advent of the do it yourself recording artist over the past ten year
period has led to an explosion of creative artists breaking through
online. For many 21st century recording artists, the major label push
of yesterdays are overartists
now work quite diligently to release physical CD product themselves,
while some have been establishing themselves with new releases through
digital download sales. One artist on the horizon who is breaking
new ground by releasing his new music inititally as digital downloads
through iTunes is Ethan Matthews, who leads up the musical
concept called Echo Us. Matthewswho
has already released a number of his albums on CD, including two releases
on France's fabled Musea Recordsis
a multifaceted musical genius at home as an electric guitarist, keyboardist
and a singer-songwriter. Moving from Boston to Portland Oregon in
03, Matthews moves his experimental / ambient rock sound to
a whole new level with his 2010 release Tomorrow Will Tell The
Story, which as mentioned above has just come out as
an "abridged" digital release, to be complimented by a planned
CD of the album later in 2010, including two bonus cuts in addition
to more core album material. Last year I was fortunate to hear of
an up and coming singer called Henta,
who moved from England to Seattle Washington and has so far released
several albums of classic New Age vocal recordings while also being
nominated for a grammy last year too. Amazingly, Henta hooked up with
Ethan and she shares the lead vocal slot with Ethan on a number of
these Echo Us tracks while also adding in her sublime vocal textures
on a number of tracks. Its just an amazing sound and Ethan teaming
with Henta kind of reminds me of Edgard Varese producing Mike Oldfield
and Maggie Riley or in current terms, a Steve Vai meets Laurie Anderson
vocal / vibey kind of thing. In other words kids, this is 21st century
music in all its glorythe sound of the future arriving
today from tomorrow land. Its intriguing to be able to create
and combine those many voices and sonic guitar / keyboard textures
into such a highly listenable and cohesive package, yet Ethan and
Henta work musical magic on this album. www.EchoUs.net
MWE3.COM PRESENTS AN INTERVIEW
ETHAN MATTHEWS OF ECHO US
The new album sounds quite futuristic. What was your musical mission
with the Tomorrow Will Tell The Story CD?
EM: Futuristic is certainly apropos. I have always been a huge fan
of music that pushes boundaries but still relates to a common purpose
- that anyone may be able to enjoy.
When the inspiration first hit I didnt really know where its
coming from or where it was leading. Things revealed themselves in
layers over time. The instrumental sections of Ears of Eras
came to me first, and my perspective at the time was that the album
would be like a new version of its predecessor, The Tide Decides.
As time went on and I had some crazy experiences during the initial
few months of writing it became clear that the album, although a conclusion
of themes started on The Tide Decides, was actually much more
than that. In the past I had always felt closest to the songs that
seemed to write themselves, but this time I ended up somehow conjuring
concepts and energies with even more gravity than Id experienced
before. The lyrics for This Is The Dream, The Dream Is You
is a great example of this spontaneity.
I just thought there is this thing, and the words came to me without
knowing what they were - they were gibberish at first! I had to suss
out what they were as best I could, phonetically spell them and look
them up to get a decent pronunciation. I thought I must be trying
to say something that is in the human psyche. I was correct...and
me being not so religious, with just a little bit of Presbyterian
upbringing in a small town I was not so
familiar with theology or the phrases that were coming to me- namely
YHVH/YHWH. So, it was a kind of religious experience in
that sense. I am not pro-this or that, so my view is that it was just
this experience and I rode it to where it wanted to go. I have learned
a bit more about a variety of religious thought and practice for my
own education, particularly Judaic because I knew the least about
it or Kabballah, which I still feel Ive barely scratched the
surface even now. That is where I got the idea of utilizing Rawn Clarks
work, contacted him and used parts of his canticle on the album. The
album was a step outside for me. I kind of threw all my convictions
about what Echo Us is and what I am willing to express out the window
and just followed things wherever they went. I wasnt really
in control, but in this case it was a beautiful thing.
MWE3: How did you approach the sound in the studio and how was the
album tracked and recorded and produced? Also when and where was the
album recorded? The studio sound is very interesting. Its sparse
yet quite effective. How would you describe your sound on disc?
EM: That is always the trickiest area, and the area that requires
an incredible amount of perseverance when working with offbeat material
like Echo Us. The entire project itself spanned almost three years,
but with ample downtime. I moved twice during its production, and
like a lot of people these days my studio is modest and in the living
room of wherever I dwell. Regarding sound, almost everything is original
and unique to the Echo Us sound library which is hand gathered; some
sounds come from nature and the outdoors, many came from samples of
the last album and the remaining bit - mostly the large sounding strings
and chordal synth parts are reprogrammed on hardware. I am a big fan
of space and accuracy, and I felt like I was able to achieve everything
I was looking for this time.
and recording are completely fluid and combined for me. I tend to
work on things over a very long period of time as mentioned; although
the initial composition, lead vocal tracking and arrangement come
within a few hours - one studio session in most cases for the songs
on this album. As far as sound production, arrangement and mixing
that goes on after the initial session that is what takes the time.
Mostly because I am looking for things that are absolutely golden
and, often times hidden and not obvious. As I change throughout the
process things get better and better with a renewed perspective. As
a songwriter and composer I was often told to get perspectives
from others - and god forbid dont get so inside your music
not seeing the forest from the trees - and that sort of
nonsense. After college I planned on deliberately doing everything
I was not supposed to do...not getting opinions often enough and burying
myself in the process until I found every nook and cranny I could.
Getting away from music and culture has helped me silence my mind
and actually do the kind of work I dreamed of - because I am listening
to a true inner self and the collective cosmos rather than taking
cues from peers. We are so defined by language. When I am exploring
alone language is not so much a barrier. I believe we are all connected
all the time, but I mean it in an energetic sense, not just the sense
of shared physical and intellectual culture mined through language.
It was pretty fortunate working with Henta on the lead vocals and
vocal coloration. She has a magical sound... How did you meet up and
start working with Henta and have you heard her albums? I know she
was nominated for a Grammy last year!
EM: Ya! Shes great... amazing vocalist and so wonderful to work
with as well. I got in touch with Henta originally in late 2009 after
searching for a second vocalist for many months. I read an ad in The
Stranger from Seattle and found out about Henta and her work
with Marcell Marias. I got in touch with her and maybe one other singer
from Seattle. I live in Portland and no one does music like this around
here, at least not that I am aware of.
When I heard Hentas solo material I was extremely impressed.
The songs stick with you and have that element of timelessness to
them that so few artists seem to have it seems. Our musical areas
are quite complementary, and the process has been very smooth. Much
of our process has been remote as she has her own studio and were
hours apart, but weve gotten together in Seattle and I am hoping
to see both her and Marcell again soon.
MWE3: Can you say something about the guitars and keyboards you used
in the making of the album?
EM: An old Epiphone hollow body is the main one. The heavier chugging
guitars are samples from The Tide Decides - a seven string.
As far as hardware in my studio its a substantial mix of older
Korg, Roland and Kawai synths. I like most strange and offbeat
machines like this Technics box I have... Technics made a real synthesizer
at one point! (not a player keyboard or portable toy) - believe it
or not! For instance the piano sounds on the album are that synth
mixed with an old ugly Fairlight sample to give it some breadth. Ive
kept my outboard gear, like old digital synths and havent moved
everything over the computer like so many have. I a big believer in
having as many different devices outputting sound as feasible, because
of the alchemy you can create with diverse sources rather than just
the software synths and mix buss/output of a computer. I still mix
through a console, although it is a kind of hybrid way of mixing combined
with the sample library in the computer that I started on this album.
am always looking for new ways to record and design sounds. Sometimes
a bit of limitation is actually necessary to keep the game flowing
though. We have so much available as software these days is almost
overwhelming to me making any sort of studio upgrade. I like sticking
with things that work... even if they arent perfect its
okay, because you get to know their peculiarities and can work around
MWE3: What is your main instrument and how long have you been playing
EM: Guitar really... I still love playing it the best, although Ive
been trying to keep my piano playing evolving in recent years so I
can improv a lot more when composing. My Dad performed classical repertoire
for the saxophone and taught music for years, so music was always
there. My trek through it has been a lot different. I did attend school
and have a lot of knowledge of classical and jazz, but I do not play
them much in a traditional sense. I studied machines and sound in
a room. That said, I do perform all the parts you hear on record like
the lead vocals, many many keyboard parts and guitar parts and much
else because I want the feeling of humanity about it. So that is where
the challenge is... to keep my musicians background and knowledge
and at the same time expand my interests into other areas, whether
its sound design, exploring new ideas for arranging and orchestrating,
MWE3: Would you say Tomorrow Will Tell The Story is representative
of your musical style and how would you say your influences came into
play in the writing and recording of your own album?
EM: Ive been told its my best work and of course right
now I feel that way having completed it. At the same time I look back
at my older work, especially lately the debut... I think its
still amazingly creative, but so different. I never seem to stay the
same really. I view myself as a musical channel that is always flicking
the remote when the commercials come on. I need things to be constantly
stimulating and challenging. This album did that quite well.
my biggest changes in musical landscape where brought on by Metallica
in my early teens, Marillion and Bjork at the end of high school,
and Tangerine Dream a bit later. Mostly these are emotional references
in the sense that I ran into music like this at key periods for me
personally. These days I am not so much listening, although Ive
been secretly discovering more and more of Steve Roachs work
the past few months, along with Patrick OHearn and others that
I didnt get to explore earlier on. I am a fairly big into later
classical music...Debussy, Stravinsky and others as well.
Its kind of hard for me to suss out exactly how the influences
might come into play where or when. I tend to really separate myself
from other music when working very intensely on something. The way
the album happened... all the vocal effects and everything was very
natural...as if a light bulb went off in my head! Things just fit
together like it was meant to happen, you know? Some will inevitably
compare the album to things they know which is fine. I still do the
same thing myself, as I am still a fan and listener. I just dont
sit around and listen to albums in the dark like years ago, which
I miss doing actually.
MWE3: Can you say something about your earlier album releases, if
they're still available and also about moving from Boston to Oregon.
What do you like best about Boston and when did you move and where
do you live in Oregon?
The last album, The Tide Decides was released on Musea Records
and the debut I released on my own imprint in 2005. I had worked indirectly
with Musea with my first band who signed to small German label called
Angular Records back in 1999. Tomorrows CD release itself
may be on Musea, but this album is such a different animal than the
album they released last year, so nothing has been decided just yet.
As far as space I love the NE and the NW! Best parts of the country.
Boston was great because of all the history and it was a special time
as I went to college out there for about 5 years. I love the downtown
and waterfront, north end...spent many an evening exploring and getting
lost in that place. If you go deep into the North End there is a great
little coffee spot called Dellos right below a cemetery...
on Hull street by this old church I believe. Then you have the bay
down below you, intricate courtyards, bridges and boats...everything!
Love the atmosphere there. I am in Portland now and have been mostly
since 2003. Its a little easier to manage out here in terms
of finding your way around. I always knew as a young kid that Id
go to Massachusetts (my folks always wondered why I loved Michael
Dukakis- it really wasnt the politics of a 7 year old!) and
also had a great attraction to Portland. I grew up in Oregon, but
not in Portland. When I was very young still my family moved to the
country outside the Eugene area. Early on I was in a small town environment,
but later on I went to high school in Eugene which is a little bigger
and started playing music in bands and out live.
MWE3: What would you like to see with Tomorrow Will Tell The Story
as far as gaining popularity of the music and are there live shows
planned? What is your next musical move?
EM: This is the kind of music I believe can reach across the isle
and do things for different kinds of people. My only goal is to spread
a sense light and being and expanding consciousness. The world is
in an extremely shaky time and I can feel it over the last decade
for sure. I am hoping this music can calm some nerves and maybe bring
some polar opposites together rather than divide. Its been an
amazing journey and I am still feeling good about it.
MWE3: Thank you Ethan
EM: Thanks Robert...its been a pleasure!