Get to know: Matrixxman
Ahead of his appearance on 24th Nov for our NovaMute, R&S & Phonica Showcases, we caught up with the San Franciscan...
We live in a time of uncertainty. We don’t know who’s watching us or where our data is going and how it’s being used. We don’t know who else is reading our emails.
We could dwell on these facts and fall into a rabbit hole of questioning things without actually finding a result -unless you’re Matrixxman of course. In his case, the outcome for Charles Duff aka Matrixxman is to create a never-ending discography of dystopian themed techno.
The San Francisco native channels his curiosity with artificial intelligence and today’s swift advances of technology into making spine-tingling and sometimes unsettling, darker sounds which reflect everything he’s unsure about in the modern world.
Releases on Spectral Sound, Ghostly International, Planet Rythm and Dekmantel have highlighted what he’s all about sonically while sets as far as The Block, Tel Aviv to Analog, Brooklyn to BASIS, Utrecht have all featured on his touring agenda in the last few months.
Adding Egg LDN to his list on 24th November with Daniel Miller, Nicolas Bougaïeff, Renaat Vandepapeliere & more for our NovaMute, R&S and Phonica showcases, we caught up with him to find out more about his interest in space, technology and techno ahead of his first set at the club...
You’re known to merge elements of sci-fi and ideas of artificial intelligence into your music, so much so that you now have a signature sound. In today’s world of constant technology advances, what’s the latest technological invention which has inspired your most recent body of work?
Ironically a lot of my inspiration, as of late, comes from a place of anxiety regarding technological innovation.
It’s easy to entertain scenarios on either end of the spectrum, such as a post-singularity wonderland or conversely, AI gone rogue a la Skynet in Terminator or some equivalent situation. I used to be myopically optimistic but in the last few years, that’s been replaced by a healthy dose of cynicism.
What’s disconcerting to me lately though isn’t an uprising of AI in the distant future; it’s what’s occurring at this very moment with machine learning and those involved with such pursuits.
For example, although Google has made leaps and bounds with their translator technology thanks to a vast neural network they’ve built, they are still at a loss when it comes to explaining precisely how it works. And the implications of that are a bit frightening. Similarly one could also bring up the hilariousness of Facebook attempting to ameliorate the damage from fake news running amuck on their platform and directly influencing Brexit or the US elections.
As reassuring as Zuckerberg may have appeared during those EU inquiries (yeah, the ones that got meme’d to hell and back), his statements in his defence basically admitted that they’ll do their best to avoid this in the future but aren’t 100% in control of their algorithms. And once again, the implications of such a thing should be fairly obvious to us by now. We’re relying on technologies that we don’t have the capacity to understand and that is rather scary. This feeling of uncertainty makes for some great dystopian inspiration for techno though.
Has there been a particular book or film that’s left quite an impression on you which you’ve translated into a release?
I don’t think I’ve translated anything directly into a release per se but it’s safe to say the bulk of my work is influenced by sci-fi in some way, shape or form. Obviously, the sci-fi classics such as Neuromancer or Blade Runner have informed me quite a bit.
In terms of recent authors, there’s stuff like Greg Egan’s Oceanic or Ian McDonald’s Cyberabad Days. Works like these have for sure informed my creative processes.
Jeff Mills is also known to take elements of space and sci-fi and weave them into his productions. Do you think the two of you will ever collaborate someday?
Jeff Mills is one of the greatest when it comes to this type of techno. The only conceivable reason he’d allow me to work with him might be because of my outsider status and skills wholly unconnected with his realm (e.g. my production work with Depeche Mode, Ty$, YG, etc.). I can’t imagine he’d find inspiration with another techno producer nowadays though I could be mistaken. Stranger things have happened.
Back in July you played a DnB set at Freqs of Nature festival. Tell us how Techno and DnB correlate to you?
Personally, I feel that many strands of DnB have always had a techno-like quality to them. There’s a certain coldness or mood rather, that is hyper-dystopian so the parallels to me are obvious.
Take, for instance, Boddika’s outfit Instra: mental - “No Future” as an example. Even though it might be technically labelled as halftime DnB, soundscape-wise it’s entirely techno. The same applies to those first several Konflict (Rob Data + Kemal) records.
In August you filled in for Rødhåd at the last minute for a Boiler Room slot at Dekmantel. What was going through your mind immediately after you agreed to do the set? Did you come up with a rough plan beforehand or did you intend to just feel the vibe of the room and see what happens?
I was notified 24 hours before the Boiler Room slot and was already travelling in the Baltic region at the time. Typically I prefer to plan these live performances out thoroughly but I wasn’t left with much choice on this occasion. If memory serves correct, I got the call that Rødhåd couldn’t make it around the time I was playing the night before so I had to haul my ass to catch an early morning flight (it was a 3-hour drive to the airport) in order to arrive in Amsterdam just before the set. Didn’t get to really sleep...I was a total mess.
You’re playing for us on November 24th in our NovaMute Floor with Daniel Miller and Nicolas Bougaïeff, how has NovaMute made an impact on your career and approach to sound?
Ah, Daniel Miller! I got to hang out with Daniel a few times during the Depeche Mode studio sessions and subsequently thereafter. We even jammed on the modulars at one point. He is one cool ass dude. Mute’s discography has had a profound impact on me in more ways than I could ever imagine. I’m also a huge J.G. Ballard fan so The Normal really spoke to me. Subsequently, I found out about NovaMute well after the fact - which was quite the surprise after previously only knowing about Mute. It’s not often you have someone that can traverse between the worlds of synth-pop and techno seamlessly. Daniel is a true visionary for that.
Leave us with a tune that for you, encompasses everything about space and sci-fi into one track?
Jeff Mills - If (They)