It’s not often you have something to do with a living legend. A symbol, a name that evokes sounds, feelings, and pleasant moments. All this, and even more, it’s what Mathew Jonson represents. The Berlin-based eclectic artist really is one of a kind. With a recognizable classic background, his music offers a rare fusion of populist intensities and nuanced musicality, always managing to keep the dancefloor busy while making the listener’s mind free to dive into all the facets that electronic music allows to explore. He’s responsible for some of the most iconic masterpieces of the last two decades, including “Marionette”, “Typerope”, and “Pannacotta”, tracks that have transcended the mere club use, later becoming anthems for thousands of ravers all over the world. A relentless work in the studio has led him to develop his iconic live set that sometimes also features his wife Isis on the vocals, adding a special intimate touch to an already incredible effort.
Ahead of his return to Caprices Festival on Saturday, we’re pleased to share with you some words we recently exchanged, suggesting you read the interview with an exclusive mix that Mathew himself prepared for us.
– Hi Mathew, how are you? Thank you so much for having us!
I’m good thank you thanks for having me with you.
-What do you think if we start this interview talking about how you feel about performing again in such an imposing and important context as a festival of this magnitude, after the forced confinement?
It’s a mix of feeling exciting and nervous to be honest. I had 6 festival dates this month postpone to next year so I’m sure you can understand where I’m at. Caprices festival for me is like a family reunion so all I want is to be on the mountain with my friends dancing and having fun!
– It is known that you have participated in this festival several times before. We could say that you have a long and strong
relationship with them. Tell us… How has this relationship evolved over the years? How was the beginning with them and what memories do you have of your first performances?
Yes so many great memories. Actually many listing to other people play. I remember the days when there was also so much live music it was quite different than the program of today. I don’t even really know where to start though. Maybe the Cobblestone Jazz shows were the highlight playing as these guys are my best friends and we also like to get into trouble together 😉 Playing with Dandy Jack or together with Xx Isis xX also super fun. It’s best with friends I think.
– We also see that you are doing a special live set with the festival founder (artist name Madnax) this year at the Forest Stage, tell us more about that!?
Max and Nathan and I have been dreaming of studio time together for years. The time off allowed us to finally make it happen. We have a similar level of expertise so we get along well in the studio. Again… performing with friends at Caprices is where it’s at for me. 🙂
– After so many calls, what is it that most encourages you or drives you to continue being part of this musical proposal?
If Caprices calls I’m in. I’ve changed my prior plans so many times to make it there when the call arrives and I’m sure that trend will continue. Who doesn’t want to party a the top of the Swiss alps listening to underground music – it’s beyond epic. I mean I usually snowboard before the parties every day so for me it’s like heaven.
The opening of the Festival is really impressive, you will share the stage with Ricardo Villalobos, Luciano, Cesar Merveille, Alci & Nicolas Duvoisin. It’s a bit dangerous right? I hope people have energy left for the next night. Maybe better just not sleep. 😉
– What is your most present emotion in relation to this and how do you translate it into your creative state of being?
I might not be able to open my heart all the time in social situations but when I play music these days it’s wide open and I just want to blast the dance-floor with good vibes. Perhaps a subtle connection with the space time continuum….
– How are you preparing creatively for your performance, do you have something in mind that you can anticipate?
I’m just taking care of my body to be honest. At this stage I my life it’s more about being balanced and healthy when I get up on stage. If I’m good in that department then the music just comes naturally.
– Getting a bit more technical… it’s a fact that you will do a live set. Do you have a different proposal from your previous versions? What kind of setup will you use, if you have already defined it?
Madnax and I are working on this concept right now. I’m betting my role with them will be more like a soloist with the synths and improvising some rhythms with them. That’s where I feel most at home on stage. In terms of my solo MJ show it’s almost turning into more of a DJ/Hybrid set with some machines to accent the tracks and a bit of me as the MC. My Freedom Engine project is now where I focus on being fully “live”.
– Oh, by the way, congratulations on your new project, Freedom Engine Academy! If I’m right the academy opened its doors recently, in June.
Thank you. I’m really thankful for the team of people I work with as it wouldn’t be possible without them. I’m quite proud to say that in each of their fields, our mentors are some of the most talented people in the world. We only have 2 classes to go and the first semester is finished! I just bought myself two new shirts to celebrate. First time I shopped in over a year. HA!
– We would love to know more in-depth about this project and its process: What motivated you to design this proposal? What impact would you like the academy to have on the music scene and the music industry?
Well you want to know the truth. This probably wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t about to run out of my savings last October. It was either find a new job or start selling my studio. I thought I would just ride out the pandemic at first and get stoned and go to the lake last year then start playing shows again in the winter. Let’s just say I had a bit of a rude awakening. But anyways what can you do but roll with the punches right so here I am the founder of an online music school.
Actually though this new thing has brought so much light into my life now I’m considering if it’s what I want to do as my main job now. Being at home and in the studio and spending all this time with other musicians and producers is well… it’s pretty nice!
The participants are all so sweet and inspiring to work with its like for a moment each week we get to escape the troubles of the world and just focus on music in a diverse and open environment. It feels like I’m finding my calling and that is is to focus on writing music and helping others do the same thing. So not all was bad with the lockdowns. Otherwise I might never have stopped touring and who knows how my body condition would be after another 10 years on the road. I actually considered just starting my own club night in berlin and retiring from international travel for the most part. Like just play awesome places like Caprices festival or Mutek for example and then make myself more part of the local community in Berlin and live a more balanced life from now on…. Keep living in Japan in the winter…. Stop punishing myself on the road so much. I’ve been touring internationally since 2002 non stop that almost 20 years. Lol. Ya it could be time for a change.
– On a personal level… How do you think it will influence your career and artistic creativity?
Career change perhaps 😉 I mean who really knows what the future will hold maybe I’m just dreaming but I feel really good right now. This new lifestyle is better for me. I can be the one inspiring the younger generations and pass the torch in a way. Still stay connected to the music but in a way that better suits my health. In terms of creativity this school is only opening me up to new possibilities as I’m just learning all the time now. I hired the people I wanted to learn from myself so it’s like I just signed up for permanent music school. And with knowledge comes infinite doors opening creatively.
Words by Pilar Molinero