To celebrate the release of Matahara's latest track, 'Dial Me Up', co-written with Nick Littlemore (PNAU, Empire of the Sun), the two musicians delve into the importance of collaboration, keeping up with ever-changing technology and navigating creative life.
Matahara: You’ve collaborated with so many artists around the world; we also met through a triple j Unearthed collab comp a couple of years ago. As someone who’s new to this, how do you find your voice and gain confidence when collaborating with other artists?
Nick Littlemore: In a collaboration, I try to look for the emotion in the room. I’m not the best at anything; I work with others to create greater music than I could otherwise. I look to my partner for help, and I’ll suggest things to encourage them to create. Once we are in motion, I can discern what works and what doesn’t, make mistakes and find solutions for them. We worked over zoom, a unique experience for me, but I honestly feel there is a connection when two artists share the same air that is unmatched.
Nick Littlemore: Can you please tell me about some books, films and artworks that you find inspiring and why?
Matahara: I was given the book How Music Works by David Byrne a couple of years ago by a friend, Dipha Barus, who happens to be one of my favourite producers. I particularly love how Byrne sees the world. Similar to your last question, I feel like memory plays a big role in his work too. Especially after discovering he had a mild case of Asperger's syndrome. He describes sounds and the world in such a colourful manner which I find really beautiful and inspiring.
The last film I saw that I thought was really inspiring was Minari. I don’t remember the last time I cried that hard at the movies. The soundtrack is also a whole other level; it’s super well crafted; kudos to Emile Mosseri. Lately, with my music, I’ve been leaning on the phrase ‘simple but beautiful’ a lot, and I think this film is the perfect example of that. Just simply beautiful writing, visuals and performances by everyone. I loved every second of that movie. I got out of the theatre feeling so inspired and thankful for the life that I have.
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Back in 2021, I had the chance to work with one of my favourite artists/illustrators ever, aka Phantasien. She designed the artwork for my debut EP Triple Alliteration. Her works have been such an inspiration to me, especially these past few years. They’re always so fantastical and evocative, just like I want my music to sound like.
Matahara: You’ve been in the music industry for three decades now. How do you navigate change in your production process with technology evolving so rapidly?
Nick Littlemore: Most of the technology that I use isn’t new. More and more, I’m interested in new ideas, not technology. I do, however, look for young people who are using technology in different ways. To them, it’s an entirely different approach, which is exciting. Anything different is good, but I don’t want to get bogged down in learning new tech all the time; I’d rather learn new people. That’s the source I’m interested in.
Nick Littlemore: The creative mind is as problematic as it is powerful; how do you navigate the creative life you lead?
Matahara: There was a point in my life when I let my creative mind lead my life, and I was fearless. Now, with plenty of other things happening in my life, I've realised that my creative mind sometimes goes beyond my emotional limit. It is both frustrating and relieving because it means that I know my boundaries. It’s not always easy, but I think I’ll always look for balance in everything that I do and everywhere I go.
Matahara: I feel like you have perfected the art of remixing, and you’ve had enormous success with PNAU remixes these past few years. When it comes to making/producing a remix, what is the element that you usually pull apart first and play with? Do you have a formula by now?
Nick Littlemore: I’m not much of a remixer, always preferring to make new songs. Although my approach would always be taking the vocal, whichever part loops well, then try to reduce it to a hypnotic and repetitive part. Make something underground fueled by energy and power. The machines play a big role in this, remixing is about dancing, and one must take the idea in that direction.
Nick Littlemore: How big of a role does memory play in your work?
Matahara: My work relies heavily on memory. I think for me, memory and observation work hand in hand. It helps me write lyrics more precisely. It also comes real handy in the studio. It’s almost like an echoic memory, where I could point out a particular sound to my producer that I remember from previous sessions because my brain thinks that the sound is so memorable and distinct. It helps me to know what I want and need in my work.
Stream or listen to Matahara's new single, Dial Me up, here.