Hailing from London, England and producing under the moniker of Thesis is electronic musician, Matt Anderson. Specializing in atmospheric Drum & Bass, Thesis is doing a fantastic job of infusing an older flavor into a genre that has opted to imbue a more contemporary pop sound. His most recent EP “The Bridge” features an impressive vocal display from Canadian songstress, Anastasia on the titular track.
Describing himself as a perfectionist, Thesis is more concerned with putting out quality tracks that remain true to himself and his particular sound, as opposed to releasing tracks for the sake of quantity. While he has yet to release to a full length LP, his current EP releases are robust and should excite bass enthusiasts everywhere. I reached out to this talent and was pleased when he agreed to be interviewed for Inside the Rift.
Prox: Tell us a bit more about yourself. Where did you grow up and how has that environment influenced you along your journey?
Thesis: I was born in London but grew up in a small countryside village near Cambridge in the UK. Growing up in a relatively natural environment helped me in many ways in terms of reflection and contemplation with life, along with having a solid friendship group since early childhood. Having said that, village life can also have it’s boring, dull, and depressive aspects to it at times, and that was certainly what I found while growing up! These days I travel abroad quite a lot, and I would say that with music this is where a big part of my influences and inspirations come from.
Prox: How did you get into production? Were you always involved with music in your youth?
Thesis: Yes, music was a huge part of my youth and saved my life in many ways. I started playing guitar when I was about 15 years old, and I was really into 80’s Classic Rock in particular at that age. A few years later, a friend of mine got some turntables and started mixing liquid D&B – this was when my ears first really caught on to this genre (around 2005). Going to Fabric with a group of friends that year got me even more hooked, and soon enough I had bought my own turntables and started collecting and mixing vinyl. My friend who had started DJ’ing urged me to get a copy of FL Studio to start making my own tunes, so I did, and basically just made a load of ‘noise’ to begin with, messing around and experimenting. He was writing Jungle at the time, and I was inspired by his tracks, as they were deep and intelligent. However, D&B was the genre I still felt the strongest connection with in electronic music, and so, I always had that in mind when starting new projects. Since then I’ve used various different DAWs – Reason, Cubase, and now Logic (since 2009).
Prox: Who were some of your biggest influences (artistic, musical, philosophical, etc) growing up?
Thesis: I was really into Rap as a young teenager – Eminem was by far my favourite artist in the early 2000s. The music he was putting out around that time was about real life, things people could actually relate to, and it helped me to understand some of the darker emotions associated with my own struggles growing up. Listening to his tracks helped me to channel some of my own anger and frustrations with life in this society as a young person.
Guns N’ Roses were another huge influence on me as a teen (the band from the late 80’s-early 90’s era, not the one of today!). That band alone, and Slash in particular, inspired me to learn electric guitar. I was also greatly influenced by System Of A Down, and still am to this day.
In terms of electronic musical influences – Faithless, The Prodigy, Logistics, Noisia, and Bonobo have all had massive impacts on me over the years.
Prox: Were you always into the more atmospheric stylings or is this a recent development?
Thesis: I’ve always had atmospheric elements in my music to one degree or another. I’ve always loved both the liquid and atmospheric subgenres in D&B, and I’ve always considered my sound to be a modernized fusion of the two, with my own twist. For example, the ethereal sound in a lot of my music is something I’ve been working on developing in recent years – creating my own, unique soundscapes and atmospheres. It’s all experimentation and I’m always finding new methods and approaches to development, usually through trial and error. I’m not a technical wizard at all when it comes to production skills – my knowledge is pretty basic compared to a lot of other producers out there.
Prox: Was DnB the first genre you were interested in producing?
Thesis: Yes, although the very first two tracks I ever produced were underground Dubstep – so underground in fact, that only about half a dozen people ever heard them (probably because they were that terrible, haha).
Prox: Why did you choose Thesis as your production moniker?
Thesis: It’s my own take or perspective on things represented through sound – through music. My philosophies of life are unique but hypothetical, just like everyone else’s are. Ultimately, they can’t be proven to anyone, academically or otherwise. We all have our own unique perspectives on ourselves, on the world, and on life itself. I’m just documenting and sharing mine in this way.
Prox: You mentioned during our emails that you travel quite a bit. What are some of your favorite places to visit? Are you ever homesick?
Thesis: Travel is something that I need in order to stay sane in many ways, at least, that’s how it has felt for the past few years in particular. It’s something about movement, new experiences, meeting new people – talking with ‘strangers’, that kind of thing. Going into the unknown, I guess. It helps me to both trust in life more and to evolve. That’s what travel is to me and why I love it. I’ve been to many places in Europe, and some countries outside of it, but my two favourite countries so far would have to be Portugal and Denmark. In fact, I just got back from Portugal recently after a month’s hiking trip out there in the Algarve, which was pretty amazing. I don’t ever miss the UK when I’m traveling or working abroad. I mean, I have family here, but I never really feel ‘homesick’ these days. I used to, back when I first started high school, but that’s a long time ago now. I think the more you discover the home within yourself, the less you identify with the idea of ‘home’ being a specific place in the world.
Prox: What are some of the challenges that accompany producing on the road? Is it difficult to come up with ideas?
Thesis: Time and space are the two biggest challenges in producing while traveling – usually there’s a lot going on in daily life, a lot more than when you’re not on the road and have a more solid routine with work, etc (sometimes I miss that!). Environments change constantly, as well as the people you’re with, and sometimes I find it difficult to conserve and channel my energy into one thing. Having said that, I still find time here and there when I can be on my own and get focused on creating, and ideas tend to flow as easily as I allow them. That’s something I’m still working on – being calm, grounded and in a state of receptivity… It’s the key! ;)
Equipment-wise, I use a very basic setup – a Macbook (with Logic 8), a pair of Sennheiser HD-25 II headphones and occasionally a mouse and/or midi keyboard, but more recently I’ve gotten used to using my Macbook keyboard as a midi controller in Logic. Keeping things light and simple is the best way for me!
Prox: How close are we to seeing your first LP?
Thesis: In all honesty, not so close unfortunately, haha. As much as I would love to make an LP (and I would like to do this sometime in the future), making even just a simple 2-track EP can often take me a long time. I’m a slowcoach when it comes to production, and also a perfectionist. I don’t churn out release after release like some producers do. I take my time with every project, as I need to have things sounding right and well balanced. I won’t release my music until I’m 100% (or at least 95%) satisfied with the end result – both the mixdowns and masters are very important to me in how they sound. I guess at this point, I’m more focused on improving and developing my overall output sound than I am on how often I’m releasing material.
I'm also at a crossroads right now to be honest, artistically and musically speaking, in terms of what I want to do creatively. I haven't been releasing as much D&B in the past 18 months or so as I was before that period, and this is partly because of this crossroads I've been at - needing to clarify what direction I really want to go in with music. It's also been due to certain issues I've had to deal with in my personal life, including the sudden loss of a close friend in the summer of last year. It's been a difficult time to say the least, but it's gradually getting easier to move on, and also in exploring new ventures, as well as rediscovering old ones - such as my teenage love and passion for playing the electric guitar. With that said however, I do have some tracks forthcoming on two different labels – Advection Music and Scientific, so keep an eye out for those.
Prox: Your work with Anastasia is very impressive. Is it possible that we will see a full EP collaboration between you two?
Thesis: Thank you! That’s definitely a possibility. The second collab track we’ve done together, “The Bridge”, was just released in October on Influenza Media, and we’ve been getting some really great feedback on it from people. We’ve been speaking via email recently, and we’re hoping to get working on another collaboration again in early 2016. She is a great talent, and a real pleasure to work with. Like myself, she always puts 110% into a project, and I think that’s why we work so well together. We seem to have a very clear connection and understanding with each other musically when it comes to collaborating – there’s just a click in terms of what sounds right to us, etc. Having that as a foundation to work upon makes things a whole lot easier.
Prox: What are some of the greatest things you’ve learned on your musical journey up until this point? Do you have a defining moment?
Thesis: I suppose number one would be the importance of being true to what you’re passionate about creating, and not allowing anything to interfere with that. I’ve never really had any problems in that sense, with any creative ventures, but I know there’s a lot of producers out there who get swept away with ‘the scene’, particularly in the mainstream of D&B, and end up selling out their sound, with the intention of reaching a much larger audience through bigger labels, making more money, etc. I’m not interested in that and never have been to be honest. I would rather have a smaller, organic following of people who are genuinely interested in my music than a mass of followers who don’t really care deep down about the heart and soul of music (and there’s a lot of those people out there, unfortunately). If I do end up gaining a larger following in the coming years, then that’s cool, but I’m never going to seek it out.
Second greatest thing I’ve learned is the importance of working with people who have integrity if and when one chooses to release music via labels. Most of the music I’ve put out so far has been released via Soul Deep Recordings, a US-based label. Shouts out to Scott Allen (the guy who runs it)! He’s a very switched on dude who genuinely cares about the artists on his label – always giving them a fair deal where creative freedom and royalties are concerned. At least, that has been my experience working with the guy. I’ve heard some horror stories from him about his own experiences in the past with labels in D&B, being unfairly treated as an artist, etc. He said to me once that with his own label, part of the reason in setting it up was to completely respect and adhere to the rights of any given artist releasing music with them. I have a lot of respect for him in doing that – in being an example of how a label should be run.
Defining moment so far would be… this moment right now, of course :)
Prox: Who are some your favorite contemporary artists from any genres?
Thievery Corporation – great band from the US, always love their stuff.
Bonobo – another favourite. Especially for melodic inspirations.
Malaky – this dude, in my opinion, is the best Liquid D&B producer out there at the moment, and an incredibly talented one at that. He’s still relatively up-and-coming in the scene right now, but he’s going to get a lot more recognition soon if he carries on with what he’s doing. To me, his sound is reminiscent of the old-skool liquid tunes that producers such as Logistics were putting out on Hospital in the mid-2000s, but with a more soulful, atmospheric and intelligent overall sound. It’s the kind of liquid sound I’ve always been looking for in tunes of that subgenre, and aside from what I’ve been producing and contributing myself in recent years, most of his work really epitomizes that sound – consistently. That’s why I love this guy’s music, and he’s one of the few producers in D&B whose material I really keep an ear out for these days.
Prox: Could you tell us about some of your favorite hobbies?
Thesis: Creating music, inspirational writing, drawing, gardening, hiking, cycling, breathing deeply. All of these I would consider to be my favourite hobbies - anything that helps me to let go and/or express myself, basically.
Prox: Tips for other artists?
Thesis: Always create from your heart, and have that as the core, non-negiotiable foundation of all your work.
Prox: Final thoughts?
Thesis: Illusion is in the head. Life is in the heart.
You can hear more of his work, here.