We were very fortunate to interview Elliot Matsu. Elliot Matsu is one of the most exciting underground artists out there with his songs that speak to your soul, candid writing and instantly recognizable voice. To get the full experience of immersing yourself in Elliot’s amazing music while reading our interview, click here and play Takin’ the Train (you are going to love it!).
Elliot, you just came out with your latest album, the Value of Power. Prior to that, your most recent release had been 2nd Avenue way back in 2003. For those devoted fans who you’ve made wait, first off, why such a long time between releases? Where has Matsu been?
Matsu has been waiting in the shadows, running his beard through his fingers and planning his next attack. But seriously… Sometimes life just takes your attention to different things. I got married, had a kid and have been working on some different things – I’ve been putting a lot of time into Odd Zero, an underground punk/metal band here in New York.
You know Rethnea is a spiritual blog. Can you tell us a little bit about the role of spirituality in your life? Religious, spiritual beliefs, or even just significant events in your life. In what ways have those currents influenced your music, if at all?
I’d like to approach everything spiritually – I guess that’s the goal. Life is messy and hard and there are so many opportunities to choose between giving or reverting to selfishness. The most important part of spirituality for me is that, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you say or think or got credit for or didn’t, it matters what you did in those moments.
As far as art being spiritual, I think the same “spiritual” qualities of patience, concentration, understanding and love will make you better at just about anything you do. Aside from that, there’s not much spiritual about being the kind of ego-maniac who wants to hear himself on the radio!
As a blogger, I’m interested in the creative process. Tell me a little about your creative process for writing songs. Does it all come at once? Or in bits and pieces? Do you think of the melody and then add lyrics, or vice versa? Some combination of both?
Sometimes I get the melody, or the lyric or the guitar riff first. Sometimes it’s just a thought or an emotion that I want to amplify. And once I get that I build around it. A lot of the creative process for me is building the arc of the song, just like you guys build the arc of the story. You can do that with arrangement and production – like, the bass comes in here, drums come in here, organ comes in … whatever. A lot of times, what you start with is completely overtaken by something cool that jumps out during the process and becomes the focal point. You try to make each part as interesting as it can possibly be and then you decide what really “makes” the song and bring that to the front.
Of course, the hard part is staying motivated. Half the songs I start pretty much suck and don’t inspire me to go much further. Or sometimes I’ll have an idea that will stick around for years and years until finally I say ‘aha, that’s what to do with that.’
Tell us a little bit about your other band, Odd Zero, which has a completely different energy. What kind of music do you play with them, and when can folks hear them play live? Most importantly, how has Odd Zero influenced the development of Elliot Matsu?
Odd Zero is a loud, crazy, punk/rock outfit. The guys are great and the creative vibe is fantastic – we all do our own thing and it ends up being very cool. As a heavy-metal-shredder-kid, it gives me the opportunity for long masturbatory solos and loud, crazy metal riffs that put a smile on my face. As for its influence on my solo stuff, I guess it’s pushed me a little more towards the hard rock end of the pop-rock spectrum at points.
You knew this one was coming. We have it on good authority that you recently welcomed a tiny little addition to your family. Tell us about her, and how she has influenced your music?
Yes, Allegra’s nine months now. The light of my life. I remember when she came out I said “wow, that’s exactly what she’s supposed to look like!” I was stunned at how intelligent she was from the very first minute – it’s really amazing. As for the music, she hasn’t had time to influence it yet but I’m sure she will.
I love the song “Who Am I.” I could be wrong, but it sounds like there was something important that triggered it. Can you tell me what was the impetus for that song?
Thanks a lot – I’m glad to hear that. Triggered by a huge tab of acid. Just kidding. It wasn’t so much triggered by anything, just a kind of zen song. It actually came together pretty fast and seemed to flow naturally. Sometimes you get an easy one.
You can check a few other of Elliot Matsu’s awesome songs on his myspace page http://www.myspace.com/elliotmatsu and on his website http://www.elliotmatsu.net . You can here Elliot’s punk/rock band Odd Zero here.
I love Elliot’s new album The Value of Power. It is the soundtrack to which New York unfolds in front of my eyes every day. I listen to it all the time and I recommend that you get a copy of it and bring the Matsu magic to your life. You can get Elliot Matsu’s album on iTunes or anywhere else you buy music.
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