Interview: Matt Elliott

(Acoustic) Sounds from the third eye

After leaving the electronic sound of Third Eye Foundation (3EF) and embracing acoustic composition, Matt Elliott entered a new phase, with new challenges. Subjects that this British artistic refugee talks about on the following lines.

Your most recent album, “Failing Songs”, was released last year. How would you describe it, and how does it fit in your musical evolution?
Well, in fairness it's not my job to describe it, and I can't because I'm too close to it. It is part 2 of a trilogy I've been working on for the last five years.

This question is probably inevitable: What took you to start making acoustic music? Were you just saturated with the electronic sound? Was it directly connected with you moving out from England?
There were many reasons. A growing dissatisfaction and boredom from the way I was working. Obviously, teaching myself to play the guitar properly, because although I called my self a musician I couldn’t play an instrument to any real level. In learning the guitar I learnt many things I could have never learned only using programming. Also, the move from a city in England to the countryside in France changed my working method as well and gave me more time to study guitar.

You still use electronic resources to treat the guitar sound, so the cut isn’t complete. Were you just looking for a more “human” touch?
Electronic processing has its uses, and some wonderful uses, but I prefer to use it now more as a tool than the process itself.

To which point are you being influenced by the folk heritage, being it British or from any other origin?
I've always had a profound interest in folk music from all over the world (although not really British folk music) because it is not so simplistic as modern western music. It is a direct human communication about the eternal human questions – love, loss, etc.

Does your “conversion” to acoustics mean that you’ve been growingly interested in the composition process?
Of course, because without that component there is no music. It made me think about music and its composition in a completely different way.

There is this melancholic side on your work, but also lots of humour, which is probably clearer in the “You Guys Kill Me” album, by 3EF. Are these elements the two faces of your “coin”?
Well, it's not hard to be melancholic these days – I think we've gone badly wrong. Our system has been so corrupted to the point that we are all slaves. Democratic choice is part of history these days. Private wealth has become far more important than quality of life and it's getting worse. And even worse, very few people seem to even care where we are going as a species, so soon we will pay the price. There are two reactions to this situation: to laugh or to cry, so...

Do you think that the mentioned melancholy somehow marked the 3EF aesthetic, giving a wrong image of what you wanted to transmit to the public?
With 3EF there were no lyrics, so I could only try to get my thoughts across in the form of the titles, but at the same time – because it was instrumental – it was easier for the listener to infer their own meaning to the music.

Talking of “You Guys Kill Me”, there were some peculiar circumstances surrounding the use of the evangelical images displayed on it. What can you say on that episode?
Well, one morning I was woken up by some ignorant christians with their bullshit propaganda. Some of the images made me laugh so I thought I'd incorporate it into my artwork, more for fun than anything else. It stopped being fun when my record company (along with Half Man Half Biscuits) received legal warnings to cease and desist, which I had no choice but to comply with.

During the 3EF period, you collaborated with and remixed other projects. Do you still make that kind of work?
Less and less these days, because I really don't have the time or the inclination, but every so often something comes at the right time.
During your last presence in Portugal, you had contact with the Portuguese guitar. What was your impression on it, being yourself a guitar player?
I did see both Coimbra and Lisboa Fado, and of course found it fascinating. I intend at some point to try and get a Portuguese guitar and to attempt to learn to play it.
This takes us to your present projects. In what are you working at the moment?
Well, I've finished the third part of the “songs” trilogy, which should be released at the end of the year. I'm also slowly working on a 3EF album, but mainly for fun. This, when I have the time, as well as another project, which I'd rather not mention until it is closer to completion.

Nuno Loureiro
(interview + photos)

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