When Magda, Marc Houle and Troy Pierce left Minus back in 2011, many were left questioning the future of one of electronic music’s most notable labels. Renowned at the time for its minimal techno ethos, Richie Hawtin’s imprint had overseen a period where it’d become arguably the globe’s foremost bearer of said underground sounds.
But with the appeal of minimal on the wane and with a fair host of the label’s core artists having jumped ship, fans could be forgiven for thinking the imprint’s heady days were a thing of the past. Hawtin, however, had different ideas.
An innovator right back to his early days in Detroit (and an obsessively forward-thinking individual to boot), the pioneering Canadian quickly realized that the future of the label lay in new signings and fresher sounds. One such man who’s since come to epitomise Minus’ newfound direction is Matador, an Irish live act and producer whose trademark hypnotic sound has marked him out as one of techno’s most exciting contemporary artists.
Born Gavin Lynch in Dundalk, Ireland, Matador’s first taste of electronic music came courtesy of the FM dial. Regularly tuning in to the likes of Pete Tong’s Essential Mix, he soon became transfixed by the likes of Judge Jules and Fergie.
As the years progressed, Lynch found a second home in the clubs of Dublin, where his tastes soon gravitated toward more discerning fare. After leaving school, he qualified and worked for some time as a chef, but it was techno where his real ambitions lay.And so it was that he decided to return to music, enrolling on a sound design course that’d ultimately shape the life he leads today.
“I started in the Sound Training Centre in Dublin,” he tells DJ Mag of his formal music education. “It’s a live Sound Engineering course, and our lecturer was a big synth and electronic music enthusiast, so he really opened my eyes to what could be achieved with a computer.” Upon completion of the course, Lynch gave himself a year to carve out a serious career as a musician. It was to prove a monumental life decision.
Scrupulously dedicated to his craft, Lynch adopted a similar working template to his music as to the life he led in the kitchen. “I’d start [producing] around midday and work until six or seven in the evening, have some dinner and then go back to it for another six or seven hours.
I used to do that five, six, even seven days a week.” Forcing himself into a situation where he had to sink or swim, Lynch knew that only a combination of tireless hard work and dedication to his craft would get him to where he wanted to be. Fortunately, he had both in abundance.
Having spent hour-upon-hour honing his distinct techno sound, Lynch was soon ready to unleash his wares on the world. A host of well-received cuts followed, the first of which came on a hometown label, Aciitone Digital, followed by releases on more renowned global staples such as Ali ‘Perc’ Wells’ Perc Trax.
While these early productions hinted at an auspicious talent, time was running out for the producer’s one-year plan. As luck would have it, Hawtin — who Lynch had previously sent a demo to — was in Dublin for a gig around the time, and came down early to check out Matador’s warm-up set.
Impressed by his ability to work the crowd into a sweat, Hawtin was left smitten by a producer that immediately struck him as the perfect fit for his label. With just three of his fifty-two weeks left, Lynch was — albeit reluctantly — preparing for a return to the kitchen before he got word that Minus wanted to sign his music. For a self-confessed Hawtin/Minus obsessive like Lynch, it was something of a dream come true.
“I remember the first time I heard the Plastikman stuff,” recalls Lynch of Hawtin’s early alias. “I just thought: 'What the fuck is this?!' Incredible! Then I saw him [Hawtin] DJ. He wasn’t just playing music, but he was also so fixed, so focused; like he was creating his own story as he went along.”
Having earned his own emphatic seal of approval from Hawtin & co, Lynch released his first EP on Minus, 'Kingswing', back in 2011. Featuring four ghoulish, trippy and intriguing cuts, it immediately announced the arrival of a new starlet within the Minus ranks. It had taken Matador a while, but all of a sudden the techno world was standing up and taking note of Hawtin’s latest prodigious talent.
Emphatically proving that his Minus debut was no fluke, Lynch then followed up 'Kingswing' in 2012 with the 'Spooks EP', another barnstorming array of off-kilter techno cuts. There’s been at least one Matador production on Minus every year since, and though the releases have become more regular, the quality has always remained the same.
A recent example of this lies with Lynch’s 'Play With Me Part 2', his latest Minus treat and arguably his most significant release to date. Imbued with rich, sonic tendencies, groove-heavy basslines and tension aplenty, it’s the sort of release that’s primed for a weighty soundsystem — almost as if the producer himself has crafted it with the big room and his current peak-time slots in mind.
In short, it’s the sound of a producer who’s more than comfortable when forced to step up to the plate. “There’s no pressure attached with writing music for Minus,” he says. “My music seems to fit there, they like what I do, and I’m delighted to release with them. I’m also confident that what I produce is of the highest possible quality. It’s a win-win for everyone”.
Although 'Play With Me Part 2' hit the No.1 spot on Beatport’s techno charts, Lynch is honest enough to admit that such accolades — though welcome — are far from his main focus. “For me, success as a producer comes from bringing a track from start to finish, playing it out for the first time and the crowd liking it.
I’m very grateful for all the support I get, but how a track goes down with the crowd is always the benchmark for me”. Although he can DJ, Lynch plays pretty much exclusively as a live act, and it’s at his ENTER residency at Space where tracks from the EP such as 'Da Hustle' and 'Song 2' are likely to make the most sense. Loop-heavy, captivating slices of robust and atmospheric techno, they’re the sort of battle-weapons that are sure to send Space’s infamous Main Room into a proverbial tailspin.
As Lynch approaches his latest season stint in Ibiza, he’s still as excited as ever about playing at Space. “I first came to Ibiza with all my mates when I was 18,” he says. “Walking into Space for the first time is something I’ll never forget, and moments like that spurred me on even more with my productions.”
So now that he’s a full-fledged member of the Minus crew, we’re curious to know what a night down at ENTER entails. “What can I say?!” he laughs, “It’s an absolute trip! It’s full on from early Thursday morning right through to us leaving Space on the Friday morning.
Everyone is active in some way, whether it’s the artists flying in and out, the promotion team down on the beach, Richie working on his set, or meetings and various other comings and goings. But we also all get together for dinner before the show and that’s the perfect time for catching up and getting ready for the night ahead. The Minus team are both work colleagues and friends, and a night at ENTER really brings us all together under one roof. It’s a real party from start to finish!”
Before we leave, we’ve got one final question for Lynch. Has he sampled Hawtin’s beloved sake yet? “Of course!” he exclaims. “It’s a dangerous one though – it creeps up on you!” Humble and down-to-earth but also decidedly confident in his approach, there’s something about Matador that perfectly embodies Minus’ current agenda. One thing is for sure: he’s unlikely to be returning to the kitchen any time soon.
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