Posted on Aug 20th 2008 12:04 am

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So, as a side note, you’re both on [a site where students can anonymously weigh in on their professors].  Have you checked your hotness ratings lately?

DD:  I haven’t.  Last time I looked, Martin was ‘hot’, but I don’t think I’ve been rated at Hopkins yet.

MS:  Do you remember what he’s [Drew’s] rated as?

I don’t remember, I just remember there was a really eerie post for you, Martin, which just said in all caps, ‘MARTIN WILL HELP.  MARTIN WILL HELP’.

MS:  [laughs] I always said to my students that it was a lifetime contract, and that they could call me any time and I would help them.  And sure enough, two weeks ago, the phone rang in Slovenia or some place, in the middle of the night.  It was a student of mine from five years ago asking, ‘I need to make a DVD, and I don’t have DVD Studio Pro.  What should I do?’  The answer was, sorry to her for saying so, but the answer was idiotically simple.  I asked, ‘are you using a Mac?  Use iDVD!’   She was like, ‘oh.  Thanks Martin!’  And I went back to sleep!

DD:  So she probably wrote that ‘MARTIN WILL HELP’ immediately.

MS:  She may have said that.  And, the contract is still open.

DD:  And you got a chili pepper [a chili pepper icon awarded for ‘hotness’ from a commenter], you’re hot!  I’m not hot.

MS:  Well, not all professors aren’t afraid to spank.

DD:  Yeah.

Are you ever afraid, teaching and putting yourselves out there in this world of academia, of running into fanboys?  People who just want to take your class because you’ve worked with Björk?

MS: I’ve had it.  We’ve had it.  And, you know, that only goes so far.  After the third day of class, unless you’re sort of insane, which I guess is not out of the question, you’re either learning something about what we’re talking about, or I’m a bad teacher.  I have had people take classes for that reason, and I think they may have learned something despite themselves.  It doesn’t bother me – I’ll bore the shit out of anyone!

DD: I was teaching a class on literary representations of evil.  And, you know, it was Nietzsche, and the Bible, it was a serious literary course.  There was somebody who was auditing who basically showed up because they wanted to talk about my remixes of Herbert, and stuff.  But he stayed with the class, and he really liked the class, and he did a great job.  So, I don’t rule it out – I’m a fanboy for certain people.  I quivered unbelievably when I met the people in Coil for the first time.  I was like a giggly little schoolgirl when I met Karlheinz Stockhausen.  I still have to be cool, and not a freak, when we’re hanging out with Terry Riley at his house.  So, I don’t write off fanboy-ness, and that’s the funny thing about it – it always goes up a level.  I was freaking out meeting Coil, and then I was watching Coil freak out when they met Stockhausen, you know, it just goes up the chain.  I don’t write people off for that reason, I see no reason to.  Being a fanboy means that you’re moved intensely by art, so there’s nothing to be ashamed of about that.  I think it’s important to keep clear, what it is the art and what it is in you.  Maybe the problem with the fanboy mentality is that people aren’t willing to see how much of the richness they get out of art is theirs, and not the art’s.  They give credit in the wrong place.

Very interesting.  [Wobbly, aka San Francisco-based experimental musician Jon Leidecker joins the conversation.  Wobbly is supporting Matmos on the Supreme Balloon tour].  Would you like to introduce yourself?

Wobbly: My name’s Jon. [Martin laughs]

DD: Tell themilkfactory what you just bought!

Yes, please!

Wobbly: Oh, well, for five dollars, it was a copy of The Scarlatti Dialogues, by Bob James.  Arrangements of Scarlatti, for harpsichord, Akai S900 sampler, Oberheim OB8, Roland MKS80, DX7 2D [laughs]. Oh god, this going to be terrible!  We all love Bob James.

I’m not immediately familiar with him.

DD: He got sampled a lot by hip-hop heads for a couple tracks on Bob James II and Bob James III.  Kind of mellow, jazz-funk numbers like Westchester Lady and One Mint Julep.  But, there’s a sort of ESP Disk [a record label] freakout in his past, this record called Explosions that’s totally insane, harsh free jazz and musique concrete.

MS: But then if you heard his other stuff, it makes Steely Dan look noisy.

Wobbly: It’s the land of 1,000 A Tribe Called Quest samples.

All: Yeah.

MS: The breaks on One Mint Julep are [fakes a stoner hip-hop voice] fuckin’ killer, yo!

DD: Yeah, I bit a lot of Bob James for the first Soft Pink Truth album.  He covers the bases beautifully.

Wobbly: The Explosions record has Robert Ashley and a lot of those folks, you know, making noise and tape cutups.

Wow, I should definitely check that out.

MS: It’s available, if you have a turntable, for two dollars, frequently.

Speaking of turntables, you released an expanded tracklisting for the vinyl version of Supreme Balloon.

MS: Well, there are different songs.

Right. The vinyl version has the songs from the CD, plus four more.  Was there a conscious decision, or even a subconscious thing, of wanting to reward someone for seeking out vinyl?  Or did you just feel like it was a lesser-sought format?

MS: Honestly, in the long run, this is a tragedy.  I think people are getting this sort of ‘they’re ripping us off!’ kind of feeling, which I hate, and I’m sorry.  It’s literally the embodiment of a conflict between me and Drew.  We supposedly take turns being in charge of the albums.  This was my turn – The Rose Has Teeth was a Drew record.  I wanted a relatively short, all-upbeat, listenable-as-a-group set of tracks.  An album that you could listen to from beginning to end, where it had a ‘story’, if you will, of its own, and I wanted it to be a fairly happy one.  And, we made some pieces while working through this album, that were sort of darker things, like the one with Terry Riley, Hashish Master.  I didn’t think it belonged with the others pieces, and Drew wasn’t having it.  And we argued, and argued, and argued, and argued, and argued, and I basically capitulated to his wishes and said, ‘fine, you sequence the vinyl’.  I personally consider most of those songs B-grade, and I don’t consider them part of the album.  But, you know, it’s a problem, with working with someone else, is they have opinions that are different from your own.  I’m sure he’d had lots to say in response to that, but he’s not here, is he? [laughs] [at this point, Drew had stepped out for a moment].

Well, maybe when he comes back, I’ll ask him about that, and we can watch you guys go at it.

Wobbly: Well, it makes more sense on the vinyl just because it’s not all one sequence.  You choose; you manually drop the needle.  It’s the old-school thing.  Old albums actually had greater diversity within them, especially double albums.  Side three would be the weird side, that doesn’t work at all when you listen to it on the CD.

MS: Yeah, he even fucked with my order.  It wasn’t like the CD and then the other songs.

Wobbly: Yeah, I know.  But the vinyl order makes sense for the new tracks.  Side D being Supreme Balloon makes sense.

There’s one solo track from each of you on this one – Staircase by Martin and Polychords by Drew.

MS: Both of them, we each said to the other ‘no, you have to use that’.  And the person who made it said, ‘no I don’t think it’s very good’.  I knew, when I heard Polychords, I was like, ‘goddamn you, that’s the best song on the record, and I didn’t play a note on it’. [laughs].  And I don’t think anybody thinks Staircase is the best song on the record, but whatever, it’s pretty.

[Drew returns to the conversation, and Martin brings him up to speed]

So, Martin told me the story about how the different sequencing for the vinyl and CD of Supreme Balloon came about.

DD: Yeah, a load of tension and arguments.  We’ve always got more of those on tap.

Well, that’s the hazard of making music and living with someone for so long, I’m sure.

MS: Yeah, it’s interesting.  I guess other bands just break up.  Clearly, these conflicts must occur with people who aren’t boyfriends.

DD: Yeah, I think the problems that happen with us, I guess you could explain it like an audio situation.  It’s like we’re both these very sensitive microphones, that pick up everything in each other.  And, we’re both articulate people who talk a lot.  We’re very sensitive microphones, connected to very loud speakers [Martin laughs].  So, the result is like endless feedback, where the tiniest little divergence or disagreement becomes, amplified, amplified, amplified.  We have these horrible, long, brutal arguments – straight out of a Bergman or a Fassbinder film, just like, pain, about really dumb, pointless, trivial shit, that I think a lot of people could just take in stride and ignore.  But, because we’re a couple, we’re very good at sensing exactly what the other person is feeling.  So, it’s a good thing when one of us is really happy, because that becomes contagious, but it’s a bad thing when there’s problems, because then the problems get really harsh.

MS: Well, anyway, back to music.

Of course, back to music!  Well, to close on that train of thought, I find it interesting, certain ways in which the depth of your relationship – beyond just being an artistic partnership – comes out.  I’m thinking specifically of the Live At The Royal Opera House DVD with Björk, when you do Cocoon.  I’m not sure what you were doing with your hand there.

MS: It’s a contact mic. I’m playing his [Drew’s] hair.

It’s very loving, very intimate.

MS: Oh, yeah.  Well, I was looking for something that matched the song.  My original thought was ‘sheets’, because, I don’t know if she actually talks about sheets, but it’s all about being in bed and sex, and I thought, ‘what sound solidifies this?’  And I was thinking that rubbing, sheet-y sound.  And because we were opening for her, we had these contact mics for the rat cage, and I was like, ‘oh, maybe that’ll make a cool sound on his hair’.  And it made a good stage shtick, because we’re always looking for ways to make what we do visual for a live setting.  And sure enough, it did!

The original on the record, I believe, the percussion sampled a doorknob?

MS: That was before I had that idea, the record came out before that.

DD: I honestly don’t remember if we programmed on the studio version of Cocoon [according to the liner notes, they did not].

But you appeared elsewhere on Vespertine.

DD: You know, we got more credit than we deserve for our contributions to that record.  We’re on about a third of it, but people treat it as if we did a lot more than we did.

MS: People have said, ‘it’s so great that you produced Vespertine‘.  We didn’t come close to producing it; we made some sounds for some songs.

DD: Yeah, Björk produced that record herself, and she deserves the credit.

A question, speaking of which – I think that always comes up in other features, as a ticket to how people would know of you, ‘oh, they worked with Björk’.  She works with so many people, and I’m curious about what other artistic partnerships you’ve forged through that.  You’ve worked with Matthew Herbert and Dani Siciliano, what about Mark Bell, Rahzel, Dokkaka?

MS: We had almost nothing to do with that record [Medúlla].

DD:  The only thing that we had was that I was the one that played Dokkaka for Björk.  Because, when we were talking about Medúlla, we spent a couple weeks programming for it, at a point when she had other stuff going on, and I don’t think she’d fully committed to the ‘it’s all voice, all the time’ idea yet.  That was one potential path for the record to take.  So I said, ‘oh, well have you heard Dokkaka?’  And we just had a great time; Matthew Barney came into the room and we were all listening to the Dokkaka version of Slayer, and Matthew was like ‘okay, is he going to get the solo right?’  I think playing Dokkaka for Björk was probably the thing that we did that had the most effect on the record, i.e. we didn’t have a big effect on the record.

MS: I definitely enjoyed watching the documentary video that Ragga made of Rahzel – who I’ve never met, we had practically nothing to do with that record – but I could tell Rahzel was listening to a sound that I had made, earlier, as part of a demo synth track, and I could hear him trying to imitate a sound that I had made, and I was like [gasps excitedly].  That was exciting to hear, because he’s so amazing, to hear him doing this [imitates Rahzel’s vocal percussion] and think ‘wait, that’s a sound that I made!’

So, did you ever meet Mark Bell?

MS: Yeah, we’ve met him, but we’ve never worked with him.  His work is amazing, LFO.

It’s funny, ever since the late nineties, you mention that, and people think you’re talking about a boy band.

MS: The ‘Lyte Funky Ones’.  L-Y-T-E.

DD: They like girls who wear Abercrombie and Fitch.

MS: Is that them?  Oh, fucking crap.

Just you wait – the next Hannah Montana project will be called Matmos!

MS: [both laugh] Bring it on!  I like some of the boys on her show.


PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3

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