There are few electronic artists in Australia more enigmatic than Matthew Brown. The first time I saw him live he was doing terrifying things to the PA of a small venue in North Melbourne—a messianic figure onstage, tweaking dual MS-20s while jagged swathes of analogue thunder smashed in the faces of the audience. It sounded like a giant megalithic robot waking itself up and preparing for a mission of mass destruction using vintage techno as a weapon. A few months later Brown completely wiped the floor with Gatekeeper at the Siberian Nights underground rave in Melbourne's Mad Max carpark. His music is dark, robotic and weird, yet eminently danceable and full of soul. What makes this a must-see live act is the fact that every set is completely different—Brown prepares fresh new sequences before every performance. Now he's finally released a 12" on Public Possession records in Germany. I visited him in Northern Tasmania to talk about isolation, orgies and not understanding how your gear works.
THUMP: You're originally from Tasmania, but you lived in Melbourne from '97 to 2012, and you've been making techno that whole time, right?
Miles Brown: Since before I left, on an Acorn A3000 computer, using Coconiser.
You're one of the few people who's worked the whole time, didn't get caught up in psytrance or anything like that, and have now been embraced by the new wave of techno in Australia – what's your take on the last few years of Australian electronic music?
I think it's great. With playing live gigs there are collectives of musicians. You play with friends; you're playing a show for your people. Being able to play live and hear it through a good PA is the best. I'm not an electronic purist but it is frustrating when it's out of fashion at certain stages, and you don't get to hear it through a PA in those times. The Internet has changed things as we all know. Before, I was always buying records - you don't need that anymore. One of the exciting things with art is when there's uncertainty. Say if I go to someone's house and just grab their mp3 collection which is two and a half years of music in total—all the best tracks ever—I won't feel very excited about it at all; it is not of now. This experience in some respects is very liberating, because it makes you want to see what's happening tomorrow night, or tonight, out there. You're no longer held in check by music's back catalogue. The idea that you can just take all the great works of music and writing and everything or download Wikipedia, then go up into the hills and never be seen again, there's something incredibly depressing about that. Compared to going out and seeing people that you know do something that's never been done that way before.
The thing has always been - you go and see Matthew Brown live, experience the singular live show, and try and work out how the fuck you're doing it all. Your level of analogue knowledge is about 7 million times higher than everybody else who've just bought their first sh-101s—
But that's the best stage to be in—when you don't know! When you do know what you're doing you go "ah, this should be doing that" and if you don't get that sound, if it doesn't happen – that sucks. When you're making those mistakes at first, your ears are really listening and that's really exciting.
You've finally released a physical record.
Yes, contrarily so, the record is on Public Possession. Three tracks.
How'd you hook up with them?
They contacted me. I'm against physical formats in a sense.
What do you mean?
I mean, if you record your master track, and then press it to vinyl, people have to spend more on it, the sound is altered and it becomes a physical obstacle. A desperate chance to hang on to a way of the past, a form of romanticism I find pointless.
The vinyl bubble is so big at the moment, everybody's crazy about owning things on vinyl and collecting, and the idea that limited runs are far more interesting than anything else.
Collecting is the right word—people want a wedge on their shelf—something to show and tell off the cuff in a casual manner and that is where the digital file fails as it blends in with all the others. Don't get me wrong I'm not anti-recording as that way everybody can have a copy of it. Take the art world where only one person generally gets to own the piece of artwork. Even with the most expensive album ever produced, a kid in the western world can afford it, or at least pirate it in a way that is sonically indiscernible from the original, whereas other art is all about the individual that owns it.
There was recently a petition to release Delia Derbyshire's back catalogue. Now I'm all for that, and I'm curious, but a bit of me thinks that sometimes it's nice to have a few mysteries and to imagine what music is lost or hidden. What was the music of the ancient Greeks like? Did the Picts have all-nighters? And so on.
Totally. That's what's so appealing about Delia Derbyshire – she did one or two really well known things that everyone fucking loves, and apart from that there are some really attractive photos of her hanging out with all these other dorky looking dudes.
And she ostensibly had an orgy with John and Yoko. I read that somewhere years ago where she was being interviewed and casually let it drop.
Matthew Brown's debut 12" is out now on Public Possession.
Miles Brown plays the theremin, writes music and yells about things in Melbourne. Follow him on Twitter: @M1le5Br0wn