Little White Earbuds Interviews Radio Slave

Matt Edwards makes more music than you probably realize. To hear him tell it, there’s nothing out of the ordinary about his dizzying production clip, rattling off his surplus of side projects and production aliases with seeming nonchalance. And yes, some of it will ring familiar. For example, today marks the release of Edwards’ entry into the Balance mix series under his most celebrated guise, Radio Slave, and it’s a rather stunning offering. Disc one is comprised of house-heavy selections, about what we’ve come to expect from the Berlin-based producer over the past few years. The second disc is a bit more wayward, however, relying heavily on jazz and hip-hop flavored fare. And as the conversation winds on, it becomes clear that Edwards has his hand in many more pots and has a lot of friends, all of whom he seemingly collaborates with in some form or another. In advance of his early August appearance at Croatia’s Stop Making Sense festival, we were granted to the opportunity to converse with Edwards via email. Might we suggest keeping a second tab open to Discogs while reading this interview, for reference sake.

For starters, you were in Detroit last week. As someone who makes only a handful of trips to the States every year, why did you view a trek over for Movement as a necessity, especially seeing as it was your only stop this time through?

Matt Edwards: It’s Detroit and Movement, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. The festival always falls around the birthdays of quite a few of my friends and also mine, so it’s a great way to celebrate, dance in the sun and listen to some amazing music. And of course take a trip to see Mike Banks at Submerge. Going there and hanging out with Mike is always so inspiring; this year I took Colin “Mr.G” to the store and he was blown away. We left with so many records, and I would love to get the chance to go there more often and see more of the city.

You were supposed to be playing B2B with Marcel Dettmann, but he got jammed up with visa issues. Do these sorts of setbacks — wherein the U.S. creates these sometimes insurmountable barriers for performers of your ilk to get over here — ever discourage you from visiting the States?

It’s never discouraged me as I’ve always taken the necessary steps, but it does seem to be getting harder and harder to obtain an artist visa for a lot of people — this just isn’t working. If you’re a young artist or say just a very “underground” performer then firstly you’re not going to want to pay for the visa and secondly it’s very unlikely the the American government will grant you one, which is a real shame. We work with artists who’d love to DJ in The States but it’s just not possible and many of them now don’t want to take the risk of being turned away and sent back home.

With Marcel, the whole situation was a nightmare and I was so looking forward to DJing with him in Detroit. We played together three years ago for CLR at Elysium and it’s always so much fun to go B2B. We’re old friends and live in the same city but this is sometimes the only chance we get to hangout.

Shifting gears to your forthcoming Balance mix, the first disc is titled “White Skies” and the second “Maestros and Memories.” Any particular meaning behind these names?

Yeah, so “White Skies” is my tribute to those winter months in Berlin where there’s no sun and the skies are white. Most Sunday afternoons are spent entering the Panorama Bar around 4pm as it’s getting dark and leaving around 7am when it’s just getting light. It’s the best time of the year to go out in Berlin, and even though this mix was done in March, it was still freezing and felt like winter. In fact there was snow on the ground.

The second disc, “Maestros and Memories” is, as the title suggests, a mix which includes some of my favorite artists old and new. I wanted this to be almost like showing someone into my record room and going through the shelves, and I was super lucky with Balance as Tom managed to pretty much license in everything I wanted. I was really surprised we got tracks like Herbie Hancock’s “Nobu” and the “One Instrumental” by Slum Village. That’s my all time favorite J Dilla record and it’s was one of the tracks that inspired me to create the Rekid moniker.

With the current glut of free mixes — available as frequently as once a week with some sites (including this one) — what value do you see remaining in these commercial mix CDs?

Well, seeing as most podcasts are illegal, or are posted without a license, there should be room for commercial mixes. The problem with everyone doing podcasts and DJ mixes is that they aren’t as special as they once were. Most clubs and DJs are recording and posting their sets. You can watch everyone on YouTube, and in general we’re overloaded with DJs and labels wanting to promote themselves through podcasts and mixes. So it’s much harder to present something special that people will want to buy. But saying this, I feel the Balance series, like fabric, is something music lovers look forward to and it’s a great way of finding out about unknown artists or obscure labels that might lead the consumer to go and buy the records. I still believe there are people out there who still want to support labels and artists by buying and paying for music.

Given the use of your Radio Slave moniker for the mix, I’m sure the content of disc one won’t come as a surprise to many. But disc two might raise some eyebrows. Can you speak on the decision to go the jazz and hip-hop route with that offering?

I guess I just felt that the Balance series was about being very open and honest as an artist; I wanted to paint a very clear picture of the music I love. I’m taken by so many types of music and it’s incredibly hard to squeeze all your influences or tracks you DJ with within 160 minutes. So I took the opportunity to put together some of my all time favorite records, and this certainly goes for CD 2 which includes records I couldn’t live without. And of course this meant using the Dilla tracks and Herbie Hancock. I grew up listening to Herbie’s music as my father had quite a cool jazz collection that included everything from Max Roach to Miles Davis, and of course everyone was doing the robot at school to “Rockit.” Later I discovered “Sextant” and I actually first heard “Nobu” at the Sound Channel club in Osaka, I was totally blown away. He’s an amazing musician and it’s incredible that we can now see all these video’s of him on YouTube using all the early synthesizers. He’s a true a pioneer and it’s crazy to think that “Nobu” from the Dedication LP was released in 1973.

Are there any recent hip-hop names or releases that you’re keen on?

To be honest the major label stuff doesn’t really do it for me anymore and I kind of feel that hip-hop has lost it’s way. I used to buy so much and was obsessed with J Dilla, the Neptunes and Timberland et al. but I just don’t hear much that’s grabbing me right now. Although I do love Tyler, the Creator and his crew. The music they’re making is pretty fresh, it’s young, and I love their attitude. It’s great that they have this strong visual element going on with their clothing line.

Also I really like the 12″s by Nick Speed (Nicholas) and Wajeed; I guess I’ll always be into this kind of instrumental hip-hop. Of course, I’m always buying every new undiscovered J Dilla record. With hip-hop, as with most genres these days, you can spend your whole life listening to records from the past and still find new music, as in new to your ears. Joel Martin (Quiet Village) and I actually released a disco rap compilation back in 2000 called Harlem World, The Sound of the Big Apple Rappin. It was compiled by Mark B, with photography from Jamel Shabazz and this music was new for most people even if it was already 20 years old.

Quite some time ago, you made the migration from the UK to Berlin. How much of that was due to the sound you were conjuring at the time lining up with Berlin’s output, as opposed there just not being much catching your interest in your home country at that time?

The move was a very personal one. I was at the end of a very long relationship and my wife and I both needed space. I had friends in Berlin and it was the ideal choice for me. At the time I was living in Brighton and there was no way I would’ve moved back to London. So I packed my bags, or should I say three vans worth of stuff, and left the UK. Now I’ve been there for six years and I’m totally in love with the city. Berlin has such a relaxed vibe and of course the best clubs in the world, so it’s a wonderful place to call home. I just need to spend more time there.

What do you make of the current “industrial revolution” happening in the UK, wherein new names like Blawan and Perc and Truss are linking with elder statesmen like Surgeon to provide a bit of revitalized interest in techno coming from the UK?

I think it’s a good thing and you could definitely feel this coming for a long time. With minimal techno becoming so bland, digital sounding and fx driven, it was time for the roughness to come back. The UK has a massive heritage of hard and dark techno and I was totally into this music in the mid 90’s. I used to play at a lot of free parties in Wales and this was definitely the music of the day, so it’s cool that it’s making a comeback. Out of the new school of producers Blawan definitely stands out. I’m not into every record he does but I’m definitely a fan, and of course with having Hard Wax so close to my house I get to hear so much of this music.

Although it’s on a different tip, I’m really taken by Felix K and this very modern reduced drum and bass. This was another genre that was bound to come around again and I really love his sound. It’s modern and futuristic and I’m totally into it. I should also mention Colin “Mr.G” Mcbean. He was one half of the UK techno super group The Advent and he’s having a huge revival right now. He’s got so many young fans out there who are really into the fact that he’s completely analogue and computer free — his beats are the roughest.

I noticed you were in attendance for a little of Ben UFO and Gerd Janson’s set at the Need I Say More party last Monday in Detroit. Personally, that was up there in my top two or three sets of the weekend. Are you a fan of those two?

Totally, and that was by far the best set I heard all weekend. I came over from the TV Lounge around 3pm to meet some friends and didn’t know Gerd or Ben would be there, so it was a great surprise. Both are friends and especially Gerd. We’ve know each other since meeting at the Red Bull Music Academy back in 2007, so it was a lot of fun hanging out in the rain and those two rocked the house. Ben made my day by playing the Rocco mix of Kentaphonik “Hiya Kaya.” Such a great record and I’m sure it surprised the ketamine wizards.

I was reading an interview from a couple years back where you mentioned streamlining your various monikers in favor of releasing more of your music under your actual name. This doesn’t seem to have happened. Is that still something you’re striving for?

Yeah, and I tried but I guess it’s just difficult and confusing to put everything out under one name. And so by having various monikers it’s kind of like an actor assuming a certain role, getting into character and performing a certain way. I can put on a certain hat and have the freedom to create different music, artwork etc. without being limited by one name. And this year I’m adding at least two new names to the list.

Do you ever regret not just using your actual name for all of your music from the jump? Seems as if the alias thing has sort of a snowball effect, where it’s almost out of your hands now as to what people expect from the various names.

I actually happy with all the names and aliases; and I’m gonna revive Rekid this year and produce a new LP. The first and only album under this name was released back in 2005 so it’s about time I brought this back to life and I’m really excited to get into character and make some tripped out, slow-mo soundscapes. As for the Radio Slave name, sometimes I get frustrated as certain people only know me for Dubfire’s remix of “Grindhouse.” But I can’t complain. That track gave me some incredible experiences and I’m really proud that we had the opportunity to release a record that was the pinnacle of that big minimal techno sound. But, please don’t expect me to play it. I’m not a jukebox.

So far this year, we’ve seen Ame remix “N.I.N.A.” and both Mr. G and Prins Thomas take on “Tantakatan,” both of which were released some time ago. What benefits do you see in rehashing these older tracks? Did you reach out to these particular producers?

It certainly wasn’t a rehash and both producers asked to remix the track years ago. We’ve actually had Colin’s version for about three years, which just goes to show how timeless his music is. As for Prins mix, we only received the final version at the end of last year. Sometimes the best things take time, and the same was for Carl’s remix of “Heart Break Theme by Ronnie & Renzo.” I think we waited nearly two years for that one and it’s a killer remix.

Lastly, I wanted to ask you what’s in store for the coming months. I remember hearing you on Beats In Space last year and you had a laundry list of works in the pipeline. Any time table for the immediate future?

Well, I felt like I was on a roll with all the new projects at the end of last year and as you might have heard, I was pretty upbeat on Tim’s show. But 2013 has been an emotional roller coaster for me. First off, I had some minor surgery which turned my life upside down. Basically what should have been a small procedure went wrong and I had to take over six weeks off work. I was told not to move and had to cancel a small tour in the USA. I also split up with a girl I was in love with and it meant all the projects which I was raving about got put to one side. It was only at the end of March that I felt like I was getting back on track, then the Balance compilation became the priority and that took up most of my time. It was a tough few months but I guess the resulting mix might not have turned out the way it did had I not been through so much.

So, as for what’s in store for the rest of 2013: James Masters and I are very busy with Rekids, Pyramids of Mars, and we’ve just released the debut single from Rouge Mécanique. This was another super limited edition item and we produced a leather sleeve with Aurelia Paumelle in Berlin and sold 50 pieces at the London fashion store LN-CC. It was a crazy and very expensive idea but it totally suited Romain’s sleazy disco rock track “Witches,” hopefully it’ll give the whole project the push it needs.

Also I’ve almost finished my LP for P.O.M. with Thomas Gandey as Matom, this is based upon the live show we created for a special night at the Hansa studios in Berlin. We originally created an hour’s worth of material for the Red Bull Music Academy and have since gone on to do three live shows at festivals in France, Poland and of course Berlin. It’s very much a live show and a new experience for me. I’m just hoping that Thomas and I can take the project on the road early next year and tour the world.

mjshur  on June 19, 2013 at 12:18 AM

Old Miami did feature some of my favorite sets of the weekend; Tale of Us + Ben UFO certainly delivered…but I’m still daydreaming of Ryan Elliott, and I know LWE understands.

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