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Sundowner. Mix #30 by Rupert Marnie + Interview

Aktualisiert: 19. Apr.

Matthias Schubert is the artist at work behind the alias of Rupert Marnie and our Sundowner mix #30 - an hour full of cinematic reverb layered upon groovy, anchoring bass lines.

Aside from being an active producer and DJ, Matthias is co-founder of Hamburg-based label The Press Group and Remoto Records, he also practices composition and sound design for theatres. Music is the clear pivot point of Matthias’ life, approaching the medium from different perspectives and playing with conventional expectation. This multi-pronged approach makes for an interesting conversation.

Matthias’ explorative nature is not only apparent through his assorted schedule, but through his traversing of sonic territories in the name of storytelling. There seems to be a consideration for a larger narrative running throughout his works. Speaking with Matthias, I felt his essence was beautifully translated into his Sundowner mix: a consistent rhythm keeps his dancing feet firmly on the ground, while ethereal elements allow space for deeper contemplation.


I look at your life and all I see is music - music in many different shapes and contexts. You're involved in so many different projects with many moving parts and components. How did this constellation of your life fall into place?  

Music and sound have always been a big topic in my life. When I was a child my father would show me different records by artists like Herbie Hancock, Kraftwerk, but also different kinds of classical music. I started playing the electric bass at the age of fourteen, which is not that young but I was really into it and played for like four hours a day and in different bands. Then I studied digital media with a focus on sound for my bachelor’s, where I dealt with various topics such as music production and recording, but also more theoretical subjects like soundscapes studies and the perception of sound.  Later, I moved to Hamburg for my master's studies and from the second year on I started producing sound design and music for theatre. I mainly work in theatre these days, but have also worked on various other audio projects. Currently, I'm working in the field of contemporary dance. The piece will have its premiere at Kampnagel on 20th of June and I’m really looking forward to it. 

I started a label around nine years ago with some friends focusing on electronic music (The Press Group), and in December 2021 we opened Remoto Records in Hamburg, a record store with focus on electronic music and also a meeting spot for people who are interested in it. 

So it's been a long and layered journey. What are your thoughts on creating such journeys through your music?

It depends on the project. Telling a story is really important to me but every mix is different. I wouldn't say that I stick to any one genre of music - like only 140 BPM techno, only minimal or only tech house - it always depends on the mix that I select the records for, and I select them so that they fit together regardless of the genre. It’s more dependant on the flow that the track has, what elements there are, which elements can be combined together from different tracks to form new ones within the transitions and how they interact with each other in that way. It's really important for me to not be glued to one specific genre.  

For the Sundowner mix, I tried to create the mood of starting or ending an evening - you can use the mix in both ways. I think every track has some kind of groove and a little bit of soul to it, but in an abstract way. Many of them have a minimal influence, they are quirky and a little bit weird, but still have a happy touch rather than feeling dark. Every track has its own vibe, but I think they fit well together because the overall vibe of the tracks is, well, weird but happy.

And you incorporate a lot of these loops; loops that feel in constant motion, always changing to create a lot of variation. It was really beautifully done. 

Thank you. I'm really into loops. And I’ve realised over the last five years that I'm really into repetition. When you listen to something in a loop for a long time your perception of the loop can change and you can get lost in it; it’s like a meditation or a mantra. That's what I like about repetition in electronic music and that applies to all of the tracks I selected for the Sundowner mix. For example, there's this one track by Forever Sweet released on Ladomat 2000 that has a really reduced bass line with three notes. And across the whole track you have only these three notes in the bass line but you can get totally lost in it. And I love it to get lost in little elements like these in the tracks.   

There seems to be a fine line between repetition having an expansive effect versus becoming monotonous. 

Yeah, of course. There have to be little changes in the dynamics or the groove - some musical parameters have to change a little bit over time to have a complex loop experience.

Has your perception of listening to music changed since you started producing it?  

Yeah, there are now different auditive perspectives I have when I listen to music. There's the producer perspective where I listen really technically to tracks and listen to how they’re mixed and to the sound design of different elements, for example, different drums or how the synthesiser sound is programmed - it’s more analytic listening. Then there’s the listening which I do as just a listener. This is more about the emotion. Then there's the possibility to listen to tracks with the point of view of a DJ where I think, “okay, how can this work on the dance floor or which track could fit to that track?”. 

Also, there are different situations. Like when I travel I mostly listen to really reduced ambient music or repetitive music. My go to album for travelling is Music for 18 Musicians by Steve Reich. I love the vibe of the piece and I love the complex music arrangement, which at first seems really simple, but I love how it develops over time and how different rhythms of different instruments form such a fluid feeling in the music.

I recently saw a rendition of Six Pianos by Steve Reich at the Berlin Philharmonie. In fact, it incorporated these incredible loops that put me in a kind of trance. It was the first time I watched loops like these being played on an instrument in real time; seeing the pianists’ fingers on the keys and feeling how really subtle changes - how hard a key is hit, for example - can transmute a whole feeling into another.

One of my key experiences in listening to music was when Music for 18 Musicians was played live at the Elbphilharmonie (Hamburg) and Steve Reich was actually there. It was a key event for me because after that I thought, “okay, now I've seen and listened to everything I want to see and listen to, and now anything can come it doesn't matter what”. It was a really really good experience. I also have the vinyl record of Music for 18 Musicians, which I took with me and now I have a signed copy by Steve Reich hanging in my living room. 

To produce and compose music requires a certain amount of creative confidence. When was it that you felt ready to output yourself into the musical world? 

In terms of club music production, it was actually the first record we did on our label. I think it was in 2015 or something when I released my first record as Rupert Marnie, which is my alias for dance music productions. That was nine years ago and, with every record, you learn more and more about how you perceive your own productions. And every time you listen to a new record you think, “okay, I could have changed that, or I could have changed this”. But that's also another stage of learning. In my opinion, art or music is never really finished so you have to learn to say, “stop, now this process is finished,” but the whole process will last forever.

Yes, and every work is a documentation of an artist’s growth. How do you feel like your music has changed over time?

It’s changed in many different ways. When I listen to my old stuff, I'm happy with it in one part of my mind but sometimes I feel like the technical side wasn't that on point. Also I think the tracks were not that complex in the sound design or the usage of different elements or effects. And also the style changed from deeper productions to more energetic, clubby material 

Exposing yourself creatively can be incredibly satisfying, but it can also breed self doubt and over analysis. Is this something you’ve experienced?

Yeah, I’ve experienced it a lot. Every time I produce something there is this little bit of self doubt. The best way to fight it is to just release music and look back at what you've done and see that you've done so much. You realise that the self doubt can become more of a criticising voice because of an insecurity you have, as you’re probably trying out a new way of doing something for the first time. I can jump over the self doubt when I remember the feeling I have when I release something or when I had a theatre premiere that went well, or something like that. But I think for every artist, self-doubt is always a topic. 

I guess it’s easier for self doubt to show up when an artist is working alone - as I assume is the case when you're producing and composing - but you’re also part of Remoto Records and The Press Group label. Do you find it important for your creative growth to work with other artists in a collaborative way, rather than simply focusing on solitary projects? 

It's really important. I have the feeling that about ten years ago I was much more shy about collaborating or exchanging with other artists because I had this comparison parameter in my mind. I would compare myself to others, which is never a good idea, it is never healthy but I experienced it a lot. But during the last five years I’ve learned that collaborating and exchanging with different artists in the same field is really, really good for your creativity, for your self esteem and for everything else. I think that collaborations really are gold. 

Aside from working with other artists, you also work on the ground in the record shop. Record shops are such watering holes for diggers and music enthusiasts. Do you also find that talking about music with people in general, not just artists, is an important part of it all?

Yeah, this is really important as well. It’s really beautiful to have the opportunity to recommend stuff to people who come into the shop. It doesn’t matter whether they DJ or if they don’t even know what kind of record they're looking for. When you have the possibility to give someone like five different records and there's one record that they love, it’s really a beautiful experience; to give the love for music to other people. It's also always interesting to have exchanges with different people in the store and to get to talk about different music styles and different records. It can provide inspiration for new tracks. I can have an idea just because I talked with somebody about some tracks and we analysed the arrangement or the chords or other elements of the tracks. It makes me really happy.

I’ve been listening a lot to the ambient tracks that you put out towards the end of 2023, Signal/Noise Vol.1. How did you get into producing ambient? 

I put some tracks out which were produced during COVID. I think then I had a big phase of producing ambient sounds because everything was slowed down. I just felt like producing more calming music and in the recent months I’ve felt the same. I’ve always been interested in field recordings and finding rhythms and harmonic structures in the sounds which surround us, like in a city where everything you can hear can be translated into some composition or music – this is really interesting for me. 

I have this little Geofón microphone, which can record really deep frequencies. You can attach it onto big metal structures and record the vibrations. You can add effects and then, with this as a base - so with the environment as a starting point - you can add more musical elements. I like the idea of getting inspired by the sounds which surround me. I’m using this technique for some of my upcoming ambient releases. I'm also preparing a new ambient set, which I’ll be performing a few times throughout the next months. I try to have a more conceptual approach for my ambient performances, so this one is called One Chord Per Hour, and I want to actually play one chord per hour and the performance will be between one and six hours long. Each chord will consist of, for example, six different notes and every note goes into a synthesiser so the chord gets created with different timbres of different synthesisers, and then effects are added. It will be an evolving mass of the chords' sound, but only one chord at a time. Then, after exactly one hour, the chord changes. This is a chord progression that could be listened to in a few seconds on a piano or a guitar but I like the idea of stretching a chord progression experience to a really long amount of time. I also want to use field recordings, which will affect the chord in a certain way. I’ll attach microphones around the location that I perform in, which are routed to resonators and form tonal content out of the rhythms that you can perceive at the location. So it’s a little bit of a conversation between the music and the place where it’s played.  

How is the personal experience of performing something of this length and style live? 

You have to get used to it because it takes a little bit of time to really get into the mood and into the zone before you’re prepared to have this experience. And then you can drift away. I think you can drift away with the listeners. 


Matthias will perform One Chord Per Hour under Rupert Marnie on Sunday 5th May 2024, 16:00-22:00 CET. It will be performed in the bar Locke directly above the Golden Pudel Club in Hamburg and the entire performance will be transmitted via Radio 80000 from Munich. 

Check out a cohesive list of Matthias' of work here. Matthias will air his bi-monthly show on Komrad radio next Wednesday 24th April and his upcoming release on System Error’s FunFunFun imprint will be released on 15th May 2024. Find snippets of the Shifted Dimensions EP here.

Written by Mia Jaccarini

Photo credits: Laura Czyzewski


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