Name: Matt Walker
Current Release: Matt Walker has just released a new album, The Infinity Line, under his of1000faces moniker. Available through his bandcamp page.
Recommendation: ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ Which the first in a 4 book series by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
God’s Man (1929) a novel in woodcuts by artist Lynd Ward. Part of a 6 book series.
If you enjoyed this interview with Matt Walker and would like to find out more about his work, visit him on Facebook, Soundcloud, and Instagram.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
My first love was drumming and I began playing at age 8 taking private lessons and playing in school band. But by the time I was 13 or 14 I realized I wanted to create music. I remember wanting to create something that evoked the same feeling in me as the songs I loved.
So I would sit at the family piano and just make things up. My father also had some guitars and other keyboards which he let me experiment with.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
Emulating is learning, and I don’t think I’ve stopped absorbing influence from other sources. Over time all the influences seem to converge with your life experience outside of music and from there a voice emerges. In the end I think we are all a highly personalized amalgamation of all our influences.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
My other life passions all inspire and influence my creative output. Not only art, photography books and movies, but all my family experiences as well. Our identities lead the way whether we are conscious of it or not. All the creative decisions are dictated by it. Which chord should come next? How should the melody work? What kind of production are we after? All of these choices are reflections of our identity.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
My challenge has always been the same. Time. I never feel I have enough time to create and do all I want creatively. What’s changed over time is that I now realize my personal battle with time is largely fueled by unrealistic expectations. Combined with a fear of completion. It’s a bit complicated!
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I was in high school when I first started recording my own music. My first piece of recording gear was a tascam cassette four track, which I didn’t even own. I rented it for a week at a time from a local music shop. Eventually my dad bought me one, along with a little yamaha drum machine. That was the beginning of my love for drum machines.
The next phase of recording was going into a proper studio with a band and tracking to tape. Usually you’d pay for a few hours of time, the first few would be recording and then in the last hour or so you would mix, and have to live with how ever it came out. But regardless of the drawbacks there was a lot of spirit inherent in that process. I think the next major step was digital hard disk recorders, which was basically a digitized 8 track machine. And after that came computer based recording, or DAWs, which basically provided endless options in terms of creative possibilities - mostly a good thing, but not entirely.
I believe limitations or parameters are essential in keeping art focused, which is why I’ve recently refurbished my old recording gear and am enjoying an analog renaissance.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Rediscovering analog recording, and appreciating it’s charms that I may have once taken for granted. Also using more hardware instruments as opposed to software.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I collaborate quite frequently, and enjoy it in any form. Lately it’s been almost entirely virtual, which is convenient for a multitude of reasons, and technologically more convenient than ever. But it sometimes feels a little stagnant.
I definitely miss the visceral energy when working with other musicians in real time. To be in a room, instrumentals in hand exchanging ideas and reacting spontaneously is a glorious, alchemical experience.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I have two forms of creative existence, my home routine and tour routine.
When home my schedule is actually very consistent. I wake early with the kids, and as soon as they begin school I start working. I’m most efficient in the morning so I like to put that focus to my more creative tasks. Later in the morning I usually take a coffee break with my wife or walk the dog, then work until lunch with the family. After lunch I practice drums for 30 m to an hour, then back to production work until 4 or 5pm when I run out of steam. Then I usually go for a run and return just in time for dinner. I usually have family time for a few hours but then around 8 or 9, will work some more. And then will watch a show with my wife or read until bed around 1230/1.
On tour I pretty much record whenever and wherever I can. There’s something about setting up in different or unusual places I find inspiring. I like working in hotels, but also backstage, on the tour bus, trains, even ferries.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Although I am very pleased with the ambient albums I have recently made, I like to think my breakthrough work is still ahead of me!
I have a trove of unreleased songs that will be released later this year, some of which I feel fit that criteria. Songs rarely come out as you originally envision them, they usually shape shift along the way from inception to completion. But I do have a couple that are the exact embodiment of my intention. Which is usually an attempt to capture a subtle mood or emotion, nothing overt.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
For me being clear and focused yields the best results. Being creative for me usually means achieving a moment where technique and creative inspiration meet. I think of myself as a composer and when it’s time to write, it’s time to write.
However, I often come up with ideas when I just randomly sit down at a piano, especially when it’s somewhere other than my home. Could be at a studio or a friend’s house, ideas always seem to come. I also get loads of creative ideas when running. So I’m always having to stop and jot notes down into my phone while sweat is pouring down my face!
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Interesting question! When I was younger and feeling lost, upset or angry I would turn to music - not to feel better, but to amplify those dramatic emotions. In high school I was especially melancholy and listening to The Cure or Brian Eno would heighten my emotion. In my early 20s bands like Helmet and Jane’s Addiction would help feed my angst.
I think maintaining music programs is essential for young people, and the process of learning and performing in a group can provide a ballast during those formative years.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
A fine line indeed. This topic seems to be evolving culturally in real-time, and it’s something I feel I am still learning about. But my instinct is that music and art should be allowed to flow from culture to culture. It seems to me it would only strengthen respect and understanding of each other as humans. Integrating styles, sounds, scales, ritual has resulted in some of the most inspired art. However I think the intent has to be positive and respectful.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
The most inspiring multi-sensory experience I’ve had would be visiting the Carrieres De Lumieres exhibit in southern France, where a featured artist’s work is projected onto the massive cave walls accompanied by beautiful classical music played at an impressive volume. The artists featured at the time I went were Klimt, Shiele and Hundertwasser.
Our senses overlap in a way to heighten each other and bring a deeper understanding of art in different forms.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I definitely think art can provoke thought and discourse in many sociopolitical arenas. But more than the art itself, these days I feel the artists themselves have the opportunity to lead those debates. Especially with social media, art and cause are more intertwined than ever. The music I make is rarely political, but even so it seems to connect like-minded people. But what’s interesting is when an artist appeals to people with strongly opposing views. Somehow music then bridges the gap, and can provide enough common ground to have a conversation.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Music can evoke feelings for which there are no words. Sometimes we don’t need an explanation or exact understanding, we just that mysterious connection to the unknown. Music, art and nature can be the gateway to that connection.