For Perth-based pianist and bandleader Ben Matthews, composing is a therapeutic process; however, life in the music industry has been anything but quiet for the four-time West Australian Music award nominee, with the WAAPA graduate’s work for Austrian game company ThQ Nordic taking him halfway around the world.
‘Let me set the scene for you. You fly 21 hours to get to your destination, you’re very jetlagged; you have one day off’, he recounts, referring to his 2018 recording sessions for developer Weappy’s PC title This is the Police 2.
‘The next day, you are rehearsing with a team of musicians you’ve never met before, in person and you’ve never met some of them before in any context. Then you have four hours to rehearse thirteen tracks of music in different ensemble sizes and genres, and then you have two days to record all of it. Then you have a day off and you fly home’.
Matthews’ impressive career seen the pianist doing everything from creating albums with some of Perth’s finest jazz musicians to writing noir jazz soundtracks in Norway with the traditional Scandinavian goat horn.
‘It’s literally a goat horn with a sax mouthpiece or a trumpet mouthpiece strapped to the front of it and holes drilled into the side’.
‘So we had this goat horn, we had this instrument called the langeleik, and a bunch of other instruments. We flew to Norway and recorded a lot of it there, and recorded a little bit back here at home as well…’
‘It was a really cool experience. I was really impressed with the attitude of the musicians, and the quality of the musicians was just fantastic; they brought it to life…’
With four collaborative jazz albums and three solo piano albums, his new album and fourth solo effort, A Soundtrack to Unwritten Cinema, is one of WA’s most promising releases for 2020. Although many artists contrive their music well before recording, the album has seen Matthews maintain a fairly spontaneous approach to production.
‘This is essentially a highlight reel of my favourite recordings of improvisations’, he explains. ‘I have a nice recording set-up here at home, so I often just sit at the piano and record and play, and playing is a meditative experience for me’.
‘In this setting in particular, you’re there alone with the instrument, and you’ve just got this opportunity to get in touch with your feelings and your thoughts and your own pacing of whatever it is that’s happening…. So, for me this is a form of therapy’.
Even with the COVID-19 crisis in full force, the bandleader still has plenty of work in motion for the rest of the year.
‘At the moment I’m composing for another LiveWyre album (a collaborative band project), so I’m very excited for that – a bit more jazz fusion stuff. I’m very excited to get into rehearsing soon now that isolation laws are kind of lifting a little bit…and I’m also starting to toy with some non-musical endeavours as well, and getting into a bit of IT and coding, but who knows?’
‘It’s just like an improvisation really; the improvisation of my life’, he laughs.
A Soundtrack to Unwritten Cinema is out May 1st from Bandcamp: https://benmatthewspresents.bandcamp.com/