INTERVIEW: Matt Stevens

IK Multimedia's MODO BASS

Recently I met Matt Stevens through Twitter and was blown away by the incredible things he’s doing with loopers and an acoustic guitar. Matt possesses that rare ability to make you forget about the technology and instead focus on the music – y’know, just how it should be. Then you stop and think about what he’s doing with the technology and your brain melts. So then you focus on the music again. Then you notice what he’s doing with technique and your melted brain explodes too.

So Matt, what’s your story? How did you get started and how did you form such a unique vision?

I ended up doing this stuff essentially out of necessity as the band I was in split up and all I was left with was an acoustic guitar and some pedals and it was a case of using the tools I had to make some music. Because of this I ended up using a line 6 delay pedal to layer sounds. Before that I’d played in hardcore indie and metal bands and I wanted to do something a bit different. Before I did the acoustic stuff I spent a year playing jazz standards and classical stuff so I suppose its all in there.

My influences range from John Barry to Sigur Ros to death metal to King Crimson and Miles Davis so I guess this is what happens when you play all on a acoustic guitar.

You seem to have really taken modern technology and run with it, not just with the technicality of looping, but also with multimedia -upstream, YouTube, Twitter, etc.

Now is a fantastic time to be a musician Ustream gives you a chance to play to an audience all over the world from your bedroom and really the most important thing to do is to build a community around what you do. Talk to your listeners – they are nice people, they like the same music you do! Twitter is great for having conversations with listeners and its amazing to get quick feedback on new music. We’ve also just started an online venue at www.cafenoodle.ning.com, we’re beta testing at the moment, join up!

What gear do you use to achieve your sound?

Loads of stuff!! There is a full list here on my website – main looper is a Line 6 DL4 great little pedal for looping – LR Baggs pick up, charity shop broken Ibanez acoustic guitar and a volume pedal plus a whammy pedal for bass lines – all really standard pedals. All the fake keyboard sounds come from fading in chords on a volume pedal, sometimes adding in a Line 6 filter modeller for more extreme sounds.

Who are your favourite loopers? David Torn, Robert Fripp and Frank Zappa come immediately to mind when I think of looping – what about you?

I like Steve Lawson, Fripp, Stephen Scott, Russ Sargeant, Rick Walker, Zoe Keating and Andy Butler too. I see looping as a tool rather than a style. I like what Adrian Belew does and Kaki King. Fripp is the main one I suppose because he was the first I heard and some of his Crimson soundscapes influenced what I do.

Moon Dial has a beautiful Nick Drake-esque feel, before the drums come in and the vibe intensifies. What can you tell us about that one?

Thanks, Moondial is a song for my second album and I’m really pleased with it. My friend Stuart Marshall played Drums on it and my friend Kev Feazey produced it. Stu is an amazing drummer. We added Glokenspiel to my loops and then the live drums at the end. The first album was just guitar but I really wanted to add some different elements to the new one so we have percussion, melodica, drums and even a Mellotron and Fender Rhodes.

I believe when making a record the key is to get great players and producers and let them get on with it, its likes Terry Gilliam says about directing put the right people in the room and you are most of the way there.

You have a lot of technique but you really know when to hang back and when to let loose with the jazzy flurries. Who influences your lead playing?

Mclaughlin, Fripp, Johnny Marr’s use of arpeggios. I really like Bill Steer and Mike Amott’s lead playing in Carcass on the Necrotisism record. I like John Coltrane, Bach and the Beatles – I want to get away from playing lead “licks” and move to a more instant composition melodic style kind of like the Miles Davis school of Modal Jazz although when I’m improvising I’m thinking of arpeggios with added chromatic stuff rather than modes.

LINK: Matt Stevens