RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW MATTHEW LIAM NICHOLSON
Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
What made you decide to start the band and become a soloist?
Feeling Into this, it’s fundamentally because I could find nothing as attractive, occasionally thrilling, powerful, fun, gratifying, enlivening and community based as the process of making music in bands as a teen. Growing up in a pretty sheltered materialist society which never seemed right to me – I discovered music as an outlet, a communion, a gift and way of making art — and people mostly seemed to dig what I made. So apart from other interests such as botany that would have led to more conventional career paths, really music has been my only option. Its my calling. But It took a long time to get to the point of doing it “professionally”, scoring films et.
Introduce us to you & and your musical history?
Well, I started my first guitar band when I was 13 in Geelong, Australia and spent my teens abusing my eardrums and playing lots of shows first with Aunty Theo, then The Golden Lifestyle Band, then Warped. These were very loud guitar bands – actually The Golden Lifestyle Band has a vinyl LP coming out this year that was recorded in 1997 while we were breaking up in the studio and never got finished til more recently! It stands up. This phase was from approximately 1992, through to 1998 – when aforementioned bands dissolved, friends went different ways and I considered giving up music to pursue spiritual life intensively. I was willing to leave it behind, but it wasn’t to be.
Making any kind of real money from music in Australia back then was a pipe dream unlikely to manifest. Not that I ever cared much about having money – but the opportunities for survival in USA far exceed those in my homeland, for me.
My solo work also began in these earliest days, as an aside from all the work with bands. First I called it “Dust”. I kept writing songs and releasing small edition tapes and cdrs as “Function” – playing occasional shows and never really having my shit together, until I decided to record a proper LP, went into the studio with some friends and recorded what became the first long player Function LP – “The Zillionaire-Retarded Speeds Of Ordinary, Measured Light” – which came out in AU/NZ in 2003, and Japan in 2004.
That led to a whole lot of touring, SXSW, London, NYC, East Coast USA. During that time I was writing and collecting the material that became “The Secret Miracle Fountain” which was released by Chicago’s boutique imprint Locust Music in 2006. This LP, though fairly underground, got a lot of good critical press which was fortifying and led to more touring in USA and Europe. I spent the next few years recording another ambitious LP (80 musicians, orchestra), which came out on UK’s Black Maps in 2011 – this was called “Galeria De La Luz” and the band moniker for that LP was Outshine Family.
I’ll re-release these three older LPs sometime in the future. Back in Australia with my compadre Pascal Babare (check him out he’s insanely talented) we called in our friend Lucy Roleff and made “Sun Dog” by AT / ALL – basically three avant-folk composers trying to make a somewhat danceable, tasteful, organic sounding tweaked out record more on the beats side of things than what we usually do. That came out in 2016. Check it out, it kinda flew under the radar. A few bangers on there.
At this point I don’t have a permanent band, more like a revolving cast of killer musicians that I trust and admire, that I call on at the right time. However, if the world opens up later this year I expect the pressure of performance to re-assert itself and possibly lure me out of reclusive studio bliss. Under the right conditions I do look forward to playing live again, but have been pretty burnt out in the past. I’m cautious now as to what opportunities to accept.
What’s one question you’re sick of being asked when interviewed?
I’m generally grateful that anyone is interested to speak with me – that being said, its a little bit lame to receive form questions that display no knowledge of my work, though I’m not famous enough to be an ass about it 😉
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?
Ah, that pesky term that the CIA invented in 1964 to discredit dissent around the official story JFK’s assasination, still getting such mileage! Some are total bollocks obviously. IMO the nature of how power changes hands historically is usually conspiratorial, and the victor writes history and cleans up with propaganda. Some of the most intelligent people I know are all over this realm of research – there’s many babies in that bathwater. I grew up in punk music as an anti-capitalist non conformist and this ethos has never left me, which puts one in a precarious situation in these superficial days of social media discourse. I’m always biting my tongue.
I’m an avid researcher of extraterrestrial life, and that involves sorting through a plethora of anecdotal and theoretical information about the exo-political background to the clusterfuck we know as planet earth. Zooming out, I think people are going to have their minds thoroughly blown by the disclosure process set to heat up. We’ve never been alone and most of what we accept as history is manipulated – so from the inter-galactic view, the sleazy maneuvering of service-to-self groups is obvious. I also think that most good hearted people maybe have not had to face the reality and depth and horror of real evil, and so dance around the topic like its all cool man..
What useless party trick do you have?
Leaving early, ghosting. Or being the last idiot there enjoying the dregs. Trying to put on a jacket on LSD. Wearing my Jesus Kaftan. Being nice to people.
What was the most fun you have had on stage?
That’s a good question, makes me search the archives… Back in the day we would get quite blazed and just shred at shows, the memories are blurred but I certainly recall we often had a blast. One noise band we put together in Melbourne around 2000 called Para Nada – 4 detuned guitars & a drum set, that led to some rapturous improvised drone performances. The only prep we allowed was choosing our tunings right before a show. Perhaps the most fun is the feeling right after having finished a show that went really well – you’re kinda on a high and so relieved ya didn’t blow it and can relax.. Also once performing in Warsaw, Poland and everyone was singing along to the lyrics, that was a first! Arriving in Stockholm after our van blew up in smoke & drama, we were all in shock and fully adrenalized – arrived late and played a fantastic set using all borrowed gear.. We also performed a sound bath at night in a field in Oregon next to a mountain from which UFOs exit and enter every night. Saw it with my own eyes. Performing in a museum in Portugal was awesome, then a cabaret in Lisbon with disco balls. The memory are returning now you’ve asked…
What was the worst experience on stage?
Oh there has been a lot – one that comes to mind is in 2007 opening for one of my fave bands Low at a huge festival in Norway in front of a lot of people – and in the very first song, right as I was about to take a guitar lead moment, my guitar signal died and I was running around this huge stage trying to keep the band rolling while I figured out wtf was happening. I’ve never quite ascended to the stage of having roadies ;-). My later music has often been relatively complex and required a fair number of musicians to pull off live – so it’s always been a bit nerve-wracking. Once a glass of red wine was spilt on our stage laptop in Paris and we had to awkwardly re-work mate.rial Back in the day, performing with The Golden Lifestyle Band back in my hometown – I looked back at the drummer when he missed a beat and he took it badly, left the stage and just waked out of the venue leaving me & Dion figuring our wtf to do for the rest of our set, Pat the drummer was quoted as he walked out as saying “I’ve ruined the mood”- this became the title of the shambolic first Golden Lifestyle Band LP.
Tell us some things about you that you think people would be surprised about?
I’ve lived & worked in London, Melbourne, Chicago, Fiji, Hawaii, Los Angeles, Northern Caifornia, visited over 40 countries, am an aspiring agorist and permaculturist. I ran a garden design business in London for 6 years which nearly did me in. The Secret Miracle Fountain LP was made in 12 countries. “Galeria de la Luz” had 80 musicians. One leg is longer than the other. I’m on an Ibogaine retreat presently. I have around 9 albums in progress.
If you had to describe your band/music to an alien how would you describe it?
That would depend on the alien – most of them are telepathic so I’d just play them some tunes and light up some space herb and enjoy with them. I’m simply the worst at trying to describe my work, it always sounds stupid, the more sincere I try to be. Transcendental Heart frequencies modulated through my energetic signature and unique life experience on this bizarre planet…? See.. “Magical realist folk rock” one review said..
What makes you stand out as a band/Artist?
That may be better answered by anyone but me, but as you asked, I’d venture to say that everyone has a unique energetic signature and the further we go developing our art, the more diverse and refined that communication of frequency can be. Perhaps it is my lifelong dedication to spiritual practice that bleeds into my work. I want to reach people at a depth, beyond the noise of superficiality. Folks say my work has a timeless quality, I like that. I don’t want my music to have anything to do with trends or fashions.
Right now, whats pissing you of the most? (Cant say the virus)
Elite power-scumbags, soulless puppet leaders, totalitarian moves – the obvious attempt to stomp a boot in the face of humanity’s freedom and harm so many people unnecessarily in a myriad of ways. The mainstream media trying to hide the fact that the entire human race is uniting against the tyrants. Rage is warranted.
Whats your favourite song to play live and why?
“Nine Movements” is a longform meditative piece that we performed as a sound bath many times before shit got shut, that was often a sublime occasion, with contributing musicians adding their magic, chimes, strings, didgeridoo, saxophone, singing bowls, guitars etc… At the moment it’s “Androgynous” by the Replacements, to my dog and wife, on the piano. I’m kinda tired of playing a lot of my stuff live – I’ll prepare this newest batch and then we might have some new fun – my favorite moments are the magic of improvisation within a structure when it really works. TBH last couple years has seen far too little of band practice with others for me.
I hear you have a new LP, what can you tell us about it?
Yes, singles have started flowing forth from my upcoming LP “Universal Outsider” – which represents quite some years of work, completed in Los Angeles in recent years. It’s the most hi-fi studio album I’ve done, I was intending for it to be back to back songs, as opposed to a mix of ambient works, abstractions and songs, as some of my previous albums have been. I worked with a few producers in LA, which was fun – and also pointed out to me that I don’t really need to do that.
Talk me through the thought process of the album?
Universal Outsider comprises songs from a fairly wide span of years, curated, recorded & produced to be more of a concise rock album than I have ever done. So there are both older songs and newer songs produced together, I think/hope relatively seamlessly.
What was the recording process like?
Drums & bass were mostly recorded in some very fancy LA studios, and I tracked most everything else in my own studio. I called in my amigos Matt Brundrett on drums and Chris Hackmann on bass, they did a great job. As I’m producing and layering my work, I call in musicians one at a time mostly, to complete an idea or set of layers. I worked closely on a few numbers with Lily Desmond a great artist from NY. I think there is about 12 musicians credited. Mi amigo John Hendicott mixed the album, did a superb job.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the album?
Hmmm…probably the lessons in production and mixing I got from the folks I worked with, and writing clear parts – I tend to wax & improvise a lot… Weave a wild web of layers whose random geometries often do magic stuff, but create a lot of editing work. My work, I hope, is not be defined by any one of my works – every one is a unique piece that will be different from the next, and there is an enormity yet to come. Universal Outsider was clearing house of certain songs, freeing up my attention for all my new material – I’m well into writing & recording the next one.
Would you change anything now its finished?
Maybe not, I’m pretty happy with it, a lot went into it and already much over-scrutiny!
What are your plans for the year ahead?
Travel & recuperation in Mexico for the next while, then come back home to Northern California and record & produce like crazy. My goal is to “release good music often” as my friend Tom Atencio advised. I’ve been very erratic in the past, all over the place. I’m primed now to fire out gems on the regular.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
As mentioned, my first big songs studio LP as Matthew Liam Nicholson, called “Universal Outsider” is coming out in May. Mostly recorded in LA, with some gun producers I’m fairly proud of it and hope it gets into all the ears & hearts that would benefit from it. For the last few weeks of 2021 I went into a recording intensive and mocked up recordings of most all the songs I’ve written in the last couple years for the next album. I’m pretty stoked with where that is heading, so when I return home to California from my present travels in Mexico I’ll go into production mode on all that. I have a ton of diverse music to complete and am excited to score more films and release stuff regularly for the first time in my life.