Matis on Music
Matis on Music:
Before he was Matisyahu to the masses, Matthew Paul Miller was into jam bands and had a strong affinity for Phish. In 2004 he joined JDub records, which is a New York based non-profit record label promoting Jewish artists. Soon that love for Phish would land him a spot performing with the legendary band at Bonnaroo 2005, and in the following year his song "King Without a Crown" landed on the Billboard Modern Rock Top 10. His style blends rock, reggae and hip-hop influences, culminating in his latest release, Light.
I caught up with Matis in his dressing room at the Conan O’Brien show, and we took some time to unwind in deluxe massage chairs before settling down to talk about the new record, the state of the musical landscape, and what it means to be humble, making meaningful music, and inspiring social activism.
URB: I was listening to Light and it sounds more urban and more universal, in a way, compared to Youth. Was it a natural progression and does it feel more like “you”? What was the creative process like behind the album?
MATIS: The way the process took place, the way it worked was, I had a little home studio and I invited my friends to come. The first person that I invited was Ooah from this band, Glitch Mob, and he’s like electro-hip-hop, glitch. I basically started bringing people to work with, so that’s how the record got made. It was made with Stephen McGregor in Jamaica, who’s like a programmer and does drums and electronic sounds. A lot of the beats were made by me beat boxing, so Aaron would play guitar, or Trevor would play guitar, and I would beat box behind it, and program drums into it and we would get different musicians to play over it, like Fishbones. It’s like the beats are all interwoven between program drums, drums and beat boxing, so that’s one unique thing to it.
URB: What was it like working with David Kahne as a producer on most of the tracks, and how did he influence your sound?
MATIS: He spends a lot of time in the studio and very much listens to things over and over and revises things again and again. Working with someone with that degree of precision was unique for me.
URB: What’s the strangest place you’ve written a song?
MATIS: The strangest place I’ve written a song? [Laughs]
URB: I always want to ask this question and see what the response is! [Laughs]
MATIS: Hmm. That’s hard. [Laughs]
URB: Are there a lot of strange places…?
MATIS: I’m trying to think how every song was put together. I don’t know how strange it is, but I’ve written a song during sound check.
URB: What song was that?
URB: How do you get inspired because I feel like you’re like most of the musicians that I really admire because it’s as if you live your music making something that’s meaningful and it works on different levels. I’m wondering how did you come about doing the charity, “One Day For Change”? I feel like you’re taking your message and what you’re all about to the next level.
MATIS: The main idea with that, “One Day For Change,” is like you were saying, to get inspiration from the music and then to take it and do something and to bring it down to the next level of action. It’s a way for people to use all the different things we have now, like the Internet and Twitter, Facebook, and all that.