Dumb Not Dumb: The Strange World Of Matt Loveridge &c.

Matt Loveridge's talent spills out of him and pours across many different projects. Matt Evans tries to find ten entry points into the back catalogue of this musical savant

There are infinite worlds in the multiverse, many of them strange. Though few are as strange as the one this Bristolian inhabits. For starters, what to call him? At various points in time and space, and depending on how the waning light falls across his furry face, he’s variously known as Matt Loveridge, Matt Williams, MXLX, Fairhorns, Team Brick, Knife Liibrary, among others, some of which are facets of a cryptic mythological organisation he calls THE CROATOA INSTITUTE. His identity is as fluid as his music, his protean muse warping through pulsing electronica and harrowing, ritualistic improvisation, downbeat acoustic reflection, full-on brain-fisting noise, onrushing motorik and bone-splintering doom.

He’s the living, breathing, howling avatar of a healthy DIY underground, one that values space for ideas and experimentation over genre delineations and cults of personality.  

His latest album – although, given his prolific level of activity, that statement may have been invalidated by the time you reach the end of this parenthetical interjection – Fuckup Rush is a thing of wonder, an ecstatic heap of filthy, noise-speckled electropop bin-rattling, poignant drift and tormented mantras. Loveridge describes it, in his own inimitable linguistic knotweed, thus: "NEW DIRT // NEON DIGITAL PUNK // LEAVE THE MISTAKES IN, CAPTAIN […] Bitter wallowin’ and alco-vibes thrummin forever, strippin’ back what once was the cool-guy who don’t emotion on anything with Motorik and John Carpenter vibes, gone gone gone is that, a more pure radge pulse comes on THIS NOW! More like Atari TWEENAGE Riot now yeh – less disinterested hipster, now I wanna ENGAGE."

While there’s something both warmly intimate and ultimo-caffeine manic about Loveridge’s stuff, it’s not a bunch of ham-fisted poundings, compensating for technical shortcomings with passion and pugilism. Behind the sometimes dishevelled and chaotic aesthetic lies some serious, well-honed skill – as a composer, improviser, multi-instrumentalist and, particularly, as a vocalist. His is a cavernous howl that can shake the skulls of distant whales, should he wish it.

Below, Loveridge talks us through ten resonant-slash-significant selections from his bewilderingly huge and diverse back catalogue, from early solo works to new collaborative projects and his most high-profile gig, West Country kraut-experimentalists Beak>> (alongside Geoff Barrow and Billy Teller).

Team Brick – Archive 2002–2012

There were other small things pre-Team Brick, back when I was a 14-year-old kid dicking around with exclusively GM MIDI stuff which was all I had at my disposal…

The name came from way back when I was about 15, I was digging on Gorillaz – or more the notion that as they were cartoons, their possibilities were limitless. I liked the idea that I could do something multifaceted, represented by a ‘team’ of dumb characters I drew a lot, and it allowed me to present a different kind of music each time, with a different figurehead. This idea got lost when I started playing live but the name stuck.

Team Brick stopped because I started getting confused about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to continue, live or on record. It was all becoming a bit too disparate for me to keep track of. I also went through a god-awful ‘Radio 3’ phase where I tried to consider myself more intellectual than I shoulda done, which was kinda hard for me to recover from. I’m dumb really, it took me a few years to get on board with that.

Knife Liibrary – Drowners

The genesis of the Knife Liibrary album came from reacting against the timidness of so much acoustic music. There’s not much I can see in terms of there being any space for ugliness or defeat, withdrawal or anything negative being processed or dealt with. Way too many cupcakes and picnics and BFFs. It was a few years of false starts as I was trying to address it on different instruments with different methods. I decided to just go for piano, as it’s still my first instrument, but wrote the first sketches on the Farfisa organ in the small bits of downtime during soundcheck on an Anika tour…

When I got home, I drafted it up properly, but still sans piano. It was all written on my electric organ at home. The first time the songs were actually played on a piano is what you’re hearing – the piano parts were recorded in the basement of a local cafe after hours on a digital dictaphone. Also, partly, howling about autism.

MXLX – Black Meta

Black Meta came about because I was starting to focus MXLX less on noise-jams, more trying to use noise compositionally. Over the years (since about 2010, when all the identities became separate) everything’s started to play into its own inner mythology playing out inside my own head. Maybe sonically they’re different, but it’s more based on shadowing or highlighting a specific part of my working.

MXLX – Go Away

Go Away is pretty bleak, though I think there’s a touch of moribund humour to it as well… This was written and recorded during a downer, when I was depressed and feeling cornered and utterly broke. And I suppose for all my dumb clipped prose and obtuse http jokin’ around, I’m a pretty sombre dick on my own time. I’m writing another album in a similar vein at the moment too, so I guess I’m still on a downer.

Recording it and getting it out definitely helped me process certain things; definitely gave me space to learn to laugh at depression a bit, and my own other mental health gubbins, ’cause otherwise it’ll drag you right down with it sometimes. The lyrics are always the last thing to come, and never the be-all and end-all for me. It’s definitely a different writing process though, as it’s songwriting rather than constructing pieces. I never graph out the whole thing meticulously like I do for everything else, I just run back and forth between themes, finding chords I like.

Fairhorns – Medici

Medici is just me alone in my parents’ garage for a few days. Just drums, bass, organ and voice. A lot of people think it’s a full band – helped a lot by being recorded and mixed by Annie from Hysterical Injury, she’s got a real instinctive ear for what I want to do, and gets on board pretty quick. I paid her in food, I just cooked her a couple of meals!

The concept behind it is in some ways about struggling through things and defeating yourself, breaking off the dead bits and coming out the other side of it… there are certain other themes at play in there, Medici herself being one, but I’m not gonna illuminate her relevance at this point. I’m working on another Fairhorns heavy record that hopefully will tie everything together and serve as some sort of explanation within the four heads of THE CROATOA INSTITUTE.

Speed the Plough – Wolf Tickets

Speed the Plough started because I missed being in a band when I was in London, and I hadn’t been in a heavy band since I was a kid. There are two other guys – Adam Lewis playing bass and Mat Riviere on drums. There’s no great ethos behind it – it’s just being a band. Mostly it’s written by me, but the other two guys write a fair share of it too. Unfortunately it’s hard to pursue at the moment, as I’m in stuck in the shithole dead-dog town of Bristol living on disability cheques, so trips to London are few and far between. But I’m eager to keep doing more stuff with them – it’ll just be sporadically.

MXLX – ‘I Set in Motion a Course of Strings Over the Abyss and Let the Sonorities Bellow Forth in Dysphoric Jubilee’

Doing this 7” was a huge challenge for me, to condense everything down into these small chunks. So much editing and re-writing, as I’m used to writing more sprawling expansive pieces for MXLX – I think I ended up having to draw five different graphs for it before I’d even started writing it sonically. It was recorded much in the same way that I record the majority of my solo music – live takes all recorded individually on a digital dictaphone, then layered up, edited and arranged on Cubase. The title? Uhhhh, I’m an overly verbose moron.

Gnar Hest – Tracts On How Severe I Welcome Nonexistence As Harsh As Is

Gnar Hest started pissed at 4 AM on holiday with my parents in Devon, pretty much by accident… I staggered back and wrote that first chord sequence and passed out – when I woke up it was still there, it still sounded good to me so I kept at it for another couple of months.

The name and identity? I don’t wanna blab too much about what each figurehead means to me now, but yeah, it’s a distinctly different process for each project – though still in some way altogether unified under the same umbrella. Everything Gnar Hest is entirely digital, programmed in note-by-note, nothing live at all. I don’t even have a MIDI keyboard so it’s all written in by hand.

Steveless – Mistakes In All The Right Places

Steveless was mostly a guy called Dan Newman, his baby really. He sent in some solo things to John Peel, who championed him right up till he died. It was just four-track improv things of him playing guitar and kick drum and yelling, I think.

He moved to Bristol to finish up his master’s degree and was posting on the local music forum about turning it into a full band thing. All I did was play drums, but that was really fun to do and I got away with contributing a lot of dumbs ideas. It was definitely the most ‘fun’ band I’ve been in. It was really refreshing to be in a scenario where the songs were mostly written and I just had to write my drum parts around them. I did shape things a little bit with Dan, but we all put in little chunks of the writing process.

Beak – >>

Beak started way back in 2009 and we’ve all talked about [how we came together] about 1,000 times each in various interviews! We’ve lost the improvisatory nature of the early stuff, things are much more written these days. All the tracks we do start out as quick ideas when we’re all in the room, but more time is spent fleshing them out nowadays. 

The big gigs thing, I’m not sure how that goes on in my head. I’m pretty insular, I’ll never be a foot-on-monitor, ‘HOW’S IT GOIN’ LOS ANGELES?!’ kind of performer. I’m not an entertainer by any means (and I’m glad about that). I just treat all gigs as gigs really, whether they’re big or small.

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