From underage weekend clubber to Gallery debuting British stormer, Matt Smallwood accession to the distinguished standing of British underground leader has definitely been well earned. Having touched base with the likes of Armada, Spinnin and Doorn Records along the way and bagged the outlined support of Techno heavyweight Carl Cox, 2012 has already seen him join the ranks of Toolroom Records and bag further live exploits for homeland clubbing hotspot Ministry of Sound. In short, Smallwood’s eclectic blend of sophisticated club cuts are well and truly on the road to becoming proud and promising exploits for country and genre alike.
‘I don’t think the UK is any more of a difficult scene to break into than any other part of the World, but I do think DJing and dance music in general is a lot harder to get into, certainly on a big scale, purely because it’s seen as such a glamorous lifestyle and everybody wants a slice these days,’ says Smallwood, now comfortably poised amid the promising British armada of Electronic artists. Having outgrown the humble spots of London’s once notorious nightlife, a Beatport chart-topper in the form of ‘Morph’ alongside Ali Willson for Sander Van Doorn’s renowned imprint would ultimately separate the aspiring capital city talent from the crowd.
But with rigorous studio time alongside Willson, the undeniably potent support of a certain big boy of universal Techno was all that Smallwood needed to indicate that somewhere along the line, the pieces were fitting exceedingly well. He explained: ‘Carl Cox ended up using several of our tracks on albums and compilations that year, and to top it off at the end of that 12 Months he awarded us with the ‘producers of the year’ crown after he was voted 5th best DJ in the World in DJ Mag, which was pretty incredible and still makes me smile to this day.’
Transitioning from the insanely hard music of his early years to the latter Techno persuasion right through to the extensively popular blend of Tech straddling House gems we currently associate with Smallwood’s impending legacy, change has been the soundtrack ultimately associated with his positive musical breakthrough. But with a sound as signature to himself as it is his industrious success, taking his studio stylings into his own hands has ultimately allowed the young producer to reign supreme amid the hordes of UK contenders. Matt explained: ‘I think the main shift towards the tougher and groovier house sound came as soon as I installed my own studio at home late in 2009. I was then able to experiment a lot more, really find my feet and to then find myself as a producer and discover what really pushed my buttons musically.’
Amid the rat race that now faces every aspiring artist, Smallwood has certainly paved a positive route of entry into this eagerly pursued avenue that many of his ardent peers could learn from. Despite the inevitable decay of its heyday, Smallwood believes that its sweat-breaking entry-requirements have made for a far more positive influx in artists universally.
‘ I was lucky enough to cut my teeth in a time when good solid DJ performances were pretty much enough to bring the gigs in, where as now, DJ’s need to bring much more to the table,’ he explained. ‘Promoters will look at your production skills, production output, your online presence and more.
‘Gone are the days of recording a live mix, scribbling your name on a TDK90 and then posting it to a promoter! I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing as everybody has to ‘up’ their game these days which keeps us all on our toes.’
But upping one’s game is something Smallwood has notoriously specialised in. Setting the standard to an all time high with his prior Cox-approved exploits, an affirmative outing for his work peers at Toolroom Records with the momentous ‘Tongue and Groove’ for the labels Miami 2012 conference is already set to be followed up with the groove induced ‘What’s Your Story’ on the forthcoming Leaders of the New School album by Hauswerks later this month. Having mastered both a technical and professional relationship with the label, the rising British producer remains inherently proud to be accepted to their family of House orientated industry leaders. ‘I’ve been lucky enough to work for Toolroom just over a year now and I’m even luckier to really enjoy my job! I have been a fan of the label for years and it was actually Mark Knight’s first ‘Sessions’ album on MOS that first lured me into the Techier realms of House music back in 2005, so to now be part of the team is amazing,’ he explained.
Masterful as he may be proving himself, Smallwood is not about to admit that there are not further industrious stones to be turned as far as his industrious and creative sights are concerned. ‘I don’t think the challenges of being a producer ever go away!’ he suggests. ‘There’s always pressure to write wicked tracks, to be consistent and to keep that momentum going.
‘I think initially my main challenge has been learning how to use music software properly and how to get the most out of it. I haven’t even scratched the surface on what I’d like to be able to do musically, but I am at a semi-decent level now and I am trying to build on that every time I go into the studio. Nothing gives me more of a buzz than sitting down in the studio and laying down a chunky groove and I am always striving to better my last track!’
But with his first guest mix for the Mark Knight’s popular Toolroom radio show already doing the rounds and his debut appearance at Ministry of Sound for The Gallery this summer, there is no shortage of excitement on the horizon for this Tech-loving wizard of infinitely dexterous musical qualities. But with his sights invariably set on international exploits, we are unlikely to keep this vibrant British talent contained on his home turf for much longer.
‘I’ve been working really hard this past few Months and have some great stuff happening at the moment. There are a couple of tours penciled in for India and Brazil later in the year as well as some cool Ibiza gigs as well so yes, plenty of exciting things coming up and I’m looking forward to plenty more studio work as well!’
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