interview by Barbara H
Barbara H: the show was very impressive, i had already seen you at the Primavera festival, i don't remember you playing the drum & bass song at the end...
Matt Elliott: I did though
BH: you did?
ME: I always play that song.
BH: OK (laughs)
ME: you were probably so drunk... (laughs)
BH: yeah, maybe, even though i think i was quite hungover, your show was in the afternoon... ANYWAY. I have questions for you! How are you ?
ME: very tired
BH: you played the sonar festival ?
ME : yeah
BH: how is it to play a big festival and then a smaller show ?
ME: it's cool, i like both really, everything depends on the audience and if the audience is really positive then it's really nice, i actually prefer playing small places, even though if i had a choice the PA would be a little bigger cause you know, everything depends on the PA
BH: you run everything through the PA
ME: yeah. I have a guitar amp as well... i quite like small places because you can actually hear the sound coming out of my throat... but really the audience is what makes a difference. I come back from England and it was a lot like... *claps very slowly* "what the fuck is this?" (laughs) it's nice to come back to Europe where people are more open
BH: do you tour a lot?
ME: i'm touring a lot at the moment,... you know, there are worse jobs. it's quite tiring but it's nice to see places.
BH: how does the songwriting process goes? do you start with lyrics, or do you focus on building an atmosphere first?
ME: everything starts with the guitars and then i sequence everything and the lyrics are always the last thing. so it goes: guitars, atmospheres and then lyrics and then mixing.
BH: at the end of Drinking Songs there's this drum and bass song and i was wondering if you were looking forwards to returning to a more Third Eye Foundation sound...
ME: No it's just one last one... but thinking of it i've been listening to a lot of UK Garage so i might do another track like it, maybe... i'll see how i feel. It's quite fun doing it cause it's easy...
BH: it sounds easy when you do it but...
ME: it's easy... technology
BH: your last record is named "Drinking Songs" and i couldn't help but think of Tom Waits
BH: what did you have in mind ? recording songs for people to sing when they're drunk (laughs) or more like closing time songs ?
ME: yeah, after hours, when the doors shut... it was actually supposed to be quite happy but when i started recording everything got slowed down BUT when i went to Barcelona for Sonar, two people got thrown out of a bar for singing one of my songs (laughs) so it does work as drinking songs...
BH: drinking songs to get thrown out of bars with (laughs)
ME: yeah exactly
BH: you're music is often talked of as "haunted" do you consider yourself as a haunted man?
ME: (silence) yeah, i don't know cause i have nothing to compare it to you know. yeah probably yeah.
BH: cursed maybe
ME: well... (laughs) i don't like to talk about it cause it brings a lot of bad energy, i was at one point definitely but things are better now, i'm touching fucking wood.
BH: you're living in France
BH: why ? (laughs)
ME: cause my girlfriend's french and her family lives close by and stuff. England's really expensive and i hate the English politics, i don't really like England at all, i just come back from there and i never want to go back, honestly, it's really getting quite scary.
BH: your music sounds European in the continental way, especially on the last record, it sounds Eastern European...
ME: yeah, well i've got some slavic blood in me, my grandmother's Estonian so i'm just exploring... i really like traditional music from the continent, i don't like English folk music but i like Spanish folk music... I don't really like Celtic folk music, but everything else, gypsy, manouche...
BH: I think it mixes well because usually it's very upbeat music...
ME: That's what i really like about it, you have very uplifting music and then you have some woman wailing about a lost lover... that's why i wanted to do a drinking songs album, with upbeat music and miserable lyrics, but that just didn't work out (laughs) i like to take the most miserable elements of things...
BH: Do you plan on recording another record soon?
ME: yeah i've got two albums i'm doing now. one is a soundtrack to an art exhibition for the guy who made the artwork for Drinking Songs (Uncle Vania) and then i've got the next album, it's half written i have to record it, so that's what i'll be doing until Christmas
BH: how do you think it's going to sound?
ME: (sighs, laughs) i'll probably try to make it more... not rock-y but more... The Vania thing is going to be really really miserable and much more solo piano and classical guitars and stuff and the next record will be a bit more rock-y, but i don't like to use this word, you know, rock-y like Tom Waits...
ME: hmmmmmmmmmm more like gipsy stuff through a guitar amp... yeah, cause blues is a scale, it's a guitar scale which i'm really trying to avoid cause i just don't like it... but dirty, that's how it's going to sound, dirtier.
BH: The art for Drinking Songs suits the record really well, how did you meet Uncle Vania ?
ME: I met him in a gig like 8 years ago or something... he did the artwork for Little Lost Souls and I Poo-Poo on Your JuJu I met him at a gig and he just said "i'll do some art for you" and he did it and it was great so, he always sends me pictures and stuff and i just, i love his artwork, he really has a vision that's quite dark and quite twisted... he's my favourite artist so it's a real pleasure, it's an amazing thing that we both work together.
BH: The last song you played was like seeing electronic music in the making, most of your songs, in the live context are built layer by layer, do you record the songs this way ?
ME: no, it's impossible this pedal i use is good for live, it's ok cause the sound is fine through a PA but when you're recording in a studio it doesn't sound very good and you have no control over the mixing.. and if you make one mistake it's there for ever. The next album is not going to be so loopy...i'm trying to move away from that cause it's too predictable...
BH: do you think it'll sound a bit more "live" ?
ME: it's all going to be recorded live, i'm going to try to edit it as little as possible... when you're doing computers it's all click tracks and there's no room to manoeuver anything... i'm trying to move towards a more free sort of expression and then everything can come together that way. But, obviously i always have plans and then it's always the way you think "i'm going to do this" and then you start doing it and then it doesn't work and you have to do other things so...
BH: does it add a lot of pressure to the live set, all those layers that can fuck up?
ME: yeah but you have to live with it, once it's fucked up, it's fucked up... it's part of the whole live thing, i've done these songs probably a thousand times now so i'm starting to get it... tonight my voice was really tired and stuff so...
BH: you sounded great
ME: well, nothing worse than when you get to the high note and then *mimics trying to sing the high note without having any sound coming out of his mouth*
BH: there's always this trance-like effect, with all those layers repeating, voices upon voices, it sounds like there's a big storm building up...
ME: yeah i quite like that, but it's really hard to do it because every song is 10 minutes long, i always get halfway through the song and i just think "i wonder if people are liking it or if they're wondering what i am doing" it's difficult to actually hear it... sometimes i wish i could just have amnesia for one day, sit down and listen to the cds cause i might not even like them then.... it's difficult, but that's what i'm trying to do...
BH: yeah, i was thinking that, you spend so much time building the songs that it must be hard to actually feel the people's reaction...
ME: until the end of the song... yeah it's quite hard.
BH: do you tour in the US ?
ME: i don't go to fascist countries (laughs) no really i'm not going to America cause i'm not having my retina scanned, i don't agree with that, i'm a free person, i don't believe in true fucking liberty, you know, "freedom", but actaul liberty. what i like about Europe is that you can cross borders freely, it's much more civilized that way, i'm not going to beg to go to a country... i feel sorry for the american fans who'd like to see me but i don't feel free there to say what i want to say and do what i want to do so i avoid going to places like that... you know it's too easy, with the patriot act, it's too easy to get into trouble just for saying what you feel... so i won't be going there i don't know if they'd allow me there cause i've got fucking police records you know, for smoking joints
BH: i was going to ask you about this, many of my friends, when i first got into Third Eye Foundation told me it was great music to listen to when you were high, are drugs are part of the recording or of the songwriting?
ME: I think i've learned that mixing drugs and stuff isn't great. I'm trying to record and write songs without it and then light a spliff during the mixing...
BH: What was the first band you were in ?
ME: I was in a school band but the first band i was in was Linda's Strange Vacation, we never released any record or anything, we didn't have any equipment at the beginning but eventually we got guitars and stuff and then Kate and Rachel went on to do Movietone and David Pearce joined Linda's Strange Vacation and he went on to do Flying Saucer Attack, i was in FSA for a while and then we went on different ways.
BH: do you feel like having other people join you during the recordings?
ME: no (laughs) i've worked with Chris (Cole) who you may have seen in primavera but.... on the Vania project there's a Spanish violinist who i'm bringing in, cause i can't play the violin obviously and a cellist from Encre and a pianist from Belgian band Half-Asleep, but... i'm in charge and that's the way i work, i have to be careful... when i first started Third eye Foundation it was with my girlfriend at the time and there was a big conflict over who's thing it is and i just had to say "it's my thing, you do your thing, i do my thing"... that's what's good about Chris he has his own project and he does what he wants with his stuff and then he does what i tell him, he comes up with his stuff obviously, he came up with a lot of stuff on Drinking Songs all the cello stuff he wrote himself... but i've been in so many fucking bands that ended up falling out because of stupid things, i'm just trying... to keep it as close to myself as i can but obviously i can't play every instrument in the world so i have to ask people to do stuff as well.
BH: are there bands or artists you'd like to play with ?
ME: hmmmmmm... i'd love to do some stuff with Tom Waits! (laughs) I really enjoy Half-Asleep that Belgian band it's one of my favourite bands of the moment... the thing is when you start working with stuff you like you end up hating it, i've been doing music now for 12 years i can't even listen to music now, if i'm in the car i prefer silence... Yann (Encre of Encre and Thee Stranded Horse, touring with Matt Elliott) is like "oh let's put on this, let's put on this" i just don't wanna hear anything... but, having said that I do, i really love Tom Waits, but i only discovered him quite recently cause i was being compared to him after The Mess We Made so i thought "oh i'll listen to that" so, it's quite nice to hear something that gets you excited about music again, like when i first heard Joy Division... but i'm trying to distance myself from the things i really love... I'd really like to work with Half-Asleep. There's another band as well but i can't remember the name... i get send out demos and one in every thousand is ok and i'd like to do something with but, you know...
BH: did you ever meet the guys in Arab Strap ?
BH: it sounds like quite a match to me...
ME: i really like their second album but i never... i should really lsten to their other stuff, i have listened to the Lucky Pierre record and... maybe... i mean if they asked me i'd probably work with them because i just don't know them that well so it'd be an interesting mix...
BH: that's it! thank you very much, it was a really great show
ME: glad you liked it!
/july 1st 2005/