Matthew Dear – Missing Pieces

Foto: Will Calcutt / © Ghostly International
While his latest record »Beams« will be listed amongst the best albums of 2012 in the upcoming weeks, the visual aspect of his work is lesser known. We met Matthew Dear in New Orleans to talk about his collaboration with the creative company »m ss ng p eces«.

An artist painting his subject in a Brooklyn warehouse. Simultaneously a musician, poet and dancer are subconsciously influencing his work by playing, reciting and dancing. All of this is filmed with the result being the documentation of the portrait’s making-of The portrait is of Texas-born DJ, producer and bandleader Matthew Dear and it is the cover of his latest album »Beams« Though Dear focuses on the audio side of things he has realized that the possibilities of visual experimentation are endless and he uses it to create a sense of mystery between him and his audience – not to distance himself from his listeners but to draw them in. We talk to him at the beginning of his US tour in New Orleans about his relationship to the visual side of his work. mag: You’ve worked with the Brookyln based creative company »m ss ng p eces« for a couple of years now. How did that relationship come about?
Matthew Dear: I met Ari Kuschnir of »m ss ng p eces« around 2007. It was right around the time I had an album coming out so it synched up perfectly. Ari came up with this concept of making mini videos following me around – we did one on the train tracks and of me fishing. It was new concept back then so we didn’t know what we were doing. We just talked about the albums, made these videos and when we put it all together it just made sense. Cool Hunting picked the videos up right after we released them and they got a lot of love. People actually wanted to see these little tidbits of information. We’ve done something for each album since then. For »Black City« they did a piece where I was walking to a show in Williamsburg and for »Beams« they filmed the artist Michael Cino painting my portrait in a warehouse.

How did that come about?
Matthew Dear: Michael’s done album covers for my label Ghostly International. We had a phone meeting before ever meeting and really it was just to discuss the colors and the abstract goals of the album cover. He was just going to do a random painting but at the end of the conversation I asked him for a portrait of me once the album cover was done, totally disconnected from the album cover. A light bulb went off in his head though and he said: »Well, Matt, I think that is the album cover!« Everything else we had talked about went out the window. It’s just letting dominos fall and letting things direct you to where you didn’t think you were going to go to before.

»I wanted us to be in a dreamlike state with them being almost ghost-like figures.«

Matthew Dear
How did the portrait evolve into a video then?
Matthew Dear: Obviously we were going to have to meet in order for him to paint me so I thought why not film it? From then on it was clear that we had to involve »m ss ng p eces« because they are the perfect people to do it. We needed a clear concept so I started thinking about getting a musician, dancer and poet involved. It was one of those moments where one thing triggers the next thing. It became a project that allowed art to influence art. That was the theme. Michael was going to paint me. I wanted the musician, dancer and poet to perform a piece in between us. I wanted their performance to affect the way that Michael painted me while he completely ignored their presence. I wanted us to be in a dreamlike state with them being almost ghost-like figures.

»Beams«, its cover and songs, is a lot more cheerful and upbeat than the previous album »Black City«. To what extent did you control the outcome of the portrait so that audio and visual would match up?
Matthew Dear: I had had Dark Aqua and Turquoise in mind when I started talking to Michael. I knew that »Black City« was a very sparse visual approach so I wanted to introduce colors but I knew it didn’t need to be rainbow colors and I didn’t want to go white because that would be too cliche. It just evolved from a mutual understanding that the music was brighter but not complete awash.

What’s your visual relationship to your live shows?
Matthew Dear: For this tour we have banners made by Cino, which are also the inner panels of the album sleeves. I don’t just want to show videos on stage. I really like physical stuff like banners, shadows and lighting – something a bit more tangible. Nowadays if you do visuals you have to go into the extreme and I don’t even want to start in that world!

It must be difficult to place so much trust in someone for a project like that.
Matthew Dear: It is and we’ve had that bite us in the butt. Visuals are hard. To be truthful getting the visual aspect right is really difficult. You do want people to flourish but if you have such a particular image in your head the marker can be missed by a lot.