Originating from Oregon Portland U.S.A distinctly talented Artist/ Electronic Music Producer Matthew May gives L.T.W an intimate insight into his world of creativity, explaining the various projects he has submerged himself in over the years. Matthew’s flourishing current project goes under the name of Argon Cowboy where he creates a mesmerizing blend of Dark wave, Ambient, Down tempo, psychedelic electronic music. In this special interview he expresses what his music means to him; his unique perspective on his creative style, along with his hopes for the direction of his music in the future, as well as talking about his latest album “Spiricom” & his more unorthodox way of releasing it….
1* Hello Matthew, It’s a pleasure to have you take the time to create this interview with us at LTW.
First and foremost can you give us some insight into how & when Argon Cowboy came about? & what artists have inspired & encouraged your love of electronic music?
Matthew : I started Argon Cowboy in 2011. It’s actually a play off the band Neon Indian. Alan’s an old friend of mine from when I lived in Denton, TX. It started as sort of a rebellion against what becomes popular and what doesn’t in our culture. Which really just translates to jealousy, I suppose. But Argon has moved on from that. It took me a couple of albums to realize that my music had become its own thing, and wasn’t a response to what someone else was doing.
As far as which artists have inspired me, that’s a hard one to pin down too. It includes everyone from Bauhaus and Joy Division, to MGMT and Yeasayer, Aphex Twin, Debussey, Mouse on Mars, Plaid, TREX, David Bowie, Autechre, Suzanne Ciana, Pink Floyd, Joni Mitchell, Tear Garden, Ray Lynch, Nick Cave, Wire, Can, Sand, etc.. I could go on for pages. Everything from IDM, to Classical, to Afro-Cuban, Jazz, minimal, whatever.
2* Over the years you have gone under various different monikers for example, Loom, Sono, Cashew Collective & Blackbird Marconi; to name but a select few. Looking & listening back to some of those past works, can you express how your feelings have transformed about the music you have created? & what personally stands as your most significant set of works, so far?
Matthew : I like a lot of what I’ve done. None so much as what I’m doing now, but they all had their merits. I think Loom is great. I think Loom and The Quieter Islands both kind of led me to Argon. So they were me finding myself. But I generally leave the past behind and concentrate on what I’m working on in the moment.
3* Does the name of each of your projects signify a particular mood or theme to the music you craft? & would you say you have a distinctive watermark sound in which you keep throughout all your music projects over time?
Matthew: I think I used to go back and forth a lot. I would have a particular sound for a song or two, and then it was really hard to keep that up. I hadn’t really found what I was looking for in myself. Not just in music, but in all aspects of my life. I feel like I really found myself in argon. Like there’s a consistent storyline behind it. A feeling that I’m conveying that’s distinctly me. No matter the song style, you can hear it now. I don’t really try for a specific “sound” any more. I just write.
4* This uninhibiting way has obviously given you the creative freedom to transform your musical ideas & shape-shift your sound into your unique expression. How have you found the process of accumulating followers on each project..? Do you work between projects? or has a loyal fan base followed your projects consistently right through?
Matthew: I think Argon is my first really consistent project. I’ve been writing electronic music since 1997? It took me this long to figure myself out. So no, no consistent following. I think I was too inconsistent for that in the past. But Argon’s following has been both very consistent and very loyal. And I’ve been told that more people are paying attention to what I’m doing than I know of, but those are just reliable ones, but rumours none the less.
5* Homing in on your Argon Cowboy works; through my own unique individual perspective, I feel that you manage to channel a special kind of earthiness & own a sensibility towards the building of your music’s intricacies. This emotive sensitivity is interwoven into your structural tapestry, which carries a soul bearing quality. From your own personal perspective, (without external tags) how would you best define your overall sound & beat making style?
Matthew: I feel it’s like an autobiographic collage. All of my deepest feelings about nature, spirituality, the state of the planet, people’s journeys, including my own, throughout this life are all expressed in what I do now. My songs are about me, but they also describe my family and friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. I find myself trying to describe the qualities of the universe itself as well. From the Planck level to the universal. I’ll imagine a creek and try to get the feel of water in a synth hitting a rock and creating new rivulets that send crests and troughs out in different directions. But that description turns out to holographically reflect something else going on in my life, at the time. It’s all connected.
I listen back to my music sometimes and I’ll remember what was happening when I wrote it. I’ll kind of relive that feeling through the song. It’s kind of strange. I have a lot of parts to my songs. Often it’s me trying to describe one feeling several different ways. It’s like a story, but a plot made of sounds and mental pictures. I just sort of follow the sounds and textures and record what they do. It’s like writing a novel where you just follow the characters around and write down what they do. You’re an observer. At least, that’s how I write when I’m working on novels or music.
6* On Bandcamp; May 2015 you released ‘Galactic Circle Of The Wasps’ then mid summer you worked upon a fresh new album called ‘Spiricom’; Can you give us some insight into the creative angle you took this time round regarding your new material & what made you decide upon the unconventional way of releasing the album?
Matthew: I decided to release Spiricom on Facebook messenger only. I’m still not sure why. Maybe part of it was a rebellion against Bandcamp’s new fees for musicians, and part of it was a general disappointment in on-line Pro’s and their inability to work with artists individually based on the merit of the material.
As far as the creative angle, I always switch up what I’m doing in each album, different synthesisers, drums, etc.. Someone recently told me that it was like I write soundtracks for 80’s Sci-fi movies that were never released. I’ve been told similar things before and I really like that description.
7* Can you give us some insight into how “Spiricom” took shape? For example, the significance behind the album title?, how the process flowed in the laying down of each individual track? & ideas behind the album’s artwork?
Matthew: “Spiricom” is a reference to a device supposedly created in 1979 (the year I was born) that could communicate with the dead using a 13 tone generator that could emulate the human voice. It’s something I read about as a kid and have always been fascinated with. The album art is actually from Spiricom’s actual user manual. I just manipulated the image into something more ethereal.
My work flow is pretty fast. But it starts out kind of slow, I guess. I mean I’ll write a lot, but don’t really use it all. I’ll spend a few months writing and maybe get three or four tracks that I want on the album. Then it all kind of comes together in my mind and I’ll write a flood of songs over the course of a month. Sometimes one or two a day. By the end of that I usually know when I’m done.
And then I start listening to tracks in playlists, rearranging them until they sound right in one order or another. I end up scrapping a lot too, and the song I started out thinking would open the album, often ends up somewhere else. That happened with Spiricom. “Point” was originally track 1, but then turned out to be the last on the album. “Enter” just made more sense at the beginning.
8* Seattle based Mythical Vigilante released their dark, synthwave sci-fi “Time Traveler” EP back in April last year which proudly owns a superb Argon Cowboy- Many Rainbows (Mythical Vigilante Remix) Can you give us some insight into how that collaboration came about.?
Matthew: Yeah, he contacted me, one day, asking for stems for “many rainbows”. I really like his music and sent them his way. I think I like his version of the song even better than mine. It was a really pleasant surprise. You’re always worried what other artists will do with your songs. I hope to work with him again. Actually, I’d really like to remix one of his songs now, turn his synthwave sound into dark wave.
9* What other artists have you worked with in regards to remixes?
Matthew: Umm, a few I guess. It happens less than I’d like. Or maybe I’ve just forgotten a lot of them. Fur, Scorpion Warrior, some ESCC9 ( Escape Sirius Cybernetics Corporation) artists, Unicorn Domination. I’m sure there’s a lot more.
10* Are there any artists/producers who you would aspire to collaborate with in future months ahead?
Matthew: I’ve made some vague plans to work with Autumn Drones soon. https://soundcloud.com/autumn-drones
11* Have you ever thought about getting into producing other artists material?
Matthew: I thought about it. I used to write a lot of early Scorpion Warrior songs. But over the years, Gitana has become a really amazing songwriter on her own. So now, if I have a song I’ve written that fits better with her style, then I’ll send it her way and she can use it if she wants.
12* In regards to playing live shows, when was your last on stage show?, under what name did you perform? & who supported you?
Matthew: I think I played last summer in Portland? Not this last summer, but the one before that. I played synth for Scorpion Warrior. https://soundcloud.com/scorpion-warrior . I live in such an isolated town, that it’s really difficult to play live shows. I also have a family that I dedicate most of my time too. I plan on playing live a lot more soon. We’re about to move to a town that’s pretty close to Chicago, which has a really decent electronic scene.
13* Do you have any desire or plans to go on the road with your current new material? Possible trip over to Europe perhaps?
Matthew: The last Tour I went on, as Argon, went extremely well. I’m always amazed by how much people really like my music live. So yeah, I would love to tour again when I can afford it. And I have a lot of friends and some family in Europe, so that would be great. I haven’t been back there in over 20 years now.
14* Back in 2013 you released an album “Acid Washing” on Escc9 (Escape Sirius Cybernetics Corporation) An independent record label. Can you give us some insight into some of the record labels you have been part of in the past ?
Matthew: None really. I was close back in the 90’s with Warp Records and mid 2000’s, but I’m really glad that I’ve never officially signed with anyone. I’m not opposed to it. I just don’t think I was ready back then.
15* There are some really cool independent electronic labels out there that would really suit your style, R&S Records being just one of them. What would be your ideal in regards to joining one?
Matthew: Yeah, I’d love for that to happen eventually. I guess I’m just still waiting for someone to notice what I’m doing. And I think that will happen soon.
16* Music is most certainly a life long journey & if you could pin certain key words to describe your creative transformation over the years, what would those keywords be?
Matthew: I think that I’m a really late bloomer. It took me a long time to figure out how and what I wanted to write musically. So I think “patience” would be a good word. I had to be very patient with myself. I had a lot of issues to work out and I’m finally in a really good place.
17* I suppose your beat-beat making tools have had a large part to play in the development of your sound. What has been your most influential piece of equipment? & what is your current favourite beat-making toy & why?
Matthew: Most of my work is created in a DAW environment. I’ve been using Fruityloops since 1998. So I’m very comfortable with it. I also us a Microkorg and an Arturia Minilab midi keyboard. I don’t own a lot of equipment at the moment, but I plan on moving more towards modular in the future. Even something simple, like a Makenoise System one.
I sample a lot of my environment though. You’d be surprised how many of the synths on my albums are really wind sounds that I’ve recorded, or my daughter singing, or just the buzzing of an air conditioner. I’d say about 30 percent of my music is sampled from field recordings.
18* Can you give us some insight into your studio time? I understand creativity strikes at any given point, however, what works best for you in regards to an overall surface level structure, regarding your creative space?
Matthew: I have a laptop and headphones. I write when I can, when my daughter is at school or her and Valerie have gone to bed. So it’s not very structured. Sometimes I have to force myself to make the time.
19* Particularly within this year, over here in the UK there has been a resurge in electronic music. Has there been any notable serge or trends in which you have noticed over in the U.S ?
Matthew: Yeah, I think so. There has been a lot more interest in synthwave and various experimental artists. And electronic has always been everywhere in our culture. Even if was just in commercials. But I see electronic popular in Europe for sure, but it’s gotten better. I’m amazed at how many people show up at modular synth shows and by how attentive the audiences are.
20* Just because it is the final question, it doesn’t make it any less important!… Through your own creative experiences what words of wisdom would you project out there to budding artists. & are there any final shout outs you would like to give within your creative fold.?
Matthew: Just write because you want to, because you enjoy it. I learned that a lot as Argon Cowboy. I don’t write for other people any more. I just experiment with what I’d like to hear. It’s a lot more satisfying. Anything extra that you get out of it is just a bonus.
Its been a real honour to have your time Matthew. Thank you. LTW would like to wish you all the best in your future creative endeavours & we will make sure to follow your progress over the following months.
Matthew: Thank you so much. I really appreciate the chance to share a bit of my life. And I’m currently working on a new album that I think I’m calling “Neo-tribal Effects”. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.
Blackbird Marconi: https://myspace.com/blackbirdmarconi/music/songs