For the last few years, everything has been falling into place for Matt Tolfrey. He’s been billed alongside the likes of Richie Hawtin, Damian Lazarus, Craig Richards, Ricardo Villalobos and Andy Weatherall to name just a (very) few. He’s played at some of the best clubs in the UK, including regular slots at Fabric, and worldwide he’s guested everywhere from Ibiza , to Berlin, to Australia. In this frank interview with burlington project Matt tells all.Q: How did it all kick off for you and dance music? What did you grow up listening, and when how and why did you decide to move from being passive to active?
A: When I was younger I lived abroad so I was not subject to dance music till an older age. I used to play the bass in a band and I was into all sorts of rock from Nirvana all the way through to Metallica. When my brother moved out to where we were living he brought with him a load of mix tapes from England and I was hooked straight away. It wasn’t till I moved back to England when I was 16 that I decided to buy decks and give the djing a go.Q: How did you break into production and getting yourself noticed? Was it just sending tracks to the right people or something else?
A: Production wise I don’t think I have broke it yet really. I ran a label and did the odd thing on there with other producers, but I have only recently started buckling down alone in the studio myself. The only single I have had on another label is The Horn with Craig Sylvester on Crossotown Rebels. That came about by a chance meeting with Damian Lazarus at Stealth nightclub in Nottingham where I was djing, and he asked me if I had any demo’s. Craig had been busy, so we sent him some stuff and he signed two tracks straight away.Q: Looking through your discography, there’s a lot more remixes than original productions there. Is it that you prefer remixing, or that you find making original tracks a lot harder? Or neither?
A: I have settled down working with two people more regularly now in Inxec and MarcAshken. They are both at the controls when we are in the studio and I lend my ears and my thoughts to everything. I am still learning when it comes to producing. I think the higher number of remixes basically comes down to time management really. Both Marc and Chris (Inxec) have their own work to do also, so when we get together we generally have remixes to do instead of originals. We are concentrating more on some originals now, Inxec and I are just putting some finishing touches to an absolute bomb we’re sitting on and Marc and I have been hard at work on our T.A.S.H. alias. We’ve got a single coming out on Leftroom early next year called Babygirl. Q: The stuff you make with Inxec tends to be a bit bouncier and more mischievous in a way than your other stuff. How does it work when you get in the studio together? And how did you start working together in the first place?
A: Chris (Inxec) is a very old friend of mine from Nottingham, so we have always been in the same circles for many years. We got together maybe 3 years ago in the studio and have never really looked back. Chris is a genius producer, as his Contexterrior releases show, especially with Reason and is very detailed when it comes to his own music. I think when we make stuff together we are more groove based and think more about the dancefloor. We have had the opportunity recently to work in a proper studio in Nottingham above Bar Eleven in Hockley so it has definitely helped our sound. We basically get together over a couple of beers and chat about any ideas we have. We then put anything on the table in terms of vocal ideas, and listen to any tracks that we are feeling at the moment to make sure we are in the right frame of mind. We don’t get as much time together as we would want so sometimes it does add an extra bit of pressure on us to not be so experimental. Chris is always at the controls and he just jams away. We decide on parts and percussion and then everything just flows really. The bassline to us is obviously one of the most important parts. It is a process that cannot really be explained as sometimes it just happens and sometimes it is a real struggle to make music. Remixes are often a lot easier to get into as there are parts there already to work from which kind of create the ideas for you. Q: Your productions are very intricate – how long does it generally take you to complete a track?
A: With Chris is it is anything up to 24 hours worth of studio time, with Marc it varies. Sometimes Marc and I can get a groove down in 5 minutes and can pretty much finish a track in a few hours. It really does depend what kind of track you are making I guess. Q: Do you think today’s minimal techno makes sense if you’ve never taken drugs?
A: I think all music makes sense if you have not taken drugs. You do obviously need to hear minimal techno in a big room of sound with a lot of sweaty people to really hear it at its prime, but I am sure that is the same with most music. Hearing music out and about with other people around you creating an atmosphere is what it is all about really. Q: Who have been your biggest influences as a producer over the years? Is it more techniques or sounds you pick up on, or both?
A: Recently I have been most influenced by the new wave of Detroit washing its way through Berlin in the form of Seth Troxler, Ryan Crosson, Lee Curtiss and Shaun Reeves. They have a real fresh out look on music and it is very inspiring to hear. They are all into lots of different types of music also, which in this day and age is very uncommon. They’re all dicks obviously, especially Troxler, but they are all very close friends of mine. Other than that, the people around me I suppose influence me the most, especially Chris and Marc. I always try and make it out on a night off and go and listen to some loud music somewhere…Q: In terms of “proper” clubbing, do you feel that techno has become mainstream in England in recent years? If so, what’s caused the shift?
A: I do not think it is mainstream, it is still very underground, but I think people are being a bit more open minded about it. You have to realise that some of these dj’s like Richie Hawtin, Sven Vath and Ricardo Villalobos are now massive worldwide stars, so with them leading the charge it can only be a good thing. I think sometimes people get bogged down in what they are into and they just assume that that is now the most popular thing around. In London especially there is still a heavy market for all types of dance music, more so now than ever.
If you’re a techno freak, line-ups on the continent tend to offer a lot more for your money than here, due to the vast majority of producers being based in continental Europe it seems. Although it seems to be on the up, why do you think there are so few big techno stars from our shores?
You need to look at the history of techno in most countries to answer that question. For example techno has been a big part of German Dance culture for many years so you will find that a lot of budding producers are making that type of music from a younger age. It is also a lot cheaper to live in most of these European countries that you talk of which really does help things along. If you have a fulltime job it is always going to bevery hard to make it in this industry.
Back in the day we ruled the world of progressive house because it had been around and evolved so much here and that is what the kids were into. I do think there are some stars of the future waiting to pop up over here though; it is just a matter of time, and we will definitely be putting our own touch on the music.
You can catch Matt with Anja Schneider, FB Julian and Future Boogie for their recession session! they will be rolling out 100 more of their £8 and £10 tickets available through ticketweb and resident advisor.