MathMan is easily one of the most talent producers we have in Ireland. His recent collaborative project with Hypnotic Brass Ensemble was an insight to his prowess as a producer. The ensemble momentarily ditched their brass instruments in favor of beats and for good reason too. MathMan’s production is supremely crisp and while the influence from other producers is clearly present, he has his own signature sound, one that is still evolving with each new release. Aside from the H.B.E project, he has also produced tracks for Mango that we’ve all had on repeat since they came out. It’s been a busy few months for him so far and we’re looking forward to seeing what else he has in store for us. We chatted with him about his recent releases, past work and everything in between.
How did the Hypnotic Brass project come together?
“I’ve been good friends with the HBE for about 6 years now. We met whilst putting on an event in Dublin City. Since then, anytime they come to Dublin we just hang out and party. They knew that I made beats and I’d play them stuff every now and again. They actually took some tracks back to Chicago with them to record around 2012 – but we never released them. Then later, when I was producing for The Animators, I approached the guys to do a feature on the album. They said yes. The result was ‘Those Were The Days’. After that, the energy between us on a musical level was great – so we just decided that we’d combine talents for a collaborative album – and then came ‘Hyp Hop’.”
Were you present for the vocal recording or was it done mostly through email?
“Yes. We actually recorded in two separate locations – Dublin and Chicago. I’d say about 80% of the recording was done in Dublin in Hellfire studios (with my good friend Medjy on the boards). I was there for all the Dublin sessions. The remaining sessions were done in Chicago. The bro’s have their own spot over there. So they just got the extra bits n’ pieces we needed done there.”
Was it challenging to work with artists that you can’t necessarily meet up with or talk to easily at any time?
“Yes definitely. Although this project wasn’t fully an ‘internet project’, it did present its own challenges. The time it takes to communicate ideas and then execute them correctly is long. I’d communicate with the guys via instant messaging or email about changes or ideas. Then they’d go to the studio to execute. Likewise if they needed something changed with any of the tracks, I’d listen to their ideas and re-work some programming or sequencing. Some things that should only take minutes to change can end up taking weeks. It can be very frustrating at times, but you have to remain patient and work within the circumstances. If you care about the music and its quality then you do what has to be done. I’d never compromise the standard of my music just to get it out quicker. Luckily we got a lot of the work done in Dublin where we were able to discuss the music and collaborate. The guys have a really intense touring schedule that added to the complexities. But we stuck with it and learned a lot from the process.”
What production equipment could you not live without?
“I couldn’t live without Ableton. That’s the nerve-centre to the whole process. I could make-do without any other hard-ward or plug-ins as long as I have Ableton.”
Who are you biggest influences?
“For beats? Man, it’s got to be all the greats. Large Pro, Dilla, Timbo, Pharell, Swizz, Statik Selektah, Preemo, Alchemist, Pete Rock, Havok, RZA, Just Blaze. Strangely I’m not a massive Dre fan, although I really appreciate the sonic excellence he achieves. The great thing for me is that I like each of those producers for different reasons. My attitude towards music production has always been to never be pigeon-holed into a particular sound. I make a wide range of music for different types of artists. From DnB to RnB. As a producer I feel you can’t eat the same food every day, you have to mix things up. I want to test myself in every area and feed all of my influences into my music. I’m a music fan at first. I listen to absolutely everything. So as a music fan, I’m taking influence from all the different types of music I consume daily. I have a great appreciation for producers like Mike Skinner, Chase n Status, Wilkinson, Preditah, Artful Dodger, DJ Swiss, Rudekid, Mj Cole and the Stanton Warriors. I also love people like Massive Attack, 4Hero, Goldie, LTJ Bukem, Underworld, Nuyorican Soul, Nellee Hooper, Lamb, Soul II Soul, The Roots and UNKLE. To be honest, there’s not enough hours in the day to talk about the artists and producers I admire.”
How long have you been making beats?
“I’ve been making beats and writing music on and off for about 10 years. The first 3 or 4 years it was just a hobby that I didn’t take too serious. A lot of experimentation – and a lot of shit music. Then in 2011 I made a conscious decision to stop DJing after 16 years of playing clubs and festivals across Ireland and elsewhere. For me, the whole DJing scene in Ireland became really de-valued and homogenised. At that time I knew a career in DJing wasn’t ever going to materialise because of the state of the DJing scene. I always had a desire to write music more seriously. So I decided to quit DJing and focus all my time and energy on music production. It’s been that way ever since.”
What work are you most proud of?
“I’m very proud of everything that I release if I’m honest. I set the bar very high for myself in terms of delivering a music project. That’s why my catalogue isn’t as deep as others. For me, delivering a music project isn’t just about the music itself. It’s the entire product and brand execution. It’s about the art, the videos, the live show, the merchandise etc. If you look at the big projects I’ve produced and delivered over the years, you can see the evidence. With the Animators it was graffiti murals in the city, big live events (Boom Bap BBQ), unique merchandise, art exhibitions, TV appearances, radio performances, high profile support slots etc – a lot of ‘firsts’ for the scene. Personally, I think in today’s music environment if you’re not trying to reach people across different platforms and in unique ways, your music is going to get lost in the noise of everything else out there.
I’m also very conscious of the cultural significance of what I do. Because this scene is still so young in this country, a lot of what we as artists are doing is creating cultural artefacts. I want what I create now to have longevity. Something people can enjoy years from now, and hopefully things that will inspire others to create their own. That’s why I pay very close attention to the quality of every aspect of the product. Future classics has always been the motto, whether its music or otherwise.”
Do you always make beats with specific artists in mind?
“I’d say 90% of the time that this is the case. I think it helps to refine the process and keep you focused. Thematically it gives you a source of inspiration and allows you to tell a story sonically, well-before the artist contributes anything vocally. I’ve probably about 80+ tracks for every artist that I want to work with in Ireland at this point. And that’s just the artists in Ireland. No joke.”
If you could make a beat for any artist who would it be?
What was the most important thing you learned when working with the Animators?
“Not everybody in a band shares the same goals and work-ethic.”
How has Irish hip hop expanded in the past few years in your opinion?
“I think more and more artists are now paying attention to the quality of their product and brand. They’re starting to realise that it’s not good enough to download a scabby beat off the internet, record some badly written bars or lyrics on a shitty mic, record a shitty video on a potato and then put it all out and expect the world to stand still and take notice. Standards across every area of your music product are extremely important. The sooner artists in Ireland realise the importance and value in investing in themselves and their careers, the sooner they will start to see real results.”
Where do you the scene in the next 5 years?
“More evolved I hope. I hope the significant steps the urban music scene has taken in the last few years (and I say urban music scene because its more than just hip hop and rap – its RnB, its Neo-Soul, Grime and all the hybrids that will evolve from these in Ireland and elsewhere) are amplified in the next few years and we move even quicker to a point where we have artists getting legitimate airplay across the country, headlining medium sized venues and gaining critical recognition both home and abroad.
I also hope there’s greater collaboration across the scene as well. And I don’t just mean musically. I mean at every level – management, production, events, sponsorship, endorsements, videography, photography, studios, venues, publishing etc. I’d like to see a scene that works and grows together. Not everyone will want to work with each other obviously. But I’m talking about things on a macro level. The more collaboration there is, then the quicker things move and the bigger they become. I think there’s a certain responsibility that everyone has to try and make things better. That for me is really exciting to think about.”
Any artists we should be on the lookout for?
“My brother Mango. He has some amazing music coming. I’m also working with a wonderful talent in Yasmin Seky. She’s definitely one to watch. I also think Aik J, Soulé and some of the Word Up Collective artists are very exciting. Also, keep an eye out for my next project – REDUX, coming soon.”
Keep up to date with all MathMan releases HERE