Matt Black: As a keyword, I like it. But as a label, it can be a straightjacket, like most labels. Keywords and adjectives are better than labels because they’re not exclusive. Something can be jazz, electro, and afro-beat if you think in terms of labels.
MVRemix: Describe the overall recording process.
Matt Black: Each track is different. Some of the recording sessions started 4 years ago and have weaved their own little way. Others only came together at the last minute, like the Roots Manuva track. Some of them are mainly Jon’s work. Some, mainly mine and some, we collaborated on.
MVRemix: How do you decide which artists will be the guests on the album?
Matt Black: It was different with each collaboration. Some came about because we wanted to collaborate with the artist before we’d written anything. Others we had written something and it struck as that a particular artist would suit it. That’s what happened with ‘Walk A Mile’. Originally, Jon had done it with a white rock / soul vocalist. It sat around for ages and no one really liked it, but he was playing with it one day. Me and Ross said, ‘You know, this is alright. It’s a bit trancey. The vocals are not right, but the idea is really good.’ Jon wasn’t convinced and neither were the rest of Ninja Tune, but Ross and I hung in there because we reckoned it could be good with a new vocalist. Someone suggested Robert Owens, who we thought would be very difficult to get hold of, because he’s a legend. But I happened to have a friend in London who knew him, so he was very easy to get hold of, in the end. One of the good things about being Coldcut is that we have a fairly good rep because we’ve been round for a long time. We haven’t blotted our copybook too often. We’ve hung in there. If we approach someone like Annette Peacock or Robert Owens, and even if they don’t know who we are, their mates or their kids say, ‘Yeah, Coldcut, they’re pretty cool. They’ve done a lot of good stuff. You might as well give it a go.’ So, we haven’t been turned down by anyone asked to do a vocal for us. Obviously, Roots Manuva is on the label, but you can’t force Rodney to do anything. He’s his own master. He wanted to do a track and we jumped at the chance to do it.
MVRemix: How did Ninja Tune start? How has running the label changed things musically?
Matt Black: Ninja Tune was formed as a Technicolor escape pod to get out of the music industry contractual swamp we found ourselves in when we signed to a major label. We saw that a lot of house producers used to release things under different names, so we started DJ Food and that was Ninja Tune. Ninja Tune is about small, sustainable, organic growth. We always thought that if we built it well, people would come. And here we are.
MVRemix: When creating a song, do you have a set theme or pre-written lyrics? Do you write the music first? Or, does everything come together simultaneously?
Matt Black: The music is always first. All the songs have come from music we wrote first. Either we’ve got a vocalist in and worked with them, or we’ve sent the track to a vocalist.
MVRemix: Favorite sampler?
Matt Black: Abelton Live 5.
MVRemix: Favorite keyboard?
Matt Black: EMS VCS4.
MVRemix: What is your opinion on downloading music from the Internet?
Matt Black: It depends whether you mean for free or not. I have downloaded things illegally, but have given it up. It’s bad karma for a musician to do that. If people think that all music can be free on the Internet, than there won’t be any new music made. I do buy stuff on iTunes. Downloading is a cool way to get music. Systems like iTunes enable artists to bypass the monopoly of big companies and that’s good.
MVRemix: On the song, ‘Money, Power & Influence’ from Guru’s ‘The Street Scriptures’ album, Talib Kweli mentions that Protools made producers lazy. Do you agree?
Matt Black: I can appreciate the sentiment, but like everything, there’s a duality. The expertise that producers needed in the past, when studio time was expensive and resources limited, is no longer necessary to an extent. Protools offers a shortcut. However, extra power often just gets used up. Today’s R&B groups expect to record 96 tracks of vocals rather than 3, which just results in many long hours spent staring at a computer screen, rather than significant musical developments.
MVRemix: What do you think of film ’24 hour Party People’?
Matt Black: Pass.
MVRemix: What is the favorite part of your live show?
Matt Black: My favorite part is my video break beat solo using VJAMM. It’s pure freestyle beat juggling improvisation using a new instrument we’ve developed.
MVRemix: Who are some artists you would like to collaborate with in the future?
Matt Black: I’d quite like to do a track with M.I.A. She’s wicked. I’d like to do a track with George Clinton whilst he’s still around.