Matthew Herbert is one of the most outspoken and prolific artists in electronic music today. Through his music, he's conveyed stories about everything from food production and the oversaturation of corporate entities. In addition, he's well-known for his manifesto on music composition, the "Personal Contract for the Composition Of Music (PCCOM) (Incorporating the Manifesto of Mistakes)." He's recorded numerous singles and remixes as Herbert, Dr. Rockit, Radio Boy, Wishmountain, and others. On his latest long-player, Scale, Herbert explores the concept of distance in contemporary society. Emmerald spoke with Herbert and found a kindred spirit wondering "Is anybody paying attention???!!!"
Emmerald: You've recently released a new album, Scale. I've heard
some say that this album is a bit more accessible than some of your
other work. What are your thoughts on that? Do you agree?
Herbert: Yes, but I think the word I prefer is generous. It's maybe a little more generous to the audience; it's certainly more generous to me. With the last record for example, I was going up against a history of modern music armed with two pieces of bread, an egg, and some chickens. These are not naturally acoustic or musical instruments. So actually trying to get them to be emotional or get sound from them that could compete with a Fender Rhodes or a ninety-piece symphony orchestra was tough. And, so consequently with this record, I wanted to be a little more generous to myself, and in doing that, I invited a few more people along.
I think my work in part has tried to be about the seduction, trying to seduce people to listen to new sounds and also get them to listen to old sounds in a new way, and think about structures and things differently. So if my work's about seduction, I guess I'm coming to the table with a slightly shorter skirt this time.
Emmerald: I think I can safely agree that you are one of the few
modern musicians really challenging the way people hear sound and
music. When you work on different music projects, do you come up with
a whole new set of sounds?
Herbert: Yes, that's something that's very important to me. I don't have a library of sounds. For this album I made a hundred and forty hours of recording and we used three thousand objects to generate different noises and samples. It's important to me that every time I do a record that I do make a new language to work with. I am trying to tell very particular stories. So, it would be very difficult, for example, for me to tell a story about pollution if I'm using thirty thousand chickens from the previous album or something like that. So it's, yes, there's a logic to the process that requires me to abandon any sounds that I may have used before.