It’s one thing for an artist to maintain a consistent level and quality of output over a number of years. It’s something else for them to do it under an assortment of names — and to have each of those names indicate something distinctive, without the music suffering any. That’s the case with Ann Arbor resident Matthew Dear, whose new album under his own name, Asa Breed, comes right on the heels of a couple of shorter releases as Audion: the “Noiser”/”Fred’s Bells” single and an EP of remixes, mostly by other producers, of “Mouth to Mouth,” an earlier single.
Where Audion highlights the harder, acid-techno side of Dear’s sonic personality, Asa Breed finds him in a more overtly singer-songwriter mode. This is hardly the first time he’s done this kind of work; his most famous song is undoubtedly “Dog Days,” from 2004′s superb Leave Luck to Heaven, which patches Dear’s Bowie-esque vocal over a Prince-like synth-riff. But Asa Breed is the kind of record that would fulfill its intentions even without Dear’s superb beat programming. Luckily, we get both. Dear answered eMusic’s questions via email shortly before Asa Breed‘s release.
eMusic: Asa Breed is very song-oriented, even more than the previous albums you’ve released under your own name. Do you see Matthew Dear as a singer-songwriter, where other aliases like Audion and Jabberjaw are straighter techno?
Matthew Dear: Most definitely. This is the way I’ve designed things. I’ve been writing lyrical music since I was a teenager, long before techno took hold for me. However, techno was the first music of mine that really saw the light of day. Now, I’d like to return to my roots, but use the procedures I’ve learned through electronic production and apply them to my experimental pop.
eMusic: I wanted to ask about the pseudonyms. Were they always part of your plan when you began making music — using Name A for one type of music, Name B for another? Or did they evolve once you’d made particular tracks?
MD: My music has always had multiple personalities. I never sat down and deliberately made varying styles — they just happen. When it comes time to release the music is when I need a separation of sorts, primarily so my audience doesn’t get confused. I would hate for someone to come to a show expecting me to sing, and then get a face full of hard techno instead.
eMusic: You’re a native Texan who lives in Detroit. What brought you there, and why?
MD: My mother transferred jobs when I was still in school, so I had to make the move.
eMusic: Do you think you’d be making the same kind of music if you hadn’t gone to Detroit? How do you think it might be different?
MD: Texas was very rock-based. In terms of radio play, most of what you get down there is classic rock, metal or indie. When I moved to Detroit, the airwaves were full of soul, r&b, and hip-hop — a drastic change indeed. Growing up with this split really had profound influences on my varying styles. I think you can even hear this between the tracks on [Asa Breed]. Some are more Texas. Others are more Detroit.
eMusic: Talk us through the making of a particular track: “Neighborhoods,” from Asa Breed. Did it start with the drums? The keyboard line? The lyrics? A general feel you were going for? In what order did you construct it?
MD: I usually start with a kick [drum]. Then a keyboard line. The sound-sawish synth sound is actually from an old NY disco record. For a song like this, the music came first, and then I wrote the melody afterward. “Neighborhoods” was made around my “Dog Days” phase. They are very similar songs in my mind.
eMusic: Have you ever been tempted to try your hand at hip-hop or rock? If so, are there people you’d use as exemplars in those styles?
MD: Well I’d like to hope that I’m bridging somewhat into rock with this album. “Midnight Lovers” and “Vine to Vine” are rock songs. I tried hip-hop when I was younger, in high school, but that was more or less an experiment with friends. It’s not my place to make it. I’ve always been a fan of Nick Cave, and Radiohead. They do the rock thing right. As do Sonic Youth and Spoon. I love it all.
eMusic: What is your favorite keyboard?
MD: I use the Novation V-Station software synthesizer a lot. I don’t own any analog keyboards, though.
eMusic: How do you approach a remix? Take, for example, the Audion remix of Claude Von Stroke’s “Who’s Afraid of Detroit?” — how did you decide to rework that track?
MD: Remixes are commissioned by the original artist or label that put it out. Claude asked me to do that remix. He sends me the parts for it, and I’m supposed to come up with my take on things. They can be stressful at times due to deadlines and limits on creativity.
eMusic: Who would you like to have remix your work that hasn’t yet?
MD: Holger Czukay. Also, I’m still waiting for a Ricardo Villalobos mix . . . Ricardo? Are you listening?
eMusic: Reverse that — whose remixes of your work have pleased you the most?
MD: I really like Kieran Hebden’s Four Tet remix of “Deserter.” It’s beautiful.