This week The Waveform Transmitter’s Ste Knight presents the latest in the Waveform mix series from Ukraine’s best export, Matuss, and talks with her about Rorschach, being a pro-fighter, and the importance of bass.
As one of the two head honchos over at Absence Seizure Records, Julia Matuss, or Matuss to give her her artist title, is no stranger to the scene. Thanks to her self-confessed fernweh, Matuss is a wanderer, an adventurer, and it is this adventurous spirit that makes her music so…well…special.
Her recent outing on the label, Absence Seizure 7, is brimming with emotion, and this emotive theme runs throughout her releases. As Matuss explains in her interview below, emotions are an important feature in her music, and not just from the sonic point of view – the whole package of her releases are testament to how music produces a unique feeling within us all, as evidenced by the ambiguous Rorschach designs that are emblazoned across the sleeve of each Absence Seizure vinyl.
Matuss takes techno and turns it on its head. The cybernetic sound has been filled with human emotion, giving it a more organic feel than much of the music that would fall under the genre.
She opens her Absence Seizure 007 EP in trademark style, with a dark jacking cut entitled Pitchureque, in which a pulsating bass line throbs alongside ominous acid swells and disorientating panning effects.
Next up, Tektango takes a different route honing in on a set of live tribal tinged percussion, which sway and dissipate with hypnotic effect driven further into the depths with a bubbling synth lead and filtering atmospherics. This live percussion gives the track that organic feel mentioned earlier.
Escapade kick starts the B-side with a robust rhythm, built from the ground up with resonant hi hat stabs, echoing claps and sturdy kicks which forms the framework for a deranged lead melody laced with wide open synths and emotive chords to carry the groove.
Closing the package is Fonque, where flanger-tinged snare rolls work in unison with driving rhythms, delicate arpeggios and an intricate 303 bass line to create an infectious closing cut.
Julia has kindly put together the latest in our Waveform mix series, but first see what she had to say when she shot the breeze with our Ste Knight.
Waveform: Hi Julia. Thank you for taking time to talk to us. So, you are originally from the Ukraine. How do you think the electronic music scene there shaped your sound?
Matuss: I feel like electronic music was always a big part of my country’s culture. I started going out when I was 12 and got heavily into breakdancing, listening mainly to breakbeat, jungle and drum’n’bass. There were always clubs, societies and access to new music, the only thing you had to have was passion.
I remember once at age 15 taking 5-hour train from my small hometown to Donetsk, just so I can go to this party. Somehow, I got myself in by saying I am a journalist I have to be there for some article, haha. When you have no money, you get very creative.
So, I danced for 7 hours straight, came out in the morning and went back on a train for 5 hours. I think at that time all I cared about was to get or to hear good music. So, growing up in Ukraine became fundamental for all my future relationships with music. All that gangster and ghetto gives you raw factor too, I suppose.
Waveform: You now reside in America, what made you decide on that move to the States?
Matuss: America. I wonder myself quite often why. Probably because I always wanted go “harder, better, faster, stronger”. To grow and expand my knowledge, to meet people, to travel. I felt like the US would be better for that, it was the ultimate dream in post USSR.
Plus, I am not the family type, more like loner/explorer, I like to move a lot. There is so much to do here. For music production, as well, I feed off of adventures. America has got plenty, given that I am a foreigner.
Waveform: You run your own label, Absence Seizure. How do you think that giving new artists a platform from which they can release is important in today’s industry?
Matuss: I work for Dubspot, a music production school in NY, so I get to see the struggle on a daily basis, so to speak. For me, it’s important to keep vinyl alive and encourage other artists to do the same. So, I am on a mission!
Waveform: Why ‘Absence Seizure’?
Matuss: Absence Seizure was really Abe‘s (Abe Duque) idea. Dostoevsky inspired. It’s about music, creative process and feelings. It’s how it happens.
Waveform: Your latest EP, Absence Seizure 07 (great release, by the way), is HEAVY on the bottom end. Do you feel that bass is the most important foundation upon which to build your tracks?
Matuss: Not at all. It really depends. Sometimes it’s a lead melody first, something I woke up with and had to get it down right away. Or like recently, I heard one of the old Eagles tracks and immediately had idea for bass line – then I may start with it, yes.
My dear friend Connie also gave me drums lessons. I was so fascinated and it actually made a difference, so at that point in time would start with the drums.
Waveform: Your productions are very emotive. They inspire feeling in the listener as they absorb the sound. Do you put a lot of your own emotions into your tracks? How would you describe your sound?
Matuss: Oh, this could take a while! It’s all about emotions in my case. I used to cry whilst playing some pieces back in piano days. Not for any other reason, but the way it “pinched my heart”. I am not sure how to express it.
It’s this strange feeling you have inside for certain music, it’s been always a detector for me. Keeping in mind that I used to be a pro fighter and more on a tough/non-crying side – I will cry for music matters in a heartbeat.
It totally works the opposite way as well, it’s the only thing that gets me out of funky moods. Childhood has to do with it a lot, I had to fight for my music all the time. For classes, for stereo – I have stories that could last for days. I used to have a stereo player instead of teddy bear, to cuddle with to go to sleep and wake up.
I wasn’t allowed to, so every time my Dad would punish me. And every time I would do it again and again.
As far as production, it is mostly triggered by events as well. It’s an outlet for me and balances me out. An observation throughout the years was that I always make happy, uplifting things when I “hit the rock bottom” and vice versa. As far as sound, it’s always on a minimalistic side.
Finishing tracks has always been a challenge and I usually end up taking out half of the stuff that was there originally!
Waveform: We’ve noticed your EP cover features a familiar Rorschach-inspired design. What is the thinking behind that? Do you have an interest in psychological pursuits?
Matuss: There is definitely a psychological pursuit. I really like the fact, that everybody sees their own thing in there. It’s the same with music, each person will connect to certain piece in a different way, or not at all. We try to match content to the picture in our perspective. All artwork is designed uniquely for each record by my talented friend, Anastasia.
Waveform: Are there any particular artists you look towards for inspiration when producing?
Matuss: I just set it free, wherever my heart goes. In terms of artists, I admire people who can write music, words and perform, it’s super next level. Honesty, pure and rebel – doing your thing, speaking out…
If I had to name a few it would be Sting, Jamiroquai, Sade and Bjork. Collectives include Everything but The Girl and The Prodigy.
My best time on the dance floor has to be with Soul Clap. I really enjoy their diversity and ability to patch things beautifully, bringing back Oldskool. People playing multiple instruments – wow! And then any talented friends getting a big break is always mega inspiration!
Waveform: What is in the pipeline for Matuss? Have you got anything exciting in the works?
Matuss:I never was big on using the vocals. One of my co-workers at Dubspot, Sophie, has such an amazing voice – I had to give it a try. We did some recordings and it turned out quite beautifully. This will be first one for me. Hopefully, I can get some special people on board for remixes and come up with something different and interesting!