Interview with Matt Elliott, March 2012

Matt Elliott is a musician from Bristol who lives in Nancy. After making music with Flying Saucer Attack and his electronic music project The Third Eye Foundation he began releasing records under his birth name. His music is strongly influenced by Eastern European folk music. Yet, limiting the description to this influence would underestimate the emotional strength and beauty Elliott carries with his voice and music. 2012 saw the release of his latest album 'The Broken Man' (mixed by Yann Tiersen), a record that explores one mans descent reflecting the frustrations and sadness experienced in his own life. The profound result is a record that is bound to touch us all.

Matt Elliott

R.: Your latest album 'The Broken Man' has been pre-released by Ici d'ailleurs as a 2 Euro digital download as a means to prevent it to be leaked early. Whose idea was this and how did it work out?

Matt Elliott: Well it was largely my idea, I think mp3 downloads are far too expensive and it is why many people download illegally. In fact the reaction was very positive from outside the industry, most responses from within the industry said it would make no difference, in fact it did, I had a release date for the first time in years, the album wasn't leaked illegally for days if not weeks and the fucker that uploaded it was a fucking journalist. For me you have to offer people a choice, most people, myself included can't afford to spend so much money on music and an mp3 album is only exchanging information, you simply cannot charge the same for information as you can for a piece of vinyl or a CD which is a physical thing. But the vinyl editions also had a very positive response, Ici d'ailleurs were pretty forward thinking with their approach.

R.: I agree with you that digital downloads are too expensive and I believe that the way you did it fits more with the way people listen to and buy music today. However, with the ongoing conflict between the music industry and illegal downloaders in mind - what's your opinion on all this?

Matt Elliott: Yes, well there is a realisation that the music industry largely doesn't like, that you cannot dictate how people buy and listen to music. Perhaps it is too little too late but at least we realise that people listen to music how they want and if you don't give them the music how they want to consume it, they can get it easily for free and in a way it is a good thing, generally the internet is a good and bad thing for musicians. It's good in that my music is all over the world, most people with a computer and a connection to the internet can hear my music. Ultimately music is a form of expression, something you wish to share so in that respect it has never been easier to communicate with so many people. The downside is obviously my label gets fucked, they are the ones that pay for the recordings (which are expensive even when we are not too extravagant) and it is one of my greatest fears because I love working with my label, they do a great job and with the best of intentions, that said if we continue to keep thinking about how best to keep everyone happy, as far as how they want to actually get the music then hopefully we can survive. The internet has also forced musicians to work harder which is a good thing, you have to perform well and do a show that will impress people and again that is healthy but frankly it is getting harder and harder to survive and it's not so much for me that I worry but for younger people, I'm glad and lucky that I started music when I did, I would hate to be a struggling young musician these days...
I don't mind that people download my music illegally so much but I don't like the fashionable attitude that it is quite fine to download everything illegally, that in a way you are owed entertainment for free and that musicians should be happy to be musicians. I don't like to complain because my job is largely wonderful and I'm very lucky and privileged to be able to do what I do but it is also a lot of work. Touring for example is exhausting and stressful, a lot of time and effort and of course money goes into writing and recording the music, so someone has to pay for it. My attitude is that if you enjoy listening to music you should pay what you can afford towards at least some artists, because without money the more interesting music will slip by and we'll be left only with what is financially viable to make, in a word x factor karaoke re hashings of old songs.

R.: You could be described as a “true European”: your music has Eastern European and Southern European influences, you were born in Great Britain, yet you live in France. What does Europe mean to you?

Matt Elliott: Well my attitude to all countries is that nationality means very little, it's where your parents fucked (as Bill Hicks said) and that is all. In my opinion all countries are shit for different reasons, all countries are run by corrupt businessmen with a police force ready to turn on their people in the blink of an eye, all countries see their citizens as potential criminals and it is a damning indictment on the modern political model, there are good and bad people of all nationalities and patriotism and nationalism is such a backward way of thinking that it is quite meaningless to me as a concept. That said of course I'm lucky to spend my time travelling Europe. It is quite unique because it is where many cultures meet which makes its cultural history very interesting and you can travel 100 km and the language and everything else is completely different. There is such a wealth of culture here that it would take many lifetimes to absorb just the last few centuries.

R.: To me, the 'Song' trilogy sounds very much influenced by Eastern European music and you already mentioned in different interviews that you love e.g., traditional Romanian music. What do you find fascinating about such music?

Matt Elliott: Well after a lifetime of the standard song formula found in 90% of music released in the west in the second half of the last century, hearing songs based on different scales and structures is of course like a world opening up. Folk music from around the world tends to be more expressive and in a way pure because it is generally music made with the best of intentions, to tell a story or to share an emotion or just to get people dancing. I'm fascinated by all music that has emotional content, it is what separates good and bad music for me.

Lyrics to the Song 'Our Weight In Oil'

R.: Revolts all over Europe and the Arab world are still going on, the financial crisis is still not overcome and governments are cutting people’s rights more and more every day. Do you still see a chance of a real change of the current situation?

Matt Elliott: Yes because I believe we are fast approaching breaking point, the point at which ordinary people will say 'enough is enough' people as you've pointed out are already doing it in different ways all over the world, and our politicians are too short term thinking to see that at any point in history where there was such a gap between rich and poor there has been a revolt. Now we have access to a lot of information, anyone can check their information, anyone can join the dots and see the facts as they are, that democracy is a farce, little more than theatre to indulge us. It makes very little difference which of the central parties we 'vote' in because they all work for the same people with the same agenda. Democracy is more than just a vote every 4 or 5 years, it should be the right to free lifelong education and free information, democracy can only work when people are informed. On the bright side more and more people everyday are starting to realise that this system is a con to rob us of our time and resources.

R.: In an interview from 2011 you said that this year would probably bring some interesting changes. What did you mean by that? Do you see these changes happening?

Matt Elliott: Well yes as I mentioned there are plenty of changes going on and this summer will be even more interesting. People are finding it harder and harder just to exist even though they are working harder and harder. This has a terrible affect on people and as I said before it won't be long until people start to break under the pressure. Last year we saw full blown revolutions, myriad protests from spontaneous riots in England, to the ongoing protests in Greece, peaceful demonstrations all over the US, what can only be described as Police Brutality in Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, of course Greece in fact all over the world. These protests won't go away, they will build more and more, many tactics will be used from peaceful and not so peaceful, in a way it has to happen, the conglomerate that runs this world or corporatocracy has taken the piss too much.

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