Released late last week, on the playlist for the foreseeable: Mat Zo – Self Assemble is one of the fuller flavour, genre-burning albums you’ll find on release this month… And it comes highly recommended.
A rampant adventure through almost every genre we know and respect him for, our anticipation for the album actually started this time last year when he told us he was working on two albums. The anticipation levels went into overdrive at the start of the year when he started unleashing ‘rejected album demos’ that sounded so good you had to question why they’d been rejected. Three months later, those questions were answered.
Starting and ending with two delicately crafted beatless compositions with references and motifs positioned throughout the journey, Self Assemble takes off where his debut Damage Control left us but with added consistency, narrative, daring structure and even more styles referenced from disco to dubstep to his breakthrough genre trance.
To put it simply; regardless of your genre weapon of choice, Self Assemble will sing to you. Here’s the story behind it… And what’s to follow. Get to know:
We spoke a year ago and you said you had two albums… Where does Self Assemble sit in that forecast? Is it one of the albums or a combination of both?
Yes, that’s one of them. Self Assemble comprises slightly older stuff and I’m working on the next one right now. I’ve combined a lot of things and changed even more of them. The second one has more dancefloor stuff, Self Assemble is more of a story telling album.
The story: a narrative of your influences? The journey through what makes you tick musically?
Yes. A snapshot of where I am. Or where I was when I was making it. Every album will tell that story anyway but I made a concerted focus to tell the story of where I was at that time. It was very personal. I couldn’t stop it from being my perspective of where I was at the time.
I get the idea from the title and artwork that artists put themselves in boxes…
You’ve hit the nail on the head. It’s about trying to break out of a box. Not just musically but emotionally and spiritually. We put ourselves in boxes and I wanted to represent the general struggle we as humans have with boxes.
You’ve always had that message about your approach; a thirst for freedom or clarity if you like…
I’ve tried to. Everyone struggles with becoming a better person day to day. It’s something I struggle with all the time.
I’m beginning a new chapter of my life, and looking back on how judgemental and short sighted I was is embarrassing. I’m truly sorry
— Jewish Cracker (@Mat_Zo) 14 February 2016
You tweeted about being judgemental and how embarrassed you are about that. It was a very vulnerable honest tweet. Is that in relation to these struggles?
I feel very humbled that people listen to me. I used to think that my viewpoint was the only viewpoint and now I’m much more accepting of other opinions and ways of life. I used to judge a lot.
Peers, fans, people you walk past in the street…
Everyone. We all have a bit of judgement in us but as you grow older you try and let go of that as much as possible. Or at least that’s what I’m trying to do anyway.
Let’s talk about the music. No boxes here. Compared to Damage Control this seems like a controlled consistency, you have more power over your creative reins and not throwing ideas around. Correct?
I’m trying to refine my skills all the time. I think elements of Self Assemble still feel as thrown together as Damage Control but that’s perhaps because I’ve worked on a lot of other material since. Every track I make I try to refine my approach and not randomly try and make music.
I think what creates the consistency is the first and last track and the motifs throughout the album…
Yeah, I’m trying to create a score for a film that doesn’t exist. I wanted a theme, basically. I grew up around classical music and love films. I was always inspired by both and write music for films as a hobby even though I haven’t been commissioned to write them.
Even when you have time off, you could be enjoying the world, you’re writing music?
Yeah I guess so. As you say that it makes me think I should get out more and see the world and, in turn, become more inspired to write. But yeah, I’m in my studio perfecting what I do. There is no time off.
I guess it’s a different when there are no album deadlines there’s more freedom?
Being able to write music for a living is total freedom, deadlines or no deadlines!
Have to be honest, I was expecting (or at least hoping for) some drum & bass on this album… Last summer you had a lot of D&B on the go.
There’s more 170-172 stuff on the next album but I didn’t want to specifically style this album. The story was being told through genre non-specific music. I tried to put a 172 track on there but it felt out of place. The Ruffneck Badboy VIP has elements of drum & bass. Well, it’s dubstep but written from a drum & bass perspective.
You’ve been talking about trance/dubstep fusion on Twitter lately…
Yeah I just don’t think it happens very much. Besides people like Seven Lions perhaps. But you just don’t find that trance influence on dubstep or drum & bass.
Trance is secret spine to a lot of genres. The arpeggios and synths are present in a lot of things without anyone mentioning it.
A lot of people were using that supersaw synth sound in house for a while. But the trance I’m talking about is that gut-wrenching, hits-you-in-the-heart type of sound. It doesn’t have to be happy and ethereal all the time.
Amen. What’s your favourite track on the album?
It’s the last track – the piano outro. Last Transmission. I put a lot of feelings and emotions into it. I wrote it at one of the worst times of my life. When I listen back to it now I feel a lot of emotions. It conjures up so much. None of the other tracks on the album sum up my life as much as that does. It still makes me go ‘wow, how did I manage to do that?’
It’s a shame it’s at the end as it could be overlooked. But I guess that’s missing the point. Calling it an outro devalues it a little, though…
You’re right, I shouldn’t call it an outro, it’s a real piece of music. I wonder if people who listen to it get the same feeling as I made it.
Probably not as it sounds like you wrote it through what sounds like some tough times. What interests me is the cyclical nature between the very last track and the intro. You could play it on a loop.
You could yeah. I did think about loopable albums but I also love the way it suddenly stops. It leaves you dead in your tracks and hopefully feeling something. Like a kind of cliffhanger.
I liked the album demos. It struck me as clever marketing ploy to make people realise the strength of the album but you don’t strike me as marketing ploy type of guy?
I just wanted to share some stuff that would never see the light of day. I hadn’t shared any music for a while so felt I should share some things.
It creates a familiarity when you finally hear it. Or you’re letting people inside the album and hearting its inner-workings
Yeah definitely. Especially tracks like Slips Away where you hear the melody and the chorus and the whole theme of the album. That was the first test of the overall theme. So when you listen to the album it’s easier to relate to if you’ve listened to the album demos.
You also launched the Producer’s Forum around that time too…
Yeah. It didn’t take long to set up! A day to set it up and a few weeks to refine. It’s been fun. It’s not as busy as it was to begin with but that’s cool; I wanted to bring back those communities I grew up with making music. Places for people to share ideas and songs. You make friends, you learn stuff, it gives you a reason to do it sometimes; when you’re first starting out you need as many reasons to continue as possible. Now if you’re starting out you feel you have to focus on Soundcloud plays or getting signed and things like that. But I wanted to remind people of the fun factor and create a space where there’s not enough pressure. Hopefully the Producer’s Forum will help the next generation of producers on their way…
Nice. Final shout… This second album… too soon to talk about release dates or anything like that?
Too soon to say but I’m quite far into it but I think there are a few tracks to go. It’s very very different from my last two albums. A bit more attitude, a bit more dirt. I’m looking forward finishing it.