Having had a massive year in 2014, Gavin Lynch, better known as Matador, has reached an all new level of respect and recognition due to his insane touring schedule, his award for Best Live Performer at Ibiza's DJ Awards and his ever impressive releases. We caught up with the Minus man of the hour ahead of the release of the second part of his Play With Me! EP and his huge upcoming tour across North America and Europe to have an in depth chat about his reasons for moving back to Dublin, his upcoming album and his eternal love of '80s flicks...
You recently relocated from Berlin back to Dublin. Was there something in particular that prompted you to move back, and what do you think the move will change for you? Well, it was the idea of writing the album. I was sort of getting back to the space where I wrote all the stuff initially. I was based in the studio – well it was my apartment on South William Street here in Dublin City in the city center – and I had this sort of an old Georgian building and it was just the birth of where I wrote all the stuff for Minus.
I was obviously training up to that point, but it was where everything came together, so I wanted to be back in that environment, a comfortable environment that I knew to write the album. So, in many ways, I’ve re-created my studio and I’m sitting in it now just looking around me and I’m saying in many ways I’ve re-created what I did have on South William Street, like 4, 5, 6 years ago.
That’s not to say that I didn’t get good work done in Berlin. I got some great work done there over the year, but my main goal was to come back to an environment where I’d written, in my eyes, some of my best stuff up to date. I just wanted to get back in that environment, and it’s always nice to be back around your friends and your family and all that as well. That’s an added bonus, but the main driving force was to be in an environment where I was comfortable to write the album, and I’ve achieved that, very much so.
And do you think that this will change your production in the long term, and are you going to stick around at home for a little while longer? Yeah, well, the way we operate is that we’re on the road for four or five days of the week, usually. Sometimes if it’s a US or South American tour, you can be gone for a month or six weeks. So, you’re only ever at home – when you’re back from touring – you’re only at home for like two days, three days per week. It’s really difficult to get a move on and change countries, move country or move house or anything like that and it means you’ve tight time brackets, so for the time being I’ll say that I’m going to be quite comfortable here and…yeah, I’ve got a working studio, a really nice place that’s on Harcourt Street, right in the city center, plenty of energy around and yeah, I’m really settling back in nicely. It’s where I’ve been since I was 17 years old when I came to college in Dublin, so I spent 12, 13 years here before I really moved away, and that was to Berlin for the last year, year-and-a-half.
Through moving away, you really realize what you have at home and how much you miss home in many ways. So yeah, I’m here now and I’m not saying that I’m jumping ship or moving anywhere any time soon. I’d say I’ll be quite comfortable here for a while anyway.
You’ve toured more than ever before in the past year and only recently did three gigs in three different countries in two days. Yeah, it was three gigs in three countries over New Years Eve. I started on New Years Eve, well New Years Day technically, at about 2am and I played from 2am to 4am in Belgium, in Ghent, and then first thing in the morning we flew from Ghent to Madrid and I played there in the afternoon at 4pm or something like that. We then flew straight to Amsterdam at night where I closed at Lovelands, a big festival there on New Years Day, and night I guess. So yeah, it was three countries, three shows and in and around less than 24 hours. It’s always intense, that sort of a run, like, for us it’s a common thing to do that, around New Years in particular. There’s different times of the year where in the summertime as well where you can do daytime festivals and be somewhere else that night and then you can be somewhere else like Ibiza say for a morning set the next morning. That stuff does happen and when it does you just have to be well prepared for it and well behaved, really. It’s the only way you can really get through that sort of a run and yeah, we did that New Years Eve and New Years Day and to be honest that was sort of the end of a really long run because that was, I suppose, the start of my time off when that was finished, where I’m now writing my album.
And now I’ve been off for like, two and a half months now; well I will be by the time I’m back. Yeah, so, it was a case where I was on the road for pretty much three years straight and it was a heavy, heavy three years of touring. And yeah, to have the time now to just sit comfortably in the studio for a couple of months is absolute heaven. It really is – so settling back in at the moment – but at the same time I’m looking forward to getting back on the road – it’s what I do and what I do best.
One of the greatest skills of going to a party is knowing when to leave, and that’s something that you really need to know how to do if you’re going to do this long term.
How do you manage to stay so focused and on form when you’re moving about so much? Well, I suppose it’s down to discipline in many ways. I boxed when I was younger so for training and just, you know, self-discipline, it was drilled into me from a young age. It’s a case of muscling through, sleeping when you can and being strict about your diet and your intake and your alcohol intake and everything. So, it’s a combination of a lot of things, staying fit, and eating well really, and choosing your battles and choosing your parties and through doing that you get to enjoy the road and enjoy the party but at the same time walk away.
One of the greatest skills of going to a party is knowing when to leave, and that’s something that you really need to know how to do if you’re going to do this long term. If you’re going to tour so much, you can’t be out partying or missing nights sleep willy-nilly if you know you’ve two gigs the next day or another four or five ahead of you that week. It’s just down to keeping in check and keeping everything in line and that’s the format that’s worked for me thus far.
You said you did a little bit of boxing when you were younger. Are you still boxing? Well I boxed when I was younger and I boxed competitively until I was like, 20, 21 but I still do the training. I still, you know, I don’t go to a boxing gym, I’m just back from the gym there an hour ago but it’s just the case of cardio work and staying fresh, getting a sweat on, no heavy lifting or anything like that or sparring or anything like that, so to speak, but you know, the practice is still in place with all the cardio work and getting a sweat on and just staying fit, really, because at the end of the day you’re running a marathon everything every weekend and it’s practice, it’s served me well.
Have you any hobbies that the public may not know about that you could tell me? Hobbies that they don’t know about…well what they do know obviously is that I used to be a chef and I would consider that a hobby I guess. It’s cooking every day or most days when I’m at home here. But yeah, I’m a real movie buff, like, I’ve been big into movies from a young age and that’s something I can use during my time off and for my downtime. It’s just sitting around watching ‘80s movies in particular. I’m a big fan of them. I’ve a couple of hard drives full of old, fucking retro movies, right in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, all the black and white movies I used to sit down with my mum and watch. In particular when we were kids, me and my sisters, we grew up watching all the ‘80s movies and yeah, watching them back now they’re absolutely hilarious for me to watch so that’s something I’d do as a hobby I suppose. I collect all them old movies and yeah, I tend to delve into them from time to time. That, cooking and you know, I still consider making music to be my main hobby, what I’m doing right now, sitting in the studio because it’s work, we all know it’s work and it pays my bills and that, but it’s something that I absolutely love doing. So, if that’s considered a hobby I suppose, once you start doing that as a job, as a profession, you know, that’s one of my main hobbies I guess, when I spent my most time to do it willingly as well.
...it was only a matter of time before someone broke that mould and, you know, I was lucky enough to fall into the right sort of group.
2014 was a particularly successful year for the Irish, with the likes of you and Mano Le Tough becoming the first underground headline acts to come out of the country. What does this mean to you and do you think the scene in Ireland will grow and stabilize as a result? For me, when I was coming up through the ranks, I suppose, learning my trade, I used to go to what was the Redbox at the time, which turned into Tripod. Obviously it’s closed now, but we used to go to Redbox on a Thursday night and Francois, Al Gibbs and you know, Billy Skurry, and across the weekend you’d have Bubbles on a Sunday night. There was all sorts of, it was all Dublin DJs. And then you’d have the occasion where you’d have the likes of Donnacha Costello live and then all the international acts being drafted in as well. So, I really cut my teeth in the Redbox in Dublin watching all these guys, and they used to rub shoulders and play alongside guys like Dave Clarke and Jeff Mills, and they used hold their own, they really did hold their own.
The difference I think with our generation is that we have more opportunities now through the internet and the exposure and being able to finish a track. Like, I can finish a track here at say 8pm on a Saturday evening and I can be playing it out somewhere in London or in Germany or in Spain or anywhere later that night, or I can send that track to a friend or a colleague that’s playing down in Argentina or somewhere and they can play it that night. That sort of exposure and that sort of availability wasn’t around back, 5, 10 years ago really, to the extent that they are now and the capabilities in your studio to be able to bring stuff to a mastering stage and to actually finish it and master it in your studio. Just the speed that stuff can turn around in is much faster now and I think we have a lot more opportunities and yeah, I think a lot of Irish producers and DJs have been knocking on the door for years and it was only a matter of time before someone broke that mold and, you know, I was lucky enough to fall into the right sort of group.
I was in the right place at time musically and production wise, and I’d done all my legwork and I was in the right time, right place, with the right people, Hawtin and that whole crew. Mano had a similar thing, it was just right time, right place, he had done all the leg work, productions, everything’s up to scratch and yeah, it was just down to timing but, yeah, I think it’s a combination of many, many things why it’s just, this sort of era in the last 2 years that we really pushed through and showed that we’re competing at the exact same level as anybody else, operating at festivals or the big clubs and that. Yeah, I think that’s something that I think we all should be proud of and I think it’s something that says that there’s absolutely no fucking reason why anybody in this country can’t do it either you know? Or in any country, it doesn’t make a difference. Once you’ve an internet connection, some tools which are really, really, cheap these days, sequencers and soft synthesizers and stuff like that and the relative tools, the connection to the world and the will to do it, there’s absolutely no reason why anyone else can’t either.
There’s obviously a healthy electronic music scene there in Ireland, but what do you think it means for the scene there? Do you think it will grow more, will it stabilize and will more people fall into the scene? Yeah, I think so, I think it’s a lot more tangible now for people. I’ve been speaking to different students and different heads who are coming up through in the college, in the Sound Training Center where I trained in Dublin, and there’s a lot more drive there because people see the likes of Mano and John O’Callaghan, myself and just, different people the are pushing through, that are doing it for a living and that ok, it’s actually, it’s a possibility that’s become a reality, that it’s really a possibility now.
I met with a friend of mine last week, Al Keegan, and I was asking him about how’s things in the scene and he’s like, “It’s never been healthier here in Dublin”. The Tivoli’s re-opened as District 8, The Hanger down on Andrews Lane had re-opened, over across from New Mono, what was the Village, now has re-opened as The Opium Rooms, you know. There are really good acts here every weekend and it’s a case of picking and choosing again.
When I left the country a couple of years ago and really started touring, the scene was pretty shitty here, so it was, to be fair. There weren’t as many international acts and there weren’t as many nights running. A lot of clubs had closed and you really had to look for something good or something cool to go to but now I see on listings and stuff like that, I’ve never seen it as healthy. It’s sort of like when I first came to Dublin like, 13, 14 years ago. So, yeah, if anything, I think the scene here is super healthy and thriving, so yeah, great, it’s a great position to be in I think.
How do you see your live show developing and what do you think you’ll bring new to it in 2015? Absolutely. We were actually sitting in a meeting earlier about it basically! But yeah, it’s been something that we’ve been speaking about quite frequently as of late. Both the physical element of it and what I’m doing on stage is going to be developed for sure this year. I’m going to go back out touring on the road, I think it’s like, the 20th of March I start in the US. We’re looking at the hardware side of it as well, it’s me that will be doing that with regards to what I’m doing physically on stage with drum machines or synths, and yeah, we’re definitely, right now, looking into developing a stage design and a whole production, hopefully to wrap around with the album tour towards the end of the year. Throughout that all there will definitely be a development in the latter half of the year of what we’re going to be doing with regards to our live concept, but, we’ll start out the year I think on the 20th/21st of March in Montreal in Canada. It’ll will be a similar formula to what we’ve done so far, but just with shit loads of new music basically – which is the main core of what the show is – but towards the end of the year we’re going to be developing that into a visual thing alongside a unique, I guess, stage production, nobody else has it and we’re working with developers and designers as we speak. The stage and everything like that, yeah, it’s going to wrap around the album tour, but that again is going to be in the latter half of the year for sure.
So, the album! That’s coming soon? So yeah, I have another EP [the previews for which are] out, where there’s 5 tracks on that in total and yeah, I’m half way through writing this album here at the moment so we’re going to be looking at, I would say, late summer, it’ll be a late summer release and then we’ll be touring that in the Autumn and then into Winter as well. So yeah, it’s going to be heavy release wise this year and then hopefully we’ll have another repeat towards the end of the year also, just to wrap things up. So, that’s what I’m doing at the moment, I’m just building content here in the studio and so we’re aiming for a heavy release year this year I would say.
Great! So there will be lots of material coming from you this year? For sure, lots of stuff. We’re taking a different direction in many ways and so there’s lots of new equipment here in the studio and yeah, there’s lots of new sounds, but at the same time there’s obviously that classic, sort of, I guess, Matador sound that’s going to be running through everything. Yeah, it’s going to be a good year for production I feel.
There’s just something about the sound of a real synth that you can’t get out of a box.
Speaking of production, its been said that you are a kind of producers producer, a bit of a studio buff… Yeah, well, I started in the music center down in the Sound Training Center, and that’s a bands environment to engineer, sound engineering, recording engineering, that’s for bands, tracking bands and stuff like that. That was how the course was geared and I was lucky that the head of the college at the time, Les Stapleton, was a big synthesizer enthusiast and electronic music enthusiast, so he was really, really, important for me in that role, in my time there because he’d open up new doors for me, show me new things. There was a crew of us that were all into the same sort of stuff, electronic stuff.
It was a really good time and I was a really fortunate time for me to fall into that at that time in college because we learned so much, but at the same time we learned so much about recording bands, and through recording bands you’re using lots of outboard gear and big mixing consoles. It’s not like, a lot of people have this image of someone producing techno in a little bedroom in the corner with a laptop and a mouse and a pair of headphones, and that is the case in some cases, and some of the music that comes out of them sort of scenarios can be fucking amazing. And there’s some also boring too, someone sitting with a laptop and a pair of headphones. I’m not saying that but, a lot of the electronic producers, particularly me anyway, people that I sort of, learned around, we all had the formulas from tracking bands and working with acoustic instruments and stuff like that, and sure doing that I was exposed to all this, old school recording equipment, and that’s followed right through to me now in my own studio.
It’s all analog synths and there’s drum machines and it’s not so much in the box, inside the computer, the whole thing. Yeah, there’s a computer here and I use the sequencer but yeah, my studio is analog driven, you know, all the old school stuff and yeah, it’s much more hands on, much more fun but more importantly it sounds, for me, a lot richer, a lot better than what comes out of a computer or a piece of software, it can sound a wee bit flat and thin or metallic and hard, you know. There’s just something about the sound of a real synth that you can’t get out of a box.
For the album then, is there a machine that’s going to feature most? I’m sitting here and absolutely pigging out on that Moog, basically. I just picked it up. I had a Moog Slim Phatty and I’ve used the old model D on many occasions. And then I was looking up the model Ds, and I was buying it on Ebay ,and then I’d have to get it modified as well for what I wanted, because I’ve used a modified one before. So then I was looking at the new Voyager online and I decided to go for that. So that’s been a prominent feature, just figuring this synth out and just exploring its capabilities. As a machine it’s fucking unbelievable and it’s something that has sucked up many hours in the studio. So that’s pretty much been featured on everything I’ve done so far, be it a bass line or a lead line or a little, sort of, glitchy effects and stuff like that. It’s very versatile and yeah, it’s my new toy, so it is, for the next months on, so yeah, enjoying that.
That, and a Prophet 12 I’ve picked up as well. Yeah that’s really cool so, again, there’s a lot to explore in that too and it’s got a lot of capabilities and I’ve only scratched the surface with that one in particular as I’ve been focusing more on the Moog but yeah, it was something that was said to me that if you’re going to go in to write a lot of new music, it’s worth investing in a few new toys because you’ll draw inspiration from them and it freshens up your sound and you’re whole approach to things. Yep, it’s true, tried and tested! If you ever hit a brick wall and you need to write lots of new music, just pick up a new toy.
The studio looks great by the way, you’ve got yourself a nice cubbyhole…It’s nice and cozy and it sounds really good as well. I had the option of this room of the room just next door, which is about twice the size, but I chose the smaller room. I had a bigger room in Berlin at first, and then I ended up change to the smaller room in Berlin, just because it sounded better so I wasn’t going to make the same mistake here, I just started and set it up in the small room which sounds great so, yeah, really comfortable, a nice cosy little space to drift away for hours and hours, or for days sometimes.
With regards to pushing the boundaries with your music, how do you find the balance between what your fans want from you and what you want for yourself and your music? It’s balance thing, and if you’re going to do something new – like I’ve tried to do and felt have pulled it off on many occasions and am certainly trying to do with this album – is inject in a new sort of element, or a new feel into a track or a song or whatever you want to call it, be it a bass line that’s just a wee bit more fun and playful than something that’s quite dark and serious and driving. But I’ll balance that up with maybe a dark or driving synth line, something on top. So, it’s that sort of slow, introduction of sounds and that’s how I’ve…matched alongside some of the old Matador sounds, to introduce new sounds along with old ones basically, getting that balance in new tracks, and that’s been the way that I’ve felt that I’ve been able to carve more room to expand on my music, and I think I’m doing this with the album in particular here.
There’s elements always running through each track, a sound that’s associated with me, but there’s loads of new elements there, and that’s what I’m talking about with the new synths and stuff like that, to, sort of, inject some sort of freshness into the whole thing. But, it’s a case of finding the balance, a more of the new but a bit of the old stuff in there as well. It’s a slow transition and then the new stuff becomes the old stuff, and then it’s just a cycle that starts all over again, and I think that’s how I see my sound developing, and that’s how I’ve done it thus far.
Is there anyone out there now that you think has managed to push forward consistently yet hold their regard with their fans? Yeah, I think there’s a lot of prolific producers out there that have really developed over the years and have kept things fresh. If you look right back to the techno that was way back when, when I was coming up through and it was all really tough stuff, all Liebing’s stuff and Jeff Mills, Clarke…it was all really tough, 138/140 BMP` techno and you can see even with some of them older artists, Carl Craig in particular, you see how his sound has, something that I was just speaking about there. It’s slowly developed, he’s injected new bits but retained some of them old, classic sounds and you can see that all through his music over the last 20 years. He’s put out a record that I listened to the other day, something pretty recent, and it’s just that Carl Craig sound but he had some sort of synth sound in it, that I’d never heard before, and I was like, “What the fuck is that?” But, you could hear that classic Carl Craig thing in the background, this other synth line, you know, the 909 drums. So, he always has something new, but he also has some of the old elements in there, and that’s something that you can learn from and something I’d like to take from him in particular. That’s the way you, sort of, keep it alive, and you see him do it over the years.
More recently you look at the likes of Eric (Estornel) – Maceo Plex and the Maetrik stuff – the production level in that, that’s some of my favorite music to listen to, to dance to as well, and he’s really kept it fresh over the last, I guess, he’s really exploded over the last 5 years I guess but, the sound still maintains that quality but it’s developed as well. Again, something to be learnt from that, that seems to be the trait that’s kept these guys really, really relevant.
...it's only a matter of time where people dig deeper and deeper and they start to figure out...
I think that techno will have a very big year this year and everyone is trying to push boundaries and do new things, do where do you see the trend going and where do you see the Minus crew as part of that? I think I know what you’re getting at! A lot of people are sort of, I guess, new to electronic music, you know, the younger generations basically. I’m not saying you and your mates or anything like that, but let’s go over to the States in particular right, if you look at lets say, the younger generations, I’ve noticed it there in particular. When I first went over there 3 or 4 years ago, they were only really scraping the surface, they were only starting to get the cheesy trance and all the stuff that’s even hitting the charts and stuff like that and, it sort of brought me back to when I started, you know, getting an interest in it all.
We used to listen to trance and hard house and all that and then we scratched the surface and we got deeper. We found house music and techno and then we even got deeper and then it was really, sort of, tripped-out, dubby techno as well, even right down to the Mills stuff as well. It’s a case of just digging through those layers and digging through those layers takes time, takes a couple of years, and over the last 3 or 4 years in particular in the States they’ve been digging away and they’ve already eaten up deep house and all that over the last year, last two years over there and they’re getting round to techno now. I noticed it in Miami last year, when we we’re doing an ENTER. show at the Ice Palace, and it was the first year that was big, like 5,000 or 6,000 capacity, big show…and it was the first year that I really noticed they were getting it, they were into it. Throughout the whole night, there was Adam Beyer, myself, Ida Engberg, Paco, Rich, you know, throughout the whole night the energy was there, they knew what was going on, whereas before they didn’t really get it so much. They were there but they weren’t really there if you know what I mean.
So I’ve really notice it in the States, the techno, and it’s only a matter of time where people dig deeper and deeper and they start to figure out and realize that there’s a lot more depth to it and that there’s lots of techno there.
So, with the likes of where Minus is going, I think you’ll see a resurgence now in all that and a lot of the classic techno labels now that all these newer, younger generations will scrape the surface and start to find all this sort of stuff. So, techno, I think, is going to really come into its own, globally, in the next year and it’s been amazing over the last year to see the rise and what’s been happening, and I reckon you’re right in saying that it’s going to be a big year for techno, for sure.
So, have you your eye on anyone who you think will crack through this year? Well, there’s a good buddy of mine that’s been pushing through. Some of his productions are incredible, Will Kinsella, here in Dublin. Will’s a good mate of mine and yeah, he’s been putting in the hours big time. I’ve listened Will’s stuff for years and he’s really developed. See, I don’t really listen to promos or stuff like that because I’m not DJing, I’m always playing live and have been for the last two or three years so, I’m not listening to as much music as I’d like to, to hear as many new producers. That’s not to say I don’t listen, I do listen to a certain amount, but yeah, it’s great to see it here on the home front and I think this is going to be a good year for Will here, because he’s doing good things and he’s got some good releases under his belt and he’s got some really nice productions and he’s a great producer and a super engineer as well. So that all has to come together, it’s only a matter of time. So yeah, I have to say, keep an eye on that lad this year, it could be cool.
Matador's Play With Me Part 2 will be released via Minus on March 2nd, and he embarks on his massive spring tour in Montreal on March 20th. Click here for more info.
Live photo by Luigi Rizzo