Matt Darey is one of electronic music’s biggest stars and his career has spanned more than two decades, selling over two million albums and singles worldwide. Lee from OTS sat down with Matt to find out more about the man and his music !
Firstly Matt, thank you for speaking with us, what an absolute privilege ! Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My pleasure . I’ve lived just outside of central London for about 25 years, I moved down from Leicester when I got my first major record deal with Warner brothers just after I graduated. Big out door lover , skiing, mountain biking , love extreme sports and dabbled in most. Music is obviously my main passion. Loving my recent journey into the future with 3D music.
You’ve been on the electronic music scene for quite some time now and have firmly established your place in history as one of the greatest DJ’s and producers ever, but can you tell us where it all began? Who or what inspired you into becoming the Matt Darey we know today?
Yeah it’s 25 years since my first trance release Li Kwan – Point Zero. I was an 80’s kid growing up with the explosion of electronic pop music , human league, soft cell, the cure , Depeche mode etc so that was my inspiration really. I was from a very musical family, my dad sang opera, myself and my brothers played instruments from an early age. I won a young musician of the year contest when I was 11 playing the violin, I remember practising for that so much.
What came first, the chicken or the egg? (DJ’ing or production)
I was in a guitar & synth band at school , started writing songs when I was ten. First vinyl I put out on my own label was drum and bass and that got me my first record deal with Sire records / Warner brothers back in 1990.
DJ’ing came much later, 1999 when the guys who made a compilation called Euphoria said about 25% of the tracks on the next album were my remixes or productions so asked if I wanted to mix it, so I learned to DJ for that and did the occasional gig if it involved a vacation trip.
More seriously in 2004 I started touring as a DJ and at the same time launched my mix show called Nocturnal which became my main vehicle for DJ’ing with a drive time Saturday show across USA & Canada on Sirius XM for many years.
You’re most well known for your contributions to trance, would you say that it is your favourite of all the sub genres of electronic music?
Well It was back in the 90’s I was completely immersed in it, but I’ve dabbled in many genres before & since then. I think I always gravitate towards progressive with a bit of trance influence. Even my breakbeat era was very trancey, uplifting vocals and always melody driven music, never been a minimal kinda guy. I still love playing the occasional trance gig but also my deeper and more progressive sounds under my “nocturnal” banner, even so they are 90% song based with beautiful melodies. Nice to have a bit of both vibes for variety.
Nocturnal was a radio show I started in 2004 and as it was one of the few syndicated shows around at the time it grew worldwide pretty fast. That has been my way to discover new music since it began and it has lead me in so many interesting directions, not so much trance but more emerging new sounds and genres.
You have produced many other types of dance music under different alias can you tell our readers a little bit more about some of the stuff you’ve done?
Well back in the late 90’s I was producing so many different tracks, in order to sign them to different labels I had to make up aliases, Li Kwan, Tekara, Lost Tribe, Space Baby, Mash Up Matt, MDM and many more. I guess they all had different styles e.g. Tekara was breakbeat. Lost Tribe was one of the most successful with Hooj Choons.
What would say are the biggest differences between being a DJ / producer now to when you started out?
Since Napster hit the music market in the nuts you have had to do both really if you wanna make a living, I’m talking about the average DJ/producer like myself or those just starting out . They both compliment each other very well of course and inspiration for playing a set is second to none, being face to face with the recipients of your work in the studio.
Back when I started when you could make a living simply by making tracks you didn’t have to do both so I just made the music and was very happy to focus on just that. When I started touring as a DJ more seriously in 2004 I really loved it so did both and kinda kicked myself for not DJ’ing earlier.
I think the biggest difference now is pretty much everyone is DJ & Producer now. You can make music on a lap top which you can take on tour with you. Back in the day many DJ’s were just that, when they did release tracks they used ghost producers.
The trance sound has changed somewhat and also now splits in a multitude of sub genres .. but is that really trance?… What would you describe as the true trance sound ?
I think trance is just a general term to describe anything that has trance elements as the dominant sound within it. Trance influences pop up everywhere as it’s been around for so long, its constantly reinventing itself. I actually think the most interesting tracks with trance influence are well outside of the trance genre.
Very difficult question given the length of your career and the thousands of tracks you’ve played over the years… but what you say is your favourite of all time?
My favourite music that has longevity is always outside of club music but influenced by it, Massive Attack Teardrop always sounds as good as it did on day one.. If I have to choose a club track It would be Maceo Plex’s remix of Sordid Affair by Roykssopp.
You’ve been in the industry a long time now, do you believe that you have the same passion for it as when you started out, and do you still enjoy the lifestyle of a working DJ?
I definitely have the same passion for making music, though my direction of late is generally outside of the popular genres.
I dedicated a year or so into exploring music making in 3D with Dolby developing new techniques that could be used by other producers to make DJ sets in Dolby Atmos, something I’m still immersed in fully to this day as I believe its a giant leap forward for all music, especially new music production. My last album Wolf was made in Dolby Atmos back in 2017.
You’ve got an album coming out very shortly, can you tell us a little bit about that?
My next album is “Retrospective”, its a collection of pretty much everything from the last 25 years that I have made. The twist is that there are many unreleased tracks…….some of my best work that was tied up in horrible legal business and shelved, Eg the Urban Astronauts album which took me 3 years to make. Finally I have the rights back and given that most of the unreleased music wasn’t following any trends it still sounds fresh.
Many of the tracks will be reproduced in 3D (Dolby Atmos) and I’m also pioneering a new format called “Immersive for Headphones” Check this on a pair of good headphones (CLICK HERE) , the LFO noise in the breakdown, it moves 360 around your head……its just the beginning of this new immersive technology which is always improving with time. My album is the first using the new tech.
And we believe you have a boat party organised in London to celebrate it’s launch, what are the details and how do we get involved?
Yeah its 27th July on the River Thames. One of my favourite things to do in the city is head to the Thames on a sunny day, hit the bars and cruise up the river so I hired one of the best party boats in London for the occasion.
I had one for the Wolf album launch in 2017 and it was so much more fun than being inside a club. Also almost half the people on board flew in from all over the world so we have every nationality representing.
I’m putting together a set which covers the timeless classics that still resonate today and of course many of my own classics featured on the album. I guess progressive and trance the dominant sounds of the journey.
Click HERE to purchase tickets
Are there any other gigs in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
Not that many really, my sets are quite rare these days. Just a couple of festivals in the UK & NL. Moving forward I’m going to focus more on making my own parties as I love playing the host, I guess its in my blood!
Historically, do you have a favourite ever event / festival ?
I actually just prefer my own parties, especially open to close so I am free to go where ever I want with the music. Small, intimate, where you feel like your hanging out with everyone rather than up there on the big stage.
Is there anywhere you haven’t played that you would like to?
Well yes, I always wanted to take over some deserted beach spot , get together with like minded music lovers and throw a few parties over a whole week and just live the beach life, something I’ve been thinking about for a while and hopefully will make happen this year, possibly Tulum in Mexico.
In your opinion, is there anyone emerging in the trance scene that you think will become a “legend” like yourself and make a lasting impact?
I’m actually not sure as the music I listen to is outside of trance nowadays. Nocturnal is my way to discover new music. Bands like RUFUS Du Sol look like they are here to stay for the long haul but there are many others too that are making new fresh sounds.
When was the first moment that you realised… “I’ve made it” as an artist ?
Well I guess when I had my first top 10 crossover with Beautiful back in 2000, I thought that was a giant leap forward in one respect but it’s so easy to drop the ball in this game. Now I realise stuff like that is more of a highlight rather than a defining moment. The most important thing is I’m still lucky enough to be making music and exploring new sounds and production techniques.
Do you have any musical “guilty pleasures?
I’m not sure these are guilty pleasures, I have a playlist that has stayed with me for years, tracks that I just can’t get enough of:
I love the classics, down tempo trip hop, since the 90’s its always been my time out music.
What is your craziest memory from your infamous house parties?
Ha ha, I guess those were crazy times looking back. I used to strip out my house once a year, all the furniture, everything had to go.
I hired a club system, lasers, marque, the works and built a club inside & out, then we decorated it in a different theme each time and everyone had to bring their own interpretation of that theme along.
They used to go on for days, kick the last person out five days later. The house was miles away from any other neighbours so I got away with it for years till people in the next village started to complain and finally the police shut it down. Can’t believe I used to do that, I guess it was invite only but that went out the window most times.
Finally, if you had to be stuck in a lift with three people for a few hours, who would they be and why?
I guess Brian Cox, Michio Kaku & if it was a few year back Stephen Hawking, chat about life the universe and everything.
Matt, thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedule to talk to Lee from ON THE SESH, you are a continued inspiration and have made a massive impact on our scene. LEGEND.
**Thank you to Nic Grecas, Laura Dobson & Carmel O’Gorman for their question contributions**
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