Model 86 is one of those artists you struggle to label as anything but ‘genre-defying’. An avid vinyl collector since his teens, Model 86, or Matt to friends, incorporates his love of music into his own material in the form of his trademark use of samples. His unique take sees him confidently draw a line between New York hip-hop, 70s funk, jazz and contemporary music.
Having produced prolifically for commercials, TV and film, he finally came into his own with his debut EP, ‘Self Help Dance’ in 2015. Following on naturally from that first release, his latest endeavour continues the theme of genre-mashing, but with a more considered structure and approach. Set for release on 8th July, Model 86’s deliciously experimental new EP,‘When You Realise People Are Not One Dimensional Characters In A Movie Of Your Life’.
UK editor Simon Huxtable spent some time recently to explore the mind of this exciting new artist.
Hi Matt, thanks for finding the time to chat to us at Decoded Magazine. How has your week been?
Hey – pretty busy thanks. Been in the studio for most of the week. Went to an album launch thing yesterday [Friday night]
So let’s jump right in, can you tell us about dropping out of Art Collage? What were some of the main drivers for that decision and in hindsight has it been a wise move?
It was a pretty turbulent time for me mentally. I dropped out after about 6 months and 6 months later went to do music instead. I was doing music in my spare time all the time anyway, but I was contemplating doing some kind of English course, but didn’t, I did music.
Wise move? Probably, I still think I’d be doing okay either way, but in hindsight, it did make sense to build on my then obvious, but not so obvious to me then, passion to make and produce music.
Who would you say are your influences both in production and more generally in the music you love?
Current peeps: Hudson Mohawke, Mura Masa, Flying Lotus, James Blake, Jamie XX, FKA Twigs, there’s a Lindsay Lowend track I like, Max Richter, Nils Frahms, some Kanye beats.
Not as current: Brahm’s 3rd, MF DOOM, Madlib, Smif-N-Wessun, Pete Rock, Big L, Ramsey Lewis, this Donald Byrd track called Cristo Redentor, loads of the stuff if I’m looking for samples. I like people who feel free with their decisions, that’s it basically. Confidence and honest.
Many of us have been avid vinyl collectors like yourself. For those that might never have experienced the thrill of crate digging, can you tell us about what it is about vinyl that so enthuses you?
To be honest, I don’t do as much as I used to. I’ll pick the odd thing every now and again. Recently I’ve been going back through some of the stuff I have, but also just concentrating what I like from those breaks and melodies and playing and recording that stuff and treating it like loops and vinyl. It feels like something interesting to do at the moment for me. Just trying to create the hooks and melodies you’re looking for.
Drums though, still have a thing for drum breaks. The thrill of finding something you didn’t think anyone else knew about or someone else wouldn’t think to use in the way you would. I don’t know why, but that was a super exciting feeling. Record it in the MPC and play it back and chop up with the pads.
You’ve had some pretty hefty support for your first EP – Self Help Dance, namely Huw Stephens at the BBC, Clash and NME. How have you faired with the new EP, the rather gloriously named “When You Realise People Are Not One Dimensional Characters In A Movie Of Your Life”?
It’s doing okay, never as good as you’d like (yet!!). Yeah, Huw played MONO a couple of times on Radio One, MONO was the Headphone Moment on the Lauren Laverne show which was pretty cool.
Nemone played it on her Electric Ladyland too – it’s really nice to have them played out on the Radio. Funny to think who would have been listening and what they think – shame I’ll never know.
Can you tell us a little more about the EP? We understand it was written over a 6 month period…
I wanted to explore using quite short samples and turn them into melodies and hooks, basically. That’s what happens all the way through. Not to use whole loops or whatever. Then I’d build the tracks and vibe around those melodies.
I also wanted the tracks to be a little more structured, I know they’re not typical song structures, except maybe Fake… but they’re closer than anything last time. Also to build some tension and relief in tracks. That’s what I was thinking when I was making them.
The vibe of the tracks are all a bit different and that’s usually due to what energy i was trying to get across. Holdin’ came when I found that “holding myself close” sample and I heard the track in my head when I was messing with that. Fake Life Jackets I made after I heard a story during the refugee crisis about the Turkish police finding a factory making fake lifejackets in Izmir. Fucking nuts.
When I heard Fake Life Jackets for the first time, I racked my brains to try to compare it to a more established artist. I couldn’t. Although we have chatted before where I said it sounded like a cross between Mira Calix and DJ Shadow! When you set out to become an artist in your own right, what did you find were some of the challenges you faced finding your own unique sound and do you think there’s more exploration to follow?
I guess you could call it a challenge, but it’s more an exploration. I listen to a lot of stuff I like, try to figure out what I like about that, figure out what I’m trying to make, what mood or feeling or type of track I’m going for and then start there. Sometimes I’ll start with a little melody or something.
There’s tonnes more exploration to do, I feel like I’ve turned a corner after this EP, figured out more about what I’m trying to do and make. Why I’m doing certain things and stuff. My next one’s going to be a bit different. You’ll be able to still see the thread and that it’s me though no doubt.
I touched briefly in the intro on your work with film and TV. How did you break into that lucrative market, and how do you think the work you are commissioned to make stands up against your artist tracks? Are they ever comparable?
Broke into it just hustling for it, got one small break and then built on top of that then on top of that. Sometimes they’re comparable, sometimes I’m just doing whatever i want. The restrictions on what you’re doing make it a lot easier to do most of the time.
I think that’s why at times my MODEL stuff is a bit challenging or whatever, originally, because i was reacting to just working to picture a lot before hand. So I threw my hands up and brain dumped everything into MODEL, now it’s developing a bit.
I’ve spoken to a few artists recently about how they view the pressure of creating a legacy: a body of work they can be proud of. What drives you to make music in the first place, and do you feel in a place yet where you can look back positively at everything you’ve made?
I don’t feel that legacy pressure, but I feel a lot of other pressures or anxieties. I think this EP is okay. There’s a lot I’d do different now, but that’s always gonna happen at the moment I think. I’m excited about my next one.
Sometimes I look back positively; my attitude is mostly though when I make something loooadds of people like, they’ll go back a listen to this and “Self Help…” and think, “what the hell was going on here?” (in a good way) and see the threads and progressions. Hopefully, that’ll happen.
What drives me to make music? What else would I do? I’d still be an artist. I have too much of a chip on my shoulder, too much shit to say, or opinions. But I love music, it’s not been a perfect relationship all the time, but hopefully when the stuff that I make becomes really truly honest to what and who i am, that’ll all help create something worth listening to.
OK. A tough one before we finish! Brexit continues to dominate the news in the UK. What do you think a Britain removed from the European Union will look like?
I’m not sure. I don’t think that much will actually change. I live in east London, and London as a whole is in such a bubble. I’m from a pretty poor part of Manchester and I think people there and in other poor working class parts of the UK feel very disenfranchised and voting out for them might have been a “fuck you” to the establishment because no one listens to them.
I voted in, from a compassion point of view, collaboration, friendship and helping people are things to aspire to, not isolationism or patriotism. IT’S A FLUKE WHERE YOU’RE BORN. I might call my next release that.
Well, it’s been wonderful to meet you, Matt. We wish you every success with the new release, we see big things in your future! Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?
Thanks man. Go tell Beyonce and Twigs I should produce for them!
01// Mura Masa – …Girl
02// Jamie XX – Sleep Sound
03// Steve Reich – Music for 18 Musicians: Pulses
04// Donald Byrd – Cristo Rdentor
05// Tyco – A Walk
06// Mount Kimbie – Before I Move Off
07// Eprom – Hurricane
08// Slugabed – U RIGHT
09// Everydayz – Almeria
10// Le Cassette – Intro
11// Lindsay Lowend – GT40
12// Hudson Mohawke – Chimes
13// Mura Masa – Lotus Eater
14// Hippie Sabotage – Able to See Me
15// Cassette Club – Far Away
16// Aleah Morrison-Basu – Drown or Swim
17// Max Richter – The Departure
18// Béla Bartok – Violin Sonata No.2 BB 85: II. Allegretto