You cannot live on hunky good-looks alone. Thankfully for this fuzzy hunk from Portland, Oregon, musician Matt Mercer “ has been releasing music under his own name since 2003, beginning with a pair of minimal/glitch techno 12″s on Forte and Neutonmusic, and then moving into digital-only self-released tracks which combine dancefloor function with headphone-listening details.” Mercer’s one of a kind sound should put some groceries on the shelf.
Matt Mercer plays with techniques that are new to me. In his solo work he focuses on deconstructed piano recordings: new to me. Improvisations are recorded, disassembled, and put back together in a variety of patterns and tones: new to me. His sounds have a refreshing and rejuvenating quality. If you started listening to a track of Matt’s feeling a bit, glass-half -empty, by the end of the song your glass will be overflowing with joy. Mercer has an impressive range of songs. He is also one half of the electro-pop group Microfilm and has been known to moonlight as part of Jumberlack & the Cobra.
Keep your eye on this one!
How would you classify your music? Would it be considered original or remixed?
Most of my music is original though I do tend to use a lot of tiny samples and fragments of source material. I also remix other artists for fun or commission, depending on the project. My music is electronic, sometimes aimed at a dance floor but sometimes more of a listening soundtrack. The newest stuff (Pianissimo Possibile and Turbulence) is not dance music at all — I wanted to explore some material that was completely divorced from that context.
While I tend to keep my ear to the ground to know what’s going on with electronic and dance music not only as a sometimes-DJ but more so as just an avid listener, I don’t usually aim to match those sounds. All of my solo music is instrumental and much of it veers far away from pop trends, but it’s quite personal to me. Hopefully that comes across and people can derive some meaning of their own from what I’ve put out there. In that sense, the takeaway is theirs as much as it is mine.
Tell a little bit about being one half of the electro-pop group Microfilm?
Microfilm started in 2006 with my partner Matt Keppel. I had been working solo for several years, and he ran the idea by me of trying something that would be more of a pop sound with vocals and hooks. We banged out our first album quite fast that year and then remastered it with a disc of remixes as a 2xCD release in 2007. I tend to focus on the arrangements and production side of the project while Matt sings and handles most of our communications. We collaborate on concepts and the overarching ideas of the project as it’s evolved. We compiled several of our EPs, remixes and singles into 2 anthologies last year (I Am Curious and I Am Rewired) and we’re looking forward to starting fresh on a completely new chapter musically this fall.
Does your solo work and Microfilm feed off each other?
No doubt, even if it’s not intentional. I’m continually learning new things and doing things in new ways, and in that sense all of my projects cross-reference one another. But if you sit down and listen to any of my recent solo output and compare it to Microfilm, they are quite different, even if you might hear some of the same techniques or gestures.
You live in Portland which has a reputation for being “green.” Has life in Portland influenced your music or perhaps inspired any of it?
I think that moving to Portland from Chicago in 2008 has been inspiring in many ways. It’s been good for my spirit and has no doubt affected my creative instincts and energy. We did a Microfilm Christmas song (!) called “There’s No Snow Here For Christmas” as a bit of a wink to our Chicago friends — ironically, that first winter we spent here in 2008 had the largest snowfall in about 50 years, so the song wasn’t accurate at all despite high hopes after bearing cruel Midwest winters my whole life.
If people were to listen to just one piece of your work to get a feel of your work as a whole, what would it be?
Probably the most personal thing I’ve put out there is the latest album, Pianissimo Possibile, and its companion EP, Turbulence. Fair warning that it’s not an immediate set of tracks — it’s subtle and begs a bit of patience to allow it to sink in. Also, the Meantime & Meanwhile mini-albums I put out on my own a few years ago are pretty representative of my inclinations for dance music and its outskirts… all of these are available for previewing and purchasing or downloading on my Bandcamp site: http://matthewmercer.bandcamp.com
What are you currently working on?
I spent the spring working on my first-ever score for a short film called Vicious. The film itself is still in post-production, but I had good graces of the director, Devan McGrath, to make the score available as a free download. The download includes expanded variations of most of the music I created for the film along with a couple other pieces that relate thematically. http://soundcloud.com/mercerm/sets/vicious (also available on mediafire http://www.mediafire.com/?mv3yy5gvt9p1rzd)
I’m collaborating with Charles Fenech of AngelTheory on a new EP as Jumberlack & The Cobra. We started the project as a bit of a joke when I lent support for his US tour last year, and we released a free download EP of mixes of a cover of LaTour’s “People Are Still Having Sex” shortly after. (http://www.soundcloud.com/jumberlack) The new one will be a cover of Pet Shop Boys’ “I Want A Dog” which I’m excited about.
I also recently completed a few remixes over the summer: The first is a remix of Sarah Nixey’s “The Homecoming”… Sarah is a friend to Microfilm; we got acquainted while she was working on her first solo album after leaving Black Box Recorder and we’ve traded remixes for vocal collaborations. Her newest album Brave Tin Soldiers is much more lush and acoustic, but we took the ballad single and turned out a minimal, melancholy tech house mix. I’m currently working on another remix for Sarah which ought to be done soon, and we are hoping to collaborate again with her on some new Microfilm material.
Another is a remix of Lucky Princess, a Portland rave project. Her track “Text Me Too Much” is a full-on tribute to 90s rave, and the Microfilm remix of it is a sincere homage to Rollo Armstrong (Faithless, etc.).
Yet another remix I made this summer was for Stephen Vs. Stephen, a.k.a. Stephen Sandknop, a Portland electro-pop songwriter whose And Yet EP came out recently. His EP is a free download, and I highly recommend it. His song “The Difference Between Us” was a great one to remix.
T-shirt and jeans. I may be predictable, but I’m comfortable.
Describe for me the gays in Portland and the “scene” there.
I’m far from an authority, but my impression is that Portland’s got its share of microscenes that intermingle and cross over. There’s no real “gay ghetto” neighborhood here, so I find Portland to be a bit more homogenous in that sense compared to Boystown and Andersonville in Chicago. But Portland seems to have a reputation for being beardy and hipster, which is sometimes true but by no means definitive. There are jocks, nerds, faeries, bears, twinks, average joes, and every other sort of person. I like Portland’s tendency for queer takeover nights, like Maricón at the Matador on W. Burnside, Joystick at Ground Kontrol, Blow Pony at Rotture, Gaycation at Holocene — all of these semi-regular events are at ostensibly “straight bars” although the line becomes blurrier the more we don’t draw one in the sand.
You also DJ at some well-known venues, are they mostly gay?
I’ve actually been taking an extended break from DJing to put more energy into creating music as well as focusing on my day job. When I was DJing more regularly in Portland I usually buddies up with Darkcloud and Kid Whatever, and we played a variety of events at the Eagle Underground (under Casey’s, before it closed), Branx/Rotture, Red Cap Garage and Crush. Those events were all gay-targeted but not all of the bars are necessarily gay bars. I also did a guest spot playing minimal techno at the semi-regular Castup & Mustard party which was fun, because that crowd is less concerned with pop music. It’s possible I’ll resume pushing the DJ angle more with time; there’s certainly no shortage of good new dance music being added to my library at home. I may be doing another appearance at Kid Whatever’s 90s-themed dance party S****t later this fall. If nothing else I hope to record and post some sets online. Unfortunately hand in hand with not playing out much I haven’t been making it to a lot of events here at all — I am just spread too thin to get out as much as I’d like.
What’s the one thing you want people to know about you and your music?
I may not be the loudest musical voice in the room, but if you’re willing to lend an ear I hope that I might be able to move something within you — whether it’s your brain, your heart or your booty.