Last week Matt Gresham hit a new career milestone as one of Hospital Records’ most prolific artists in history.
With seven solo LPs and two Nu:Logic albums with his brother Dan released in a mere fourteen years, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Matt’s inspiration must be lacking. But it’s the complete opposite. Inspired by his travels to Hong Kong and New Zealand, Hologram demonstrates a hark back to the more dancefloor driven side of Logistics, one that has been fused with the many sights and sounds Matt stumbled upon whilst exploring the Eastern Hemisphere.
Through constantly challenging himself to incorporate fresh elements and provide new twists on his musical style, Matt has been able to breathe new life into each project, providing not only himself, but his listeners with unfamiliar sounds and experiences. We caught up with Matt to delve deeper into Hologram and find out more about the travels that inspired his album….
I guess it’s quite a lot of material! Usually it’s all a bit of a blur, but with this one everyone was mentioning how it was my seventh, so I stopped and looked back at what I have released. Even when I was making Hologram I knew I wanted elements that nodded back to my older production days. I haven’t put out any rollers or more dancefloor tracks in a while. Both Electric Sun and Polyphony were quite melodic and chilled out, so because of that, it felt like a good time to go back and put some of that style material out.
The thing is, when producers release albums at such a fast rate, the quality and meaning behind the tracks can get lost, but with you, every album continues to hit the same heights.
Thanks man! It’s weird, I always look at my stuff and think that I should have spent more time on it, or pushed it more. As time goes on, in my opinion, the more I think drum and bass is becoming too clinical and perfect. You can lose some of the charm in the music with it being overproduced – with the music I make anyway. So I don’t try to force it. Every time I try work on a mixdown it gets worse…
How’s the reaction been to Hologram so far?
It has been wicked man! I’m always humbled by anyone liking my music. It’s a weird feeling though because it takes so long to make an album. I always have this thing when I’m making an album where before it has even been released I’m already thinking about the next one, or I’ve already started the next one. I get over the tunes quite quickly, but everyone wants me to play the new album and I have to hold myself back a bit and try to promote the current album…
If that’s the case, then I imagine Hologram had been in the pipeline for quite some time?
I was actually thinking about this the other day. I did the Nu:Logic album in between Electric Sun and Hologram, but there are tracks that have made it onto Hologram that started off as ideas around the same time as Electric Sun. But I ended up deleting some of the music and re-writing vocals around that. With some of the tracks, I have ideas down for a good few years before I turn them into full tracks. But the majority of Hologram was done as my brother and I were writing the Nu:Logic album. I was working on Somewhere Between the Light during the day and Hologram during the evenings.
Which tracks in particular stretch back to Electric Sun?
The one I had in mind was Safe In Your Arms with Degs. It has gone through loads of different versions. The entire musical elements of the track are completely different to what I originally had. Sometimes you try out an idea and it doesn’t work, then you rebuild it and go back to the drawing board. The chord idea for Heatwave was done ages ago too. I tend to bounce around various tracks, I don’t like working on the same one… I just write loads of songs and whatever I’m inspired to work on in a certain day I just go with.
Talking of inspiration, Hologram was inspired by your travels to Hong Kong and New Zealand, right?
Yeah I spent quite a lot of time over in Hong Kong. It’s a really inspiring place. It’s so frantic and hectic – a completely different place to where I live in Cambridge. Compared to London, it moves at a crazy pace! London feels pretty chilled in comparison.
I bet you never thought you’d say that…
Haha I know. Just going out there, everything looks different. It’s very built up and claustrophobic. The main thing I got inspired by is the way everything sounds different. You’ve got this constant chatter going on around you, which you obviously don’t understand because of the language barrier. Even their trams have their own unique sound in comparison to the London underground.
How about the music?
It really is different! I spent time there over Chinese New Year and all this traditional music comes out for a good week or so and everywhere you go you hear it. It’s not something that I necessarily want to include in my music…but it all has an affect. It just drifts into your subconscious without you thinking. There’s not a lot of western music over there at all. You get it in the nightclubs, but I don’t go in them at all when I’m out there. I just spent a lot of time capturing recordings that I then put into the album.
Being there during Chinese New Year must have presented an abundance of inspiration, considering how vibrant and lively it would have been.
Yeah absolutely, they say it’s the biggest party on Earth. I don’t know how many people come over for it from mainland China and the rest of the world, but it becomes crazy. It’s an amazing thing to see. Whenever I get back from any trip I am very inspired by what I’ve experienced. I remember writing a track called Shanghai Skyline years ago when I first got out to China. It’s just so different to what I know back in this country. I think being anywhere different to where you’re used to culturally is inspiring.
Did you write some of the album while you were out there?
I don’t make music when I’m on the road at all, so I spent time out there thinking about things I’d like to include on an album and once I got back I was super inspired to make new music. New Zealand had the same impact. It’s another very different place, but in some ways it feels like the UK. You travel like 24 hours to get there and when you step off the plane it looks a bit like the Lake District… But there are some very unique parts with interesting sounds. Both myself and my brother Nu:Tone have travelled there together before and have made music inspired by those travels. But it was a bigger feature on this album.
It’s important to take time out to see the world and soak up new experiences and ways of life, particularly in order to breathe fresh ideas into your music.
I completely agree man. If you’re not careful, you can sit there in the studio everyday and stare at the computer screen like – right, lets make some drum and bass. I personally find that if I do that too much, I write tracks I’m not happy with. So I find the best way for me lately is to do no writing whatsoever and afterwards have rather intense periods in the studio. If I’m able to experience the world at the same time, then it’s just going to naturally reflect in what I do.
It’s similar to how Etherwood travelled out to Finland and found the inspiration he needed to write an album from absorbing a new surrounding.
It’s funny because in other genres it’s so common for bands to disappear off to an island to record their whole album, but it doesn’t happen much in drum and bass. It’s a really healthy writing method – especially if you’re trying to inject some unique influences into each project. I’ve found it really helpful, but now I’ve got to find some more inspiration for the next one…
How about a sauna? That seemed to do the trick for Woody.
Haha he told me that story as well! I cant say I’ve ever written a track in a sauna myself, but who knows, maybe it’s worth a try?
Or a jacuzzi?
Jazuzzi and bass…
There’s the title for your next album! We’re making progress here.
Haha there we go! I’ll give you 20% for your contribution… But yeah it’s just one of those things. Switching up your scenery is always a good thing. I think I’m at the point where I have to be a bit weary of repetition in my music. I need to keep making sure my music has a new twist that wasn’t there before.
There’s a lot of contrast on the album. You’ve got the delicate tones of Hayling and then you have guaranteed dancefloor murkage with Chant for example.
I sort of started off wanting to make a summery album again, just because it’s what I listen to most of the time. As the album went on, it started going towards what I have now. Whenever I played bits to friends who passed through the studio, all of them would say that Chant tune has to go on the album, or that other track needs to be included. At the time I wasn’t even playing them out, they were just on my computer. Over time I started getting that reaction from more and more people, so decided I should get them out there. That was the point at which I looked back at previous albums and realised that if I wanted Hologram to have a different vibe to it, then it needed some of those tracks.
Chant in particular was getting a phenomenal reaction, even before the album was released!
It’s a weird tune man… I probably would never have put it out if it wasn’t for other people’s responses. Often the ones that people like by me are the ones I don’t rate! It’s that annoying thing where you spend months making a tune and people are like – yeah that’s alright. Then you track you do in a couple of hours people love…
C.Lone is another interesting one. I can definitely hear the Hong Kong inspirations coming through.
Absolutely, that’s basically inspired by being on the metro in Hong Kong on a morning commute, just seeing how everyone literally moves in unison. The rush to work in Hong Kong is insane. The stampede to work is actually bonkers. I was taking recordings of the metro and they’re subtly hidden in the track.
Am I right in thinking it’s at the start? I can hear announcements in the background.
Yeah exactly! It’s really subtle, I’m surprised you actually noticed it… It’s inspired by the rat race. The underground is a way of life in many major cities, but in Hong Kong it really is manic. You’ve probably seen the videos of people in Tokyo cramming on trains, its not too far off that. You’ll literally get people who will physically push people on.
Crazy! One thing I’ve noticed about Hologram is that it’s a lot less lyrical than Electric Sun. Was this your intention?
It wasn’t necessarily my intention. With Electric Sun I was keen to work with more vocalists as a lot of the music I put out is not actually that lyrical. But with Hologram, I didn’t want to work with vocalists for the sake of working with them. I went back to working with Thomas Oliver because he’s a dream to work with. It’s almost like he delivers exactly what I have in mind. I think it can be the trend at the moment to just chuck a vocal on because that’s what people digest easier with D&B, but I only want to do it if it’s the right person.
I imagine the success you had working with him on the Nu:Logic front influenced your decision to collaborate again?
Yeah I didn’t write the track with him in mind, I already had the instrumental and thought that he would be a perfect fit. He’s one of these amazing musicians who is not a drum and bass musician as such, but he has grown up loving the genre and really understands the structure and nature of drum and bass vocals. So he’s able to just nail that musicality you’re looking for with d’n’b. You’d be surprised how difficult many vocalists find it…
It’s good to see you collaborating with quite a few up and coming artists too. Particularly Changing Faces
I really like the idea of working with up and coming people like her, opposed to working with names that are there to sell an album. I spoke to her a while ago and she said she’d love to write something together. Seeing as she’s based in Slovakia, I thought the best thing would be for her to come over to the UK, as I don’t like doing collaborations online unless I have to. So she came over for a couple of days and we got that track down. She definitely has her own way of doing things, which is very different to how I work. She also doesn’t speak the best English, so there wasn’t much communication other than the music…
Looking ahead, what’s next for you? It must be time for another Nu:Logic album…
Yeah I think so. I know Dan has been doing some solo stuff and so have I, but we tend to bounce around and do whatever feels right. At some point we’ll definitely do another Nu:Logic album because we both really enjoy that process of collaborating. It keeps it interesting for the both of us. Whenever I’m tired of writing solo music we do that. It’s so easy writing music with him because it’s like telepathy. Plus he has all the skills that I don’t have….