Matthew Shaw Interview
The good folks over at Wake The Deaf web site recently caught up with Matthew to discuss new album ‘Lamorna’…
One of the biggest compliments we get as a blog is the number of emails we receive on a daily basis from labels, PR companies and artists asking us to listen to and promote their stuff. Unfortunately we just don’t have the time to sift through all of these emails and a lot of those sent to us get buried.
However, every now and then we receive a submission that really jumps out and grabs our attention. This was the case with an email we received from Fluid Audio over the weekend concerning the latest release, Lamorna, from Matthew Shaw, a Dorset based ambient artist.
Lamorna is a sweeping, ambient landscape of sound, perfectly capturing the environments in which it was created, full of blending harmonies that build and dissipate almost at will.
We were lucky enough to get the chance to speak to Matthew about his latest release:
1). You’ve spoken before about ‘relying on the sounds of the places themselves’. How do you select these places? Do you actively head out in search of places with the aim of finding and recording sounds, or is there more luck to it than that?
Serendipity is a word I might use for how the recordings come about but coincidence is probably more appropriate as it’s me coinciding with the places at a certain time that makes it work. It’s about me being in the right place mentally to pick the right spot to record and the sounds. I’ve often gone to a place specifically to record and it not work. It can’t really be rushed, if I don’t slow down and tune in it just doesn’t work.
It’s true that each place has it’s own sonic footprint, and it’s not in stasis, it’s constantly changing, evolving, in the present tense. Though it’s often somewhere with an incredibly interesting past that brought me there to record something to be released in the future.
2). Music such as yours provokes a sense of reminiscence. Would you agree that records such as yours convey a sense of collective memory of a place? For example, the Boleigh Fogou, one of your key inspirations for this release is believed to have been the location for birth and death rituals in the Iron Age. Is it these events, experiences and memories that you aim to capture when creating your music?
Yes, that is definitely something that interests me a great deal. I believe there is something to Jung’s theory of collective unconscious, and I like theories such as that by T.C Lethbridge. He states that images or emotions of something that happened can be left at a place when heightened emotions or great repetition took place at the same spot. Lethbridge talks about this as the events being magnetically captured where an underground source or water exists, or when humidity and moisture coincide at a certain time of year, the conditions being just right. Yeats also talked about this at length as something he used to aid his poetry in “A Vision”.
I think there is something there, the main thing is taking time, slowing down and opening up to what the place itself can tell you.
3). Could you describe the processes you go through when composing a piece? How long does it take you to collate your ideas into a coherent whole? Do you ever have trouble ‘letting go’ of a piece?
The actual recording happens quite quickly. All the parts for “Lamorna” were recorded over five or six days, some on location and others, such as the Moog, indoors. I then take quite a while sculpting the sounds together to form a finished piece.
I do have problems with knowing when a piece is completed. It’s about getting the right balance of spontaneity with the overall intention for the music and then realising when it’s done. I have exactly the same concern when painting.
4). You describe yourself as a musician, artist, photographer and songwriter. Would you consider yourself predominantly as one of these, or do they all represent an equal measure of yourself? Do you find the content you produce as one aspect, influencing the others?
Making music is my favourite thing. Music is a hugely important part of my life and has been for many years. Painting is something that takes me to a very similar place during the process. At its best, it’s like meditation for me.
Song writing is something I’ve done much less of in recent years. I had a ten-year period in my life when the song was the beginning of all my music. The sound, instrumentation and texture came afterwards. Over time all those other elements have come to the fore, which is more exciting to me. I still write new songs, it just takes me longer than before. The music I recorded and toured as tex la homa is all song based.
Photography is newer to me as a creative outlet. I’ve only recently bought a decent camera, primarily to capture images of my children growing up. With this came an unexpected creative side to things. When visiting places to record I would photograph the process and places. Some of these captured the places almost as well as the field recordings. I’ve worked at it and got to the point where I was happy to publish some of the photos in my book Præ. Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery asked if they could use a photograph I made of Lanyon Quoit in Devon as part of their permanent collection, which made me feel quite validated as a photographer.
5). You take an incredible amount of care in the way your music is presented in its physical form. This release is accompanied by 6 large format double sided photographic prints, a natural Larch wood slice, pressed Viola flower, a poem written by Ithell Colquhoun and a scent. It’s refreshing to see an artist put so much time and effort into the physical accompaniment to a release, especially in an age where download codes and online streams have become the norm. At what stage do you begin to consider the presentation of your record, and how do you select what to include?
Art, music, the overall presentation, what to show and how are all very important in giving the listener an idea of what I’m aiming to communicate. On this occasion I have been very lucky to work with Dan and Fluid Audio who put such care and love into their releases, and attention to detail that is second to none from a label.
6). You’re clearly interested and influenced by your environment and surroundings. Do you feel you’d be creating different music had you grown up in a different environment?
That’s very difficult to answer. I suppose if my life had been different in any way, the places I’ve lived and so on, then what I’d be doing now would also be different. For a simple question I think this opens up a huge philosophical question that is much bigger. I think ultimately it’s about choice but where that impulse comes from is where the question gets very interesting.
7). Other than your environment, what have been your primary influences in the way you create your music? These don’t have to be other artists, they could be experiences, books, relationships…
Books have always been a huge inspiration. At the moment I’ve been re-reading Yeats a lot. I also read a lot of books on folklore, history, prehistory, Phsychogeography, The Occult, Esoteric subjects, travel and occasionally the odd novel. Some of these areas have taught me to experience things on a practical level, others are more of an interest to read of.
Personal relationships have always been something I’ve drawn on when creating, which might be more evident with my songs but it’s still there through everything in some way.
8). Finally, what are you listening to right now?
I’ve been listening a lot recently to Valentin Silverstrov, Gimell, Vaughan Williams, Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Morton Feldman, Coil, Kate Bush, Chris watson, Third Ear Band, The Incredible String Band, Current 93, Richard Youngs, Julian Cope, early & mid period Bowie.
In terms of new artists that might be less well known I would heartily recommend my regular collaborators Brian Lavelle, especially his “Just a Song at Twilight”. Andrew Paine, anything he self released on Sonic Oyster. English Heretic are making have been self publishing some fascinating journals and music well worth investigating. Adam Baker and his micro-sound recordings under the name Dead Wood are also very good indeed. On the wider free guitar/noise side of things I can strongly suggest San Francisco’s White Pee. Michael and the band have been making consistently thought provoking music on the further reaches of guitar based psychedelia for some time now and remain largely unsung.
Lamorna is available from Fluid Audio at the end of the month, with a limited edition run of 100 hand made letter pressed CD’s, resting inside hand typed, numbered and sealed Manilla envelopes. It promises to be an all round beautiful experience.