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Carlos Hawthorn, - on 4/8/11
Mathew Jonson is a man who epitomises the 'work hard, play hard' ethos. As if part-running one of the most celebrated labels in techno wasn't time consuming enough, Jonson spends every other waking second either in the company of his beloved Cobblestone Jazz quartet, performing or preparing his own solo LIVE show or, as Carlos Hawthorn recently discovered, in the studio with his brother Nathan (aka Hrdvsion) writing music together as Midnight Operator. Incredible then that Mat managed to squeeze in an interview at all, let alone one that would delve deep into the mind of an innovator.
Pulse: Hi Mat – first of all, how are you and where are you? Mathew Jonson: I'm well thanks, in Berlin at the minute. I've just finished a week in the studio with Cobblestone Jazz actually, after we were on tour for 10 days, playing 4 gigs at various places around Europe. Surprisingly enough, the studio session was pretty productive. We managed to write 4 new tracks in 5 days and the new stuff is sounding really good.
Very cool. And when will they see the light of day? Well what we're doing right now is a series of EPs that are going to come out on Wagon Repair. The first one is actually coming out today (26th July) and is called Memories (From Where You Are). We're actually sitting on a lot of music right now, we're already got the next 2 EPs finished and we've got music for probably another 5 or 6, after we cut and edit them properly. We had slowed down for a while whilst doing the album but now we're really going to start pumping stuff out on Wagon Repair.
Until Learning to Fly last month, you hadn't produced any solo work for 10 months. Any specific reason why? Yeah it's been a while but the thing is I actually have been working hard in the studio in the past year. I've just been sitting on everything, not releasing anything. To be honest I had a bit of down time with Wagon Repair, we weren't doing singles, we were focusing on doing albums and I just didn't feel it was the time to put any more of my own stuff out. But now I'm feeling it again, I've got my first single on Crosstown Rebels coming out in September which is a 2-track EP – the first track Cold Blooded is techno with a bass music twist and the second Days is more latin influenced, made after I spent some time in Mexico. I'll also probably have another solo single coming out on Wagon Repair before the end of the year, not to mention one on our Wagon Repair Allstars Compilation. There's also a compilation from a Japanese label coming out soon which has myself on it. So yeah, even though I spent time away last year, this year is going to be a bit of a barrage.
Whoa man, sounds like you've been super busy. Learning to Fly is out now on M-nus and it's rapidly becoming one of the tracks of the summer. How did the record come about then? I must say I had a really good feeling about it when I made it. I think it has something to do with the fact that it was the first track I made for an entirely new LIVE set, comprised of 100% new material from beginning to end. This focus gave rise to a lot of the new singles I have forthcoming now and that was because I was conceptualising this whole new idea of performance. It meant that I put a lot of energy into those particular records and Learning to Fly especially. I just put so much effort into it that it came out sounding pretty professional and 'big' sounding, because I geared the new show towards a lot of the big festivals I was booked to play.
So did you contact M-nus after you had the track or had you spoken to Rich before..? No, actually I'd made the track almost a year before I contacted M-nus. I was debuting it at the end of last summer, around about the time of the Labyrinth Festival in Japan, which was the set I ended up using for my Resident Advisor podcast. Since then I've been playing it out quite a bit and it always seems to be the highlight of the show. I'm just happy it's getting the response it is.
"Wagon Repair is really going to go introverted over the coming months, they're all going to be quite personal releases. In the past we've covered such a wide range of artists, and it's been great working with them all, but with the state of the music industry today I think it's better to just focus on what's closest to you and push that."
So did you choose M-nus so that it would get as much exposure as possible, because it had such a big, techno sound? No, not really actually. I chose M-nus because ever since I released Decompression through them 7 years ago, Rich has been asking me for more music but what with Wagon Repair and Cobblestone, I'd never got round to sending him anything, though I'd always meant to. So when I finally had a single that wasn't going to go through Wagon Repair, M-nus was my first choice. I also wanted to give them something really special, that I was really proud of, because of course Rich deserves something of the highest calibre. He's supported me and my music for so many years now, so it felt like the right thing to do and I think it's worked out well.
Coming back to Cobblestone - Has having The Mole back involved changed things at all? Well to be honest it hasn't really changed very much because, like you say, he was there at the beginning, it was originally the four of us. It wasn't Cobblestone back then and in fact the reason Cobblestone was formed was because Colin (The Mole) moved to Montreal so the remaining three of us started a new band. So it's actually been more of a refreshing return than anything else, restoring things to the way they were supposed to be.
So what does he bring to the table? Well, first of all, having four heads is obviously better than three. But he also brings something to Cobblestone that it otherwise and previously didn't have, which is really important. We all have our different musical influences and experiences but he has such a vast record collection of old funk and soul and r'n'b that when he brings those elements to the table he certainly adds something very special to the equation.
You mentioned you were in Berlin and you have bases in London and Canada as well right? Yeah, we basically have two companies now because we started a separate relationship with K7 who are doing albums for us, which we started so that we could just work with them directly on the LPs and avoid crossing paths with our single releases. And at the moment of course it's a lot more about the singles, which isn't to say there won't be any more albums (I actually plan to make a solo album in 2012, which will more than likely come out on Wagon Repair) but for the time being it's all EP work. So yeah, the company in London deals with K7 and the albums and our other company is based in Vancouver.
Of course you still perform regularly as Mathew Jonson. Do you enjoy switching between that and Cobblestone Jazz? Does it help keep things fresh? Yeah definitely. I actually have another project on at the moment with my brother called Midnight Operator which was very slow in getting off the ground considering our relationship. I think we both kind of took it for granted that we were brothers and both writing music and never had the drive to explore it properly. Now that we're finally writing music together it's really refreshing because we make stuff that is very different from both our sounds and it's a totally different process from working with Cobblestone, which makes it really enjoyable. We've actually got a single coming out ourselves on Wagon Repair as well later this year. Wagon Repair is really going to go introverted over the coming months, they're all going to be quite personal releases. In the past we've covered such a wide range of artists, and it's been great working with them all, but with the state of the music industry today I think it's better to just focus on what's closest to you and push that.
It definitely sounds like you've thought things through properly. Just for those people hoping to catch you this summer, could you let us know where you're going to be playing over the next few months? I've got a bunch of festivals in Holland in August, including Loveland which should be fantastic. I then have a North American tour towards the end of August, taking in Miami, New York, Toronto and Vancouver and then in September I'll be in Japan playing at one of Resident Advisors 'X' parties, as well as at another big festival. I'll be back in Europe after then until around Christmas I reckon. I don't really ever stop touring to be honest, I'm pretty much just going all the time.
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