Music Interview

Deathwatch Beetle Repairman

by Jett Black

Deathwatch Beetle RepairmanDeathwatch Beetle Repairman debuts on the music meat market with a fabulous first release entitled "Hollow Fishes." The CD's tribal beginnings layer more urban noise and digitally mastered vocal infusions followed by subsequent tracks with deep and clearly resonant vocals which have been artfully woven into the fabric of instrumental tapestry. The author of this dreamy, entrancing music is Matthew Riley. Currently residing in Toronto, Ontario, Matthew devotes most of his time to making the music you'll absorb on "Hollow Fishes." That is when he is not lurking on the back stages of budding new films from which he seems to gather much of his inspiration for writing and composing creative new music.

Quite recently, Matthew took out a few moments of his time to share the following responses to my inquiries:

Please describe Deathwatch Beetle Repairman briefly for those who might be new to your music.

Deathwatch Beetle Repairman is a one man band, which would be myself, Matthew Riley. This has always been the case, but I do use other musicians when recording and occasionally for writing. There have never been any live performances of Deathwatch Beetle Repairman and none are planned for the near future. That is not currently an interest of mine. When I do decide to perform, then the line up will most likely be fluid. Musicians will appear as required but permanent members are not very likely. It is a possibility though.

What concepts will be woven into the next recording? And when will that begin?

Recording on a new project will begin next September, if everything goes as planned. Since the last recordings were done almost 5 years ago, my tastes have changed as has my writing style. I think that there will always be a dark edge to the music, but now there will be more of an eastern influence. This comes from the fact that I play the Sitar for a living and I have always felt an influence from Indian and Pakastinian music. The concepts will unfold as I go.

What is the title of Deathwatch Beetle Repairman's latest release? When will the next release be available?

The latest release is called "Hollow Fishes," which was taken from the opening track "Dream of the Hollow Fishes." The title for the next project will not be decided on until its completion. Things have a tendency to shape themselves as I go so I do not like to make any decisions to far in advance since I know that they will likely change.

What changes in style has Deathwatch Beetle undergone since its inception?

The original writing style was clumsy and immature. None of the early songs are on this CD except for "Violet and Green." Although I still like that piece I cannot identify with the style or the lyrics. I think that back then I was trying to write for a particular audience. Whereas now I just write whatever comes out. I write for myself and not for anyone or any genre. I feel that [to do so] is very limiting to an artist and that what music should be is an art form, not a craft.

What has been most effective in keeping Deathwatch Beetle Repairman alive over the years?

I cannot escape the draw of music. I stopped for a long time, but the need to write was there and building, and even though I was not writing I was involved in music in one way or another. It is an addiction that keeps Deathwatch Beetle Repairman alive and is as necessary as breathing.

How would you describe the music you write and record?

The Score of my life. I feel that my music is reminiscent to the score of a film for the most part. This will be more true for the next project than for "Hollow Fishes." Some of the most hypnotic music ever written was written for film scores. A true master such as Ennio Morricone (Lolita 1998) can weave the music into the film flawlessly to amplify the film, not overpower it. When I write, I see a film in my head and I set the score to that. This is truest for "Dream of the Hollow Fishes." Songs on the next project will reflect this to an even greater extent.

Differentiation in "underground" music has led to distinctions such as "gothic," "industrial," "electronica," "darkwave"... Where do you believe these distinctions in darker music are headed?

I tend not to follow popular music very much or trends of any sort. As definite distinctions are made and various bands become mired under the labels of a particular genre, whether by choice or not, the music becomes more an issue of image than of originality. All forms of music breed sub-genres which breed more sub genres. Many of these are born as acts of originality and then someone slaps on a label and the trend seekers latch on and debase it into an unimaginative image outlet. This is the fate of all music at some point. This is not bad though. It is simply a part of the process of musical evolution. It is the stagnancy that follows that usually leads to an imaginative outburst from the people and the process starts all over again.

What are the general ideas and messages that infuse the music that you write and record?

There has never been any idea behind Deathwatch Beetle Repairman except to write music. There are no messages or statements. I write for myself about things that have directly affected me, for posterity more than for anything else. By releasing this CD, I am sharing my reactions to my world. I think that there is an obscurity in my lyrics which allows people to draw their own conclusions about their meanings.

What other bands have you worked with in the past that have influenced your styles since then?

The last band I was in was a Punk rock band in 1988. Before that I had some musical training but no urge to be a musician. I was talked into buying a bass and joining the band. Shortly afterwards I quit to write on my own. That did not influence my style in any way. We were horrible, but if it were not for them I would not be doing this now.

Would you be interested in working on a side-project band with members of other bands?

I am very open to writing with other musicians although my creative process usually involves a lot of reclusive intense concentration. Still, I like the experimentive experience of writing with other people. I've done some Sitar tracks for a few people in the last two years but nothing really involved. I never really seek out that sort of thing but I am very approachable about the possibilities.

Looking back upon the progression of your music, how have your messages evolved throughout the evolution of the musical styles?

There have never been any messages in the songs. The way in which I compose and record has changed greatly since the beginning. Things happen much more spontaneously now and there is no fear to do something different. The lyrics have become more obscure over time. In the beginning I think that they were too obvious and clumsy. Now they are more open to interpretation which is very important to me. Each piece means something to me but that may not be what it means for someone else. This is not exactly true for all of the songs on the CD but it will be more apparent in future projects.

What barriers do you perceive exist in the industry that prevent evolutionary new growth and suppress creativity?

Money is the driving force. The public is just as guilty as the industry in subduing creativity. Someone is buying Whitney Houston and Phil Collins CDs. There is no reason for the industry to support a new genre when the old ones are still bringing in the green. They wait until the underground scene brings someone to their attention first and eliminates the risk. They then take the fresh idea and market the shit out of it. People buy it and then latch onto it, often putting themselves into a group such as Ravers, Goths, Grunge or whatever. What began as something different quickly becomes a bunch of people desperately trying to fit in and look and sound like each other as much as possible. This makes it difficult to get noticed if you are doing something different; you (the musical artist) do not seem financially viable.

How would you characterize the impact of new music festivals upon the growth of the music scene and support of new musical artists like yourself?

Live performances spread music like a virus. Although I do not play live, I feel that these festivals are very important especially to the underground scenes. Not only does it expose you to a large audience, but it is a good way to get signed if that is what you are looking for. The music industry has its ears in the crowds of many venues. When one band gets recognition, there will be many to follow and the scene takes off into the mainstream light. For myself the festivals don't really do much since I do not attend and I do not wish to play live at this particular time.

Live performances spread music like a virus. Although I do not play live, I feel that these festivals are very important especially to the underground scenes. Not only does it expose you to a large audience, but it is a good way to get signed if that is what you are looking for. The music industry has its ears in the crowds of many venues. When one band gets recognition, there will be many to follow and the scene takes off into the mainstream light. For myself the festivals don't really do much since I do not attend and I do not wish to play live at this particular time.

I am using the Internet extensively to advertise myself. Actually, one of the contributing factors to the release of this CD was my sudden access to a computer. Suddenly, I had a tool that allowed me to create the artwork that I needed to represent the music. The website soon followed, and I had a tool for advertising to a massive audience as well. This allows me to represent the music more effectively than I could have when I originally finished the recordings.

Hollow FishesDo you utilize computer technology to develop the music itself?

Most of the music was written and laid down in sequencers long before I went into the studio. Now, I have programs such as Cubase and Pro Tools which give me greater flexibility and allow for greater complexity when dealing with several keyboards and dozens of tracks. Computers have become an essential tool in my writing and experimental processes.

Describe the personality types of people most likely to identify with your music and its messages?

So far my music seems to be accepted by a wide variety of people. I think people with a melancholic element closer to the surface will find the music more appealing. I am often deeply immersed in nostalgia and I hope that this element comes out in the music. Like-minded people will probably find it appealing. No bouncy-happy songs here. When I'm bouncy-happy I've got better things to do than sit down and write a song. I think that you learn more about yourself from the disturbing events in your life than from the happy ones.

What activities occupy your time outside of recordings?

I play the Sitar for a living so that takes some time. I do just about everything from background work in film and television to attending University for Astrophysics and Geophysics.

Do fans compare Deathwatch Beetle Repairman to any other band frequently?

I hate to even say it, but some people say it sounds like the Tea Party which I adamantly say it does NOT. I do not try to sound like anything. I was writing music and playing the Sitar long before I ever heard of them. The most flattering comparison that I get, if you can call it that, is when I'm told that a song reminds them of the music for a film. Not a specific film, but that it seems to be written for one. That is perfect.

What influence the development of lyrics and music for Deathwatch Beetle Repairman?

There are different influences for just about every song. Sometimes, just the rhythm of a street car going by brings about some music. The music pulls up a memory and the lyrics are pulled out of that. Everything starts out very stream of conscience. The personal influences that effect each song are just that; personal.

What insight into the name of your band might you offer to your fans?

The meaning of that name changes for me from time to time so I don't like to say really. What I will say is, read "Something Wicked this way Comes" by Ray Bradbury. It brought about the name and an element of the book gives the name its meaning.

Which musicians and film-makers have had an influence upon the development of your music?

I am very inspired by film scores. There are too many to mention, but the most notable include:
Gaetan Gravel (Garden of Shadows)
Ennio Morricone (The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly; Lolita)
Jurgen Knieper (Wings of Desire)
Angelo Badalamenti (Twin Peaks; The City of Lost Children)
Walter Carlos (A Clockwork Orange)
Thomas Newman (The Shawshank Redemption)
Ryuichi Sakamoto (The Last Emperor; Little Buddha)
Zbigniew Preisner (The Double Life of Veronica)
and Vangelis (Blade Runner).

Musical influences change almost daily. Tom Waits remains high on my list of respected musicians because he doesn't seem to give a shit what anyone thinks of his music. He just writes it. Dead Can Dance is a favorite as well as This Mortal Coil, and old Cure like Pornography, and Faith. There is a plethora of Indian Classical musicians as well as Pakastinian Kilwali vocalists that also have a major influence. And, no I'm not Indian.

Matthew Riley can be reached for further comment via the following routes:
Deathwatch Beetle Music
102 Concord Ave., Toronto ON, Canada, M6H 2P3
(416) 538-8863