Photo by Sam Donnison
In a scene that increasingly expects DJs to be flashy showmen and producers to be inexorably prolific, Matthew Style puts substance and restraint over style and profligacy. Having polished his DJ skills since his teenage years he’s become a DJ’s DJ — a jock who knows the best time and the right place to play even the most vexing of tunes. Styles eased into producing music and has since been sparing with his efforts, ensuring that his solo work for BPitch Control, Horizontal, and Diamonds & Pearls exceeds expectations. He’s also a team player — not only as a consummate collaborator (with Tobi Neumann, Pier Bucci, Dinky, and many more in his Rolodex), but also as a former manager of Crosstown Rebels and the current workhorse for Horizontal. Put simply, he knows the house music trade inside and out. So it’s our great pleasure to bring you LWE 51st exclusive podcast — more than an hour of expertly mixed and cunningly catchy house music — by Matthew Styles. It took more than a year to orchestrate, but this irresistible mix proved well worth the wait.
LWE Podcast 51: Matthew Styles (73:37)
01. Lowtec, “Untitled” [Workshop]
02. The Mole, “Oh My Stomach” [Musique Risquée]
03. Omar, “Lay It Down” (Andre Lodemann Remix) [Peppermint Jam]
04. Induceve, “Papillion” [Classic]
05. Jef K, “The Gathering” (System Mix) [Silver Network]
06. Full Swing, “Choices” (Instrumental) [Strictly Rhythm]
07. Filterwolf, “Nocturne” (Bodycode Remix) [Process Recordings]
08. Wax, “No. 30003-A” [Wax]
09. Romano Alfieri, “Thinking Of You” [Strictly Chosen]
10. Andy Vaz, “Shadow City” (Dharavi Remix) [Yore]
11. Fries & Bridges, “Switch Stance” (Ghetto Mix) [Robsoul Recordings]
12. Bon & Rau, “Cloverleaf Days” [Smallville Records]
13. Moodymann, “For All” (Mop Remix) [MPT Recordings]
14. Dani Cassarano & Felipe Valenzuela, “Aneninema” [Fumakilla]
15. Johnny Dynell, “Jam Hot” (Tensnake Remix) [Smash Hit Music]
How were you introduced to electronic music? I understand you are the son of a DJ. Besides the obvious, how has this impacted the sort of DJ you are?
Matthew Styles: I don’t really remember a time without some kind of dance music being around. Even with my dad and his friends being involved it’s always been around me. Then it was all very different from how it is now, the whole scene for clubs and DJs has been passed numerous revolutions since then. Essentially though, one thing stays the same: entertaining people, breaking new music, playing some classics. Sound-wise though, when I was in my mid-teens, I met this guy Rene through a friend, he was a DJ and record dealer. I used to buy a LOT of records from him; he had connections in the States and he introduced me to this deep U.S. sound: Ron Trent & Chez Damier, Kerri Chandler, Nu-Groove, MAW, Emotive, Tony Humphries, MK, Claude Young, Jovonn and Easystreet, you know, all the deep stuff like this. Heavy tracks as he would say. This had the most profound influence on me musically I had ever experienced. I never heard anything like that before. Rene and I became very good friends; I had my first gigs with him when I was still quite young, not even 17. From that, I managed to get my first residency with these guys’ organising parties in the south west of the U.K. a year or so later. Luckily I still can play a lot of the tracks I bought back then.
What made you take the leap from DJing to producing?
I’m not sure it was really a leap; it was a very slow process for me. Back then, about ’97, Luke Solomon had just started Classic and my best friend from school (Lil Mark), who knew Luke and Derrick Carter quite well, had just been to Chicago to hang out for a few months with Derrick. He came back with some gear and was making tracks; we were jamming a bit and eventually I wanted to have a go on my own. I bought an Akai MPC after receiving some advice and started to work on a bit of stuff. Lil Mark and Rob Mello helped me a lot with that. I made some remixes and some edits which came out, but I really wasn’t so happy with the results. So I carried on working on it for a long time, I was never really satisfied with the outcome for whatever reason. This had been going on for a while and I have to thank Dinky and the Diamonds & Pearls guys — they were the ones who pushed me to release the first singles, otherwise I’d still be sitting on those tracks now.
One element that’s always stood out in your productions is the bass line. Where did all this love for the bass come from and why is it important in your own tracks?
I think a lot of the music I have always listened too and played has good bass. Maybe it’s a thing being from the Westcountry, Bristol sound and all that. As you know it’s very important for dance music, even perhaps more so for girls than for boys. One of the reasons it took so long to release music was that I knew what I wanted but had to find a way to get there. I need the bass to be strong and with funk, kind of like that old U.S. house sound. Now these days the sound is not so bass heavy, too much limiting going on. I have always used the same mastering engineer, Chris Potter, who works at Peacefrog’s mastering studio in London — Electric Mastering. He knows I want quite a specific sound and so we always work towards that, not to smash the mix with the limiters, full bass and crispy tops.
By my count you haven’t put out an original release under your own name since 2008. What’s the story behind that? Are there more coming?
There is more stuff coming, not sure when though! A lot of friends are asking for remixes at the moment, which is quite nice as it lets me try some ideas out. After the first singles came out I moved to Berlin, and it seemed there was an expectation that after “We Said Nothing” I would bang stuff out, but I’m not like that. Firstly, I hadn’t found a room for the studio that I was really happy with until now, as it needs to be a cocoon from the outside world. The spaces I’ve had so far were not like that. Luckily we just found that space now: it’s amazing, really, a dream come true! Dinky and I will share the space, and we have a lot of other friends and great producers in the same building, so it’s like a community, with Tobias Freund and Max Loderbauer from NSI, Pier Bucci, Cassy, Argenis Brito and a few others. I am still amazed that we have it. So now I just started to work in there and feel very inspired by it.
In the meantime you have been collaborating quite a bit, doing remixes, and releasing as Worst Case Scenario. Why the shift in this direction?
It’s always fun to collaborate; you get a different perspective, it’s somehow a bit more relaxed, and you don’t have to make all the decisions on your own. With Worst Case Scenario it’s a project with my good friend Ed Cartwright. He didn’t make any music before, but has an amazing knowledge of music and we always have a laugh when doing stuff, which is good because you end up with a positive vibe.
I’m curious what your collaborators — like Tobi Neumann and Pier Bucci — bring to the table individually that you really like for your productions?
Again, its all about having fun with friends, jamming, swapping ideas. I mean, Tobi and Pier work in totally different ways and are quite different people, so that always interesting for me. I did some stuff with Dinky too, also Sven Von Thülen from Zander VT, and Jorge González from Los Updates. In the end if you release something and people buy it that’s really great, but spending time with people you like to be with having fun, doing something that you enjoy, that’s the point for me.
What is your role in Crosstown Rebels and Horizontal? How does being a behind the scenes person affect your outlook on the dance music landscape or club culture?
I finished at Crosstown a few years ago now. I had run with it as much as I could, I had a great time, but you know we had so many distributors going under, in the end I ended up stressed out. I wasn’t really doing anything for myself anymore, so I needed to break from that and develop some things. With Horizontal, Dinky and I take it much slower — there is no pressure. If we wanted to ramp it up, we both could I guess, but right now we just want it to be about having a good time releasing music we like from ourselves or friends. I’ve been working in music business for a few years now across the board, for distributors, records stores, labels, clubs as well as making and releasing music. You see how things work and my perspective certainly isn’t as idealistic as it used to be. Although I do believe most people are in it because they love it, whether that’s commercial or underground, vinyl or digital, whatever, there is no right or wrong. If floats your boat, it’s fine. I still like a good idea, a good sound, and a good time.
What has the move to Berlin been like for you? What opportunities has it opened for you?
It’s given me a chance to relax; I have such a good time here and it’s like a small town in some ways. I had a lot of friends here since before I moved over so it was a pretty easy switch. The opportunities have been amazing, and I learned a bit of a different perspective on life which is healthy. The clubs have been very good to me here and I’ve been given the chance to play at some amazing places. The standard is so high here musically speaking, it keeps you going.
What’s next from you in 2010?
Unintentionally a bunch of remixes are coming out all the next weeks. One for Luc Ringeisen I did back in 2008 will come out finally, then one for Dinky on Horizontal, Bubba on Extended Play and then we did a Worst Case Scenario remix for Radio Slave’s last single. Other than that there will be an EP by the end of the year. Some tracks are done, but I have to work on it a bit more, although sometimes I am very indecisive!
LWE Podcast 51: Matthew Styles (73:37)