As cliché as it sounds, Mathew Jonson is the archetypical classically trained musician who's head was turned by the non-conformist attitude of electronic music. He’s not alone in occupying that space. But as anybody who has seen his live show will attest, his goes against the grain of the industry standard. For starters, he’s an analog fiend - a real lover of hardware. His ever-expanding collection of synths point to exactly this. As a child, he mastered first concert piano and later jazz drums. Adamant that practice makes perfect, Jonson has returned to these disciplines as an adult to hone his craft amid his love-affair with electronic music. It seems there’s always room for improvement.
This leads nicely to the next unusual quality about Jonson: although he is a capable DJ, he largely shuns this format instead choosing to wow audiences with technical live performance. Real-time play and the potential for improvisation is the appeal here, versus simply two-channel recorded playback.
Not only is Mathew Jonson one of the consummate soloists in the field of electronic music, but he is only one of the most adept collaborators. His scope of work includes some pretty impressive group projects. Most notable is his work as part of Cobblestone Jazz. The origins of the sometimes three, sometimes four-piece can be traced back to his teenage years in Vancouver. There, he fell in with a crew of fellow DJs and experimental musicians, whereby they would perform improvised hybrid shows in their local club scene. Originally starting life as a quartet, the collective settled on the name Cobblestone Jazz after one of the forming members moved away from their hometown. Despite Jonson now residing in Berlin and having a pretty rigorous touring schedule, he still both makes and perform with fellow band members Tyger and Danuel. They are no strangers to fabric - and have been a cornerstone of Craig Richards’ cult Houghton festival.
Cobblestone Jazz is not the only side-project that Jonson commits himself to. Arguably a more personal guise manifests in the form of Midnight Operator. It is the name he and his brother Nathan Jonson AKA Hrdvsion work under. The two of them share similar features, those telltale curly locks could only be shared between siblings. But for their chosen career paths and choice of home-town, the brothers are not two of a kind. Growing up, it may have been Nathan’s early career as a sound engineer that encouraged Mathew to seek a similar path. But ultimately, the linear and textbook nature of engineering was not one that appealed to Mathew’s creative streak. Two identical peas in a pod, they aren’t. Yet they do complement one another.
More personal still, is his live collaborations with his wife, Isis Kuaygarond. Affectionately titled Mr. + Mrs. Jonson live, the tandem is a unique clash of Mathew’s synth work and Isis’ soulful R&B vocal combining on electro-influenced soundwaves. This is not merely an extension of Jonson as a solo act, but a project in entirely its own right. While the DJ booth is usually a place where the ego hides a lonely reality, Mathew and Isis share the space with a mutual bond and understanding. The pair’s meandering improvs bear all the hallmarks of jazz groups. Who knows where they will take a set? Certainly not them, themselves. Love itself is an art - and these two have it locked.
Always eager to tread new ground instead of covering old territory, Jonson’s next project is as part of Sebastian Mullaert (Minilogue)’s Circle Of Live party series and record label that champions live electronic music acts. As well as Jonson, Mullaert has assembled an enviable list of captivating live performers from within the electronic music scene. Peers include Âme’s Frank Weidemann, Dorisburg and Tobias, meaning he sits in good company. The concept is still in its early stages, but as much as it sounds ambitious it sounds right down Jonson’s alley, with performers encouraged to spontaneously collaborate as little or as much as they wish. With these maverick musicians all working together, the possibilities within the future of live club performance are endless.
Mathew Jonson (live) headlines Reculture at The Steelyard, London this coming Friday 14th June. The bill also includes Francesca Lombardo and Argy.
First release tickets remain on sale.