In Interview with Metamatics

Author : Marco Sgalbazzini
June 11, 2020

In Interview with Metamatics

Respected British label Hydrogen Dukebox (founded on February 14th 1992) have at last decided to reissue some of their classic catalogue and first in the works and 19 years since it was first released, is Metamatics cult LP Midnight Sun Pig which is being reissued complete as a special double vinyl on June 12th for the first time.

Produced by an unsung hero of UK electronica, Lee Norris AKA Metamatics, the album served as a perfect vehicle for Norris’ unique, idiosyncratic approach to composition. A classic of its time, Midnight Sun Pig was first released by the now-defunct Swedish based Dot Records at the dawn of the Millennium and gives a fascinating insight into the mind of Metamatics, with a distinctive sound that is impossible to pigeonhole.

Throughout the years Lee has produced under an array of pseudonyms spanning the techno and electronic music spectrum including Norken, Man-Q-Neon, Nacht Plank & Tone Language. He’s got really cool studio at home with a super impressive modular set-up.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit we knew that speaking to Lee would be difficult, but the truth is that the Coronavirus hit Lee on a more personal level than most. Unfortunately, as we worked to organize this interview, we learned that Lee’s mother contracted the virus and was not well.

Despite the difficult situation, Lee decided that he wanted to chat with us to share his experience as well as to discuss the album and music that still means so much to him today. He also sent along some photos of his studio for you to check out as you read the interview.

Hi Lee, thanks for the chat today. Whereabouts are you spending the lockdown?

I’m in the heart of Devon in between Exeter and Okehampton.

How has it been for you, these last 2 or so months of isolation in terms of your morale and mental health?

Apart from my Mother passing on from COVID-19 personally it’s been no different for me as I’m a self-confessed hermit anyway. I dropped off the grid about 10 years ago and I’m living the dream.

It’s been difficult for my daughter who is missing her school and friends but my wife and myself keep her occupied with studies and games. Not being able to see my mother has an emotion that’s new to me. I’m starting to come to terms with that.

I am so sorry to hear about your mother’s passing and want to offer our deepest condolences.

How are you keeping busy these days, what does a typical day look like?

I’m up early about 5am with our new puppy and then start the day organising releases on my various labels I run. Some studio time if I’m lucky. I like to finish around 4 and spend time with my family. The weather has been very kind to us of late so lots of cooking outside in the courtyard enjoying a glass of wine most evenings.

What benefits and silver linings have you found from this period at home?

Like I said I work from home in my studio I built here so it’s just another day that’s no different from the last.

Your Midnight Sun Pig album is about to be re-issued. How did that come about and how do you feel about it seeing a new light of day?

It’s an album I wrote over 20 year ago now and as a person I have changed and so has the music I make now. Hydrogen Dukebox have always fully supported the material I made back then and to see it now again on double pink vinyl has been incredible. I should listen to it again!! It might motivate me to get the funk!

It’s been almost 20 years since it was first issued. How much has the world of electronic music changed since?

It seems everyone is making music now on Ableton with plug ins etc. The whole market is saturated with tons and tons of shit on places like Bandcamp. I don’t really buy new music and if I do it has to move me.

Usually I buy stuff from the ’70s and ’80s. I’m currently on a mission to collect everything by Conrad Schnitzler. New music that’s amazing to my ears is by Caterina Barbieri or MODU.

How much have you changed? What are some of the positive lessons you’ve learned in these last two decades?

As a person, I have changed. I’m 50 this year. My whole outlook on life is different now. I wake up every morning and think to myself how lucky I am to be where I am now.

Lessons learned are don’t smoke cigs and drink caffeine and be patient. I’m one of the most impatient people I know. I’m still learning to slow down.

I got a small glimpse of your home studio. Mind sharing some photos and talking us through your spaceship and everything you have there?

My studio is a bit of a mess at the moment as the room I’m in now has just been renovated with a new outside roof, new ceiling, painted walls and new carpet. It was an old outhouse many years ago, so we decided to do it up. Studio kit is mainly modular and mixture of old analogues and some digital gear.

What’s your most prized studio possessions, from a sentimental and personal perspective?

Yamaha CS30 and an SH101. The Yamaha is pure acid and its modular in nature but with hard wired knobs for function. I t has a built-in sequencer so its handy for sketches or triggered by an external clock to clock the sequencer. Totally mental and I did read somewhere it was the synth The Human League could not work out how to program it. A proper synth and beats most Rolands hands down.

What is the piece of hardware you use the most?

Cirklon and Oberkorn by Analogue Solutions! Best sequencers out there!!

Do you collect records too?

Yes. Krautrock , Kosmische music, anything experimental made on old gear.

What are some career goals you would still like to hit in the future?

Spend more time in the studio from when I hit 50. Launch my cassette label called Ballet Statuiqe, explore North Wales with my family and grow a big bushy beard.

‘Midnight Sun Pig’ is available on double LP, with all 10 tracks on vinyl for the very first time, courtesy of Hydrogen Dukebox

Cover photo by Malchick Voshar