The artist is coming to Detroit for a gig at Marble Bar tomorrow. Focus on his musical career was influenced by many genres, including Detroit techno. This led him to a hybrid electronic genre that made his popularity grow.
Matthew Dear was born in 1979 in Texas but grew up in Michigan where he quickly became hooked on the electronic sound. Techno already started to spread in Detroit when Dear was a teenager, and the artist submerged himself in the city’s musical culture. Although he was already into music before moving to Michigan, he explained in the UK media in 2012 that Detroit brought him something more: “Before I moved to Detroit, I already had really good influences from my elder brother, so I had electronic music, I had new wave and industrial from a very young age; say, like, eight or nine years old. But I was surrounded by Texas, and that was rock, folk and country. That was all there was on the airwaves, and there was no culture for dance music, or even hip-hop. It was a very guitar-based culture. So at sixteen, when I moved to the Detroit area, that’s when I got the electronic injection, you know, I’d hear everything on the radio, listening to WJLB in Detroit, which is all ghettotech and booty, real Detroit club music. All of a sudden, being inundated with that culture, it was a great juxtaposition to the rock that I came from, and it opened up a whole new world. This was the late nineties, so it was also the first big rush of UK and European dance music artists – Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, that was all happening in the States for the first time. So, all of a sudden, I’m in Detroit, I start hearing about these parties in warehouses… It was the perfect time to have the left side already full, and now the right side opens up to all this electronic stuff.”
While attending the University of Michigan in 1998 and a few parties, Dear met Sam Valentin IV who grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, also fascinated by the musical heritage of the Motor City. Sam Valentin IV was into music at a very early age, buying his first pair of decks at 15 and starting to think critically about the scene that needed an independent electronic music label less characterized by one musical genre, in his opinion. That’s how Ghostly International was born, from a collaboration between the two who were looking to create a hybrid in electronic music. As they describe it, “Ghostly International label is a unique force in American independent music, balanced carefully between pop culture, leftfield experimentation, and studied artistic tradition”. The first single of Matthew, Hands Up For Detroit, is released in 1999 on the label, followed by others like Mouth to Mouth under the pseudonym of Audion. His first album Leave Luck to Heaven released in 2003, pursued the musical hybridity that is in the heart of Ghostly, and is seen as an interesting fusion between minimal techno and pop music.
After several releases, Matthew Dear released a fourth album in 2010 called Black City, where he imagines a futuristic metropolis that never sleeps. Here you can see the influence of the first waves of Detroit techno artists on his music, this concept of a futuristic metropolis being inherent Detroit techno. He describes the album in the same interview: “Well, there’s a kind of timelessness to it in the sense that I don’t want things to run on a 24-hour clock. It seems like a city that’s always awake, maybe always dialed-in electronically, and cannot be turned off. It’s this imaginary weird never-sleeping town. But yeah it’s full of lust and love, and dark shadows. Weird things around the corner…” After living for quite some time in the Big Apple, the best incarnation of a metropolis that never sleeps, Dear decided in 2012 to live in the forest, close to nature as he explains to Pitchfork: “The goal of living in the woods is to immerse myself in all forms of music. It’s a preemptive strike, without a doubt. Could I live in Tokyo tomorrow? Yeah. I still have desires to have a fast-paced life; by no means am I saying that I’ve reached a poetic, stagnant time to just be quiet. I’m looking ahead and I’m realizing that now is the time where I can afford to do it. I’m thinking about the future.”
Matthew Dear definitely made a name for himself in the electronic music scene by creating music at the crossroads of many influences, including Detroit techno. By being heavily influenced by other genres, the artist became famous for his own sound, a blend of cultures that also allows him to explore more metaphysical questions: “It’s the central question of consciousness – what is real? It’s just what I think about all the time. My songs are just my anecdotes, my brutal way of dealing with those questions, which everybody asks themselves. I’m not special, everybody thinks about these kinds of things. I use my art and my music as a way to have fun with those ideas. I’m not looking for the golden truth, I don’t think that they’re going to tell you the answer, but I think it’s a good way for me to experience some sort of release.”