Matt Lange's dark and heavy techno tracks took me at a time in my life where dark and heavy seemed to sum everything up. Rather than my usual Skrillex-esque preferences, Lange had a driving force beneath his music, the pounding bass, the synth growl, and an overall ephemeral but foreboding feel that compelled you to movement despite the sounds potentially being the soundtrack for your existential crisis.
But this is also the reason he's among my favorite artists. As I came to find out in this interview with Lange, these paradoxical reactions don't seem to be a coincidence, as his work is inextricably fused with emotion and feeling in the context of dark, industrial, techno sounds.
With his newest release, the Escapist EP, Lange delivers three more tracks that embody his signature sound. The mau5trap
artist took a second to chat with me about his latest release, as well as his career.
Only the Beat:
Starting with the Escapist EP, where did you come up with the title?
Without revealing too much, some people have greater escapist tendencies than others. When I wrote the title track back in September I was dealing with that again.
I noticed the title track definitely had the darker vibe I've come to associate with your music (mostly through Patchwork
) but the other two tracks struck me as more "upbeat" (though that doesn't feel like the right word) and bubbly. What made you put these three tracks together for this EP?
Matt Lange - Escapist
It was as simple as the order in which they were finished. The title track is almost a sister to Unsettled
, which I put out in September, and both Book Biter and Count It came from modular synth explorations and writing melodies with a modular sequencer, which accounts for the more melodic nature of those two.
What about techno-ish tracks speak to you as a creator/artist? I know you're involved with other, less dance music-y type work, but most seems to be the darker, beat-oriented tracks like those I mentioned above.
I have the most fun as a DJ when I play techno. It gives me the most freedom in how I can play the tracks out since they tend to be more minimal in general. You can stack bits of four techno-ish tracks together and it sounds new and exciting. If you do that with tracks that are more melodic it quickly becomes a mess that nobody wants to hear. Ever. Consequently, when I'm making club tracks I'm really just making tracks to fit a space in my DJ sets. They've become tools for the greater picture more so than individual statements.
How do you view your earlier work compared to your most recent releases? For instance, I was listening to the Anjunadeep compilation from 2013 earlier today and it is SO different from Escapist. Do you feel you've become a better producer?
I think when I was younger I really wanted to stick a lot of ideas all into one format. About the time I really started DJ'ing more often I quickly discovered I didn't really want to play out any of the tracks of that era. I'm certainly a better producer in general these days, but most of it has to do with knowing what to do at the right time. I've allowed my club records to elevate the fun I have DJ'ing, and my more experimental records allow me to flex the muscle of being more self indulgent and not worrying about a club crowd's response.
Where do you start with a track? What is the foundation, how do you build from there?
It depends so greatly. Sometimes it's out of the sheer need to create, and if that's the case I just build what I need to express, and I often tend to lose a lot of myself in the process. Other times it's more directed and systematic. When that's the case there's a specific goal for the track, and then it's just a matter of mentally deconstructing it followed by realizing it.
I know simply from all the crazy machines you use and from the interviews you have done (like the one on Pensado's Place) that what you do is different than an average EDM producer. But as someone who can't even begin to understand what people are talking about when it comes to modulation and oscillators and synthesizers, what is it that you do that is so different in incredibly layman's terms?
For me, I just need to physically touch things. I'm a musician first, producer second. My favorite melodies and chord progressions have almost always come from playing guitar, or on occasion piano or singing. I simply don't get the same satisfaction from composing inside of a laptop. The same thing goes for a lot of sound design. Physically being able to grab a knob, a microphone, an instrument, and hearing the effects of your hands manipulating sound excites me. I'm fairly envious of those who can get that same excitement through just a laptop. I just don't function like that.
Matt Lange - Kingdom Austin Afterhours SXSW 3/17/17
OTB: I know you've said before relationships are what drive a lot of your inspiration musically. Is there a positive/negative emotional correlation with certain tracks depending on what their inspiration was?
The tracks that are heavily emotional will always transport me back to exactly where I was when I wrote them. For that reason I choose not to listen to some of them, and others I choose to listen to exactly for that reason.
You've recently been on a Mau5trap Presents Beats 1 Radio Show, worked with Mau5trap, Anjunadeep, etc. What's been the biggest career moment you've had so far?
It's hard to say. After a while, these events are just another thing that has happened. It's nice when it does, certainly validating and can briefly make you feel pretty great, but none of it is particularly life changing. It's your career, and if you stick with it for a while the credits tend to make a pretty nice list when you look at it objectively. My biggest career moment recently has been taking complete control over my career with no one left but a lawyer, and while that has brought forth a whole new set of challenges, I'm more excited and in general happy than I've been in a long time.
What's your casual playlist at the moment, as in what you're listening to driving or on a plane? I know you're a big fan of Tool, but anyone else?
ML: Minus The Bear
- Highly Refined Pirates, Periphery
- Periphery III, Emma Ruth Rundle
- Marked For Death
Do you find time for significant hobbies outside of your production? Just listening to what's involved with your production, it sounds like you'd have incredibly limited time to focus on anything else.
When you have a home studio and your work often doesn't feel like work, its all too easy to get lost down the wormhole for three days if you're really passionately involved with a project. When I do actually leave the house, however, skateboarding and photography are my two main hobbies. I've been skating since I was 13, so that's a charming 17 years of ankle sprains that I just can't get enough of. My parents are photographers - I grew up surrounded by photography, and for my 30th birthday last year I finally bought myself a nice camera and I bring it along every time I travel.
What are some food recommendations in LA? And New York?
In LA I tend to stick around the east side. There are a lot of great breweries here and the food is often great. A personal favorite of mine is Mohawk Bend
in Echo Park. In New York… any pizzeria. It doesn't matter which one. It'll be the best slice of your life.
What do you have planned next? I know you just released the EP, but tours, singles, etc.?
I have another EP out momentarily called "Punish Me" and that also is the first quarter of the next album, Calliope. These records are much more rock and industrial inspired and my influence from Tool/APC and NIN is much more apparent here. I'm beyond excited about these, to be completely honest, they're deeply personal, heavy, and me in a vulnerable and natural state. Touring-wise, a couple gigs here and there, but no full on tours. I'm completely living the studio rat lifestyle right now.
Thank you to Matt for arranging the interview and be sure to check out all his work, especially the Escapist EP (as well as Ephemera and Patchwork, the two albums that introduced me to his work)!
Connect with Matt Lange