Throughout his 15-year career, Matthew Dear has never been content with just one stylistic undertaking. Dear is perhaps best known for a series of avant-pop solo records that pair minimal techno with Brian Eno-like pop substance. But he’s also regularly released and toured using the dark dancefloor pseudonym Audion, made occasional glitchy experiments under the Jabberjaw alias and has a stripped-back electro outlet, False.
“I love playing different personas, multiple different times,” he says. “I love being the guy that wears leather pants onstage one night and I love being just a guy who loves to play groovy dance music the next night when I’m DJing.”
It’s the latter pursuit that brings the Detroit-bred musician (currently residing in upstate New York) to Australia next month. Dear joins Hot Chip DJs, Henry Saiz and plenty more for the inaugural Holeandcorner indoor dance event, taking place at Home Nightclub on the June long weekend. Of course, a Matthew Dear DJ set isn’t going to be an exercise in inert playlist activation. No, with Dear manning the decks, it promises to be a shrewdly curated experience.
“I’m still playing stuff that’s totally inspired by my upbringing in Detroit, going to Detroit electronic parties,” he explains. “It’s all about the groove, it’s all about building moods and energies. That’s what I do when I DJ. I don’t play quick transitions, I’m not about crazy party records. It’s just a slow, building groove, it’s just house and techno and I just try to make people dance.”
Dear was born in Texas but moved to Detroit as a teenager, and after discovering the city’s buzzing electronic underground he quickly developed a flair for DJing. Although Detroit’s late-’90s scene remains a chief influence, he’s not stuck in that era.
“I definitely play some classics and try to go back, but I like to play a lot of new stuff. It’s dance music so I like to keep up with what’s going on.”
Dear’s varied career output strongly intimates a seasoned music fan. And it looks like he takes the practice of listening just as seriously as creating. “I usually pick an artist and just latch onto them for a good six months to a year,” he says. “Play as much as I possibly can and dig through the archives and really try to ingest as much as possible.
“[There’s] people I can’t kick; Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan I keep coming back to, just trying to dig deeper into the rarities and the bootlegs. Then I love my Can and I love my Brian Eno. Those are the foundations, people I can’t get away from. You dig on those guys and you start to hear their influences and people they were crediting as inspirations and you can go further and deeper.”
Diehard music fanatics like Dear don’t simply cherish the records alone. An artist’s transcendent nature also becomes infinitely fascinating. Any ordinary details surrounding, for instance, David Bowie’s Hunky Dory or Nas’ Illmatic take a back seat to the mythology around such totemic pop music and its context. Dear’s been a respected professional musician for more than a decade, but he still looks at his idols with awestruck reverence.
“I love feeling that way about certain people,” he says. “Like Tom Waits – what’s going on in his head? I could sit down across from Tom Waits at a dinner table or at an airport and I want to be scared out of my mind. I want to be impressed by the persona in my head. I think it’s fun to have those types of relationships with some of your favourite artists. You don’t always want them to be sharing all of their thoughts socially. I’m not going to follow Tom Waits on Twitter. I think there’s a healthy distance that we should keep.”
Dear’s constant maneuvering of monikers helps construct his own enigmatic portrait. Despite averaging at least one release per year for the last decade, he faces no dilemma conjuring new ideas.
“I’m about to make the new Audion album and I’ve got too much material,” he reveals. “Right now it’s just a matter of shortening everything and picking which stuff really works and which stuff doesn’t.”
Having had several outlets concurrently active for a number of years, determining where certain ideas belong could become blurry. “I usually turn on the machines and go, and whatever comes out comes out,” Dear says. “But when it is album time I really have to focus on all things Audion. Then, my free time I spend just kind of doodling with stuff for my own weird albums.”
Dear’s habitual costume-changing has been slightly less frequent in recent years. He seems like an intrinsically amorphous character, but his manifold departments of exploration mightn’t coexist forever.
“When I was younger, I had so many different aliases because I just had so much output and different styles of music that I wanted to do. Now that I’ve slowed down a bit I do question whether or not I should maybe pull the plug on all these other monikers and just do one thing and focus on that for the rest of my life. I’m happy; I have a studio, I have a house. I feel like now I could relax and do one thing and be that for the rest of my life.”