Wising up with Mat. McHugh
Mat. Mchugh is far from a newcomer to the Australian music scene. Being the face, writer and soul of The Beautiful Girls for the previous ten years, playing solo, and under his Mat. Mchugh & The Seperatista Soundsystem moniker, it’s fair to say he’s had the experiences to form justified opinions on music and the world beyond.
That he certainly does. An artist and person with an stimulating view on the world and who isn’t one to shy away from expressing it, it was refreshing to hear Mat weigh in anything from the triple J debate, the credibility of electronic music, his mission to explain the difference between his moniker’s, all the way to the ‘other 98%’.
I came to the farewell tour of The Beautiful Girls a while back, however I recently I noticed you were doing requests for an upcoming show which included Mat. Mchugh & The Seperatista Soundsystem tracks, but also The Beautiful girls songs. Was this with the guys?
Well who do you refer to as 'the guys'? I'll answer your question with a question.
Are you talking about the bass player and the drummer or are you talking about horns or keys, it's a bit of an endless question, because everyone on stage is part of The Beautiful Girls. Everyone I’m playing with right now is in The Beautiful Girls. All The Beautiful Girls songs are my songs, I wrote every single one of them, the last few records I played every single note on the recordings and produced them myself.
The Beautiful Girls, I always looked at it as a collective. We were super fortunate to know a bunch of amazing players that will come and play these songs that I’ve written and then interpret them their own way on the stage, that’s all it was. Even from day one, our first merchandise shirts said The Beautiful Girls Collective circa 2000 or whatever it was at that stage.
So to answer your question, I didn’t actually want to do that farewell tour at all; it was the one tour that my heart just wasn’t in too. The now ex-management were really pushing for it, and I had just released 'Love Come Save Me'. I don’t say never because only fools say that, but I just don’t see myself in the foreseeable future ever wanting to use the name 'The Beautiful Girls' again.
The short answer is, all that's changed is the name, I just wanted to present it differently.
Now that you’ve been living around Cronulla in recent years, The Sutherland Shire is a music scene that doesn’t get as much coverage than that of the inner city, but it definitely seems to be evolving. What do you think of it in terms of music and art?
Well I think a large tip of the hat has to go to Brass Monkey, which has seemingly been there for ever.
I'm a newcomer, I’ve only been here a couple of years, but I think half the community is like that real Aussie kind of footy player bit of bogan-y vibe, which is cool. God bless the Aussie bogan, but there’s a real vibrant community happening that's artistic and artistic driven. There's a crew that have an art gallery, (Space 44 - http://www.space44.com.au/) and putting on festivals, there’s people doing interesting websites and photography, there’s even writers. I meet a lot of people down here doing cool shit, like a lot!
It’s such a unique place coz its right near the city but it’s got its own scene, which I think is really good because you're just trying to do your own thing. You’re not trying be inner city cool kid, you're just in your own community which is great.
Have you ever discovered any other scenes on tour that may not have received their deserved recognition as of yet?
Yea I have actually. I don’t get to see a lot of music on tour, but we often have a strong say in who we want as supports, so I hear some new acts coming through to me. I do think there’s quite a strong rootsy/reggae/dub scene up in Brisbane that’s really great, which hasn’t fully reached its potential yet in terms of dragging that music out on the radio and getting it heard. There's a lot of interesting underground electronic stuff that I guess Flume is breaking the doors down for that type of music. Australia's a weird place musically in terms of the rest of the world. Culturally, it’s still searching; musically it’s still searching for what its thing is.
Pub rock has been accepted in Australia, anything apart from that takes a little bit to get accepted. I don’t know why pub rock is so accepted, I guess we had so much great pub rock which stemmed from English immigrants and stuff that probably made a pretty strong case. But I think when we even started doing like acoustic-rootsy type stuff, it was so different to what was on the radio and at venues. This is when John Butler, Xavier and Jack Johnson all this kind of scene hadn’t blown up yet around the world. You could not get a gig anywhere, you could not get a gig with an acoustic guitar, and you wouldn’t dream of getting on the radio or triple j.
How long ago was that?
That was around probably 2002 and 2003. All it was then was kind of like the left over from the 90's rock, so the radio was all rock. There wasn’t any Aussie hip hop, there was barely any hip hop at all, certainly no dance music, no acoustic, there was just rock. If I look it from then to now and I look at the wide variety on the radio, people bitch about what gets played and what doesn’t, but the variety now, whether or not you like it is irrelevant. The variety of music triple J and that genre of radio station, what they play now is so varied and it’s healthy.
There is dance and there is hip hop, and there is acoustic-folky stuff and still rock, but not much of it. It’s been busted right open, now if you want to do something, it doesn’t matter what genre you are, you'll get a set of ears to listen to it. Whereas I feel like ten years ago if you don’t listen to this very narrow band of what some think is cool, you could forget about it. The moving forward of Australian culture has gradually happened and I think it’s in a good spot.
There's a lot of respect for the Australian musical output around the world. With every artist that comes through there’s always people in other countries raving about it, there’s really good music in Australia and particularly when you consider how small it is population wise compared to anywhere. You know, Canada has three times the amount of people; there are more people in one city in Brazil than there is in our whole country. So to produce so many bands; if that many bands and different styles of bands came out of one city for instance, everyone would be raving about how that is the coolest music city in the whole world, you know.
On your Facebook prolife, you really engage consistently well with your fans. Do you think this is a necessary action for an emerging artist to keep in contact with fans and further promote their music?
I don’t think it's necessary, I think having a presence on there is definitely necessary for people to know who you are. I guess the reason I do it, is because I’m sick of how much bullshit there is in the music business.
I just see bands coming through, I’ve grown up with certain artists and certain bands, and everyone’s normal right. Like you and I are talking, we’re normal, I’ll talk to someone else, they're normal.
But in the music industry, part of the game plan is to make someone seem cooler and more alluring and more aspirational than they actually are. So you’ll have a label just going “look at this person, they are the fucking coolest person in the world, go and watch them, go stand in your room and look at them on stage. So you like Flume for instance, go stand in your room and watch him press play on his laptop, and how cool is he?” You know, and he might be the coolest person in the world, but I don’t believe any of that shit.
I think the only way forward in the world, is if everyone just got on the same level, and the world is so imbalanced. Like we all know, there’s this tiny percentage running this place, and the rest of us are just running around, making them money. I think that imbalance is so gigantic, to counteract it you have to start from the beginning. The beginning is realising, that were all the same, to have that realisation you need to treat people the same and act the same, and it trickles down to social media.
I answer everybody’s question on there, because I don’t think I'm better than anyone. We might get into an argument because we might have a disagreement, and I've told peole to fuck off on there and I'll tell them again, and that’s just how it is. But at least its real, like I'm talking to you and its real and I’ll talk to someone else and its real, for me that’s important. That is as important as getting my name out on the internet. Like I don't work with a consultancy firm to strategize what's going be the best thing to get numbers. If you’re being real, people will probably recognise it.
I think nothing is ever going to be able to replace making good music and then going and playing it. The other stuff is all just advertising.
So what are your plans now for 2014?
We’ve got an EP out for ths tour, it’s kind of the first new music I’ve done since I stopped releasing stuff with The Beautiful Girls. I’ve got a bunch of songs that are pretty much finished, I think we’re going to go to America and tour and come back and try work on a record. Then around the middle of year or September, we’ll be back to tour here and then the end of the year we’re going back to Brazil and are going to tour Canada, Japan and the States again. The first part of the year is just taken up with these tours, a tour here and one in America, and then making a record.
Mat. McHugh - ‘More Money’: itunes.apple.com/au/album/more-money-single/id809354829
Catch Mat live at the upcoming date:
Cooloangatta Hotel, Saturday March 8
By James Sherley