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INTERVIEW WITH MATT - CHEWn ZINE

-Can you tell us a little bit about your musical projects? What would they taste like?

Woven Skull - mushrooms soaked in wild ivy honey

Divil A’ Bit - a hot drink of pine tips & lemon verbena

Three Eyed Makara - raw nettle soup

Solo Projects - blackberry & apple jam on toast

-You’re out on tour with Woven Skull a lot, right? What do you tend to eat when you’re on tour?

In the evenings, we’re generally looked after by the promoter or venue.  Dinners vary greatly by country and by season. One time when we were on tour in Europe in autumn we were fed soup at nearly every show for three weeks straight.  In Scotland we seem to eat a lot of amazing vegan junk food. In Belgium they have pickle flavoured chips that I go a little crazy over. In the north of England we seek out curry houses.  Italy and France take the feeding of bands very seriously. Some of the best meals I’ve had in my life have been in diy venues in both those countries; meals that have been made by the promoters and their friends.  There is generally delicious bread and local-made cheeses and multiple courses and pride in sharing regional delights. Once we played a gig in France where the promoter spent a lot more time and money on the food part of the evening than he had on any promotion for the gig.  Which didn’t prove to be the best decision but it was a spectacular quiche. We keep the van stocked up with snacks: breads and spreads and hobnobs. I usually have a bag of carrots on me. They are easy to eat while driving cause they leave no mess and the chewing keeps me awake.  We also keep mustard and hot sauce in the van. A lot of coffee gets drunk on Woven Skull tours. We’ve even got a camping kettle for coffee emergencies.

- What is important/what do you look for in food on tour?

Time is so rarely your own on tour.  I often get recommendations from friends of places to visit when they find out that I’m going to a certain city but it’s not always possible to stray far from the venue.  So in general we end up looking for somewhere close, quick, hopefully tasty and cheap. We often buy food from grocery stores and make a lot of creative sandwiches.

- Does it affect the mood or energy of a performance/set?

Definitely.  Though I think I play better when I’m hungry than when I’m too full.  Well, with Woven Skull at least. When I’m hungry I get a agitated and I probably play harder and faster.  That probably suits Woven Skull better. When I’m too full I can get a bit cosy and dozy. Being full probably suits my solo sets better cause it makes me float around the place.  

- What’s the best food experience you’ve had on tour? / least best? [personally curious at whether you had an Oxford experience when you were here w/ WS a couple years ago]

Oh….there’s been soooo much good food.  Two particular breakfasts come to mind. Jake (Tor Press/Tor Beers) who puts on gigs for us in Todmorden makes an epic Eggs Menemen for breakfast. In Nottingham there lives a superb chef (and drummer) named Henry.  While I’ve had a lot of fantastic food made by Henry (from curries to cakes, all vegan), his baked beans in particular changed my life. I really hated baked beans (which hadn’t been ideal for living in Ireland and touring in the UK) but Henry added hot chilis, garlic, sesame seeds, fresh coriander (and probably other hidden delights) and baked beans have never been the same for me since.  

One tour food experience that always sticks out in my mind is from when we played at Dobialab in Italy.  After the bands finished soundchecking, we noticed a group started to gather in the bar of the venue. People were arriving to the door with dishes wrapped in tinfoil.  A large table was brought out and the people who ran the venue, the people involved with the gig and some of their friends all gathered and we all sat down to eat together.  It’s the most basic thing. Everyone who is there is involved in making the event happen...from the person selling tickets at the door to the musicians providing the entertainment.  Eating together beforehand turns the whole thing into a joyous celebration.

That time in Oxford we had an early dinner at the home of the promoters.  I think it was creamy noodles with roasted vegetables? Then we went and got burritos at a place around the corner from the venue.  The place filled the criteria of ‘what do you look for in food when on tour’: it was close, cheap and decent enough.

- You’ve also travelled to Morocco to source cassettes for the Maghreb Sharit mixes, correct? Did you get a chance to sample the food culture out there?

For traditional cuisine, Morocco is not the best for vegetarians.  The couscous and beans are often boiled in animal stock. But this was something I knew before travelling there so I made sure to look up places that serve veggie food.  There’s a lot of vegetarian food to be had but it wouldn’t generally be traditional grub. Though when we were staying for awhile in the Rif, the people we were staying with knew we were vegetarian so we got to eat veggies and couscous and a delicious fava bean soup called Bisarra.  Otherwise when we’re there we eat a lot of bread and olives that we buy at food stalls and drink a lot of juices. I really enjoy the breakfasts which are a mix of breads and pancakes with honey and jams and fresh orange juice. Mmmmm…… There are so many amazing restaurants in the country. Some of my favourite I’ve been to:  Essaouira - Triskala, Fes - Clock Cafe, Rabat - Yamal Acham (which is Syrian place but oh lorrrrdeee,  it’s so good)

- Do you cook much?

Yes.  We live too far away for any food delivery place so we’re generally prepared to eat at home.

- What do you like to cook?

I like to make things up depending on what’s in the foodstores.  

- I really like the episode of Sunken Transmissions where you have friends over for a veggie BBQ and talk about records. Does food bring people together for you in the same way music does? [might rephrase that]

Thanks!  Food and music are both really lovely ways to bring people together but I think that those comings together happen in different ways.  With food, you’re usually eating with people you’re already friends with, whether it’s them coming over to your home or sitting with them out in a restaurant.  Even when you’re sat next to someone you don’t know at a meal, you’re generally only talking to the few people around you. Though I guess a bbq is the exception to that!  But generally with eating, it’s a lot more involved, slower, more considered I think.

Whereas, at a gig, you’re kinda floating in short conversation with lots of people.  Chatting to someone at the venue can be a much more fleeting experience. Like you might only exchange two lines of conversation but it could be something weirdly timed and wonderfully fortuitous that stays with you for days afterwards.

- What sounds do you enjoy while cooking?

I don’t tend to listen to other sounds or music while I cook.  It’s a real singular-focus activity for me. When I try to have sounds on everything goes mushy or burns or some run of notes will grab my full attention and I’ll realise I’ve accidentally poured in six times as much salt into the pot as planned.  

- There a lot of snippets of cooking in your documentary sound work (‘Potatoes Boxing in the Pot’ I think is my favourite). Is there something about the sound of food and cooking that you’re drawn to?

Maybe it’s got to do with my two answers from above.  Since I rarely have any music on, I’m fairly focused in on the sounds the food is making. The sizzling, the grating, the splattering, popping, grinding, chopping, the hiss of the gas rings and then the glorious ding of the oven.  I really like just listening to sounds going on around me generally. They’ve all got their own rhythms and personalities. Plus there’s always cooking noise going on in the house because we make most of our meals at home so it’s a fairly constant sound in my life.

- Do you see parallels between making/collecting/arranging sounds and cooking?

Ah yeah.  You listen back to a piece you’ve working on and you think, ‘this needs a little something right there to get it just so.’  Same when you’re making a dish. Have a little taste, add a little more hot sauce.