Interview/MP3: On Electronic-Pop Big Shot Matthew Dear’s Ominous, Slurpy “I Can’t Feel”


Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.

Matthew Dear is a legend in the making when it comes to brooding, acid-bathed electronic pop. Though he records under a ton of guises (Audion, Jabberjaw, False) and co-founded the mighty Ghostly International Records in 1999, his proper solo work is his calling card, mixing the murky distorto-crunch of the Detroit underground, the minimal touch of microhouse, and the gloom-soar of goth-friendly new wave hooks.

Plus, since the release of his critically acclaimed Asa Breed in 2007, he’s now officially a New York resident! Dear has arrived to our fair city to provide a darker-edged, quasi-industrial counterpoint to the shruggy disco-punk escapism of DFA. His fourth album, Black City (due August 17 on Ghostly) is his ominous best, a dubby electronic dirge that draws a perfect line between Berlin-era Bowie, ’80s EBM, ’90s house, and newish mopemakers like Cold Cave and the xx, complete with haunting lines like “I’m in love with ghosts.” First taste “I Can’t Feel” matches a slurpy, squelchy beat with some of the bleakest funk around, wherein Dear lays out his existential crisis about balancing art and friendship, just like his neighbor James Murphy in LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends”–though he seems way less optimistic about the results. Interview and MP3 below.

Matthew Dear on “I Can’t Feel”

What is “I Can’t Feel” about?
It’s roughly about growing older and finding a balance between your social and personal life. It’s also about animals deciding not to have children. The last verse is about fighting with your lover as a postured act. Arguments in a relationship happening as theatrical dance.

Tell me about the wild sax solo at the end.
[Laughs] Well, it’s actually a wild guitar solo. I remember the Beatles used to seemingly take a song even further at the end, but then fade it out. I wanted to do that. Make the listener think there is an entirely new world at the end of the song that they aren’t privy to.

When did you move to New York and why?
I moved here in May of 2007. I’d visited Tokyo, Berlin, and London, but would always want to come home afterward. New York was the only city I never wanted to leave after a show.

Is the “all my friends” lyric in this song a reference to your new New York digs and the dance music created therein?
No, it’s about slightly losing touch with my friends as we get older. “Days don’t rhyme, with all my friends.”

How did you approach this album different than Asa Breed?
The process was the same: Make a bunch of music at home for a few years, and then select the tracks you want to go on the album. Only on Black City, I’ve acquired better microphones, instruments, processors, and synthesizers. I’ve learned more about mixing too.

It sounds a bit darker…
It could have been the synthesizers I purchased. I was listening to a lot of Gary Numan, too. My soul’s also bit more tired than it was in 2007. I think everyone’s been through a rough few years. Even if you were successful, there was still an undeniable strain on everything. Economically, politically. Darker music makes more sense in times like that.

What’s the most memorable show you ever played in New York?
An oddly memorable show was at Joe’s Pub five or six years ago. It was right after Leave Luck to Heaven came out, and I wanted to sing and play guitar. I think people were expecting a laptop dance set, but I was thinking something like, “C’mon, it’s Joe’s Pub. I have to play an organic set.” I played songs like “Give Me More” and “Deserter” years before they were released. It was naïve, and I’m pretty sure I offended some people.

What’s your favorite place to eat in New York?
Oh my, that’s tough. My most recent amazing meal was at Roberta’s in Brooklyn. We were treated amazingly. Hands down one of the best service experiences I’ve ever had here.

Download: Matthew Dear, “I Can’t Feel”

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