Having worked with artists like Matt Corby, Jen Cloher, The Avalanches, to all Melbourne locals under the sun, you can already gauge that Matthew Neighbour is a pretty talented and hard working producer. We were lucky enough to pick his brains on his past and present work, how he works, and whats next to come.
So Matthew, you are a Music Producer, Engineer and Mixer. How did this come to play?
Throughout high school I’d always been rather obsessed with music… I loved to play, but didn’t really consider myself a songwriter or a band person. I think initially what would hit me the hardest with music was the sound, textures and aesthetic, so naturally I quickly gravitated toward wanting to be a sound engineer.
From there it became clear that production was the job I really wanted. To be invited in creatively to influence the direction, performance and sentiment of the music is really exciting. So for the last couple of years producing records for young exciting artists has been the focus.
…And then mixing is just something I’ve always done… whether it’s projects I’ve engineered, something I’ve produced or something I’ve had nothing to do with – the mix work just always seems to be there. It’s the kind of thing you’ll just keep getting better at the more you do if you continue to experiment and challenge yourself.
You have worked with artists such as Matt Corby (the Corbinator), to Jen Cloher, did these acts approach you to work with them?
For a long period I was engineering records at Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne, and would frequently get to work with some awesome artists…
In Matt’s case he and his producer Dann Hume had written the album together out in the country and wanted to bring it into a large studio environment and capture it live with his great band. We spent a month in the Neve Room (the biggest studio at Sing Sing) doing a lot of live takes trying to capture the best versions of each song – the results being his latest album “Telluric.”…And then with Jen we just got together in the Neve Room and put a few songs down really quickly. Jen and her band work fast and don’t like to overthink things. Their chemistry is so good from the word go that it’s a waste of time to do lots of takes. I think that’s why her music sounds so immediate…it’s not overblown. We also tracked all of that stuff to 2” tape, which adds a fatness to the sound, and logistically goes hand in hand with not over thinking things.
Tell us a little about your past, we’re guessing your a Melbournian?
Yep, grew up in Melbourne. I played a bit of music in high school, and then when i was 18 started as an intern at a few studios, the main one being Sing Sing in Richmond.
Sing Sing is really the last world standard studio left in Australia, and was a pretty incredible place to learn… particularly for the first few years, learning from a host of amazing local and international artists and producers.
From there I was hired as an Assistant, and then transitioned into working as an engineer.
I was lucky to get to engineer a couple of really good records at the studio while quite young, which really pushed things a long for me. I also got to work with work with a bunch of great local and international producers during this time, pick their brains and steal a few of their tricks… which certainly helped when I wanted to start developing production chops myself.
Over the last couple of years the freelance Production work has taken over and is my main focus now. You need to commit a lot more time to each project, but what you end up with is music that you are really invested in, and that represents you well.
What was the first cd/tape you ever bought/listened too?
Im not sure which was first but it was definitely one of either JET “Get Born” or Red Hot Chilli Peppers “By The Way”
Equally rad early 2000’s records.
You’ve worked with our mates Swamp on their latest and greatest ‘Don’t Need It’ single. Please tell us a little about that.
Swamp have great, unpredictable, young band chemistry. Feels like it could go off the rails, but it never does. It comes through in spades at their live shows and I think we captured it on “Don’t Need It.” We tracked it at Sing Sing South and my little studio. I think it was their first recording together, but instead of sounding nervous or timid I think it’s vibrant and exciting. We’re doing a few more songs together at the moment which are ticking along nicely.
The Avalanches are a very iconic and amazing bunch. Tell us about working with The Avalanches on their new ripper ‘Wildflower’?
Although the album came out last year, its actually been about 4 years since the sessions I did for that album. The first session was for American rapper Danny Brown. He was in town on tour and came to Sing Sing to record his amazing rap on the song “The Wozard of Iz”
The second lot of sessions I did was printing samples from their old Akai samplers as they prepared to mix the album. It was pretty surreal to get a look into what assembles that kind of music. The way they combine found sounds and samples to create this complex bitter/sweet sentiment blows my mind.
Since the record came out, midway through last year, I still listen to it every few days… I’m a bit obsessed.
How do you like to get your stuff done? Are you more of an introverted or extroverted worker?
I think I’m a relatively introverted worker. I like to knuckle down on my own and get stuff done. I never feel the need to explain the time I spend working on something… I’d much prefer to get the result I want, show my client and let that speak for itself… obviously that approach requires a certain amount of trust from the artist.
Once I started producing it became clear pretty quickly your not doing yourself or the artist any favours by rushing. For this reason I’ve gotten used to forgetting about the clock, keeping my standards high and working on the song until its finished.
Another thing I think is important about production is making things as much about the music & performance as possible. So I think once your representing your self as a producer you need to take a far more low key approach to the engineering, editing etc… those just become things you do without recognition or validation. They are important, but should seem, to the artist at least, effortless.
With so many awesome projects under your belt, what’s the next project?
The next full release is the Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird debut album. We are pretty close to finishing, and are all stoked with how its turned out. For myself there is a great deal of production work Im really proud of. We had a really decent amount of time allocated to making the album, and were constantly challenging each other to think about things differently. Its rather eclectic, but i think the songs shine through and people will get on board.