The Fourth of July
Medieval bestiary recitations
Matmos—Drew Daniel and M. C. Schmidt—have found a sort of fame as Björk’s backup band, creating the clatterings and blips behind many of her songs. On their own, they’ve forged a snakier path, including albums of material created from various surgical and medical sounds—A Chance To Cut Is a Chance to Cure—and their latest full-length, The Civil War, which throws medieval instruments and marching bands into their chewy laptop stew. I live near a record store, and on two separate occasions people have left my home to head directly to the store to buy The Civil War after hearing it on my stereo. Recently I’ve seen Matmos categorized as IDM, or intelligent dance music, which bugs me, because you can’t dance to their stuff at all, and “intelligent” seems like a not-very-subtle way of saying “difficult and arty,” when so much of their stuff is hilarious and instantly engaging. Maybe we should just call it M.
We did the interview at my house, and made it into an ice-cream social by blind-sampling several different kinds of Mitchell’s Ice Cream. Mitchell’s Ice Cream—located at 688 San Jose Avenue, at Twenty-ninth Street—has no commercial stake in this interview or in the Believer, but I’d like to say that they make the best damn ice cream in the whole wide world. If you live in San Francisco, you should go. If you don’t, you should come to San Francisco, and then go.
THE BELIEVER: In terms of the size of the audience or the kind of appreciation… I think a lot of people would assume that you’re happy to be playing with Björk but secretly you wish you were the ones bringing a stadium full of people in.
DREW DANIEL: No. No, I don’t feel that way.
M. C. SCHMIDT: Artistically speaking, no, I don’t feel that way. But we’ve all got built into us, “Gee, shouldn’t this be more successful? Wouldn’t I like to buy a house? And wouldn’t it be foolish if I had the opportunity to not make the art necessary to make the money to buy the house?” I mean, of course you should do that. Every uncle from my last hundred years of relatives has been about making the money to buy the house. Of course that’s what you should be doing. But I’m inclined to think that once you mix your art with money, or you start changing what art you already make in order to make more money, you poison the entire thing. Some people, lots of great songwriters, are extremely fortunate in that—
DD: —what they naturally do gets them that audience. For us, we’ve been wildly successful, considering what we do. We have no right to be where we are and I always assume that at any moment it’s gotta crumble.
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