I am not a 100% how I got connected to Mazoulew, but our relationship over the years developed into one of those awesome Internet friendships and I know I can always count on him to give me honest feedback or share his thoughts on a matter. We had the pleasure to release a couple of tracks together and I've been following his sonic journey ever since.
I lowkey knew he's working on something awesome during the Pandemic, but "Ditto" - the first single from his upcoming record MOVEMENTS took me by surprise. Pure greatness. I had the pleasure to sit down and talk to him about the creative process, the release and the impact of the year-long isolation.
Hi Matthew! It's been a minute - what's the latest with you?
I’m really good thanks guys, really appreciate you having me here. So yeah with all things considered it’s been a busy and exciting time, despite the whole world coming to a standstill almost. I am really happy to announce my new record Movements, with the first single "Ditto" which got released last week on July 2nd. You can also stream it on Spotify here.
Where did you record MOVEMENTS?
So I actually moved to Italy last year to take a bit of time away from London, after 12 years in the noise and stress of the city I really felt like a needed a break to clear my head and refocus myself. I am currently in the sticks of Northern Italy outside Milan. Yeah, it’s just been a nice place to lay low and work on the record without distraction.
How did the location impact the end result and sound?
It’s an interesting question really, I am not sure how the record would have come out if I was in a different location but I feel like being here assisted me in writing some tracks that are more introvert and reflective. I am in a very quiet environment here so the idea of writing loud in your face tracks didn’t really feel natural. Instead being in such an isolated environment allowed me to tap into and explore much more delicate timbres and compositional ideas
Does the name MOVEMENTS signifies what's ahead of us as a society and going out of a year-long isolation and... well, not moving at all?
The title of the record is actually in relation to the Neo-classical/ambient works that intersect that electronica tracks. I felt that the ‘movements’ were the intersecting glue that held the record together. Very early on in the project I knew I didn’t want to just write a bunch of EDM bangers, I’ve done this before and I will most certainly do this again but for ‘Movements’ I wanted to cover a lot more ground and explore ideas that I didn’t feel were being explored at this moment in time, it was refreshing let’s say, to write ambient works and score big orchestral arrangements. I tried to go back to the route of composition and build harmonic ideas that engaged the listener on more of an emotional level.
What was the biggest hurdle when recording MOVEMENTS?
I think the isolation of the writing stage was a subsequent blessing and curse as I had the opportunity to really focus on the work but at times I would sometimes feel like I was walking in the dark. Compositionally I also feel like this record is a bit more ‘grown up’ shall we say than some of the previous works. I guess I set the bar quite high in terms of what I considered would be good enough and what ideas would tell the story I was trying to deliver at this moment.
If you could describe the release in a sentence what would that be?
Movements is a moment of isolated reflection in an otherwise noisy world.
I love the overture - cinematic, eerie, and haunting - any movie soundtrack inspirations here or just your vision for the sound?
People have always said to me that my works feel cinematic by nature. I think I take a lot of inspiration from all art forms outside of music and try to bring them into my works in a way that is cohesive and relatable. When I write anything I feel like I am creating a ‘sonic environment’, with each of the compositional elements being a ‘character’ within that narrative. Each musical element needs to work with the others and they all need to be telling the same story. What can result otherwise is the feeling of disconnect and just an amalgamation of sounds as opposed to a musical story
What was the recording process like?
The recording process was fairly straightforward for this record as I wrote everything in my home studio, I much prefer working this way rather than going to other studios. It’s much more comfortable and I know my equipment and workflow like the back of my hand. Something I really try to do and I think this is apparent from my setup is to not have too much ‘stuff’ around, I like to have a very basic environment with not an endless amount of options. Years ago I was really into technology and engineering, I still have a love for it but at the same time, I really try to keep as little tech and convolution between myself and the idea. If there is too much tech and too much time involved in getting an idea down I find it becomes less pure and moreover tweaked. I think for ‘Movements’ I explored a lot of traditional timbres that were modulated in such a way that they felt revived and renewed.
The one element across several of the tracks that were not recorded here were the string parts, I actually scored everything on my own and then sent the works to a connection of mine in America who rerecorded everything. I really felt like this was necessary as the strings really needed to sing and resonate in a more organic way that can only be achieved with a human touch.
I actually mastered the record in collaboration with Lewis Hopkins at star-delta mastering, this was a really great part of the process as we actually mastered it to Ampex 1/2” tape on the final run, this to me really brought the record to life and took away the veneer of digital stability, replacing it with an analog, organic unpredictability. It made the music feel alive to me.
"Ditto" is definitely record's ray of hope. What's the inspiration behind it?
Like I mentioned, I wanted the record to cover a lot of ground, both compositionally but emotionally as well. I feel like each of the works within the project all tell a different part of the greater story. ‘Ditto’ was actually written as the sun started to shine again and I think it is the track on there that will resonate with the largest amount of people this summer. Most of my works walk a fine line of melancholy whereby there is darkness balanced with light. I am a great believer in equilibrium in its broadest sense, too much of anything is always a bad thing so I like to juxtapose feeling as emotions to create a more dynamic story for the listener.
One good thing about the isolation this past year?
I guess it's clearly an opportunity for everyone to slow down and do some serious consideration. It allows everyone to regain some perspective over what is important and what only seemed important. For me personally, I have been very thankful to spend this time turning what could be perceived as a poisonous period of history into something beautiful, breathing it in and breathing it out again as a piece of art that can resonate with others and inspire them for years to come.
And one bad thing?
There is no way to say that it hasn’t been psychologically challenging at times, humans are naturally social animals and when forced to isolate from one another, this will have an obvious effect on people’s mentality. Being forced to transform real-world connections into digital interactions is obviously difficult but we have to work with what we have and always try to stay positive with it. At the end of the day, we are all in it together.
What's one piece of hardware (production related) you can't live without?
I mean it could sound obvious but I think it would be my machine, you can strip all of my toys away but at the end of the day if I don’t have an environment to arrange and record my ideas everything would stop. Years ago I tried to enter the groovebox world with HW sequencers and MPCs but quickly realized it wasn’t for me. Being able to use a linear timeline allows me to overview my arrangements and have a clear perspective on where all my ideas sit.
What's after the record for Mazoulew?
It's a good question, essentially I work in a slightly strange way. My process is split into two stages, input, and output. When I am in an output stage as I have just been writing Movements, I actually don’t really consume any external media or art. I am just very focused on getting everything down and out and I don’t like to convolute the ideas with an external stimulus. Once the output stage has completed I revert back to input and absorbing ideas and inspiration. Right now I am just going to enjoy finding inspiration from the world again and planning my next story.