At the beginning of the 90s, London keyboardist Matthew Herbert, 29, became addicted to the unlimited possibilities of the sampler. Since the mid-90s, he has released the most exciting electro-acoustic music of the present day, differentiating his musical interests under various pseudonyms as Wishmountain or Radioboy (techno), Doctor Rockit (jazzy electro), and now, simply Herbert (house).
For an up and coming musician who feels no urgent need to rebel against his parental home, Herbert?s prerequisites were extremely favorable. His father, a BBC sound technician, "always surrounded himself with melodious technology." At the age of four Herbert took up the violin and piano; at seven he sang in the choir and began playing in orchestras; and at thirteen he made his inevitable debut as a keyboard player in a local band. At school, Herbert had the good fortune to have a music teacher who considered Reich, Xenakis, and jazz standards to be the equal of Beethoven. By the time he reached college, he already had his own home studio, which he used in his drama studies.
His desire to blend music and dramatic performance led him to create a direct relationship between "what the public sees and what it hears." It therefore happened that a classically trained musician made his first significant appearance in 1995 not at the piano or playing a violin, but using a sampler, microphones and?a bag of chips. Herbert declares: "The use of sounds that exist already is not allowed." It?s a rule Herbert follows strictly and it?s the main reason he probably won?t ever drown in an ocean of processed, synthetic, reciprocally sampled music. Contact with the electronic dance music avant garde led to appearances around the globe with his entire reproduced kitchen (sound tracks, fashion shows, and noise and art) as well as an uninterrupted series of independent releases, which when tallied together have long since surpassed a quarter of a million sales units.
The resulting calls from worldwide media groups, just like the sponsoring deals and all the other excesses of modern product management, have been politely declined. Herbert is a left wing humanist and idealist and his business maneuvers follow the same logical consistency as his music: No Bullshit. His presence is characterized by songwriting and jazz, and these two differentiated factors have grown together into their most mature expression so far on Bodily Functions (!K7 Records), set for release on May 29th, 2001. The disc, made from "new" sounds as always, is pure beauty: a loving homage to 40s standards and a transcendental amalgamation of folk, jazz and house. Herbert?s body of sound (piano, strings, acoustic bass and processed ambient noises) accumulates to form an unpretentious grandeur, crowned by Dani Sicilianos? ethereal vocal presence.
The album's title was inspired by the myriad of music-concret-style sounds used as percussion: the bodily function sounds donated by friends and strangers around the world, including the blood of Martin Schmidt recorded by Matmos ("Foreign Bodies"); laser eye surgery ("You Saw it All"); knuckles, hair, teeth, skin, and bones ("On Reflection"); a mouse trying to get out of a wastbasket it had fallen into in the recording studio ("Addiction"); and the random contents of a handbag ("The Audience"). There is also a long list of traditional instruments on Bodily Functions, including wind and horn arrangements from the New Orleans funeral clarinet band ("I Miss You").
Matthew Herbert?s penchant for experimentation might explain his favorite quote: "Fail again, fail better" (Samuel Beckett). !K7?s response: "Fail? What does he mean, ï¿½fail??"