MJ COLE

In this very special Pro­ducer Master­class for our 250th is­sue, we’re sin­cerely hon­oured to present a bona fide house and garage leg­end

Computer Music - - Contents -

We get into his su­per­charged stu­dio as he breaks down a track in this ac­cess-all-ar­eas video

Son, can you play me a mem­ory?

In the late 90s, Matthew Cole­man, aka MJ Cole, helped bring the sound of two-step UK garage into the main­stream con­scious­ness with the lus­cious Sin­cere. Since then, he’s worked with a ver­i­ta­ble who’s-who of artists, in­clud­ing Mary J Blige, Mariah Carey, Amy Wine­house and Wi­ley. We caught up with Matt in his Clerken­well stu­dio to wit­ness him break down his lat­est track, Pic­tures In My Head.

: How did you get into mu­sic? MC: “I grew up with mu­sic – my dad used to sing in mu­si­cals and was con­stantly play­ing the piano at home. I started play­ing the piano when I was five, and as I be­came a teenager, in the 80s, I dis­cov­ered dance mu­sic – house and hip house… it was just kind of a mish-mash of stuff.

“I was al­ways mess­ing around with my dad’s hi-fi and record­ing stuff off the ra­dio, so it was the perfect mar­riage of tech and mu­sic to me.”

: Com­ing from a more tra­di­tional mu­sic back­ground, what was your ini­tial re­ac­tion to dance mu­sic? MC: “I didn’t see it as an ex­ten­sion of the mu­sic that I was do­ing in piano lessons and study­ing at school. I looked at it as more of a fun thing – like a toy to a kid, re­ally. I never cot­toned on that quickly to har­mony and anal­y­sis and stuff like that; I was never re­ally that great at that. My clas­si­cal train­ing was ma­jor­ing around per­for­mance and in­ter­pre­ta­tion. I was never that great at har­mon­is­ing Bach chorales and com­pos­ing in a clas­si­cal sense. I saw dance mu­sic as play time. All that har­mony and stuff has only re­ally come to me in the last ten years!”

: What was your first ex­pe­ri­ence with mu­sic tech­nol­ogy? MC: “I had a Com­modore Amiga, and my mate Matt and I messed around with a tracker, sam­pling bits of James Brown off cas­sette. He used to bring his Amiga around, and we had a DJ mixer in the mid­dle, with one com­puter on each chan­nel.

“I met Matt at the Royal Col­lege of Mu­sic. I got a schol­ar­ship there be­cause of my piano play­ing – it was all quite se­ri­ous clas­si­cal stuff, but they had an amaz­ing stu­dio. They had one of the very first Ap­ple Macs and a ba­sic Akai sampler. I re­alised that the Atari was the way to go, so I got an Atari STE and a copy of Cubase; and for my birth­day one year I got a Yamaha SY22, which was my first synth. I caned that SY22 and knew ev­ery­thing about it. I spent days and days edit­ing sounds and do­ing whole bits of mu­sic just us­ing that.

“At one point, I bought a Roland TR-707 and was try­ing to make hard­core records on a drum ma­chine, and hav­ing a bit of a job do­ing it. Then I re­alised that th­ese guys were just sam­pling break­beats on a sampler. So once Matt and I worked that out, we got a Chee­tah SX16 sampler with about 2.5 sec­onds of sam­ple time.

“When I was 18, I went to City Univer­sity and did a mu­sic de­gree there, and they had S950s and Macs as well. At that time I was kind of start­ing to make mu­sic a bit more

“I was al­ways mess­ing around with my dad’s hi-fi and record­ing stuff off the ra­dio”

se­ri­ously, and a cou­ple of DJs started to cut my tunes to dub­plates.”

Now see how Matt made the im­pec­ca­bly pol­ished Pic­tures In My Head in our ex­clu­sive tu­to­rial video.

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