‘Crystal Caverns 1991’
In the space of just five years Matt Cutler – Lone – has established himself as one of the UK’s most vital and visionary young producers.
His new album, Galaxy Garden, is due out in May via R&S Records, and is preceded by the single ‘Crystal Caverns 1991’, which you can stream stream via the Soundcloud player above, on March 26. Continuing a steep evolutionary curve that began with 2009’s opalescent hip-hop fantasia Ecstasy and Friends and continued with 2010’s sparklingly psychedelic house tribute Emerald Fantasy Tracks, Galaxy Garden is Cutler’s most convincing and compelling work to date, brimming with energy and ideas.
FACT caught up with him to chat about the inspiration behind the album and his tireless mission to capture the feeling of having one’s mind “fucking blown” in a rainforest at night.
“I try to communicate as much of my imagination to the listener as I possibly can.”
How did you find yourself releasing an album through R&S, and what have been the advantages of doing so?
Matt Cutler: “The whole thing with R&S really sort of came about during the time I did that ‘Emerald Fantasy Tracks’ thing, when I was well into doing like house tracks and stuff. They contacted me and said they wouldn’t have minded releasing those tunes themselves – so we talked, and I ended up signing with them. So i did the Echolocations EP, which was basically other tunes from that period of writing, then once that was out I began the next phase – which has ended up being Galaxy Garden.
“Being on R&S has meant a lot less work compared to having to release your music yourself, on your own label. That meant I could chill to some extent, and just get on with doing tracks – in theory. Typically for me though, being with them brought new worries – I had to do an album for R&S Records. To be honest though I do worry far too much about these things and all in all, it’s been fucking amazing to be part of the label and work with those guys. I’m excited to see what happens for sure.”
Is there a concept behind Galaxy Garden, a thematic thread linking together the various tracks?
MC: “With all my albums, I guess my plan is to try to communicate as much of my imagination to the listener as I possibly can. That’s the main thing for me – I imagine certain scenes or atmospheres, feelings that I can’t necessarily put in to words, and hopefully that comes through in the melodies, beats and even just background noise… I always want it to be as visual for whoever is listening to it as it is for me.
“The way I picture this album – is that it’s set in a rainforest at night, looking up at the stars. Looking at space from the ground up and having your mind fucking blown…”
“On Galaxy Garden, that’s what I’ve pushed more than on anything else I’ve put out. In that sense this is the natural follow up to Ecstasy and Friends, I reckon. Other than that, I really find that the older I get, the more aware I am of the beauty of nature, science, people and everything around me. I really don’t meant to sound pretentious at all – it’s just that I really do think my music is an honest representation of everything around me. Hopefully I’m channeling as much beauty as is humanly possible through the tunes…
“Visually though, I guess the ‘concept’ – or just the way I picture this album – is that it’s set in a rainforest at night, looking up at the stars. Looking at space from the ground up and having your mind fucking blown… that kind of thing [laughs].”
So did you have a strong idea of what you wanted the album to be before you sat down to make it, or did its sound and feel arise naturally out of tinkering around?
MC: “When I came to start the record, I had a complete creative block for a couple of months, plus I was playing so many gigs. Finding the time to get going with it properly was proving difficult. It was a total nightmare for a while, quite terrifying actually. Eventually though, out of nowhere, I made ‘New Colour’ – that was the first thing I did, and it’s ended up being the opening track.
‘New Colour’ was a total springboard for me – it was the first track I’d made which wasn’t a 4/4 house tune in well over a year and it just flowed so naturally, like all the best tracks do. I was so happy when it was finished, though I couldn’t tell whether it sucked or it was the best thing I’d ever done; either way, at that point, I was just ecstatic that I’d finally gotten somewhere. So no – there wasn’t a preconception of what I wanted the record to be at all until that point, but once I’d written that I could picture the whole thing, the feel of the record was kind of set from there, basically.”
“I’m sort of chipping away at a big idea and getting it more and more defined. Eventually – hopefully – it’ll be like literally looking inside my head.”
Do you feel you’ve evolved as a producer over the last couple of years?
MC: “Yeah, I think I’m constantly evolving. The way I work generally is, I have a really strong idea which I run with as long as it’s exciting for me. Usually I’ll write the best part of a hundred tracks in that certain style until I’ve exhausted it. Then it’s a matter of taking a break and waiting for the next idea to guide me until I get bored again and with each new, big idea, I reckon I’m getting closer to what it is I’m trying to achieve. Whether it’s referencing the music I loved as a kid, like with the last stuff I put out, or starting again, being as creative as I possibly can and communicating the shit that I find impossible to say – which i think I’ve gotten closer to on Galaxy Garden.
“I’d say that’s how its evolving really – I’m sort of chipping away at a big idea and getting it more and more defined. Eventually – hopefully – it’ll be like literally looking inside my head. Or hearing what I hear or whatever…”
Are you still using the same gear you always used to build your tunes or have you changed things up?
MC: “Slightly different set-up this time, though still nothing special. I’d rather not get into the ins and outs though, because I think the main thing with any music is the ideas – it really doesn’t matter what gear the artist is using. Having said that, this year I plan on building myself a proper studio. It’s about fucking time, to be fair [laughs].”
What did Anneka and Machinedrum bring to the tracks they collaborated with you on?
MC: “It’s like they crawled into my brain and saw exactly what I imagined the outcome would sound like. I really didn’t communicate too much with either of them, they just got it.
“With Machinedrum, me and him have been talking for ages about working together on some production, but with us both touring so much and working on our own records we never got it together. When it came to me doing this record though, I knew I wanted some vocals on there at some point, so I hit him up and asked whether or not he’d be up for adding some vocals to a track or two. Within, like, two hours he sent me back the first version of ‘As A Child’ and I couldn’t believe it, he’d pretty much fucking nailed it. Not only that but he played guitar on it too – I didn’t even realise the dude played guitar. A true professional.
“Within two hours Machinedrum sent me back the first version of ‘As A Child’ and I couldn’t believe it, he’d pretty much fucking nailed it.”
“With Anneka, she contacted me a while back about the idea of doing some vocals but at that point I was totally immersed in doing club tracks and wasn’t looking for any vocals, but I loved what she did with FaltyDL and Starkey. I thought her voice was beautiful, so when it came to doing this album I sent her the tune I’d done with her in mind and she just totally got it without me having to communicate too much at all. I didn’t have to dictate anything, she just worked the tune and it was as dreamy and lush as I’d imagined. I’d love to work with them both again but do it all together in a studio maybe.”
Does Galaxy Garden have as an explicit relationship to old-school rave as some of your older releases?
MC: “The thing with this one is, I’m not directly referencing other styles of music like hardcore, house or hip-hop or whatever. In a sense I feel like this is almost like my first album. Since I’ve been releasing music the idea has been to reference as much of what inspired me in the first place as possible, so initially I wanted to pay respects to hip-hop and old boogie records – shit from when I was really fucking young.
“Then hardcore, jungle, house – the shit that made me want to make my own music. With this one, it’s like I’ve paid my respects and now I’m looking forward. From here I feel like I can literally go anywhere, stylistically. So I really don’t think this album is particularly ‘ravey’, though it’s interesting to hear that some people think it’s the raviest one – I guess that stuff’s just in me. I’m really not trying to reference it all, I guess that’s just the style I play.
“Even when I’m not trying to make rave music, I am making rave music.”
“Having said that, I remember finishing the track ‘Raindance’ and thinking that even when I’m not trying to make rave music, I am making rave music. I guess what I’m trying to do is communicate a feeling of ecstasy or euphoria through the music – like those old hardcore records did, but in a less in-your-face, obvious kind of way. As for where this album stands in regards to current club music – I have no idea to be honest. I totally see this one as a more home listening kind of thing.”
Are you planning to do live shows with this material? Do you think the live shows you’ve done prior to this have informed the kind of music you ended up making?
MC: “I’m getting more and more into DJing to be honest, though I do plan on doing a proper live set with this album, yeah, with visuals. I think that could work quite nicely. I think in terms of live performance or whatever – that really influenced what I was doing before, being in clubs and being with people and and seeing how people react to certain elements in tunes or whatever. This stuff was mainly just about being as imaginative as possible, outdoors, with friends or at home.”
Any other plans for 2012?
MC: “A lot of touring hopefully, I’d love to get back to Japan and New York, plus there’s still plenty of places I’m yet to reach. Other than that, I’ve got a lot of ideas and unfinished new material which I’d like to get done and turned into a follow-up EP to the album. If I have enough time I’d love to get that out this year.”