Everyday I become more and more of a fan of Matthew Mercer; from his work with Microfilm to his solo material, there is always a thoughtful artistry to all that he produces. Nothing is gratuitous: every sound, every beat, every note has a purpose. Reviewing his latest solo release, “Pianissimo Possibile” (link), was a welcomed departure to the music that has been featured on this blog thus far. A few e-mails later, I would like to thank Matthew Mercer for taking the time to Answer 5.
1. I was blown away by “Pianissimo Possibile,” especially considering the fact that it is a departure from what you have done with Microfilm. What influenced you to compose music in this direction?
I've always been interested in the piano as well as electronic non-dance-oriented music. Most of the music I'd released under my own name had been aimed at minimal techno DJs and fans, but I've always made music that veers away from that area too. It seemed like a good idea to focus on that and produce a body of work that represented that side of my interests. The decision to go with the piano as a focal point was somewhat arbitrary... I started experimenting with some basic parameters and ended up running with it to amass a reasonable collection of tracks, and then I began to consider an album.
2. What I appreciate the most is that you did not approach “Pianissimo Possibile” as instrumental version of songs that simply had the vocals removed from them. Most “contemporary” instrumental music does just this; anything else would be disarming to the average listener. To the average, passive, music listener, what would you tell them as to why they should listen to this collection?
As with most lyrical music, my goal is to evoke a feeling, as simple as that is. Everyone will bring his/her own associations or assumptions to the table in terms of what each track or even the whole body of work means emotionally or artistically, and I'm not necessarily one to tell them how to feel about it. But I've never been someone who focuses on lyrics or vocals in music, and so to me it's only natural to let the music do the "singing" for me.
3. Intentions and interpretations are two different things, especially with instrumental music. One of the things I took away from the album was the balance between old and new, classical and modern. But what was your intention? What do you want the listener to take away with them?
My intention was not necessarily the old and new contrast, but I do like the formal contrast of organic sounds (an instrument like the piano, which has innate fluidity to me) with digital editing techniques that are often abrupt, clipped or manipulated in ways that are sometimes very obvious. For instance, I was really drawn to the sound of piano tones that are trimmed between the actual hammer strike and the final decay, so you're left with the essence of the piano without the full expression of its sound from beginning to end. In terms of an emotional takeaway, I have no agenda. The songs certainly carry a certain amount of gravity at times, but I would consider that an expression of abstract impulses from within rather than a clear agenda that would qualify as an "artist's statement."
4. As you know, I am a “gearhead” and I want to know what equipment and/or software you used when putting this album together?
I run everything on a Mac quadcore tower, and almost everything was created in Propellerhead Reason 4. I used Recycle to cut up the piano phrases and then triggered those through the Rex player in Reason. For the first time I partnered up with someone to do audio engineering on these tracks, because I really needed an extra set of ears to help fine tune the fidelity of the mix, so Charles Fenech (of Australian EBM act AngelTheory) assisted with EQ and levels before I ran the final mastering through T-Racks.
5. Out of curiosity, will these tracks make their way to your DJ sets? If so, will they be played in the “Pianissimo Possible” versions or remixed? If remixed, will they become available to us via your Bandcamp page?
I approached most of these with the intention of being freed from the beat of the dancefloor, and so I don't anticipate trying to fit these into that world that I strived to avoid. It's not out of the question, though; I usually like a challenge when it comes to mixing tracks and styles. If I do end up remixing any of these, they will be available on Bandcamp.
Keep up with Matthew Mercer at his homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. Head over to his Bandcamp site where you can preview and purchase “Pianissimo Possibile.”
Here is Matthew Mercer’s video for “Sky Opened Up” from his YouTube Channel: matthewdmercer.