Mindfulness _ Interview with Mattias Fridell
Active since the 1990’s, Mattias Fridell was initially inspired by EDM and the developing techno movement in his native country – Sweden.
Fast forward to the present day and his talent as a DJ / Producer is pretty damn obvious, releasing on Compound, Labrynth, Tonal Path, Audio Assault, Gynoid Audio, RE(FORM), Punish, M_GREY, Audiolabor and Teskoba to name but a few. A master of all trades, his epic take on gritty, dubbed out techno helps him to rise above the rest.
There may be evidence of him being a cool guy in this interview.
How is life Mattias?! What shit are you letting slide to do this interview right now?
Ah, life is good sir, summer and all is here so yeah…good! I’m letting my sleep slide to do this interview, so nothing important.
Describe yourself in 5 words.
Creative, Picky, Relaxed, Daring & Hungry.
Whereabouts do you live? Are there any problems with making music / neighbours?
Since its Sweden, it’s an urban country hybrid haha. I live in a small industrial city in the Swedish highlands. Its acclaimed for aluminum production, a speedway and a few artists who originate from here. No problem for making music. My place is located in a facility held by my parents so the rent is close to non-existent which is brilliant hehe. It’s difficult to find a decent place elsewhere around here where you don’t disturb your neighbours, so where I am is ideal.
How has Sweden coped with the recession / economic crisis / global ridiculousness? Is it a good place to live?
Sweden has noticed the crisis during the years of course but we managed fine. Our economy is stable and I think we are the 4th most stable economy in the world. It’s all thanks to the solid base we had built up over the years. Sad to see that it’s all falling apart these days. Since Im a creative person as well as a free-thinker I am disgusted with politics, especially our current government which focuses more on driving cancer patients and other extremely ill people to go work or they cut their insurance.
They operate like a major company, preferring to preserve wealth and assets at the expense of the people, instead of evolving society and taking care of the citizen. The people are to blame as well of course. Many Swedes are introvert beings only caring about themselves.
So.. down to the nitty gritty – When did you first discover music? Where did it all begin?
I have a huge & varied influence of music from day one. Everything my parents listened to of course. I grew up in a very musical family. However, modern music got me hooked. Four on four beats, rap and synths. If the first stuff I heard was commercial dance-music & 80’s disco stuff – it still sounded cool. It didn’t take long before rave culture hooked me and my friends and we began to collect records, begging our parents for money hehe. We never had any cool record store here so when we got old enough we took the train to bigger cities to check out their record stores. We loved to sit and make primitive mix-tapes with the music we bought. Everything from hardcore, acid to UK Rave hypnotized us.
So I guess those mix-tapes as well as collecting and looking for records we liked was what influenced me originally. The jazz thing came much later, Im into moody jazz mostly. Sweden got many skilled jazz-artists. I havn’t played much jazzy stuff for a while, apart from some jazz influenced stuff under one of my aliases.
..and what was school like? Were you a good student?
Hmmm, I think it depends who you ask hehe. I was good at learning fast.. at least the stuff that I found somewhat interesting or more fun then math and sports. I was good at most subjects though and I left school with good grades. Everything except math and sports!
I never studied much and I didn’t care either. School was a horror from when I turned 13. Now afterwards I realize we had it very rough with a terrible system and nasty teachers. Not all of them, but many. I was always the entertaining guy with the smart ass comments and the big mouth haha. Man, I drove some teachers nuts. Haha you know when I meet with my old friends who were my classmates we get all nostalgic and talk about school stuff and all nasty stuff we did. Oh those were the times.
So what did you end up doing after that? What’s your 9 to 5?
I’ve been working as a sound engineer for many years now. It’s been more of a family business with myself & my father running a company delivering sound rigs, providing artists & entertainment and stuff like that.
I stopped taking those major jobs with big acts a few years back, it was just too much work. 90% of all work been with national artists but I’ve provided the sound-rigs and system engineering to more international acts as well. I guess Soundtrack Of Our Lives is the most famous one from here that you would know of. Even thpugh I really like it, I’ve been slowly decreasing the number of jobs as a live sound engineer the last years. However, I want to focus on DJ’ing again. See, I had to choose if I wanted to continue DJ’ing or to keep working with the sound business. I went with the latter since I felt the Techno scene became stale and wasn’t taking the direction I hoped it would. The whole minimal trend meant nothing to me either. So I basically stopped DJ’ing for a few years. I’m back now again though while still being able to work with my sound business.
What are the hours like? Is it unsociable?
The hours are the main problem. Often people do not realize how much and long work there is delivering a rig and building stages, being the PA technician or the FOH technician. All parts cross one another on most work where the audience is between 100-1000 people or so.
It’s far from unsociable work. One of the best thing about that job is in fact the social aspect, all the nice people you meet. There are some weirdos as well though haha but most people are great.
Haha – so I take it that you’ve never had any “normal” jobs then?
Nope! Those normal jobs aren’t made for creative people. Honestly most common occupations are not made for ANY human being. In Sweden being a musician, DJ or producer is not considered a job. Its no career and so it’s hard to explain it for people. So I don’t bother. It’s very weird though since Sweden is such a musician heavy country.
What do you do when you have engineer for something that is like Kryptonite to listen to?
Hahaha. Im used to it and approached everything with the mindset to make it sound as good as possible. That is the only professional thing to do and it’s what is expected of you as well. Things like that makes you more experienced. Embracing and learning as many different music can only be good. Nu-Metal bands with teenagers are something Im having trouble with, the music isn’t my cup of tea and often these bands have a certain attitude and zero knowledge. Though they usually have little stage experience, they still act as some kind of know-it-all-superstars. When I can choose, I love to engineer jazz, big band and acoustic music played by skilled professionals.
Back to the early years again – What were the first bits of music that made you pay attention?
Hmmm…That must have been the tracks on my dad’s mix tapes which he played in the car. They contained various music, mainly from the 60s & 70s. The Beatles, Aaron Neville, Dire Straits, Beach Boys etc. There was tons of other stuff too.. I’d have to dig up those cassette tapes to give you a 100% accurate list 😛
Then what were the first records you started DJ’ing with?
Hmm I cannot recall actually. I was kinda into the whole “Rave” thing when I started buying records and that music was what got me hooked. The first records was likely some euro-dance stuff haha but I left it quickly and moved on to hardcore and rave stuff.
Pleading the 5th Amendment.. Ok! 🙂
We’re delighted to have a mix from you for our June show.. and you’ve carried on the tradition of very strong mixes for subsekt. Tell us about the set-up you used for it? How did you approach choosing the tracks?
I used what I usually use these days, which is a 4 deck Traktor set-up. When I choose the tracks the only thing I wanted was to make a mix with some fresh, upcoming & unreleased music that I really like so I went through my favorite promos to get some tracks together. I had about 40 tunes in the end and I had the 4 starter tracks ready. When I hit record I just let the mix decide it’s flow based on when I played the 4 starter tracks.
Is it different from what we might expect to hear from you in a normal set?
Not really, at least not music wise. When I record mixes I often do a more “laid back” version of a normal set I guess. Playing in front of people gets you more energized and dynamic, it’s another type of flow. When doing mixes at home it’s more about presentation I think. At least I think that way, there is no way one could transfer a set in front of people at a venue to a studio or living room.
So, in terms of venues.. clubs.. Wheres the best place that you have played?
As I said before I’ve been laying low with the DJ’ing during my busy business years. But now I’m so glad to be back. Theres one coming up in the Holland, at the Ostgut Ton party at Doornroosje club with the gentlemen from ESHU, Norman Nodge, Tama Sumo & Pure. Im really looking forward to that gig, I never played at Doornroosje before.
Some of my collegues are out so much its unbelievable how they even find time in the studio. I don’t wanna go there. A moderate number of gigs balanced with a moderate amount of studio time is the ideal. I’m probably more of a producer-guy and if you forced me to choose among DJ’ing & producing, I would have to go with producing. Thinking about that type of schedule scares me! 🙂
One thing is sure, Sweden is not a good place to play. Our scene is non-existent compared to other EU countries.. and yet we have so many well-known and famous DJ’s & producers. It’s always been like that. In the mid 90s it looked like it could end up good but clubs and parties were smashed down quick and effectively here and we even had an organization called the Rave Commission that actively worked to stop parties. They succeeded.
Whats been the biggest disaster that you’ve seen at a show?
Good question! I’ve seen a lot that’s for sure. No idea which is the worst disaster but I’ve been playing when people got beaten up, thrown off stages, audience getting epileptic attacks, moving-heads falling down in peoples heads and stuff.
Also I’ve been through all the classics like the 1210s doesn’t work, CDs doesn’t work, computer restarts, sound card jitters and sub-bass speakers & power amps exploding during the gig haha.
Obviously you produce (as the free subsekt track testifies).. So when did you start? What were your first bits of kit?
A bit of everything in my childhood got me into producing eventually. Those mix-tapes me and my buddies played around with was part if it. We got ourselves a cheap crappy mic and recorded our poor playing on my parents keyboard. We got better and better all the time but I was the one who evolved the biggest interest of actually composing music. My first encounter with a sequencer was the simple sequencer in the same keyboard. I met Alexander Johansson when I was around 12 or something and we realized we had the same taste in music. It took some years after that though, before we decided to create music. At the same time another friend of mine was highly interested in music, Cristoffer Pinaitis Karlsson, but more into rock. I made music with them both individually. Nothing advanced, of course, I mean.. it was our first steps in this music thing.
Getting a serious mixer was a huge step as well. Mixing records more seriously was cool. It was also excellent to plug the keyboard to the phono inputs to get distortion haha. Hardcore and UK Rave records were being bought on a regular basis. Speeded voices, distorted kicks and amen-breaks all over was very exciting then hehe.
Anyway me & Alex indirectly ended up being the most productive team, Cristoffer didn’t live here, and after some time we got access to computers. Acid was the first serious dance-music we produced, due to it was so easy and we had the equipment to do it.
From there we evolved both technically with all the equipment and also musically.. we started making more melody based music. Very cheesy stuff haha. Along the journey we got ourselves better computers and other equipment, synths & samplers and we got really excited about the up & coming Techno movement here in Sweden. Just before that we had our shelves filled with records containing acid, hardcore, trance and techno, and it was techno that eventually took us over. I think we had some Tresor stuff and random compilations with German techno right before we discovered the early releases from labels such as Planet Rhythm, Loop records and the likes. I remember hearing those records, we both were kinda like “ok this is what we gotta do!” so we struggled to learn all about it and to get it right over the coming years. Software stared to show up in small scale and we combined that with some crappy equipment, for example distortion pedals & a broken MC303 haha! We used Rebirth from Propellerheads a lot as well. When thinking back at it now it’s astonishing they released that software in the 90s.
Everything went so fast when we sat there all day.. and every day.. day in and day out.. learning and listening to all new cool records coming. As the years passed we got ourselves synths, samplers and we even had an old Atari in the studio for a while, man that was primitive compared to today. Damn I talk a lot, did you find what you were looking for? hehe 🙂
Did you buy anything at the time that you regretted later and have you got anything from back then that you still use now?
I am definitly sentimental about gear and old music. I sold quite a few things, I sold the MC303 for example but it ended up coming back to a friend of mine and eventually found its way back to the studio haha. I never regretted anything when it comes to material stuff, I am not that kind of guy. I still use some old compressors and gates and other outboard I bougth a long time ago. I have replaced a few mixers during the years though and currently I am running three Mackie desks. Mackie desks been the main mixers I used for most part of my time in the studio.
Can you tell us what your current set-up is like?
My current setup is a combination of in-the-box and outboards. I used to be more outboard based but theres so many good plugins these days that make things I really like.
I am based on the PC platform for the simple reason that I use lots of PC-only plugins & DAW. I like hardware a lot & some of my equipment is essential for me when I work, like my Korg MS 2000. It’s my main hardware synth for the past 10 years. I also like my Lexicon & Yamaha effect units, API compressor, DBX gates, Mackie mixers and so forth. I love my software as well but I have some trouble with all emulations of classic synths. There are some emulations that sound close to the originals but most of them lack a lot if you compare them. I’m more interested in software that does something in its own right instead.
Whats the last plugin / bit of kit that you bought?
Hmmm, I think it was the Kombinat DVA from Audio Damage. I really like that one! All the Audio Damage plugins are magnificent.
Mattias Fridell – Malfunction – 2004
Compared to the loopy, drummy early tracks that you did and the filthy hypnotic stuff that you seem so natural at making right now, theres been a paradigm shift in the sophistication of your techno productions. What would young Mattias have made of what you were doing now?
Tough question. If someone told me what kind of music I would make 2012 I would probably not believe it haha. I still use some production technique I cracked back then and some people even say they can hear some similarities in all my work. I still like much of my old stuff & when looking back at it you realize how affected you are by the current time you live and operate in. Back then everything was always rolling around 135-140 BPM, it was hard, it was nasty and it was about attitude.
There’s still lots of music like that around even now but only a handful of artists manage to make it proper now. The harder Techno was more innocent back then I think. The music I make now is what I call “maturity-techno” haha! I think its quite important to also actually live in the current time, and evolve along with it. Some guys never evolved and kept on doing the same stuff they always did. Thing is; it’s important not to get stuck in the “current time” even though you should embrace it. I guess its kinda like when you arrive at a foreign land, it helps to know the language, but you can choose how to express & say things with it.
Listening to your music, you’re capable of a wide range and you make pretty much every genre of electronic music. Is there a particular element / process that you still struggle with?
What I struggle most with must be that I wanna do a bit of everything and have a hard time to focus on one, two or even three styles. When I had my break from Techno for some years around 2005 to 2009 I made so many different styles of music I got confused. During that time I invented quite a lot of aliases to put the music under, this is something I’ve done for many years but I stopped with it around 2009. From there I just put out everything from Techno, House & more Techy stuff all under my own name, which, looking back now probably was not the smartest thing to do. It confused people. Having realized that I went back to the aliases again for certain types of music or specific direction within the Techno scene. It feels good to make music that way also.
What are the common mistakes that producers starting out are making? What was the moment in your own learning where everything just clicked?
I would say that the most common mistake producers starting out are making is that they do not give themselves time to gain experience. I’ve seen and heard so much about new producers who think they can get stuff out after a few months of beat making in whatever DAW. Beatport and other stores are full of this type of unfinished music and its very easy to spot it too. They should not rush. I heard some new talented guys who rushed a lot in the beginning and released the music as soon as they could and a year after those first EPs came out they are ashamed about them.
Whats the best approach for making a track? Sitting down & designing sounds.. or getting a groove going and see where it takes you from there?
Both ways. Not every new project I start will end up being a complete track. A good track can come by an interesting sound I made. Those days I have trouble making music I often sit down and jam with synths and effects, creating sounds or loops. I record these loops or jams, and if needed cut them & arrange them and put them in my constantly growing folder of personal samples. Also old “failed” tracks are good to reuse this way, often theres something good in them you can keep working on in another shape of format. Sample your own tracks, parts of them or complete loops. I can pick up some weird sound I made like ten years ago and make good use for it in a track, or base a whole track on it. This also makes the tracks more timeless for you. I think that is healthy.
Often a track starts with a jam or me messing around with what I have and when I like what I came up with I keep on building on that idea. After that I implant more ideas what i see fit & arrange the loops or sequences. When I feel I’m done with the, what I call, foundation of my track, I either record the track on the fly or in segments. Nearly always I add some extra stuff along the way in my arrangements though because I think that you are very limited at hearing what a track “needs” when you just sit and listen to the loops of it for hours. The best ideas come when you start to arrange the track, I mean sometimes I even end up changing most everything of the original ideas I had when I start the arrangement.
I can also start a track with a simple kick & percussion sound for example then go methodically forward with the rest of the components in the track.
The free sample pack that you made was superb & got a fantastic reaction online. Have you got plans for another? Is it difficult to add something useful to a market that is saturated with artist packs?
Thanks and yeah, it did get a nice reaction. I’m happy people liked it so much. Every week I get a track sent to me made partially or entierly with those samples, both from known and unknown producers. For example among the first people to make a track with some samples from it was Paul Mac.
There is a new pack coming, a big one. It wont bee a free one though, but it will be way cheaper then any commercial sample pack containing the same amount of material. I’m about to wrap it up and make the final adjustments. The artwork is in the making as well, Lui Urbano and his Egocentric Designs concept is on the job. The first pack was a combination of some old samples I made during the years and some newly made, I just wanted to share it with the people in the scene, producers, DJ’s, listeners or anyone involved in the scene really. I just wanted to be a nice guy and give it away for free! 🙂
I do believe it can be difficult to add something to a market that is quite saturated with flavor of the month samples but I’m not sure. I feel there isn’t many truly useful packs around for techno or any direction of it. Most packs are made to please the huge number of producers that check the Top 50 on Beatport and want to copy that sound. But with that being said Im well aware of the current trends and ideals and that it’s not healthy to lose potential customers so the new sample pack is made to suit those as well. With a twist. I simply try to make sounds people didn’t know they needed for whatever type of electronic music they make. The free sample pack had a huge touch of “me” on the sounds and this new one is much broader musically. You can easily use the sounds in any production ranging from aggressive techno, minimal, dubby techno, Berghain styled techno and so forth.
Will you release it yourself? Or get it on a sample site?
I will do this one myself as an experiment. Then we shall see what happens. Obviously selling it via some sample site is better for exposure and stuff.. but they want a bite of the cake as well. I’ve always made samples and put in packs and libraries. Many years ago I also had a deal with a company that wanted to sell my samples but eh…the company died and I was bound by a two year contract where I wasn’t allowed to sell any samples to other companies. Guess I lost interest to make commercial packs after that up till a few years ago. I do really wanna give this sample business a go.
So things go full circle then? I see that you’re working with Alexander Johansson again, the guy that you collaborated with for your first few tracks. How is that? Is it strange to be back together after all these years?
Alex is one of my closest and best friend and we made hundred of tracks together during the years. I’m very glad he’s back in the scene again after that huge break. He was rusty but it didnt take long before he nailed it all again. At first he was making music like those 6 years never existed, it was 138bpm, savage & nasty haha. He slowed down the tempo and developed new ideas and ideals and he is like me, very broad in the musical range. We know eachother so well so when we started to make some tracks again it just felt like in the good old days – but more mature. We share the same ideas for music and the same interest and the fact that we worked together so many years means that we know eachother inside & out. For example: at our first gig together in 6 years, we played flawlessly without doing any kind of proper preparation. Being two people in the studio or on the stage is always interesting. It’s something that can’t be explained in words. Stuff just happens and it feels very dynamic and alive.
I introduced him to the new connections in the scene I had, among them I also inroduced him to Glenn Wilson, and now he has released on Compound as well as making music with Glenn & me in Glenn’s studio.
Lots of people think we two are Scouts In Bondage, and I cant blame them since it’s Alex on the press picture haha, but he just borrows his face to my anonymous partner. Alex isnt even into the stuff we make as SIB. When this goes public maybe people can stop asking about it haha.
So, whats your DJ schedule like for the summer, any plans?
There are some free dates but I don’t plan to fill them all. I need this summer to relax a bit more and take care fo myself and not rush too much. The whole last year was very stressy for me so I promised myself to let 2012 be a more relaxing year. Now with that being there are nice gigs coming up, label nights and festivals and for those dates I still can fill, get in touch with my booker – 8 Bit Bookings!
There are also some live sets being planned together with Alexander when time allows us to actually sit down and give ti a proper structure. As it looks now we could do two types of sets. One with a dancefloor focus and the other that could work for any art-music festival. Perhaps we could combine them as well. Let’s see what happens after the summer.
Thanks again for the great free track for subsekt. We really appreciate the gesture as you have been a great supporter of the site. So tell us about the next few releases coming up for you?
No worries. It was the least I could do and I dont know if I’ve controbuted with much support besides just hanging around, you are just being too nice sir.
As for the next few releases…I’m not sure which ones are closest to release date haha. But of-course I have much stuff coming up. As for solo releases I will appear with my third EP for Gynoid Audio in the end of July, it’s a three tracker called Paradigm Contamination EP and it’s the follow up to my Echopraxia Cycle from last year. The Hypnotic Room label is launching a deep dub series and starts of with an EP by me. On the vinyl side – an EP for the German Cromosome label is basically done, just waiting the remix to arrive. What else….Oh yes, AFFIN asked me to make an EP for them a while ago and it’s waiting for release date. Besides that I have tracks appearing on several VA releases, for example there is a track by me on an upcoming Counter-Pulse release, it will be vinyl only for a while before it hits the digital stores. The Palette EP on ESHU been out since May but it goes digital soon and I have a track on that one. A track called “With Particular Reference” will be part of the AFFIN Label compilation CD which is mixed by Joachim Spieth.
There is much more but I cannot mention all of it, there’s some stuff which I cannot talk about coming during and after the summer.
I have many remixes coming also quite soon, one for Mas Teeveh’s vinyl release on Nachtstrom Schallplatten and one for Andreas Florin’s album for Planet Rhythm and so on.
Any plans for an album?
I’ve been reflecting about it but… I have too much to finish right now so there is no plan for an album. But if I decided to produce one there is much to consider. I would not just wanna make a ceaseless techno album, the concept and formula must be right. Same with the label. I always like shocking people with music so if I were to make an album it would probably turn out to be experimental in a way no one would expect, the tricky part would be to combine it with what people recognize me for. We shall see what happens, all of what I just said is maybe not even relevant when and if I actually release an album.
How do you like to relax?
I take healthy walks in slow speed, enjoying nature. I am sold on mindfulness & its psychological qualities and I implanted it in my daily routine, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever discovered. I also read a lot. I am highly interested in science, archeology and history and I read much about that. Playing video games are another thing hehe.
Do you play any sports?
I don’t like sports. In my opinion sports is destructive for young people today; the massive demands coming form both instructors, parents and friends is not healthy. Sports isnt about having fun by yourself or together anymore these days. It’s just a huge obsession of winning and being the best. Being a star – even at school age.. I mean, what good can come from that? Of course there are many people with the right mind-set and attitude toward sports and that is all good.
Most Techno people seem to have Cats. Do you have Cats?
Of course! I have four cats but it used to be 5. Sadly one of them passed away a few months ago.
Mattias Fridell + a Time Machine. What would you go back & change?
In my musical career you mean? I would change the fact that I didn’t strike while the iron was hot after our first record ever released. In a way I did, but not hard enough. I should’ve jumped on many of those opportunities that were given us at the time but there was so many changes and things happened around that time, so it was hard to see.
It’s easy to be wise in hindsight though.. But I don’t regret anything.