By Garry Lu (@mrputneyswope)
Fresh from a US tour with Wafia, and Falls Festival barely two weeks ago, we sat down with critically acclaimed Australian producer and Perth native, Regan Mathews. As one who is familiar with the ethos of his work would expect, the conversation danced on intimate borders, through the sentimental trinity of love, passion, and family.
Love seems to be a central, thematic concern in your songs, more specifically heartbreak and longing. This is more evident from the period between Songs to Make Up To and (m)edian, with “Love Again” being the distinct turning point. Do you agree that these emotions give rise to the best works of art?
Yeah, I think so. I think we… well personally, I know that a lot of people that write music, I know that they are able to write from a place of sadness or despair rather than being entirely happy or gleeful. And I think that’s just how the human spirit works. When we’re a bit down, or going through a tough time, you kind of want to pull yourself out of that, and doing so through a creative for me is always the best medicine… I guess where a lot of my inspiration comes from.
While heartbreak and longing are universal is it difficult to sustain such a mentality across your evolution as an artist, or can it feel like it loses meaning after an extended period?
I think… it all has the same impact for me. Because I think, feel good cycles, whether it’s in through the teenage years or adulthood… most situations are the same, but they all resonate with each other on and off, they’ll have their similarities, and that’s how we… I feel like that’s how we grow as individuals. We draw from past experiences, and past things that have happened to us. I feel like that’s what helps as grow as a person, but I never kind of… I never see each thing as just a repeat. I see it, you know, as something I need to fit, and notice, take in, and use past experiences to deal with it.
You mentioned in a previous interview with Wafia that the ghost in the machine for (m)edian was a phone call from your father, followed by a discussion about how you’ve never quite seen eye to eye with to your music career. I think you made a joke a few times about how he still thinks you sell health insurance. Has his stance changed since then?
I think with my father, like it was funny… I was just talking to a friend about it. It’s not so much his stance, it’s due to the person he is. He has a disability, so he chooses to remain, not ignorant but… we’ve just never gotten to a point where we’ve been able to just talk about my career, or me as a person. My dad… the relationship I have with my dad is really, really interesting. And I’ve never been able to tell him certain things. And it sounds weird telling it to someone who doesn’t know the whole story, but I think if anyone has a parent that suffers from a mental illness… they might understand. But sometimes, certain subjects are just better left unsaid. Or things are better left, not un-talked about, just because it’ll open a whole new… box of problems… and to me it… at times I find it, you know, a bit saddening or unfortunate that we, that I can’t have that relationship with him.
Then again, it’s lead me to create music the way I do now. And hopefully, one day I will be able to tell him, and he would be able to understand the scope of what I do for, you know, work and what I’m passionate about. But we’ve never gotten to that point in our relationship, just yet. There’s a disconnect of relatability.
It does makes for a very interesting dynamic, father-son. It’s what the EP was pretty much based off and inspired by.
From what I gather, you only quit your health insurance job relatively recently in 2013. What was the defining moment where you thought, “OK, I’m putting all my chips in now. This isn’t going to be a side project anymore, this is going to be an all-in kind of deal.”?
Once I had about six months’ salary (Laughs.). When I was working, I was always very safe financially. Wanted to make smart decisions, didn’t want to do anything too drastic. So, you know, I was getting gigs and opportunities while I was working in health insurance, but I didn’t want to put all my chips in. I was still financially stable in doing so. I could have the finances sorted, then 100% of my energy on my music and not have to worry about my family or the bills.
That’s actually one of the most logical and pragmatic answers I’ve ever gotten. I always get people rattling off vague maxims about knowing what they wanted to do and following dreams. Any advice for all the would-be artists on the edge of pulling that trigger?
I mean the fact that you want to pull the trigger, or the fact that you feel like you’re ready to do it, obviously means something, and that you’re passionate about it. Something you want to go all in on. I just feel like… make sure you do it in a semi-calculated way, where you’re just smart about it, and… because no one wants to create with the pressure of everything else that’s going on in the world, let alone financial pressure, and trying to have responsibilities, because everyone has responsibilities, and not being able to meet those responsibilities, whether you have a family or friends or whatever, those just put onto you, unneeded pressure on you creating,
It works for some people, I guess they, you know, create to make an income and that’s what pushes them even harder. But I think, if you want to do it, definitely just do it, but just do it in a way that you’re comfortable and it’s, you know… it makes sense and you feel right about it… 100%, I think you shouldn’t hold back at all.
Diverging off onto a separate yet very well connected theme of compromise on (m)edian, right down to the titling, structure of the track list, and even the name itself being a really appropriate metaphor. What was it like to bare something so deeply personal for the wider public to experience?
It was… I mean, because it was based on something so close to me and Wafia’s stories about our fathers, it was liberating in a way. It was almost therapeutic, where we’ve dealt with problems with our families for a long time and we haven’t really voiced them for many people, let alone… even our families to a great extent. So I think by putting it out, at this scale and letting people interpret it themselves was, yeah. It was liberating for me.
It made me feel… yeah, it was great. And I think the way that we did it, we weren’t overly descriptive about it was also great for me too. It was still an air of mystery, it was quite enigmatic, and people listening to might think it was about a boy and girl falling in and out of love, but that’s what was really great about it. Me and Wafia didn’t really… expose too much about ourselves.