Thursday, October 16, 2014

Interview With Matthew Parker

Michigan native, Matthew Parker recently signed with DREAM Records new Electronic Dance Music label, called DROM. He just released his first album on the label, titled Shadowlands

I got a chance to catch up with Matthew and ask him some question about the new album and how he got started making music. Along with some other random questions just for fun! My questions are in white and Matthew's answers are in blue.

Can you give us a little background history on how you got started doing music?

Yeah, so I’ll give you the non-long-and-boring version. I grew up singing hymns and taking piano lessons, and wasn’t interested in music. But then my family got a trashy yellow drumset from a friend who had bought a new one. Around that time I and my younger brother (we were ages 12 and 10) started to “jam” in our tiny attic with me playing the junky yellow drums and him playing a junky, off-tune electric guitar. 

We made up the best songs ever (much sarcasm intended) and had a lot of fun. Soon two of our older brothers joined in and we tried to play some full-band stuff. We also tried our hand at writing lyrical songs. To put it bluntly, we were not good at it.

Soon that “jamming” phase died out somewhat, but I continued to write songs by myself. I got kind of addicted to recording my songs on a freeware program on our old family computer, and kept doing it, getting better all the time. I’ve basically been doing that--minus the freeware program--from then up until now. I still write songs and record them and now I also program electronic beats, but the difference is that I have 8 years of experience and I’ve learned a thing or two. I love what I do.

Who are some of your musical influences?

The earliest music I listened to was whatever my dad listened to. And he listened to Keith Green. Then as I got older, I listened to whatever my brothers listened to, which was Michael W. Smith, Relient K, Casting Crowns, Chris Rice, and others. To this day, Michael W. Smith has remained one of my all-time favorites.

My more modern influences are Zedd, Skrillex, Family Force 5, Capital Kings, TobyMac, but probably most of all, Owl City (believe it or not). Most of the time, my music doesn’t sound much of anything like most of these artists mentioned, but they have absolutely shaped my musical perception.

Your new album Shadowlands released on September 30th. What can you tell us about this album?

Well, first of all, it’s my best work yet. I’ve spent over a year working on it. The idea behind the project was, “I want to do something BIG and really try to make the most perfect album I can----Kinda put all my eggs in one basket, so to speak”.

It’s a really rockin’ album. It has a lot of variety in style and flavors, but overall has a lot of energy. It’s definitely a fusion of styles--altogether it classifies as EDM (Electronic Dance Music for you newbies), but it has a little bit of a traditional song feel that will make it friendlier to people who are less familiar with EDM.

As far as the theme behind the album and the album name, “Shadowlands”, I’ve often wrote in my songs of the concept of darkness and light as a sort of spiritual analogy--the darkness represents evil, and the light represents good--represents God and his goodness. So the idea of Shadowlands is that we as humans are naturally lost in the dark and unable to even see the awful state we’re in. We’re living in a world that is pitch black. And we need God’s light--we need his truth to shed light on our world. So the title track of the album is really a cry to God to come save us. One line of it says “Send your light into the Shadowlands”.

What was the recording process like for this album?

As in most other things, I’m untraditional compared to most artists in the recording process. Most artists write a bunch of songs and then go to a studio to record. For me, the process is different because I have my own studio and I am my own singer, audio engineer, producer, and mastering engineer, as well as musician. So I have total control over the creative process, and I really enjoy the challenge of making a masterpiece.

So the recording process for this album happened like this. I’m always working on beats and sounds and such, and I will often have lyric and melody ideas pop into my head. I’ll sometimes write lyrics to a soundtrack that I’ve made, and other times I’ll make a soundtrack for some lyrics and melodies I’ve already thought up. It’s really super fun all the time. I love what I do.

What is the main message that you are trying to convey to listeners through your music?

The main message I am trying to convey is that we as humans need God. But I’m also trying in some ways to make music that non-Christians can listen to without being pushed away right from the get-go. I’m hoping to give them little pushes in the right direction and be a good example of a Christian who is reasonable, not ridiculous.

You’ve done remixes for artists like Andy Mineo, Capital Kings and Press Play. Out of all the songs you’ve remixed which would you say is your favorite and why?

I have a policy of not picking absolute favorites, because I can’t, but to try to oblige you, I will say that I enjoy the rap remixes that I do (which includes the Andy Mineo one). I’ve also done an unofficial remix of a Lecrae track also. Rap just has a quality that has so much swag and really, really lends itself well to heavy beats….which happen to be a specialty of mine! 

I’ve grown to enjoy the outspoken, unashamed attitude and culture of Christian Rap in general, with Lecrae, Andy Mineo, and Trip Lee among many others. So I’m SORT OF picking the Andy Mineo remix as a favorite, but then….I really like the Capital Kings one too. I’m torn. Sorry, but I can’t really answer this question definitively.

Who is someone that you would absolutely love to collaborate with in the future?

Oh man, this list would be long, but if I were to narrow it down a bit, I would LOVE to collaborate with Owl City. He just rocks in every way possible, and I like him as a person and I like his music a ton. Another person would be Plumb. She has an amazing voice, and her songs and lyrics have such a serious feel that I think is similar to mine, so I really connect. Time fails me to mention TobyMac, Capital Kings, and pretty much everyone else on my “musical influences” list.

What is something that you are passionate about (other than music) and why?

Well, I’m a fan of soccer--more as a player than as part of the fandom. But on a more serious note, I’m pretty passionate about killing abortion. I just see it as a huge injustice and evil, and an extremely blatant one that most people are completely blind to. It amazes me. Let’s not kill people, cool?

Being from the mitten state (Michigan) myself, I’m curious… What is your favorite part about growing up in Michigan?

Well, besides literally carrying a map of your state in your hand all the time….I’ve enjoyed getting to experience all the seasons growing up and getting to play hockey as well as sledding, skating, playing in the leaves in fall, and playing all the summer sports too. Besides some of the winters, nothing is too terribly extreme here, so you get a little taste of everything.

How does your family inspire you, in music and everyday life?

Much of my family likes my older music, from before I got into EDM. But even so, I’m thankful that they’re still supportive of me regardless of the fact that they aren’t really into the styles of music that I’m into. 

I have six brothers and one sister, and although they’re almost all scattered across the country (except my sister, who is a missionary in Brazil, along with her husband), I’m thankful that we got to be together as a big 10-person wild party for many years. It was fun growing up with a million siblings.

What is the best piece of advice that you have ever been given?

Hmm. Hard one. Probably this poem, which is really only implicit advice: “Life is short, ‘twill soon be past; Only what’s done for Christ will last.” I don’t remember the author, but it pretty much sums up our whole purpose and all of eternity in a sentence. Pretty amazing.

Five Random Bonus Questions
1. What is the last album you bought, and was it a good investment?

The last album I bought was Anomaly, by Lecrae...and yes, it was a fabulous investment. If you want to hear one of the most heartfelt AND popular albums out there (and yes, that’s a rare combination), then go get it.

2. Do you collect anything? If so, what do you collect?

I collect penguin paraphernalia, which I use to decorate my studio. My favorite penguin item is a cute little stuffed plush penguin, whose name is Irwin, and he’s my musical mascot and studio buddy. He’s actually the one who makes all my music in the studio. I just watch.

3. What is the craziest thing you have ever done?
This definitely isn’t the craziest thing I’ve done, but one time when I was little, I was mad at my little brother, so I poured grape juice in his cereal. Little did I know my scheme would backfire, because my mom made me eat it. It was disgusting.

4. If you had one day to do anything, anywhere, what would you do?
I guess if I could go visit the UK, Europe, and New Zealand, go wingsuit flying, do a huge concert somewhere in Europe, and go swimming in some hot springs somewhere, I could probably call it a day. A good day, even.

5. What is your favorite movie?
I gotta say the Lord of the Rings series (yeah, I know that’s more than one movie). I love how EPIC and vast it is. There’s just so much feeling in it, and in a lot of ways it’s an allegory of the Christian life. I just love it.

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