Metropolis interviewed one of Britain’s most renowned electronic sound producers, Matthew Herbert, who is returning to Japan this April for his first Japan tour in 10 years. Herbert opened up about his love of Japan, journey with Brexit and future plans.
Metropolis: You’ve played at Hostess Weekender for three years now, as a resident DJ. Do you have any memorable experiences from your previous tours in Japan?
Matthew Herbert: I have so many. I’ve played a lot over the last 25 years, but I think for many people, particularly from Britain, the first show that you do in Japan is always special. I mean it wasn’t a really big show. There weren’t many people there. It wasn’t like a huge success. But just discovering a new country, a new language and a new style of cuisine, new architecture, new history, was really exciting. When I grew up, I grew up in a small town in the middle of the countryside and I never thought I would ever travel to Japan let alone go back 30 or 40 times and play and travel around. But I still remember the first time I came playing On-Air East and On-Air West in Tokyo for two brilliant eccentric sisters who brought me over and treated me very kindly. For me it was like playing for family. It was a nice feeling to come all that way and to feel like people are listening.
M: So what do you think of the Japanese audience? How would you describe your Japanese fans?
MH: I don’t want to make it sound like I’m trying to be extra nice, but I do find that Japanese are possibly the best audience in the world because I always feel like they do both things you want at a gig. They listen properly and listen respectfully and try to understand what you’re trying to do, and secondly if you do it right, they go crazy. So for me I’m really grateful for those two things. It’s a bit like using both parts of your brain and your body, and that feels really rewarding as an artist.
M: What are some of the things you are most excited about in Japan these days?
MH: Right now, I am really excited by Raku pottery from Kyoto with traditions of tea bowls made in a particular way since the 15th century. So I’ve become very interested in the history of this certain type of pottery and certain type of technique making Raku tea bowls. I saw a big collection at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. That’s been a really great thing for me to learn about.
M: Which city are you looking forward to playing?
MH: I’m looking forward to going to Sapporo because I haven’t been for 15 years or something like that. And I always love going to Kyoto just because it’s so peaceful as a city, because there are no aeroplanes, because it has no airport. There’s not many cities in the world that don’t have an airport. So I love the calmness that you get there. Of course you really notice the calmness in the temples, but just on a day to day basis I really appreciate that. But I haven’t been to Sapporo for a long time, so I’m really looking forward to going this time.
M: What can we expect from your shows this April?
MH: I don’t know. I really don’t know. I think that a DJ show is always an improvisation. So I bring a variety of music, different styles of music, and you make it up on the evening… I guess it would basically be house and techno, but I would also like to play some experimental things as well and try to play some new noises… but it’s basically an improvisation.
M: Your new album concept is Brexit. What do you think of the current situation?
MH: I think it’s good that it’s been delayed because we are not ready as a country for any form of Brexit. We are very divided. And it’s crazy that we’re still no clearer after three years in this process and we still don’t know what Brexit means. I think it’s a really damning indictment of British politics. Personally, I think what should happen is that we should stop Brexit. I mean it’s a ridiculous idea. But for a lot of people in this country, their voices have never been properly heard and they’ve been really struggling to make sense of the political situation. They don’t feel they have a voice. They don’t have stability, they don’t have good jobs, they don’t have a good health service, they don’t feel connected to their community. And a lot of them voted for LEAVE because they were told it would be a positive change in their lives. But Brexit isn’t a positive change. Brexit is making us poorer, making us less connected. It’s not a positive thing. So I think if we’re going to stop Brexit, we need to offer solutions to those people and we need to find a way to bring the two sides of LEAVE and REMAIN back together.
M: What were some sources of inspiration for the new album?
MH: At the beginning of the record I was following the government very closely and it was very much about everything going on with Brexit. And then about halfway through I realized my record was a complete mess because the government was a mess. And because I was following them so closely, it just didn’t make any sense. So I made a decision halfway through to talk about subjects that really mattered, the biggest one being climate change and that actually Brexit is a really big distraction from the real problems that we have in British society as in many other societies, which are climate change and inequality.
M: What’s next? Any future EPs, singles or albums being released in the near future?
MH: I’ve just done a film score for a film called Gloria Bell with Julianne Moore, and that comes out soon. And then I’m doing 2 TV series’ soundtrack. One’s called “Naughts and Crosses” for the BBC and one’s called “Temple.” I’m doing a lot of music to picture at the moment. And then I have my books as well. I just finished a book that was published last year called “Music.”