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Rusty Squeezebox - Interview with Matt Hart

  by John Clarkson

published: 10 / 3 / 2003

Rusty Squeezebox - Interview with Matt Hart


Canadian indiepop act the Russian Futurists has drawn comparisions with the Magnetic Fields, Leonard Cohen, the Flaming Lips and the Human League. John Clarkson speaks to mainman Matt Hart about the band's acclaimed first two albums

The Russian Futurists is the moniker of 25 year old Canadian leftfield indiepop sensation, Matt Hart. Hart has earned glowing reviews in publications such as 'Uncut' and 'Vice Magazine', and drawn favourable critical comparisions with the Magnetic Fields, Leonard Cohen, the Flaming Lips and the Human League. He first came to the music public's attention in 2001 with the release of the Russian Futurists' debut album, 'The Method of Modern Love'. Recorded entirely at home in his childhood bedroom in his parents' house in the small town of Peterborough in Northern Ontario, Hart combined on it dark, bittersweet tales of love gone devastatingly wrong with an 80's keyboard sound, which was the only equipment the poverty-stricken recently graduated student could afford at the time. A second album, 'Let's Get Ready to Crumble' followed in 2002, and is in a similar vein, but is more humorous and comic in tone. Hart toured Europe in February to promote the two albums, and played dates in England and Sweden, andplans to return there in the summer to play more shows. Pennyblackmusic spoke to him about both albums, and the Russian Futurists' increasing profile abroad. PB : The Russian Futurists was originally the name of a 19th century art movement. Why did you decide to name you band after this movement ? MH : To be totally honest, I chose the name because I liked the way it sounded. Picking a band name you plan to keep for your any length of time is kind of hard if you over think it. I just heard about the Russian Futurists from my older brother and decided it would be a good band name. I’m still not sure if it is. PB : You originally come from the small town of Peterborough in Ontario, and 'Methods of Modern Love' was recorded in your childhood bedroom there using 80's synth equipment and on a miniscule budget. Why did you decide to record the album using such old-fashioned equipment. Was it out of necessity, or do you love that kind of hardware anyway ? MH : I recorded the album that way out of necessity. I had just got out of college and was living at my parents house with no job, so I had a lot of time on my hands. Boredom and recording go together so well. You think “I have nothing to do today” and see your gear and say “well, might as well fuck around with my gear”. Next thing you know you’re halfway through a song. I didn’t have any money for good gear so all of my keyboards were either free, from a garage sale, or from Cash Converters. I loved my old recording gear but it was just getting too expensive and shitty for what I wanted to do. If I could afford it, I would have a 24 track analog studio but now I record music on a laptop and have for over 1 year and half, but I miss using tape. PB : Before you formed the Russian Futurists, you were a hip-hop producer, and most days beetwen the ages of 13 and 19 would write and record a hip hop song every day. You have now though switched to making music with a more pop-orientated sound. Why did you decide to shift genres ? Was it simply because you were frustrated by the limits of hiphop ? MH : I still listen to about 70% hip hop, I’m a huge fan. I only stopped doing it because of where I was living and because it was getting stale. There wasn’t any support for that kind of music in my home town so there was nothing to really inspire me to work on it. I’d still like to do some producing, but later on. PB : You said at the time that 'Methods of Modern Love' was released in 2001 that "love is the only thing worth talking about or living for". Would you still stand by that comment now ? MH : The short answer is no. I meant in pop music, there aren’t many subjects worth talking about besides love. I hate political music in a big way, so I just try to write pop songs about things that affect me or people I know instead of having a message. PB : 'Methods of Modern Love' has been described as "an unintentional concept album" and is a pretty bleak offering, telling of "the cancer that grew in between" a couple. How many of the lyrics are autobiographical, and how many of them are the product of imagination ? MH : A lot of the lyrics are autobiographical, but a lot of them are embellished or over dramatized for the sake of the song. I write a lot more out of my imagination now, I don’t have to be in the middle of some horrible turmoil to write lyrics any more, but it helps.It was a bleak record but some songs are hopeful, or at least have the feeling that I may have learned something. And about it being a concept album, well that’s news to me. PB : The second album, 'Let's Get Ready to Crumble', deals with the same twin themes of love and loss, but seems to put a much broader emphasis on comedy and humour. Would you agree with that assessment ? MH : Well, I did lighten up a bit, but it was never intentional. Sometimes you just find yourself in certain situations and you just have to laugh. Even if it’s the shittiest day of your life, sometimes you have to laugh about how bad things are. The record to me has a more pop feeling, where it’s ten songs and it’s over. Just ten short songs. I think it’s more consistent than the 1st. PB : There is also a tentatively optimistic moment on the new album in the shape of 'It's Actually Going to Happen'. What's that song about MH : I’m not sure what any of my songs are about but that one is optimistic and it’s one of my favourites. I guess it’s about feeling lucky or feeling like something’s about to go down . Being happy about the uncertainty of things in your life. PB : By the time you began recording 'Let's Get Ready to Crumble' you had moved to Toronto, but once again chose to record with older equipment and also to do it all by yourself. Could you ever see yourself working with a band, or do you prefer doing things alone ? What are the advantages of doing things on your own ? MH : I like doing things alone when it comes to the Russian Futurists stuff, but I think I’d really like to be in another band and share writing duties with someone. I’m not sure it would work out because I’ve recorded this way for years, but I’d like to try. I just like being able to do things on my own schedule and on my own terms. Writing and recording is some of the only time I have to myself. PB : You recently played shows in both London and Sweden. It seems fromlooking at the guest book on the Russian Futurists website that you made many new fans. How well did these shows go ? Was this your first tour of Europe ? MH : This was my first trip to Europe for music, and it was amazing. I fell in love with Sweden and can’t wait to go back. My show in Stockholm was so fun, I really loved that city. The show in London was great too, I’m sure I’ll be back to both places to play again soon. I have plans to play Spain and some other countries in May or June. Europe seems to have picked up on my music more than North America ,and I go where the interest is . PB : You have now put out two critically acclaimed albums, and drawn favourable comparisons with the likes of Magnetic Fields, the Flaming Lips, Leonard Cohen and the Human league What other plans have you got for the near future ? MH : I’m working on a new album I’d like to have out in less than a year, so that’s keeping me pretty busy. Also, the overseas touring is coming up and I’m really excited about that. I’ve visited Spain before and it’s fucking beautiful. PB : Thank you.

Picture Gallery:-
Rusty Squeezebox - Interview with Matt Hart

Rusty Squeezebox - Interview with Matt Hart

Rusty Squeezebox - Interview with Matt Hart

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