Explain the conceptual story you created for your current full-length “Below The Terra Pt. 1”. How long did it take you to devise it, and did it come out as you expected?
BELOW THE TERRA PT.1 is actually a follow-up to my previous works; the story of ‘3808’ really began with my album TERRA 3808 where humanity was fighting a losing battle against the machines. BELOW THE TERRA PT.1 is the sequel in a way - humanity is hiding itself away from the surface, away from the icy wastelands created by the machines to destroy humanity. It's a story of survival against the machines, the elements, and themselves. The concept is ever-evolving, I’m really allowing the story to write itself as I progress through the timeline. I suppose it never took me any time to actually devise the concept. It has really just been there all the time… it is our future. If you consider the idea that I’m here in 2022 only as a hard light hologram transmitting back from 3808, then I’m only telling the story as it is, here in 3808.
Are you a long-time reader of science fiction literature? If so, was anything you’ve read inspirational to your work? Or did your inspiration come from other mediums?
I’ve certainly read bits of sci-fi literature. The HALO series of books based around the video game has been really fun to read and there are certainly parts of them that have inspired particular ideas within my work. Currently, the shift from the icy wasteland of the surface world into the under terra was probably inspired by the labyrinthian construct of tunnels beneath the surface of the HALO rings – and there’s certainly quite an amount of snow on some of the halos! But, to be honest with you it’s more TV and movies that have inspired me. Movies like “The Terminator” inspired the man vs. machine context and the idea of time travel that I use for my Twitch show and the concept that I can be DJing my live shows to 2022 as a hard-light hologram transmitting back from 3808 is a direct nod to Arnold J. Rimmer in the BBC series, “Red Dwarf”. In fact, I’d say that the character I ‘play’ is more like Ace Rimmer but I’ll let you decide which I am!
What sci-fi authors have you read and which of their stories helped shape your writing?
I’ve recently been reading Ernest Cline novels - Ready Player One & Two and Armada. Although these are certainly not the ‘man vs machine’ stories of my music narrative, so I wouldn’t say they’ve much influence on what I write per se, I’ve been really enjoying the dive into the VR world that they portray. To this end, I’ve even gotten into VRChat (on VR) where there are almost infinite worlds you can visit and go clubbing in! I suppose this loosely links to the idea of my transmissions back from 3808 of my Twitch show.
How many releases do you have available that tell the narrative you invented? In what ways does each of them relate it lyrically and musically?
All my music since I started releasing in 2017 relates (two albums, three EPs), but I suppose the direct narrative began with TERRA 3808 (02/11/2019). There, I told of man’s struggle against the machine. A SUPERFICIAL world GONE TO SHIT, humanity on the EDGE OF LIFE. It tells of heroes, the OUTLAWS, and the people leading them. That’s all in the lyrics but musically it’s the raw abrasiveness of the album that tells its own story of struggle. The industrial noises of the machines to the wailing loneliness of some of the synth lines. Prior to TERRA 3808 were the CHAOS RISING Eps (11/08/2017, 14/03/2018, and 30/11/2018), which were a precursor to the events of 3808 but were more varied and not fully locked down into the concept yet. After TERRA 3808 came my new album BELOW THE TERRA PT.1 (15/03/2022) which continues during 3808 (3808 is actually more of a metaphor for the future time when humanity lost the war, and therefore, there is no need to denote a timeframe we are in by the conventional method of the day, week, month format) and it’s now telling of how humanity is burrowing down beneath the surface, seeking the best ways for survival.
Are there other movies or TV shows you’ve drawn from while writing lyrics, such as THX-1138 or Doctor Who for example? Dystopian themes have been a part of science fiction for many years; in what ways could technology and AI lead to a real-life dystopia?
I guess most ‘post apocalypse’ movies have some influence on my narrative. Possibly (minus the zombies) films like “Resident Evil”, “I Am Legend”, “Mad Max” etc. give a landscape to work from, although my world is now an icy wasteland, so maybe more akin to the world in “Snowpiercer”. Lyrically speaking, the aesthetic of these worlds, can’t see how anyone wouldn’t be inspired by them – the strong images and reoccurring visuals offer ample key words to draw on for writing. Within my own concept, you’ll see that TERRA is regularly referred to. In terms of AI, I can definitely see the advance in robotics outrunning man’s own intelligence, therefore “allowing/transforming” man to become sentient. It will happen, possibly not in our generation though – but then again who knows!
When does the narrative form in your creative process? How long does it take to develop it? Or is it an ongoing/ever-evolving process?
Every track of course is different, I’ve sometimes had true creative power and produced a finished track in a day or two – but more often it’s a few weeks to tweak nuances and levels. As I’m sure any artist will say, “nothing is ever really complete, but there comes a time when you have to decide it’s finished enough”. If I actually had continued solid time to focus on music, the few weeks might materialize – but with a full-time day job and life to add into the mix, realistically a track is at least a couple months in the making. I think my process is different to most, as I write the music first, then the lyrics are produced. Usually, the track title is identified, then the lyrics are devised surrounding the concept/story the title is looking to achieve. So, the narrative falls into place when I’m writing those lyrics and I don’t often find that I’m rewriting lyrics – it’s kinda like I see a “film” of the music in my head and the lyrics are vocalizing the visual. Writing lyrics has always been a difficult part of the process for me (I don’t claim to be a poet), but I know once they’re done the product is far superior and more well-rounded to listen to. What a song will mean and how that song will fit into the overall narrative, even so far as the liner notes for a track/single/album release, ultimately is a connected story off the back of the lyrics. The 3808 story is definitely still developing and ongoing, I potentially have three parts to BELOW THE TERRA, it is a hamster wheel of ideas in my head!
Tell the readers about the HALO video game and accompanying books? Which parts were influential to you and your work?
HALO is set in around the year 2552 when an alien ‘covenant’ has decided to attack human outposts across the galaxy. The United Nations Space Corps (UNSC) are sent in to eliminate the covenant threat. This includes a collection of SPARTAN soldiers who are physically and biologically enhanced super soldiers. One of these, their leader, is SPARTAN JOHN 177 – the Master Chief. The video game story centers on the Master Chief, but the books expand the ‘halo’ universe. A lot of the ideas for 3808 come from HALO as mentioned before, such as the idea of tunnel systems below the surface, the ominous threat from a foreign enemy, and the ability to use holograms to talk to people on the other side of the galaxy. So, throughout my music, there is evidence of the HALO influence and as it’s a series of works that I enjoy (both video and books) it’s exciting to carve out my own creation from this multi-faceted world.
What aspects of “The Terminator” helped inspire your lyric writing? Were you influenced mostly by the first movie or did any subsequent movies in the series speak to you?
My lyric writing isn’t that complex so it’s probably quite akin to the “Terminator” characters who don’t really say very much! I’m a fan of stark, bare-bones typewriting. Lyrics aren’t my strong suit, so I get across what the music/narrative needs in as little lyric writing as possible. Without a doubt, the “Terminator” movies were the inspiration for the man vs machine story and in my music, that story is told; in part, by the lyrics so I guess that’s what the films inspired. The second movie, “Judgment Day” was probably more of an influence, since it was the first one of the series I saw in my youth. My feeling is that “Judgment Day” is probably more pivotal in the series compared to the others, and certainly the scenes of the future war really spoke to me in a way of, ‘this is our future if we don’t do something about it’!
How long had you been watching “Red Dwarf” and what about the character of Ace Rimmer was an influence to your character?
I have watched “Red Dwarf” for about thirty years! Though in the last ten or fifteen I haven’t watched it quite as much. I should probably go back and watch it again, it is great! Simply put, Ace Rimmer is just such a great guy. People want to follow him and be him, he’s just so upbeat and positive. I guess I feel like I’m often like him, certainly in an upbeat way and that’s what I’d want from a leader in the future, especially as humanity is really struggling to survive at this point in the story.
Do you produce your releases with professional masterers or producers, or do you do this independently to have a clear interpretation of your vision? Do you prefer working with analog or digital equipment or both?
When I started releasing music, I wanted to have 100% control over what I was releasing and this still rings true today. The “Chaos Rising” records were completely produced by me, even down to the mastering. These days I have a good friend (Adi Calef – DNA Studio) who I work with in the mixing/producing phase and then I send the mix away for professional mastering by Krischan Wesenberg (Rotorsand). However, they don’t add anything to the actual music creation, just the overall mixing of the tracks. I have been using 90% digital equipment since I started writing properly for this project. I use software synths mostly and digital plugins (that’s my road setup, since I travel for work regularly I often create music on the go --- so digital setup was important), and then I obviously use mics for vocals and my trusty Jackson 7-string for recording guitars (mostly using software guitar effects too). In my home, I’ve got a music/studio room, so whatever gets created “on the road” gets fine-tuned back at my desk setup.
When your recordings are completed, do you see the balance you created between analog and digital sound? How hard do you work toward perfecting it?
Interesting that you picked up on the different nuances of these sounds. A lot of the reason why I use guitars is that I’m always writing with a live show in mind – which would then include my guitarist, Jerome. It is certainly a balancing job when mixing them in but at the end of the day, they are there as a difference to the digital sound – instruments have the capability of rounding out music with fullness, that’s sometimes a challenge with digital. It certainly takes time to mix them nicely, and whilst they may not reach the mark of perfection, I’m happy with the product that is produced – knowing it gives the live show better balance.
How long have you known Adi Calef of DNA Studio and how much would you vouch for him as a mixer and producer? Who else has Krischan Wesenberg worked with, and why did you choose him to master your recordings?
Adi and I have worked together at our day job for many years (maybe since 2012) but he’s only been mixing for me since 2018. His primary musical influence is outside the ‘dark community’, so he approaches the music without any preconceived ideas – taking onboard my direction for how I want the music to sound, using his skill as a mixer to shape my music into its best form – and yes, I would totally vouch for him as a mixer and producer! I’ve known Krischan for a few years but more on the peripheral. It was only when I heard that he was mastering records that I reached out and asked if he would be interested in another customer, he was, and has mastered everything since the beginning of the BELOW THE TERRA era (2021)! Respecting the work he has done with Rotersand (Aesthetic Perfection, Straftanz, and more) – word of mouth and results of accomplishment, kind of speak for themselves – making wanting him onboard with my project an easy direction to take.
How long have you been hosting your show on Twitch, and what is featured there?
I’ve been DJing on Twitch since May 2020 (a DJ since 2013), right at the beginning of the pandemic – every Monday 9-11pm UK “transmitting back from the icy wastelands of 3808” via the show “Outlaw Vision” on twitch.tv/matthart3808. During this time, I’ve been able to gain a great community (#outlawcrew) who love how I interact with them directly (I use a mic and chat with the audience throughout the show) and at a time when we were all locked in at home, it was a great way to build connection and not feel so isolated. It’s been really touching to have many messages of “thanks for helping me not be alone” from viewers and I’m so pleased to have been able to carve something enjoyable for people during a tough time. Of course, not forgetting that the show is all about music though, so I’m always playing currently released music I love from many of the dark alternative genres (industrial/ebm/dark electro). In the absence of live gigs during the pandemic, it was vastly important to me to still support the music community – sharing new music with others, which also gave me a platform to share my music too. Gaining more interest and followers in a global capacity, than I would have had easy reach via standard gigs in my home town/country. One of the identifying factors of my show is that I always display TRACK ID on the screen, so viewers can discover their “new favourite” artist/track. I mean if you’re not letting the crowd know what you’re spinning, how can they go to Bandcamp to get it!? In addition to new music, I have special features like highlighting a band, event or guest DJ collaborations to further promote unity within the community. With live events back in full swing, I’ve got some festival events I’m a part of and the specials for these are fun. I devise a set to solely focus on the bands appearing at the festival, so really gives a great exposure to the festival and do a lot of social media promotion for it --- which means tagging bands and pushing their name out there. The last one I did was for Resistanz Festival (Sheffield, UK – April, 2022) where I was both DJing and performing and I’m next planning for Hellsinki Industrial Festival (Helsinki, Finland – November 2022 https://fb.me/e/1EGTy0cBX) where again, I’m both DJing and performing. Tune in and find your NEW favourite band!
Do you have requirements for bands seeking to be aired on the show? What do you look for in bands seeking exposure?
There’s one simple requirement, I have to like the music! I play music on the show that I like and generally have a good rapport with the artists too. If someone approaches me with new music, I’ll always give it a listen but the sound and style, generally, have to fit with where my musical interests lie --- that being industrial/dark electro/ebm sounds. Sending a promo copy/download link is the best way to get a DJ's attention, along with some goodies – like download codes that can be giveaways during a show to generate interest is valuable too. Whilst that’s not discounting the merit of other genres, it’s just not usually my sound. There are plenty of other DJs out there that cater to other genres, so I appreciate (just as I do for myself) when an artist “researches” for suitability – it saves everyone time. Do I break out of my preferred genres every now and again, sure --- variety is the spice of life, but I defo have my favourite kind of sound, and that’s what gets played on my DJ show.
Who are the artists you have the most rapport with through the show? Which industrial, dark electro and ebm artists featured on the show would you recommend?
I regularly have the likes of Waijdan, antibody, Simon Cater (and Fabsi), Anthony H, SET, Witch of the Vale, spankthenun, Mechanical Vein, and Live Evil pop into the stream and have built good relationships with them, so much so that we’ve exchanged remixes in the most part. Other artists that have come by when I’ve had a special which includes them include the likes of Moaan Exis (remixed my track “Terrorfying”), Aesthetic Perfection, ESA (remixed my track “Triolith”), Hidden Souls (I remixed “I Was There….” Melmoth, Ludovico Technique, Danny Blu (I remixed “Love Me Bad”), Gothsicles, Caustic… I’m sure there’s more, but they’re slipping my mind right now. Artists who are consistently played on the show are bands like ESA, HORSKH, Moris Blak, Aesthetic Perfection, Faderhead, Night Club, Kanga, Ayria, and Josie Pace all of which I would highly recommend!
When did you start co-promoting with music festivals to gain more listeners and supporters for the bands you air?
The first “special” I did like this was for Resistanz Festival 2020. I was meant to DJ live at the event, but that’s when the first lockdowns happened. It’s a well-loved festival in the UK and I sensed everyone’s disappointment at it being canceled, so I put together my first online DJ event (April 2020 which was via Youtube, then I quickly moved to Twitch in May 2020). The festival organizers were excited that there was something still being presented and in this early stage of “living life online” it was an incredible turnout of fans and bands. From there, it seemed a great way to promote festivals/releases, particularly when I’m involved in them, but I especially like to promote the community as a whole and if there’s a great line-up why not help promote it and the music! People won’t go to live music shows / pick up that new release if they don’t know about them, and my events are just another way of getting the word out there! I’ve had some really creative shows: WGT (Wave Gothic Treffen tribute), Industrial POP special (supporting Aesthetic Perfection and similar artists), HATARI release party – I was a contributor to their remix release “NEYSLUTRANS” along with eleven other remixers and devised a Twitch show where I played each of the remix tracks, “sandwiched” between two of the remix artists original tracks – it was a fantastic way to highlight the talent of the remix artist and their own work and was very well received. Then there are the countless charity/fundraiser streams I’ve been a part of too, supporting the likes of Slimelight, ACLU, Beat: Cancer, QXTs, Tierschutzverein Heidelberg (animal shelter), flood victims 2021 Germany, Afghanistan Refugees, Cure Rare Disease Org, medical expenses for community members. Ultimately if we support each other, then the community as a whole thrives. There’s a brilliant statement/quote from Daniel Graves (Aesthetic Perfection) that resonates with me, “a rising tide lifts all boats”, truly poetic and rings true again and again.
What music festivals do you plan to co-promote with in the future? Are you discovering new bands to promote of late?
Other than the upcoming HELLSINKI INDUSTRIAL FESTIVAL stream (mentioned previously) there are no other current promotion plans. Too much day job and music writing/releasing taking up all the hours!! However, yes, there are always new bands we are discovering that we try to promote within the show – Twin Rattler (top pick), Waijdan, Skren to name a few.
What’s next for your solo project, and what impact do you expect to have on music in general?
Exciting things in the pipeline for future happenings! Release-wise, a mini EP INFINITE HORIZON REQUIEM was just made available this past Monday, 24th October. The special mix versions of these three tracks were previously only available on selected compilations but now collected together to form IHR. Then continuing in the musical vein, is the release of a brand new single, TERRAFORM, accompanied by remixes from SIRUS and BLUE ANT! The release date for this is to coincide with my debut USA gig, a solo show in Portland, Oregon on Friday, 18th November, 2022 at the Coffin Club and is presented by the promoter Creepy Culture. In advance of that live gig, I have other appearances at HELLSINKI INDUSTRIAL FESTIVAL, both a band performance on Saturday, 5th November, 2022 and a DJ set on Friday, 4th. This event by Elektrik Products is bringing together a ton of stellar bands across the scene, including Suicide Commando, Jessi Frey, King Satan, ESA, Centhron, Gothminister, Siva Six and many more. And nestled in between these two massive live events, I've got a DJ set at Zero Day Festival, here in London at the iconic Electrowerkz venue (home of the world's longest running “goth” club, Slimelight) on Friday, 11th November, 2022. It's awesome to have such a full live performance calendar, but December holidays will be focused on writing more new music!
Impact? That's an interesting question... ultimately I make music for myself, it's something in me that needs to get out and be expressed. If it can resonate with others for a minute of their day, that's awesome and I'm eternally grateful for the support and interest my project receives. To the music lovers out there, like what I'm doing - keep supporting in whatever manner is easiest for you: gigs, Bandcamp, merch, streaming, requesting track play from your clubs/DJs, following on social platforms, sharing/liking posts and introducing friends. Every little bit makes an impact, especially for an independent artist such as myself.