ART:CAST #104 & INTERVIEW Mattheis

Giving the “musical journey” a proper host, Mattheis’ absorbing Techno adequately defines how the road not taken can somehow dodge the (exhausted) cliches. Methodical and even-tempo, his exquisite sound employs muddled bass vibrations with crisp tonal presentations. Mattheis’ soundscape is as unique as untouched terrain. His fidelity seems to pleasantly pull from his Rotterdam landscapes, from industry to rolling fields of green. In his case, the best of these properties coalesces with personal inspirations to create a tangible opus. Mattheis is musically involved around the clock, as an artist by day and tech enthusiast by night. He discusses with Torture the Artist how productivity can reach its height when space is made for creative freedoms and his current release: Lettre Ouverte. Similar to his other work, his hour-long art:cast encompasses a meditative stroll that exudes dynamism via serenity and vitality. However, the truth of Mattheis’ poetic composition is slammed through his ambient experimentations and atmospheric personifications.

Torture the Artist: Hi Mattheis, it is a pleasure to speak with you today! I hope you have been adjusting nicely to the new year thus far. What (if anything) have you wanted to bring with you from 2020 into 2021?

Mattheis: Thank you for inviting me. The past year was rather unique. Often challenging in many ways, somehow still inspiring in ways I did not even know they existed. It definitely showed me the importance of collaborating. Sharing experiences, exchanging ideas, being together, all is so inseparable from music in general. This realization is something I would like to bring along in 2021. I really hope this year will be easier when it comes to actually physically share moments and experiences together again.

Torture the Artist: I believe you are in Rotterdam (an hour outside of Amsterdam) what is your history to this place and what would you say makes it special?

Mattheis: I have been living in Rotterdam for a large part of my life, and still very much enjoy it here. Despite the fact that the city has changed throughout the years, the raw industrial edges remain. Yet the city has a large variety of ever-inspiring faces. It is surrounded by green fields, that in different ways remind me of the countryside where I grew up. On the contrary it has an almost surrealistic industrial harbor that is ever captivating. There is just plenty of everything, in a comfortable balanced way.

Torture the Artist: Speaking of roots, you are an important part of the Nous’klaer Audio label. Can you tell us more about your role and background with the team?

Mattheis: Nous’klaer is like a second home to me and working together with Sjoerd (Oberman) always has been really special. Since he started the label in 2013, we have been working together a lot and have always remained close friends. His attention to detail, the dedication, and time and effort he puts into working with the artists on the label and everyone involved is something very contagious. I can still remember the time we were finishing Isms EP in 2013, with the countless meetings we had, listening, discussing the artwork, contemplating, even if it meant we had to change things completely, just to make sure to have everyone on the same page. As an artist, to be involved in the process that way is very unique, and perhaps one of the main reasons for me to have been releasing with Nous’klaer so much.

Over the course of the past year I seem to have experienced the true gravity of this “scene” we find ourselves in.

Torture the Artist: Where do you find yourself most motivated to produce music: alone or with others, at home or on the move? If you feel equally inclined in both scenarios, what different products arise from each?

Mattheis: It actually really depends on the situation. It seems very ironic really that over the course of the past year I seem to have experienced the true gravity of this “scene” we find ourselves in. Like I mentioned before, the process of sharing experiences, being together, actually have real-life conversations can be really inspiring. As of now, I really enjoy having my studio at home though. Whenever —anytime of the day really — if there is a moment I feel like playing around I do not have to cross the city to get to the studio. Sometimes it can be equally challenging though, as the music is never finished and it often takes some effort to actually end the day.

I love it how certain music allows me to completely mentally disconnect from the environment.

Torture the Artist: Have you been doing more active or sedentary listening recently?

Mattheis: I like listing to music when I am busy, while traveling, or walking outside. It depends a bit on the moment I find myself in. Listening to music can really add to an experience. I love it how certain music allows me to completely mentally disconnect from the environment, whilst physically still being part of it. I find it so extraordinary how even in the most chaotic situations an ‘Astral Industries’ release for example allows me to stay completely calm. It is fascinating!

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Torture the Artist: Would you mind walking us through your production process in a simple three steps: beginning, middle, and end?

Mattheis: Oddly enough, the production process seems to have become increasingly complex for me throughout the years. My approach is very much depending on the mood I find myself in, and I am not exactly sure whether my personal process can be divided into a beginning, a middle and an end. Depending on the instruments I work with, I like to “tell” the instruments what they approximately should do or how to act within predetermined set of variables. In my modular setup for example I work with a tracker sequencer by XOR Electronics. It basically is the core of my setup and allows me to easily set up sketches that take me to new ideas. I really like the balanced process of music shaping itself; me telling a device to behave in an approximate way, and the machine determining my approach. The beginning is often the most challenging part. If it works, the middle and end will follow naturally.

New ideas and insights often arise from breaking certain routines.

Torture the Artist: Do you have any small routines that you have applied to that have proven successful?

Mattheis: Honestly it works best for me to have as few as possible. I have tried it, and although my production process lacks proper structure, I found routines to be at the expense of my creativity really. For me it often applies, the more structure, the more productive I am. Although new ideas and insights often arise from breaking certain routines.

Torture the Artist: What other interests besides producing music do you have?

Mattheis: Actually most of the days are filled with music or music-related matters. I really like to service or repair the studio gear, even when it does not really needs to be. I remember once faulty connecting a module in my modular by mistake, causing smoke and obviously destroyed the module. It stressed me out in the first place, but I quickly felt a certain joy as I really enjoy fixing these things. The manufacturers and people in this whole DIY community are so friendly and helpful. It is something I rarely come across these days and it seems quite unique, especially in the whole digital society. So I have been regularly building parts for my modular, I really enjoy doing it, and it contributes a lot to my studio approach. Sometimes it can be a bit of an absorbing process though, and I have to urge myself to go outside, to exercise, cycle, walk through the city and visit friends.

Torture the Artist: Great, now let’s shift towards the present/future, namely your new album Lettre Ouverte in pursuit with Amandra. An album sampler featuring two tracks (Merle & Carapace) are available before the entirety of the album releases in February 2021. Firstly, can you tell us how Merle & Carapace fall into place within the larger scope of the album? 

Mattheis: These two tracks actually fit both in the context of how the album came together in the larger scope of the album. Merle was recorded when Anthony visited Rotterdam for the first time. He stayed over for a week and we spent a lot of time in the studio, besides exploring the city and hanging out with Sjoerd. It is pre-released as part of the Nous’klaer ’19 Summer Sampler. Carapace is one of the first tracks we recorded when we were in Spain together, recording the rest of the album, do kayaking and playing lots of petanque. I cherish the memories of those moments and the value these tracks have, they form an important part of the album, as much as all of the other tracks.

Torture the Artist: Since Lettre Ouverte was a collaborative project with Amandra, what did you each bring to the table (musically and personally)? How do you think these complement each other?

Mattheis: Looking at the collaboration I believe our individual focuses play out strongly. I think the collaboration started as naturally as most of our tracks are created. Although our music might seem to differ in various ways, I feel that on a deeper level it has a striking number of similarities. I recognize myself in Anthony’s approach. The nuances and the dynamics he brings into his rhythms I admire. From the listeners perspective I always like to be challenged to find the patterns, the repetitions. Sometimes they seem obvious and it is satisfying to discover them, and yet you always hear new things. I feel that in these approaches we complement each other organically.

Torture the Artist: Since Lettre Ouverte is to be released shortly, can you share any new projects you are dusting off?

Mattheis: A remix for Nana Adjoa will be released soon. She is a great multi-instrumentalist who has recently released her debut album. Besides that I have been finishing a film score for Re:vive, which will be released later this year. Also I am working on music for an art installation. I have always been fascinated by the way sound captures the imagination, so really enjoy doing these projects.

It takes quite some time for me to get used to a place.

Torture the Artist: To finish, would you prefer to travel on a long trip or a weekend getaway and why?

Mattheis: A long trip obviously! It takes quite some time for me to get used to a place. A weekend always passes by in the blink of an eye, without me even realizing I am actually in another place.

Interview by Isabella Gadinis