JAY MATHARU: Personal Soundtrack

Jay Matharu

Guitarist Jay Matharu has recently released his debut solo album ‘These Clouds are So Undisciplined!” which sees him exploring through Progressive Rock / Metal and Jazz Fusion styles. In a new interview, Jay tells us about the creative process behind the album, influences, gear, and more.

Define the mission of your project.

My mission is pretty straight forward, to create, play and release music that people can connect with on an emotional level.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your debut album These Clouds are So Undisciplined!

It all started with a video on YouTube, this guy set himself the task of learning this guitar technique called sweep picking. He recorded a ten second clip every day for one hundred days showing his progress. Watching the video I was really impressed at the level of proficiency he achieved in such a short period of time. I had been relatively inactive when it concerned writing original music over the last couple of years, only really playing cover gigs and teaching music. I started thinking to myself, what if I could write and record an albums worth of material within one hundred days? And the next day I uploaded a vlog to youtube and began the process.

I started off with no idea on what style of music it would be,  if it would be an instrumental or vocal album and even if I would release it to the public outside of my small group of social media followers (Hi Mum!!).

The first week was mainly spent away from my instrument thinking about how I would tackle this challenge especially as throughout most of the project I had a full time job.

I filled in my calendar with all the time i had available and scheduled writing sessions. Once I got a few riffs down I started thinking back to some experiences I had over the last few years and music started pouring out.

The title for the album came about half way through the process. I was playing some chord inversions with a really floaty ambient sound and all of a sudden remembered this profound statement. A group of us were at a festival last summer chilling in the grass looking up at the sky and my friend just blurted out, “These Clouds Are So Undisciplined!” I thought it would be the perfect title for the album.

In the end there is an underlying theme/ concept to the album but because it’s an instrumental album I don’t want to go into too much detail about it. I think it’s better left up to the listeners imagination on what they think songs are about.

Jay Matharu - These Clouds Are So Undisciplined

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

I’m a pretty visual person so I always have a piece of paper and pencil nearby to jot down rough tabs or rhythms. I recorded  a lot of my ideas using the camera on my phone or humming in voice memos. On commencement of this project I signed up for an Instagram account and uploaded a lot of ideas there. I also started a video diary/ blog on YouTube giving some inside into the process and outlining my thoughts. Even though it was unscripted and I sound like a bumbling idiot it was fun to do and for me a new way of documenting the process.

When it comes to writing Rock music I’ve never been one to sit and score things out from the get go, most likely because I started off as an autodidact before taking guitar lessons and learning about music theory and arranging. I like to sit in a dark room and play from the heart and let the ideas come out.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

I don’t know about carefully! [laughs] When I write music I like to let everything progress as organically as possible. My main focus is to have song that tells a story or takes the listener on an emotional journey. Of course sometimes there is a lot of trial and error, but I never try to force parts into the song just for the sake of writing something complicated. Although if something complicated naturally spurs out from another part that adds to the vibe or progression of the song, then so be it!

Some of the parts, melodies etc. I could hear in my head before even writing them and others came out of improvisation or spontaneity.

I learned a lot about writing progressive music when I was playing with London based band String Theory (2002-2005). The music involved many time signature changes, time feels, tempo changes and sometimes some excruciatingly complex polyrhythms (quarter note triplets over 7/8 anyone?).  Mark Weatherly (now with Ascending Dawn), the main songwriter was really good at making parts flow into each other, so as any regular music enthusiast would never notice all the quirks. I learned a lot from playing and writing with him.

In the earlier stages of recording the album I was wondering how all the tracks would fit together as the tracks contain many elements from different genres,  but in the end I think the song order and vibe of each of the songs flows rather well into the next.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

Once I had a bunch of rough ideas, riffs and chord progressions, I began recording  them in to my DAW on my laptop. I created a playlist of all the ideas and just listened to them on loop for about a week or two, imagining and visualising where I could take them. In the beginning there were eighteen ideas in total, I whittled it down to the eight ideas that resonated with me most. As time began creeping up on me I decided to drop another song as it wasn’t developing as quickly as the others.

Once I decided on the ideas that would make the album I began creating  sketches and rough structures, I then created some guide tracks with the riffs and chords and took them to my friend Kaffe Myers at Fusion Farm Studio. He listened to the guides a couple of times and then played and recorded all the drums within a few hours over the course of two mini sessions. Once the drum tracks were complete I began tracking all the bass, guitars and programmed the keyboard instruments on my laptop.

In terms of recording I had a pretty simple set-up. As I live in an apartment I wasn’t able to crank up my 100 watt head so I used a Wampler Tumnus (rhythm/ lead guitars), and a Wampler Dual Fusion (lead guitars) pedal into a Engl Gigmaster head, direct out into my sound card into Two Notes WOS cabinet impulse software.

I tried a bunch of different guitar tones but could hear in my head a very dynamic sound with lots of space so I opted on using very low gain settings.

When the songs started taking shape I sent off demo versions to my guest artists, Nili Brosh, Ponch Satrio, Oscar Hansson, Andreas Bollden and Emil Ingmar to play over. I played around with the piano tone and got a really good sound, but I wanted a human touch so I sent it over to Emil to do his thing.

It was right down to the wire, I recorded the last guitar solo within the last 5-10 minutes of my writing/ recording deadline.

After the recording was done I had the task of mixing and mastering ahead of me. After a few weeks I found a professional (Max Nyström) to take on the job. I didn’t want to do it myself as I wanted someone to do it who could give a fair objective and honest mix, retaining the dynamics and simultaneously give the mix a modern sound.

Jay Matharu

How long These Clouds are So Undisciplined! was in the making?

The decision to make the album was very spontaneous. The whole writing and recording took one hundred days. The mixing and mastering was started about a four weeks after and completed a couple of weeks after that.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

I have very eclectic taste in music and listen to new music constantly. I don’t think I can function without listening to at least one or two albums per day. I am influenced by everything I hear.  Truthfully I never had a specific artist or band in mind when writing the songs, I just wanted the music to be me, naked for everyone to see (or hear).

On the production side however I wanted a very clean, airy, earthy and spacious sound. Thirteenth Step by A Perfect Circle is one of my all time favourite albums when it concerns production and sound palette. I also really like the sound of Eco by David Maxim Micic, The Congregation by Leprous, The Power to Believe by King Crimson, Handmade Cities by Plini, and all of Oceansize’s albums.

What is your view on technology in music?

Technology is a very broad term with many facits. There are so many different levels of technology in music. I guess I would say I’m all for it! Both old and modern technology. So long as it helps musicians or listeners by serving a function or providing a solution that makes achieving goals more efficient and enhances the musical experience for the better.

For instance I love the sound of valve amps but it’s impossible with the set up I have at home to use them properly however there are great products on the market by Two Notes which make it possible to use cabinet impulse technology so I can still get the sound I’m after. The only compromise is that I don’t get to feel the air pushing out from the speaker cabinet and vibrations that a cranked amp and cab produce.

Most of all the guitar tracks were recorded with my Strandberg Singularity guitar which I would say is one of the most technologically advanced electric guitars out there. It’s lightweight, ergonomic,  has a True Temperament tuning system and is  resonate and responsive.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

Do you mean like unite the whole world in peace and harmony? Like in Bill & Teds Excellent Adventure? Or send out CD’s to A&R guys for them to use them as expensive coasters? :D

There are so many uses for music, I can think back to any time in my life and there are songs to accompany special occasions, good times, bad times, you name it! My own personal soundtrack. I would love for my music to be listened to actively, enjoyed and added to the soundtracks of other peoples lives. If my music inspires people or is even despised by them I’ll be content that it had an impression or some lasting imprint in their musical journey.  It’d be nice if one of my tracks was used in the background of a movie scene or a video game too.

What are your plans for the future?

Most of my musician friends would say that I was born on a stage. I am at heart a live guitarist, performing live is what I do best. I’d love to get a band together and go out and play this album live in it’s entirety. Touring this material would be very new, exciting and interesting.

Since releasing the album I’ve come up with many new song ideas. If my schedule permits I’ll start writing and recording demos for for a follow up album in the new year.

In the long term I want to keep releasing albums and perform music in front of as many people as possible.

These Clouds are So Undisciplined! is out now; order it from Bandcamp.

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