Alastair and I live in Paris and we are witnessing, and sometimes participating in, the English underground bass music scene that is emerging in the city of lights, and more widely in France. Far from the current effervescency in England (Contact, System, etc…), one observation can be acknowledged: commercial dubstep has been the most conquering. The ‘Youngsta sound’ is pretty scarce, and marginalized by the surging Brostep epidemic (Splash gigs in Paris). As a result, the current situation could dishearten the most forgiving “basshead”. Despite this depressing context, there is definitely an audience for bass infused underground music and a few producers, DJs and promoters try to invigorate the scene. Paris has had the chance to host Mala (Mala in Cuba at La Bellevilloise), Pinch through Release the Groove, and VIVEK and Tunnidge at Glazart. Unfortunately, it is only a small sample of what’s materializing here on the other side of the Channel. The new scene, as we could call it, featuring artists signed to labels such as Uprise Audio, Osiris, Artikal, Black Box, Box Clever, Crunch and even the likes of Chestplate, Deep Medi and Tempa hardly ever play out. Although France lacks similar enthusiasm, the local scene is animated by some producers and labels. As a result we felt the need to feature them through TRUSIK and present them to the English-speaking audience of the blog. It is also a good way to preach in French for the music we love and at the same time make it more accessible to the French public.
To initiate TRUSIK’s “French section” we chose to feature a newcomer from the south of France, one who’s never forgotten about the roots, subs and space. Juggling between finely chopped Drum & Bass and enlightened Dubstep, we discovered him via Deep Heads and J:Kenzo’s Daily Dose on BBC Radio 1Xtra with Neopagan and Distracted (collaboration with Kuantum, his friend from Montpellier). His productions are cinematic, dark, ambient and one could even find some jazz drips in more inconspicuous tracks he keeps up his sleeves. With his solid instrumental background, it is hard to miss his taste for percussions and jazz. Backgrounds, Jazz Drips or even Extrapolated are immediate proof. All these ingredients inject great variety in his tracks. One can feel the dub roots and at the same time acknowledge he’s a good fit in today’s dubstep (Kuantum & Mateba – Distracted or even Whatever Works). He also takes time to collaborate with other artists: War, Habstrakt, Kuantum. Connections are varied and sometimes surprising: Raindrops and Witness with Habstrakt and that improbable remix of Miaow with War.
TRUSIK: Before you tell us more about your music, can you introduce yourself, and your journey so far?
MATEBA: Of course, my name is Matéo, I’m 20 years old, and I’ve lived under the sun of Montpellier all my life. I’ve been deep into music for a long time now. I was bitten when I was a child; first learning about the joy of music selection, recording tapes with stuff I found interesting. Later, I started playing the guitar and then the bass, which has been my favourite instrument for a while. It made me fall in love with rhythm. Despite my “instrumental integrity”, I finally let myself dive into electronic music through Drum & Bass. It was a decisive moment. I’ve been an addict for 7 years now and finally started production 5 years ago. Dubstep appeared later when I felt the need to go back to slower roots, closer to dub. And now we are here!
TRUSIK: Like Icicle, Ben Verse or Kryptic Minds, you initially produced Drum & Bass. How did you step into Dubstep and what do you like about 140 BPM?
MATEBA: Not trying to fit into stereotypes but I have to say Reggae and Dub have a huge influence on my perception of music. As I said earlier, Drum & Bass has been a good way to start, especially with my friend War. We both discovered the complexity of the genre through numerous compositions. Dubstep is more personal, selfish in a way. It gave me the chance to work on melodies and groove, which are harder tasks when producing Drum & Bass. We speak of Dubstep, but lately I have been more into tracks at 135 or 120 BPM in different genres, and still care about the details and avoid the overload of current electronic music. In short, I would say that you should listen to the piano in my tracks!
TRUSIK: As a producer, you had to teach yourself how to DJ. Mixing live is essential to feature your own tracks through a fitting soundsystem. What came first: Production or DJ’ing?
MATEBA: The first two weeks were about production and then DJ’ing. It was kind of simultaneous. As a DJ, I started with a laptop and a mouse. It is a shame but hey, you have to start somewhere and when you are sixteen, Technics are pretty much inaccessible and in London, you can crate dig every weekend… a word to the wise is enough!
TRUSIK: What are your tools? Software? How do you work?
MATEBA: Software! On a broader scale. I am pretty happy with the fact I can handle every type of studio setup. I practice with most sequencers and when I’m not the best technician in the room I just focus on my own ideas and samples. I should add that I do love teamwork.
TRUSIK: Apart from your classical background, what are your influences, labels or artists?
MATEBA: I will forget some but in Drum & Bass; Photek of course, Optical, Break, Calibre, Paradox… When it comes to Dubstep, labels such as Tempa, Black Box, Deep Medi come to mind instantly. Artists like Mala, J. Sparrow, Kahn, Geode… I usually appreciate minimalist music with a care for harmony and melody.
TRUSIK: You had a few releases in 2012. More recently you collaborated with Kuantum on his Wasteland EP (IM:Ltd). Collaborations continue to amount. Did I miss anything?
MATEBA: There is a 12” recently released on Inside Recordings, Black Light / Enlightment produced with Hydro and War. I recommend amateurs to listen to those two Drum & Bass tracks ASAP. More recently, the three of us had the privilege to appear on the latest Dispatch Recordings compilation, ‘Transit 2’ with our track ‘Entropy’.
TRUSIK: After all these collaborations, we are eager to see a solo EP from you, especially with the likes of Neopagan. Is there a release coming?
MATEBA: No solo release planned at the moment but I will have a track on the next Demand Records compilation; Drum & Bass On Demand Vol. 2 alongside War and Overlook. I worked hard last winter and I’m going to start working on an album. I have some tracks ready and new collaborations with those guys are in the works too. There is something coming on Utopia Music soon with a few people you wouldn’t expect to see working together. Surprise! I see myself continuing to work with Habstrakt, War and Kuantum for the foreseeable future too.
TRUSIK: You had a project called Arma (War, Overlook and Mateba). Is it still alive?
MATEBA: Not really. We had a few interesting tracks released on vinyl on labels such as Samuraï Music and Alignment Records but not being in the same area has made this collaboration hard to run. We just decided to continue under our own names and it doesn’t stop us from making music together. You can find more on soundcloud: armadnb
TRUSIK: In forthcoming articles we will attempt to bridge the gap between the French audience and the UK dubstep scene. Meanwhile it’s notable that the French scene is behind and almost ignoring the traditional sound. Even if there are some good gigs, it is hard to find bold promoters who are willing to push new ideas, especially the real sound of dubstep. Do you think this will change?
MATEBA: There aren’t many opportunities to play that type of sound but it is refreshing to see that when it happens, vibrations flow and people get excited. I usually don’t say I am going to play Dubstep. Initially, because nobody knew about it and now, because everyone gets kind of fed up with the dominant commercial sound. It is a bit sad but I have hopes as the family grows and spreads the word. There are many crews all over France who work hard to organise really good gigs.
Let’s hope we can push this sound through some Frenchie articles for TRUSIK. We will try to share the information both ways, featuring the French scene and keeping the audience up to date to help the cause. For now, have a listen to Mateba’s exclusive mix which he recorded for us and discover his influences.