint of beer in their hand. Ah, bliss.
|| JE: That’s crazy. And then, selling out Berlin-
SM: We did!
JE: How do you feel about that?
SM: I feel pretty good about it actually, thank you very much! (laughs)
JE: (Laughs) Yes, cultural epicentre. You’re huge here in Europe, is it a huge contrast to New York?
SM: Yeah, pretty much. I mean, it’s a little bit Jekyll and Hyde in the way that things are really lovely here and in New York it’s like it’s pretty much nothing, actually (laughs). It’s a little bit of a mind fuck when I need to kind of have self worth and this stuff validates me and I really love to do it, it’s kind of my life path. When I live in New York and I’m kind of like struggling to know who I am, or whatever. It’s a bit tough, but then you know, I leave so often, I’m kind of in Europe for half the year. So, it kind of makes me, you know, go ‘OK, got myself and I get to do this.’
JE: Did that kind of contribute to the whole concept that you had for “Unlearned”, with the covers?
SM: Not necessarily, I feel like, you know we kind of, like- on tour we would always perform covers and I’ve always liked singing other peoples’ songs and it just felt like a natural thing to do. And, I felt like, above that I proved myself with three records in Europe and I thought I could be allowed to make a covers record because, I proved myself as a singer-songwriter already. ||
Matthew arrives at Phono Pop not very long before his set. Red wine in hand, cigarette in the other and trying to advise the sound engineers that he does not need much of a sound check. Beside him is his glass and bottle of wine, beside those is guitarist Jürgen Stark. Stage complete. The crowd gives a resounding applause of welcome and what felt like a collective feel of comfort. Even with a slight technical faux pas with his first song, Matthew laughs it off, makes a sarcastic joke and continues…
|| “I do feel joy in my life. I don’t live in that place of my music all the time. Even though, it’s totally always just under the surface. It’s just here (touches chest under vest) and it can come out very easily (laughs).” ||
This was my first time seeing Scott Matthew play live. Every YouTube video that I kept on an endless stream through the years, every scene the he appeared in in Shortbus, all those overplayed CD’s, every glimmer of his voice resonating in the darkest corners of my dreams did not even compare to this moment.
|| JE: And then, I guess stemming from that with Short Bus and Cowboy Bebop and all the soundtracks working with Yoko Kanno. Was doing soundtracks something you were always interested in – because they were from a long time ago?
SM: Yeah, it’s strange, with Yoko Kanno, the Japanese stuff, I was basically just a session singer. And, the first job that I was offered to write songs for a film was Shortbus. And, since then I’ve done a little bit of licensing but, I haven’t really done- I’m not really a musician that composes. You know, I couldn’t do a film score. So, it’s not really on my radar for things to do, but if I get the opportunity, then I’ll try.
JE: So, were you approached with Shortbus by John Cameron Mitchell?
SM: John Cameron Mitchell approached me and asked me to write songs for him and, I didn’t know who he was (laughs). He was literally at a party and I said, ‘yes.’ And, it was very organic, you know, it wasn’t like networking or managers or anything. It was just like, you know, it just kind of happened and I was very thankful for that.
JE: Brilliant film.
SM: Yeah- right?! [He] did such a great job – with no money.
JE: Do you perform at a lot of venues like that?
SM: Not really, I mean Shortbus was slightly fictional. I think there was a stage in New York when that existed but, not so much anymore. So, no. I perform occassionally in New York, and when I do that, it’s really good. If I did perform more often it wouldn’t be so good, but when I perform like once every two months, it’s great.
JE: So, the collaboration with Sia – how was that working with her?
SM: How was it working with her? Oh, it was amazing! She’s gorgeous. Oh, my God, she’s incredible. She’s like one of the most, you know, the few famous, really successful musicians that are selfless, you know? And, she was so generous to me and I felt so thankful. I’ve asked a lot of people to collaborate with me, because I admire them, not because they’re famous. And, she was one of the first that said, ‘yes’. Just immediately – like, ‘yeah, of course! I‘ll do it’. Straight up at the little crappy studio that I have in Brooklyn and you know, I didn’t have to pay her, it was all very easy. Yeah, she’s a great singer – Jesus Christ. (laughs)
JE: Is there anyone in the horizon that you would want to collaborate with – everything aside, who would be number one?
SM: Not even everything aside. I’ve been collaborating with a Portuguese composer called Rodrigo Leão and on my latest record there’s a singer called Neil Hannon and he’s from Divine Comedy, a band that I loved from the nineties. And also, another person that collaborated with him was a woman named Beth Gibbons from Portishead and we all got to do a show together in Lisbon and I met them and that’s how I got to work with Neil. But, then Beth had said that she’d do it as well, and so for my latest record I tried to get her to sing on it and obviously not through any fault of her own, she couldn’t do. She was having a baby and she was touring and she was moving house, so she’s my latest, kind of, obsession. And, you know, I’ve been obsessed with her since the early days of Portishead and I think she’s incredible. Beyond that, I think she’s a really lovely person. I think she’s nice.
JE: Are there any unsigned or underground musicians that you’re interested in at the minute?
SM: Well, I’ve got my friends in New York. My friends make music in New York and they’re amazing. And there’s a woman – Holly Miranda – I don’t know if you know her, well yeah, she’s been around for a while and she’s signed to- what’s her label? I can’t remember her label, but one of the most famous labels in Australia. [They] released her album, she didn’t do too well and got dropped, now she’s coming back with a new record and it’s incredible. So, Holly Miranda! And, there’s also Clint Michigan, who’s an amazing sort of singer-songwriter outfit based in folk and incredibly sentimental, about family and drug addiction and really beautiful subjects that are just pure. They’re the most- they’re my favourites. ||
|| “Do you know that my Mum and Dad came on tour with me? It was totally mental. So, Jameson Whisky had this project they were trying to get off the ground. Their project was, “it’s a family business”. And, they’d asked my friend in Berlin to kind of, like, direct this project and it was about photographing fathers and sons. And just, it kind of being like, you know, a documentation of fathers and sons and their relationship and their interaction. My friend Mario said like, ‘well, I want to do that with Scott Matthew and can we fly his father in to do this here in Berlin? Because, he’s on tour and he’s gonna be here?’ And, they’re like, ‘yeah, sure’. And, I asked my Dad and he was like, ‘yeah, I’d to do that, but I won’t go without your mother.’ So then what happened was Mario went back to Jameson Whisky and went, ‘well, we might need two tickets, will you do that?’ And, they said, ‘yeah, it’s kind of expensive but, we’ll do that.’ So, my Mum came as well! And, so my Mum and Dad- I was on tour – so, my Mum and Dad came to Europe and then toured with me for like two weeks. This is crazy.
(Did they love it though?)
They LOVED it. I mean, they’re from the bush in fucking Australia. And, this is like ridiculous for me too, because it was kind of the first time my parents had seen me doing my thing, you know? Usually, when we meet or connect it’s in their world. Or, my old world, and this was a chance for them to see me doing my thing as an adult and as a man that’s, you know, not connected to anything they know. And, it was really special. And then, of course, that lead to my Dad being on my record. My Dad sang with me.” ||
And thus ends, this particular evening with Scott Matthew.
Australian tour coming in 2014 – presented by Galloping Sheep and Ling Ang Film.