P&C interview: Matt Emery / by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

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Already familiar with the composer scene, having released several singles and with his works featured in ads, trailers, and theatre, UK composer Matt Emery is now releasing his debut album, Empire, via Injazero Records. With an interest for music sprouting from his early years and growing steadily along with him, Emery found his particular sound early and put his heart and soul into expanding and excelling at it. The album shows clearly the hard work Emery has put into getting where he is now, and the grandiosity and emotive palette of his music is positively entrancing.

How were you introduced to music? When did you start creating your own? 

Music is something I’ve always loved as long as I can remember. I started drum lessons at the age of 6 (because at 5 sadly my legs weren’t big enough to reach the pedals) which I carried on until I was about 20, and I have spent most of my music career drumming in bands (mostly rock and metal). I also started to learn piano at 6 but gave that up after about a year as the teacher was really strict and always said; ‘well I bet you could do that if it was on a drum kit’ so I left that to one side and just focused on drums for a while.

Fast forward another 6 years to secondary school and that's where the fun really began. In music lessons we got the chance to start working on the computer and making music on Cubase, which blew my mind, I was instantly addicted. I was really lucky to get Cubase at home along with a little midi keyboard at about 13, and I would compose and write every night or at the weekends when not playing football. At this stage in my life, I was mostly writing dance and garage tunes, finding the flute setting on my midi keyboard and playing it on the lower octaves to produce the phatest Sub Bass sound I physically could. I also started playing drums in bands at this time also discovering grunge, punk, emo and nu metal, they were special times. 

Did you ever study music? 

After scoring an A in my music GCSE for imitating a rollercoaster in my improvisation exam on the drums, and feeling my low end flute led dance tunes were finally getting the recognition they deserved from the GCSE examiners, I decided to really concentrate only on music and went straight to Music College at the ACM in Guildford. I studied there for 3 years, doing 3 separate courses receiving diplomas in Production, Vocals and Drums. 

Could you describe your creating process for me?

There is no set way to be honest, but the majority of my music starts on the piano or synth if I’m writing string pieces. I always start with a riff or little idea, occasionally everything comes together and you can almost improvise or produce a whole piece in a matter of minutes, but most of the time I write riffs and ideas and record them on my phone. I have hundreds of ideas recorded down. Normally if it’s something that I still really like after 2 or 3 weeks or keep coming back to when I sit at a piano it’s something I’ll develop further until I have the full piano part written, which I’ll record down as a demo on the computer. I’ll then start writing and recording the string parts and add a little synth or sub-bass if some extra depth is ever needed.

Then the real final stage is when I write something I like enough to record properly with other musicians (I’ll normally make sure I have enough pieces for at least an EP or Album, as this part isn’t cheap). At this stage, I normally give my good friends James Kenosha (producer) and Fraser Bowles (Cellist) a ring and book some studio time as I really like just worrying about the performance at this point and not worrying about the technical side of things. Then we make a record. 

What is your biggest inspiration when composing? 

It’s all about connecting and letting yourself go, I just want people to be able to connect with the music in the same way I do, in a form of a big audio hug. Every piece of music is like a different case or cocoon that I would like people to get inside and just listen and experience, whether that’s in the form of seeing certain pictures or visuals in their head or provoking certain feelings within themselves. Music is just so much more than hearing – it’s energy, whether contained in a record or presented live, and it is trying to connect the listener to that energy which is my biggest inspiration when making or writing music.  

What can you tell me about Empire?

Empire has been a long time coming, I recorded it in its first incarnation in January 2014. It was initially a split between instrumental piano and string pieces, and upbeat tracks including drums, choirs and synths. The hardest thing was trying to find the record a home and somewhere it would fit. I had spoken to a handful of people but when Injazero Records sent me a message one day after hearing my track ‘Effervescent’ on Fat Cat Demo’s page I got really interested in what they were doing. I met up with Siné who runs Injazero and was pretty inspired by her vision and the other artists she was signing. It took a couple of years to then shape Empire into the record it is now, but we decided to go down a more instrumental and focused piano and string path. I actually wrote Empire, Louloúdia, and Orpheus just before going into the studio to complete the record on the second stage of recording and can’t imagine the record without them now.  

How does it feel to be releasing your debut album? What were your thoughts and expectations throughout the whole process?

It’s really nice to finally have it released as the last nearly 4 years I’ve been in a bit of limbo with no official releases to promote, which has also made gigging and performing very minimal too. It’s just been great to start really pushing things forward. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I always set myself high goals and targets and have certainly ticked a couple of boxes which is good. I managed to sell out my debut headline show at St Pancras Old Church and perform it with a 7 piece string ensemble which was the first time I’d heard a lot of the pieces played entirely in their full form (as in the studio I’d had 2 or 3 string players come in to record all parts to keep budgets down). It’s been amazing to have support from the likes of Huw Stephens on Radio 1 and being Song Of The Day on KEXP was a real highlight too. Also just to hold my record in my hands on Vinyl is always a special moment.

Were there any significant differences/challenges in composing your debut album as opposed to the works you’ve previously created?

It’s just been very satisfying. Previously in bands I have sat in a practice room for hours carving out a new track between us all with everyone having a thought and opinion. It’s all about compromise which is not a bad thing at all but this time around I got to see more of my own visions develop to where I wanted to take them or see them which was nice, but on the whole it’s been a great experience. I just want to keep writing, performing and pushing on now. 

Any particular moment in your history with music that stands out to you the most? 

I had my music used on an online GoPro Camera ad and it went viral very quickly, it was quite surreal watching something that I had soundtracked getting that much attention and having so many people asking about the music and track. Also again performing my tracks live with the ensemble at my album launch was a real highlight, I’m looking forward to doing that again. 

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