This article was originally published on THUMP UK.
It's a Friday afternoon. The sun's shining. There's a freshly opened glass bottle of Coke in front of me and I know that in just a few hours I'll be cracking open beer after beer until the thought of another beer is enough to be put me off the current beer. This should, should, be as good as it gets. And it nearly is, except for one thing: the Friday afternoon I'm describing here was Friday the 24th of June, 2016. The day Britain voted to leave the European Union. Which was enough to put anyone off their lunch.
I was sat with Matthew Thomas, AKA Rushmore, in a very nice restaurant a few minutes from my office. The mood, in the office, in the restaurant, in general, was downbeat, deflated and defeated. Shoeless children, oblivious to the political upheaval around them, ignored their salads. We gamely tucked into a pair of chicken burgers in an attempt to eat ourselves into a state of contentment. The reason we were together on that fateful day was simple: after years of DJing, producing, releasing records, and throwing parties, Thomas was finally putting a full length album out.
Ours After, which drops on Thomas' own Trax Couture label on the 29th of July, is one of the most intriguing and interesting British records released in 2016 to date. Anyone versed in Thomas' banger-heavy back catalogue expecting a slew of balletically ballsy ballroom inspired club tracks is in for a surprise: this is a subtle, tactile, LP that sits somewhere between instrumental grime abrasion, deconstructed Rachel Whiteread house, subtropical bass music, zero gravity Ha-Dancing, and mutated heat-haze warped road rap. Inspired by a trip to Japan, it's an incredibly enjoyable and cohesive experience. We caught up with the man himself a month before the record drops.
THUMP: We can't ignore the big topic today, can we? Is there an inherently political motivation behind clubbing? Is going to a nightclub a political statement in and of itself? Rushmore: I suppose so, yeah. From the UK standpoint you can't ignore what rave was or how raves worked. Even before that, when people went to dance in social clubs, or working men's clubs, or churches, there's always been that socio-political thing. Rave introduced us to peace, love, and harmony, which was great. There's always going to be a social commentary attached to clubbing.
I'm very aware of American acts like Chino Amobi who are making explicitly, overtly politicized club music. Am I missing out on UK acts who are doing similar things?
The best example at the minute would be Grovestreet. Jam City did the same on his last album. It's becoming more important for people to be aware of their voices, to let others know what they stand for as artists. That's where it comes from. Grovestreet isn't afraid to express an opinion. Me, less so.
Is the platonic ideal of the club as a space of inclusivity overly romanticized?
Probably, yeah! Going back to rave, that was all about freedom, about a lack of boundaries. And that idea has been packaged and sold to bars and nightclubs over the last 20 years. Clubbing is a mainstream thing now, just another part of the economy. But even then, back in the day you, had dodgy guys at raves too, so I think we are a bit too romantic about it all. Maybe that's the drugs talking. There are places that you can go where you aren't hassled of course, places that really are safe. But I think we're slightly idealistic about things.
I interviewed another DJ recently who reckoned that there need to be more Oceanas out there to draw dickheads away from underground clubs. What do you think?
There's a point there to a certain degree. But you'll never stop people being curious about clubs, people being taken along by mates. As something becomes popular you're gonna have a few layers there: there'll the purists, the originals, then it grows and grows. And that's very hard to control unless you run a members only club or do a Berghain.
A huge question here, but what is the state of things in London right now. As a promoter, DJ, producer, and someone I see out a lot...
I always try and think positively about things. I mean yeah, there are venue closures, which is annoying, but until you get another wave of clubs opening up, that wont change. It feels like things are getting a lot more DIY, moving towards smaller parties. What I'm trying to do at the moment is take what I've learned from doing House of Trax and running the label, and work with larger venues. I'm trying to reach a different audience, work in a different way. I stopped doing HoT in January after four years of running it. I'd been doing parties at a similar frequency for six or seven years, so I wanted to switch from promoting to working with venues. I didn't have enough money to do both. Our last party was at the ICA. It was amazing. It was unexpected. When I first moved here I used to go to gigs and shows at the ICA all the time. That was hooked up by the Just Jam guys, and I was super thankful to be chosen.
What's the one piece of advice you'd give to a young promoter just starting out?
You've got to play the long game, and you've got to be prepared to lose money. Which is what you don't want to hear. Work hard, keep your head down, be sure of exactly what it is you want to do and you'll get there. Determination is so key. When I was trying to do music full time, I'd be sat at home trying to get everyone else as excited by what I was doing as I was, and got air time from people, it was a big blow. I've got the emotional wounds from that!
When did you decide to put this album together?
The album thing came about when Ben (Fools) said to me a couple of releases in that after six EPs you can do an album pretty much. I got to about that point and something in my subconscious kicked in. When I'm telling people about my album for the first time, watching their reactions gives me a reaction and I remember that it is a big deal. Putting an album out is a big statement. It was a challenge, and something that was a long time coming. I remember when I first started making tracks and sending them to the Night Slugs guys and they were into them, and that was an indicator that maybe, just maybe, I could release stuff. For ages I'd make tunes, take them out to play, and then not play them, because the insecurities overwhelm thing. You don't know if your mixdowns are good enough, you worry that it'll sound crap. That kind of stuff.
Are you telling me a story with the album?
There's a couple of ideas within it. I've not communicated this properly yet, but the central idea is about de-compartmentalizing genre. That was the initial seed of the whole thing. I thought about genres I wanted to bring together, things that worked well, but were unusual combinations. That was before I went to Tokyo. The other part of it is it being an after hours album. It's slightly more toned down than my usual typical bangers because of that. The title is quite literally about being inspired by the music that came before me, and how I repackage that through my own voice.
Finally, before we escape back into the real world, tell me a little about the cover art.
I was like David Blaine. I was chatting to my agent about visual ideas about the artwork, water kept coming up. There's a tenuous link with sounds used in the album. We started talking about underwater photos, and I started going on Google sprees, and I found a guy who shoots from someone's pool in South London, hit him up, arranged a date, went down to the pool, worked on my breathing, he snapped away. Done!
Ours After is out on July 29th on Trax Couture