Matrixxman Makes Techno, But He Isn't Necessarily Feeling Inspired by It.
a.k.a. An interview with the veteran producer, who discusses both his own work and the current state of the genre he's most often associated with.
2022 was the year that dance music officially came back after COVID, but it was something of a strange time for techno. On the one hand, the genre was arguably more popular than ever, and has now reached a point where it rivals tech-house in terms of both economic success and sheer ubiquity. With the genre arguably as likely to be heard in Ibiza at it is as Berghain, techno has become an undeniably lucrative proposition, but that growth has also fueled claims that the resulting rise of “business techno” has taken the music woefully far from both its spiritual and creative roots.
Given that, it’s no surprise that many young artists have increasingly defined themselves in opposition to techno (or at least its more traditional variants), and when the genre does pop up in more youthful and trend-focused spaces these days, it often takes the form of nosebleed-inducing, gabber-adjacent tunes that purposely (and gleefully) push back against established notions of good taste. If young techno had a sound in 2022, it was a garish, 150-bpm remix of someone like Britney Spears, a development that left many older heads loudly grumbling about just what the hell happened to dance music—and techno in particular—during the pandemic.
Matrixxman (a.k.a. Charles McCloud Duff) is someone who shares some of these concerns, but that doesn’t make him a full-fledged member of the “business techno” club. (For what it’s worth, he’s not necessarily thrilled with techno’s grumpy old guard either.) Though he’s a veteran producer with more than a decade of releases under his belt, he’s the rare artist who moves comfortably between the two poles of the genre, playing at a massive arena one night and sweaty basement the next. Techno is what he’s known for—and DJing is how he pays the bills—but his interests extend well beyond the traditional boundaries of the genre, and in a time when there’s a constant pressure to choose sides in seemingly every single dance music debate (no matter how petty), he seems content to simply forge ahead and do his own thing. (That said, his “own thing” has historically involved freaky sci-fi adventures and talk of the singularity, along with lots and lots of banging tunes.)
As it happens, Matrixxman and I have known each other for quite some time. Though he’s been based in Berlin for several years, we first encountered one another in the San Francisco club scene, and he even co-authored the final release on my now-defunct Icee Hot label back in 2015. His career has obviously taken off quite a bit since then, but his roots are firmly in the underground, and with techno currently sitting at such an unusual place, I could think of few people better positioned to comment on the present state of the genre. Moreover, I was curious to hear how he’s navigating a situation in which the music he’s most often associated with has become not only notably more popular, but has also lost a bit of its luster, especially with younger generations.
Many artists shy away from talking about these issues (at least “on the record” with journalists), but Matrixxman was up for the discussion, and we tackled this stuff head on during a long conversation that happened earlier this week. Thankfully though, the exchange wasn’t limited to dissections of dance music’s latest existential crises, and we also found some time to specifically discuss his own work. Matrixxman has a new release called Dust World coming out later this week (both digitally and as a very limited-edition dubplate), and while the 17-track effort is the most substantial collection of tunes he’s offered up since his 2015 Homesick LP, he insists that it’s not a new album.
It is, however, a techno record, and in his mind, that won’t necessarily be the norm moving forward. He’s already sitting on a trove of trap, drill and dancehall beats he’s produced in recent years, and the exact shape of future Matrixxman releases has yet to be determined. The choices he’s making aren’t likely to be imitated by many of his techno peers, but as someone who repeatedly cited the value of “breaking the system” during the course of our discussion, it’s not surprising that’s he’s more interested in forging his own path than upholding the techno status quo.