This interview was conducted by Cyan in 2010 for
Vague Terrain 17: Collaborative Spaces
Matt Shadetek is one of New York City’s most exciting producers. His live sets encompass contemporary dancehall, UK funky, and dubstep, all delivered with Shadetek’s unique production voice which bridges the underground-mainstream divide. He’s one of the rare DJs who can rock a crowd with sets composed solely of his own dancefloor bangers and remixes.
Matt’s early love for hiphop and dancehall along with edgy electronic sounds led to his Warp Records debut album Burnerism as part of the duo Team Shadetek. While Matt was living in Berlin and touring Europe, the followup LP Pale Fire was released, featuring the underground hit ”Brooklyn Anthem”. The hit song kick-started a dance craze in the Brooklyn reggae scene (leading to over 100 fan videos of kids dancing to it).
Returning to NYC, Matt founded the Dutty Artz label/production crew with DJ /Rupture. Shadetek produced Jahdan Blakkamoore’s debut album, Buzzrock Warrior (!K7), pioneering its signature reggae-dubstep-rap sound. In 2009 he also teamed up with Rupture to release the mix album Solar Life Raft (The Agriculture). His latest release, on Dutty Artz, is Flowers, an effervescent solo instrumental effort that references dubstep, uk funky and garage. He has toured internationally both solo and accompanied by Jahdan as vocalist.
Vague Terrain asked Matt about his collaborative work with Dutty Artz, his joint mix album with Dj /Rupture Solar Life Raft and the nature of the internet as a medium for musical collaboration and exploration.
Corina MacDonald: Solar Life Raft weaves together many musical histories. What kind of musical connections does it reflect for you?
Matt Shadetek: With Solar Life Raft (SLR) early on we had come up with the imaginary history of Nokea and Baby Kites living in a drowned New York which is embodied in the liner notes. This gave us a musical color scheme to start with. We knew we wanted different voices, eruptions of noise, technological incongruity and sudden calm and beautiful spaces. We wanted a mixture of flow and breakage. As we gathered and produced tracks for the mix we tried to keep this imaginary world in our heads and soundtrack it with the pieces we had, often filling in gaps by writing new pieces as we needed them.
CM: Your inspiration seems to be simultaneously rooted in the local with an eye towards the global. How do you balance these perspectives?
MS: I think the local comes naturally, it’s where we live daily and the people who we run into. I just ran into Busy from Telepathe late at night on the subway and we talked about doing some more work after SLR. The local stuff just sort of happens. The global side is having your ears open and your radar swiveling tuning in signals. Nowadays it all seems pretty collapsed together with the internet on your phone all the time, seems less and less separate.
CM: Do you think there is a need for a more “think global, act local” approach in arts and music as the scope of content we interact with from around the globe on a daily basis increases?
MS: I think that the local is a very fertile territory and a lot of people respect things from afar more than they do what’s in their own backyards, myself included sadly. There’s a paucity of information transmitted on the internet that the local has in abundance things like body language, pheromones, delicious food. It’d be a shame to ignore those things in favor of distant and disposable digital files.
CM: How did you begin working on Dutty Artz, who is the Dutty Artz family, and how do you imagine it growing?
MS: The Dutty Artz family grows organically with people popping up, hanging out with us, sending us music and becoming friends. Everyone in it is people we’re cool with who do music we like. Current active people include myself, Rupture, Geko Jones, Lamin aka Mosholu Park, Uproot Andy, Taliesin and Chief Boima. Jace and I were working on music together when we both moved back to NY from Europe and didn’t see an obvious place to release it so we started the family.
CM: Solar Life Raft has a contemplative quality – what scenarios are you aiming to conjure up with this album and how do you think music helps us to speculate about and shape the future?
MS: Octopuses in the stairwells, dolphins at the windows, kids living on rooftops making music on hacked solar powered cell phones. The guarded optimism of soft apocalypse.
How have your collaborative experiences influenced your individual working practice?
MS: I’ve learned not to fight about tracks. Also sometimes not collaborating is the answer, express your own singular weirdness. I have a solo album called Flowers coming out June 8th that expresses mine. A nice balance of both makes for a happy artist. That and speed dating, all credit to Timeblind. I wrote an article about it (and some other stuff) for the school I teach at Dubspot here.
CM: Music has become ubiquitous on the internet – distribution, creation and consumption are all happening simultaneously across communities that may have no physical or cultural connections. Context is often lacking in this environment, which can make for interesting but sometimes unmindful associations. What place do you aim to occupy within this global network with your DJ practice and through the Dutty Artz blog?
MS: Know about the stuff that you work with. Don’t be a tourist. Do your homework. Aim for a dialogue rather than a quotation. I wrote something about this too. It inspired a lot of intelligent fighting on the internet, which I was very pleased with. The piece is called ‘Babel (Dancing in Tongues)’
CM: What are your thoughts on the future of the dj mix within networked culture? Solar Life Raft seems to be as much about documenting and sharing information as it is about the mix as an end product.
MS: I think the DJ mix is a great way to force context on people and to create new contexts that you see that others don’t in this singles driven buffet style era of music consumption we live in. The DJ mix will probably replace the album inside electronic music.
Matt Shadetek just released a new solo LP entitled Flowers.Interviews