“When everything I read politically and watch and hear has been absorbed, there comes a point where you must feel it viscerally otherwise you are closed to the horrors of it and thus closed to the possibility of action, closed to the idea that you could make a difference or could have prevented the outcome. This internalising of the struggle, the friction, the melancholy I feel should be at the emotional core of the work. After all, I am making music and not writing a newspaper article. But with the invention of the sampler, I can now explicitly root my work in the literal, critical present. I can describe the real in the frame of the imaginary.”
For someone so uncompromising in his attitude towards music and its making, for someone so unafraid to shun the sort of political engagement other, more timid artists consider a commercial turn-off, Matthew Herbert has been extraordinarily successful in an extraordinary variety of fields. He is both overall head and A&R man for Accidental Records, which he founded in 2000. He has also acted as a producer for the label, working with, among others, the Mercury-nominated The Invisible on their superb eponymous debut. His other production credits include Micachu and the rising young sequinned hiphop sensation Rowdy Superstar.
He has worked in other media too, including scoring ballet, fashion shows, and theatre – his music has been presented at the Royal Court, on Broadway and the Almeida. His collaborators have ranged from the playwright Caryl Churchill to purveyor of radical cuisine Heston Blumenthal. He has scored ten feature films, notably 1999's Human Traffic, writing for full, 80 piece orchestras in some instances. Whether performing or Djing, he has played all over the world to sell-out crowds, including venues such as the Sydney Opera House and Hollywood Bowl.
His body of work is unique in collapsing the walls between pleasure and the political, between the realms of created sound and reality as it is experienced and suffered, between the drily conceptual and the warmly immersive.