On a brisk spring San Franciscan afternoon, clouds move lazily across the sky with sunshine piercing through as notable techno talent Matrixxman, real name Charles M. Duff, sits in a park diving deep into discussion about his latest album and explaining his immense passion for futurism and the impending singularity.
The conversation began simple enough, focusing on his debut album ‘Homesick’ being released on Ghostly International on July 10, but Matrixxman is a robust project with a perspective clearly fixed on the near future. This means where one ends up when talking about his art is a far cry from where one might have ever thought, in the best way possible.
Matrixxman’s debut album ‘Homesick’ is a true to form sonic exploration of a dystopian vision of the near future excellently expressed via a fusion of techno and transcendental ambient electronica.
Overall, the album is a beautiful blend of dancefloor ready tracks that engage the body and intellect alongside ambient works that are ideally suited for the comedown after a marathon night of raving.
Each song in of itself is a separate scene in a science fiction epic, and this ambition for something more than merely making dance music enables ‘Homesick’ to be a successfully transcendental work that inspires and enamors.
Surprisingly, this complex project for Charles only began in 2013, but this album feels to be years in the making from a soon-to-be-declared techno legend, who knows exactly what he is doing.
“It’s an intimidating thing because I had never previously tried my hand at a full-length format, but ultimately it was a fun challenge to step away from the more one-off transient nature of singles,” says Matrixxman of the album as a whole.
Though it appears his eager mind is already on future works, he notes his favorite track on the album is ‘Network Failure’ for its sinister edge and sense of movement “with the main synth propelling forward as if someone is fleeing or taking evasive manoeuvres to dodge a pernicious cyber threat.”
Also, he cites “Annika’s Theme” as another favorite because of its contrasting ambient nature compared to the more plentiful techno elements of the album, as well as its lead synth bearing something reminiscent of the notable ‘80s ambient composer Vangelis.
It is a rare thing to encounter an artist whose art has increasingly become intertwined with the intrinsic nature of who he is as a person. In essence, the artistic ambition of Matrixxman to express “the idea of a persona that is fully digitized” has slowly ceased to be a reflection and actually an embodiment of its original intentions.
“It initially started off as somewhat of a joke among friends: a Max Headroom-esque portrait of some guy who inadvertently got trapped in a virtual reality experiment gone awry. Except I was the subject,” remarks Matrixxman on forming his artistic identity.
“Over time, I realized that this wasn't merely just having fun with some silly sci-fi notions but potentially touching on something deeper. On a superficial level it represents one man's passion for the future but below the surface I am grappling with the implications of living in a near-Singularity civilization and all of the fun plot twists that await us down the path.”
Yet, while it is heavily rooted in a near-future, cold, dystopian sensibility, there is also a juxtaposition of a person heavily in touch with one’s emotions. Charles imbues a tremendous amount of life and soul into his music, which is not something you find often in techno.
It is not just a man making music, but a man who is working with technology “to conjure up something resembling a spark of life” which highlights the tremendous strength of his music.
“I feel like the crux of what I'm trying to accomplish involves taking something that is ordinarily barren and bleak then trying to inject it with life. Not just on a simple scale with machines in terms of making techno and what have you, but in a larger sense of man’s relationship, or rather, evolutionary step in tandem with machines.
I think it’s safe to say that the implications of all this are far-reaching. Being an advocate of artificial intelligence and the like, I’m obsessed with this pursuit of forging something that will be indistinguishable from our organic souls.”
If pressed to simply define this brilliant music-maker, Matrixxman is a forward thinker. He is at his core exactly what techno needs to continue its evolution as arguably one of the greater creative genres in contemporary music.
Techno god Jeff Mills believes “techno wasn’t designed to be dance music, it was designed to be a futurist statement,” and Matrixxman certainly appears to be fulfilling that modus operandi astonishingly.
However, at the same time of being true to techno’s core, he does not lose sight of modern techno's dance focus. His tracks will get you dancing out there on those dimly lit dancefloors, but if you take a moment to evaluate what the songs are trying to do, you see technical aptitude of the highest order and conceptually you open an intriguing futurist Pandora’s box that is endlessly inspiring.
Weighing in on the state of techno and how much genre plays a role in his production process, Matrixxman believes that “techno is particularly liberating. Many of the traditional rules that govern more orthodox forms of musical composition essentially fall by the wayside.
This wanton disregard is fundamentally crucial. It is some fucked up, inherently punk rock shit at its core. You could use only a drum machine or, just as easily, record a broom sweeping the street, to great effect.
There's something distinctly unique here that kind of resembles a blank canvas to my mind. It goes without saying there is a defined set of parameters that people might proclaim, ‘this is what techno has to conform to’ but that being said, it encompasses a wide spectrum of influences.”
Delving into Matrixxman’s body of earlier works, ‘Protocol’ or ‘Procedure’ convey this encouraging nature of techno to throw convention to the wind as the songs have no synths whatsoever and are merely the artist toying with a TR-909.
At play here in both his latest album and career is the realization of an artist who is organically fulfilling the highest ambitions of the genre to which he is contributing. Techno, and music by in large, need more artists like this as they do not conform, but demonstrate how much can be achieved by testing the limits and pushing for something greater.
Not only does he achieve the tenets of the genre that he chooses to adhere to in production, as loosely as he does sometimes, but he fully realizes the expression of his deepest imaginative passions in the process.
Matrixxman is an impressive techno-oriented pursuit that is heralding in the exact future that it is imagining, a beautiful musical work of metafiction in a sense.
He is both the creator of his art and an actual artifact of the art, an agent for bringing about the impending future through his inspiring musical look into the not-so-distant future. With all this being considered, expect ‘Homesick’ to be one of the better works of techno not only in this year, but probably the next several following.
What do you hope people take away from this album and your music?
“In an alternate or a parallel universe, rather, I would probably be knee-deep in the trenches of nano-engineering.
Most likely getting down with the nitty gritty of helping bring about the singularity in terms researching a plethora of biotech possibilities, whether it's figuring out how to fully map out the human brain in a virtual environment or any number of things that could help usher in the singularity.
Since that's not anything I am qualified to explore at present, music is virtually the only worthwhile contribution I can offer from my vantage point.”
Matrixxman on the significance of futurism:
“The reason why the future is of such importance is that when we finally have infinite computational power at our disposal, in the best possible sense, all hell will break loose. At that point, we'll conceivably be able to create our own virtual universes and worlds within worlds.
The prospect of artificial sentient life will no longer be as daunting. Antiquated models of capitalism that presently hold back our civilization will melt away. I reckon it will be a wild ass ride, to say the least.”
“Will we be opening up wormholes for the purposes of traveling? Will we witness violations of causality? It's going to be the most exciting time to live in frankly, so that's a huge preoccupation of mine. I guess not just a preoccupation. If I can be involved with it in terms of soundtracking this stuff as it goes down, I would be overjoyed.”
Why do does Matrixxman love futurism?
“Naturally, with electronic music there are some inextricable links with techno and futurism in that techno is more or less a soundtrack for all of the futuristic shit. In terms of why I'm into it? A number of reasons.
First off, there's the whole childhood inspiration factor. When you're a kid and you watch ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Star Wars’, all that jazz…it has a profound impact, particularly on us as young kids. You're bored shitless out of your mind with the monotony of life, and then all of a sudden the world is teeming with possibilities.
It opens a Pandora's box of sorts, as it were. Initially, a lot of it was probably rooted in stuff that happened in my more formative years, but as I got older, I started to realize that we're at a point in history where a lot of these things are actually stuff that we're witnessing unfold within our lifetimes.”
Who does Matrixxman listen to?
“I'm a huge fan of Mike Parker. There are two schools of thought when it comes to making music. Most people methodically have each track separated respectively during the recording process, however Mike Parker apparently has a similar workflow with Jeff Mills in that he is turning on the machines and printing everything on the spot to a simple two-track, and then not really going back and editing it after the fact.”
Matrixxman’s words of wisdom to aspiring producers and artists:
“To the best of your ability, give zero fucks about what is popular at any particular moment. Far too many people get caught up in chasing "cool," and that, to me, defeats the whole purpose of doing any creative stuff.
There should be some underlying emotional connection...basically you should forge a bond and really care about what you do. In my limited experience, the second people start chasing and seeking the approval of others, their art loses its purity on some level.
It's totally detrimental to the creative process. There was a reason cats like Miles Davis would forbid his musicians access to a radio prior to studio sessions. So just hole yourself up in a room, put the blinders on, and just make whatever the hell literally gets you excited. If you do that with a modicum of success, chances are it will resonate similarly with others.”
WORDS: KIRK WILLIAMS
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