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by Don Crispy

MATTHEW HERBERT

AN UPCOMING VISIT PROVIDES THE CHANCE TO ASSESS THE LATEST DIRECTION OF THE RADICAL ENGLISH TECHNO ARTIST

”‘classic’ samples are usually around because of laziness.”

IT’S BEEN A WHILE SINCE HE VISITED, but with Matthew Herbert’s events making for some of the most unusual gigs Tokyo has seen, the man has left an indelible imprint on the minds of many.
Who can forget, for instance, his 2002 big band tour? Herbert, at his samplers and effects, presided over an entire big band at the old Liquid Room, sampling them and looping them to create a kind of unusual, hybrid jazz-for-the-21st century.

At the time, the intense and wiry Englishman said in an interview at his Japanese distributor that such opportunities don’t come around often. “No one calls up and says, ‘Would you like to record an album with 20 musicians?’ However, if that’s what you want to do, there’s a network of people to help you realize that. This is particularly the case in Japan, where I have a small but perfectly formed team of people to help and advise me.”

Through his relationship with Plug Lazenby at label and distributor Hostess Entertainment, and with Koichi Kobayashi, formerly of Liquid Room but now of Unit in Daikanyama, Herbert has been able to get his unusual found-sound approach to electronica over to a Japanese audience.

Operating under a slew of aliases, including Doctor Rockit and Radio Boy, Herbert became one of the most sought-after producers of the late ’90s, breathing fresh life into the intelligent end of dance music.

The son of a BBC engineer, Herbert was just another bedroom knob-twister until his experiments in sampling everyday objects began to attract attention. “I first started sampling my intermediate environment in an attempt to create a direct link between what the audience was seeing and what it was hearing,” he says.

“It gave me the balls to stand up in front of 1,000 strangers and try to entertain them with a bag of crisps. It was January ’95 at the Arches in Glasgow that I first tried this out and, rather surprisingly, it worked. Since then I have performed live with everyday objects (bottles, bikes, drills, etc.) and environments… I rebuilt my kitchen on stage.”

Herbert’s expressions have found voice in a flurry of releases on independent labels and more recently his own Accidental Records. 1998’s Around the House was perhaps the most succinct expression of the Herbert philosophy, which insists on using only original samples. “I don’t think it is possible to go too far with a philosophy that is about avoiding repetition... in terms of sampling, ‘classic’ samples are usually around because of laziness.”

A distinct anti-authoritarian radical streak also permeates Herbert’s music. His Mechanics of Destruction tour, featured him deconstructing the detritus of consumer culture by, for example, sampling the sounds of fast-food packaging from McDonald’s, while his website keeps a running count of the cost of the war in Iraq.

Herbert is currently putting the finishing touches on a new album that features a collaboration with singer Roisin Murphy of the band Moloko. Blending phat funk beats with trip-hop, pop and jazz, Moloko have made something of a name for themselves with releases including their debut, Do You Like My Tight Sweater? and, more recently, Statues.

Ruby Blue is due out in Japan at the end of March on Accidental and distributed by Hostess. Look for Herbert to provide a taste of what’s in store on the album by spinning some tracks off it at Cay. Cay, Jan 21. See club listings for details.

Credit: HOSTESS ENTERTAINMENT

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