Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Interview: Matthew Dear

This feature appears in Washington Square News.

On a break from last year’s 10 Days of Techno festival in Ghent, Belgium, disc jockey Matthew Dear decided to go sight-seeing. Making his way through a local park, Dear noticed crowds of 40- to 50-year-old Belgians drinking and carousing to the thump of techno beats. The scene struck Dear, a Texas native, as utterly European.

“This whole openness and relaxed state of club culture has really allowed [Europeans] to embrace music that helps you stay up late,” Dear said. “Here, it’s always been seen as a dirty thing, as a subculture that never really caught on.”

A current resident of Brooklyn, Dear attended the University of Michigan and got his start using the Sound Blaster program to mix Madonna and comedy bits on an antiquated PC. Now he has a contract with Ghostly International, an Ann Arbor-based record label. At this Sunday’s Minitek Electronic Music Festival, he’ll perform as his alias “Audion,” an identity constructed for Ghostly’s sister label, Spectral Sound. It’s a set he describes as an energetic affair, sampling and looping “techno psychedelia.”

Dear has released three albums under his own name: “Leave Luck To Heaven,” “Backstroke” and 2007’s “Asa Breed.” Currently, he is bridging the chasm between the dance scene and indie-rock dives, DJing parties as well as touring with Matthew Dear’s Big Hands, his full band.

Though the shift from DJ to frontman has been jarring, Dear sees it as a natural, if unnerving, progression.

“In techno clubs, people just like to disappear, and it’s always very dark,” Dear said. “When you’re a performer on stage, you have the spotlight and a microphone. People like to refocus their attention and stare at you. It’s really an awkward shift.”

Despite his interest in creating original material, Dear still appreciates remixing the work of others, including the Postal Service, Hot Chip and Spoon.

“I was really lucky to do a remix for Spoon,” Dear said. “I ended up taking a vocal outtake from one of the guys talking on the studio talkback and just twisted and looped guitar sounds. I’m so honored to have access to people’s music for that and just play with it.”

The crossover enables Dear to have a presence beyond the insulated techno scene.

“It’s tough. Every scene right now is small,” Dear said. “When I got into it at 18, you had the giant American rave scene, which was a recruiting ground for people to get into electronic music.”

But the culture has endured, if only on the periphery. Ghostly and Spectral Sound are home to a diverse palette of artists, including the classically-trained pianist-turned-DJ Kate Simko and shoegaze electronica of Tycho.

Dear’s early original work was mostly an effort to master his equipment, primarily computer programs and cheap microphones. He has since amassed electric and acoustic guitars and synthesizers that make the recording process more organic, hoping to concentrate his original work on “atmosphere and bigger soundscapes.”

“It’s a search for perfection that you’ll never reach,” he said.

His goals as Audion may seem simpler but are no less ambitious.

“It’s the search for the perfect loop and the perfect groove,” Dear said. “With technology becoming so accessible and programs being so easy to use, there are a lot more people doing techno music. Before all you heard was hard techno and house music. Now there’s a lot of detail being put into dance music. A lot of it is very evolved and elaborate, which I think is great.”


MP3: Matthew Dear - Don and Sherri
MP3: Matthew Dear - Pom Pom
MySpace: Matthew Dear
Official Site: Matthew Dear

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