Matt Elliott was supposed to be the new guest, at MAT Laboratorio Urbano, for the celebration of our 10th birthday. But we will make up the event as soon as the current situation comes to an end. Four years after The Calm Before, British musician and singer-songwriter recently released a new album titled Farewell to All We Know which is out now via French label Ici D’Ailleurs.
According to the press release, Farewell To All We Know is an instant classic based on the sensitive piano and superb arrangements of David Chalmin, the sensitive cello of Gaspar Claus, the subtle bass of Jeff Hallam (who has also played with Dominique A and John Parish).
This new album confirms Matt Elliott as one of the most significant songwriters of the contemporary music scene with his poetics, the dedication to the writing process and the instrumental embroidery. All this can be found in this new work which brings a new balance, once again designed in a majestic way and with an expressiveness that makes it unique. If there was an art of the soul, Matt Elliott would be the reference point.
Check our talk with him about the creative process of the new album, the current situation, the live shows and much more below.
Let’s start from the current situation. How are you living these strange times and what are the main concerns as musician? And what do you think that we’ll learn from this?
Well I’m hoping that we will, as a society see the inherent flaws in this extreme form of capitalism we are living in and how little it values human life. I’m hoping that we will start to ask fundamental questions about the funding of our health services vs the funding of are military and the arming and equipping of our police forces to suppress dissent because these questions are very important.
We pay our governments trillions in taxes and give them unlimited power on the proviso that they will protect us and yet instead of using that money to keep us safe from entirely predictable events (we had warnings with SARS) it is used to make a few people wealthy beyond the point that they can even spend the money. But we’ll see. Currently the UK govt have failed magnanimously and yet a large number of people believe they have done a good job.
Sadly I think it will take the enormous death toll to actually make people question things. I also hope people will see this as a practice run for climate change because that is a very serious threat that we humans are oh so good at denying and trying to ignore. As for music, I don’t know what will happen, it’s too early to say, all of my concerts have been postponed for some vague point in the future but the reality is we don’t even know if many of the venues and promoters will remain active. However, I do believe that people will always want to see live music so if there’s a way, it will continue…
One of the song of your latest album, “Crisis Apparition” , seems to be perfect for what we’re living. One of the most powerful track of the new full-length. What inspired you in writing this song?
Well actually it is the story of when someone comes into your life, like a fire, burns down your soul and leaves you with nothing but in the end these same people will never be satisfied in their life. I’m not sure it is the most relevant song from the album. I’d argue that Farewell… or Hating the Player are close to what is going on…
“Farewell To All We Know” is your new album. There are two aspects which I’m more interested In. The first is the meaning of the word “Farewell” and what is the idea behind it. The second is connected to the sound which seems to be more minimal than usual. It was an idea of sound which you had since the beginning when you started to write this new album?
Yes I tried a different approach and it was a deliberate and conscious decision. On my previous works I have often used the idea of throwing a lot of chaos, but for this one, I wanted to leave space and a quiet calm, like the calm I feel when something goes terribly wrong and in fact you don’t panic, but you resign to your fate. The title was inspired by the fact that even if we are faced with the increasing and terrifying effects of climate change, humans are very resistant to changing their habits, even if the life of the next generations will be gravely effected. It is a way of saying that if we don’t change, and fast, then every thing we now use and enjoy will have no meaning or relevance in the future.
You worked again with David Chalmin . How was born this collaboration?
I’m very lucky, I happened to meet someone who worked at a famous fashion house in Paris (Agnes b) who dressed his girlfriend and he told her he was a fan. I asked his girlfriend, Katia Labeque to re play a song I had improvised on ’The Broken Man’ and we worked together after that and I’m very lucky because not only is he a musical genius and a really nice person, but he totally understands my vision and musical universe. It is a great pleasure to work with him and I hope to work with him for many years.
The Artwork is stunning. How did you choose it?
Well I met Samantha many years ago when I played in Catania Sicily, at that point she had a studio in the apartment of the promoter Jacopo Leone, and it was by pure chance that she posted some images when I was looking for artwork and it just seemed to fit so perfectly. She was very happy for us to use her work and it was a really great experience for us all. I can’t separate the music and the artwork now, it was almost as if they’ve always been together.
Writing music, I Think, is the most helpful, healing way to reawaken the senses. Are you agree? What is the best part (and the worst, if there is one) of the writing process?
Yes I suffer from quite a severe depressive illness and music is a wonderful therapy so I’m very fortunate to have that. I think the worst part is trying to conceive lyrics because they come when they want, you can’t always find them when you want…
You are from Bristol and you live in France, right? I’m very interested to the connection between the places we live over the years, the territorial geography of our roots and the art. How do you feel these theme connected to your music, your way to think music? What are your favorite places which inspired the most?
To be honest I’m asked this question quite a lot and I find it impossible to answer. So much influences me and I don’t have a ‘control’ to compare it to so it’s almost impossible to know exactly what influences me and to what degree. I will say that living in France does allow me to earn my living from playing music because they do still invest in art and artists here although I’m not sure what will happen after this pandemic…
On March 27th, you were supposed to be our guest at MAT Laboratorio Urbano (South Italy) for the celebration of the 10th birthday of our webzine. When all this situation is over, you’ll start the tour again. What do you like the most when you play live shows compared to the studio sessions?
I love engaging with people, I find shows stressful but when the public is good and there are no technical problems it’s wonderful to play to a room full of people who appreciate your work. I especially love playing Italy.
From the beginning of the current situation, a lot of artists are doing streaming live shows from their homes. Recently, Nick Cave has expressed a different thought about that. What is your point of view about all this flow of streaming live shows?
Haha I’m not sure what Nick Cave said (I’m searching now) hmm I can’t find anything but well, everyone seems to be live streaming so I let them get on with it. Personally I think my live show works better live, and loud and not filmed at my home and listened to on computer speakers so I don’t think I will be live-streaming at any point soon. Also despite spending thousands of euros on equipment, in fact I can’t connect my fx to my computer for reasons I don’t fully understand ahahaha
Ritual question. What are the best releases you recently appreciated?
The last things I paid money for were Directorsound ‘This side of Summer’ (massively underrated genius), Michael Nyman ‘The Piano Sings’ a rocksteady compilation to add to the thousands of rocksteady songs I already have, an Egyptian band ‘The Invisible Hands’ and Kompromat albums. I’m also working my way through Miles Davis full catalogue.