Musical Rooms

June 9, 2008

Musical Rooms Part 31: Matmos

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 6:31 am


Drew Daniel: My favourite space is somewhere in the future, with no phone, and a calendar with nothing written on it.

M.C. Schmidt: I am a practicalist, so I would have to speak about several places I have been. The production of our music is burdened with stuff: computers, microphones, mixing boards, synthesizers. I love this stuff, I don’t long for minimizing it, but it does limit the kind of place we can “create music” in. I loved our recent residency in the GRM Studios in Paris. It’s an amazing technical facility, total silence (if desired), weird stimulating architecture/space/community (the entirely round building that contains Radio France, the French National Orchestra, the French National Choir, etc) a charming, super-knowledgeable assistant,
an unparallelled history (it is the creation of the creator of our medium, Pierre Schaeffer) and delicious food served at regular hours and COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE!

M.C. Schmidt: We also go to a place in Whitefish, Montana called Snowghost that is a very different kind of paradise. It is in the mountains of Montana and is the project of young genius Brett Allen, whose obsession is making high quality recordings of all kinds, and he certainly has the gear to fulfill that obsession. It’s in his house, so one can work 24 hours a day, and when you go outside you are in the same kind of landscape as in, say, Brokeback Mountain… but without the sexual angst. If only I could talk him into actually cranking up that espresso machine that glitters at me, seductively, but is never used. There are pictures of Snowghost on the web, and some of the music we have made there, too. We’ve been working there (for years, now) on a collaborative album with the So Percussion Quartet and with Zeena Parkins and Mark Lightcap. so we may finish it this summer!

M.C. Schmidt: Our house in Baltimore is also good. The studio is in a new place for me – a basement. We don’t really have them in California, so it’s new to me: spacious but subterranean, though it has a door that opens to the outside. It has thick, bumpy, clay walls and a serrated wooden ceiling that baffles sound nicely and a shiny old concrete floor. It’s the first studio we’ve had in the house where Drew and I can sit side by side, which is something I’ve always longed for. We have all our keyboards out and immediately useable for the first time, which is probably what made Supreme Balloon what it was, to some extent.

M.C. Schmidt: Another favorite place is my best friend Steve Goodfriend’s home. The studio is in an old shed, a very simple wooden thing with folding tables and old rugs on the floor. What makes it so great is the talent on tap around there. Our friends are great musicians and always seem to have time to do whatever stupid musical experiments we want them to participate in! There is a very judgmental dog there, called Lucy. She knows when what you’re doing is bullshit or not and leaves when she doesn’t approve. I am more frightened of her than of any critic… and she never reads a press release! This place is where we made a lot of The West and the feeling comes somewhat from that place, too. It’s in a distant, sort of rural corner of Los Angeles, a neighborhood called Mount Washington.

Drew: For work, I need Digital Performer on a kick ass computer with lots of hard drive space, and my EMU E6400 sampler, my laptops with Max/MSP and Ableton, and some controllers. I also like to have plenty of outboard pedals and processors that I can play with all ten fingers; curating a signal chain is just as important to me as working onscreen. I think that you need different things at different points in the process. At the beginning of pieces, you need lots of free hard drive space and relative quiet outside. This is so that you can record indoors without sub-bass from passing delivery trucks ruining your recording of contact mic-ed fingernails scraping across a matchbox (a problem we have had). You also an environment that lets you make the most of what you have. Clutter can be inspiring at the beginning of a piece (lots of stuff, lots of options, lots of potential elements) but becomes a problem when you are doing detail-oriented sequencing and editing work – that’s when I crave the kind of hyper-clean minimalist studio that other people have. We are such pack rats that we will never have a studio like that, but that’s okay with me.

Drew: Some parts of sample construction and editing are best done alone; once it is time to try out different patterns and rhythms I think it’s better if Martin and I take turns so that things don’t stall. Sometimes we go into “volley” mode in which I make one sequenced loop, and then he does, then I do and so we can have a conversation going in the way that the form emerges. We use Microphones, mixing boards, samplers, synthesizers, computers, VHS players, portable recording machines and objects and phenomena in the world. I guess that makes us sound simpler AND more pretentious than we are!

Drew: What I love most is how easy it is to reconfigure our set-up. In the new studio we have lots of wide open table space to just re-order things and play with new signal chains and MIDI set-ups, and the luxury of space is something that we never had in our San Francisco studio, which was like one of those hoarder apartments that crazy senior citizens who collect mountains of garbage live in.”

Signed to Matador Records, Californian duo Matmos make music out of the sounds of objects, animals, people and actions. They have collaborated with Rachel’s, Kronos Quartet and Bjork (with whom they have toured extensively), taught seminars on sound art at Harvard University and the San Francisco Art Institute, and DJ’d at proms for homeless teenagers. They have had pieces in the Whitney Museum of American Art and The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and have scored the soundtracks for five gay porn films, one pinball machine, and one NASCAR television commercial. They recently released their sixth album, Supreme Balloon, made entirely using synthesizers. They make their Irish debut at the Future Days festival in Dublin this Thursday, June 12th at Andrew’s Lane Theatre. For more information, visit or Matmos.

About Musical Rooms
Musical Rooms Full Index

Create a free website or blog at