New York artist Matt Altman has launched ALT Records, his own imprint, with four brooding and introspective tracks. His travels in Peru inspired the debut EP that captures his experiences while visiting the South American country. The Philly-born artist talks about his first encounter with techno and some of his musical influences. Altman also weighs-in on COVID-19’s impact within the newer-artist community and why patience is the biggest challenge yet virtue.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with 6AM, how have you been coping with this tumultuous year?
Thank you so much for having me! Pretty well actually up until quarantine, and then everything went real south real fast haha. Like most, the past three months have presented serious challenges both personally and musically. Now I’m doing my best to navigate through them.
How long have you been dedicating yourself to music and is this something you’ve always wanted to do?
I have been playing music since I was four years old. I started out as a drummer, mainly jazz. Ultimately, I ended up attending Berklee College of Music in Boston for jazz performance. It was around this time that I got into techno after a friend of mine brought me to see Chris Liebing for my birthday. I was 18 at the time, and even though I had been listening to electronic music since I was about 16, something just clicked with techno. I knew I never wanted to [do] anything else. I love music and have been playing music my entire life. Even though my parents were not musicians themselves, they absolutely loved music. I was exposed to almost everything growing up from Motown to Disco to Progressive Rock to Grunge, etc.
As an artist, I think some of our best work comes from places and experiences.
Matt Altman on what inspires him
Congrats on your first EP on your imprint ALT Records. Peru was a major source of inspiration for it, right? What made you want to dedicate a body of work to your travels abroad?
Thank you! I am very excited. It has been over a year in the making. Yes, my most recent trip to Peru inspired the entire EP. I was lucky enough to visit in December, and I am a huge history buff. There was something truly special about experiencing Machu Picchu, and learning about the Incan Empire that translated into an entire techno EP.
Overlooking and walking through the ruins translated to kick drums and percussion in my head. I can be quite weird like that. The culture and the food were also just incredibly inspiring, and as an artist, I think some of our best work comes from places and experiences.
Do you find the greatest source of inspiration from places and spaces? Has it been hard to make music during lockdown?
Absolutely: places, spaces, experiences and moods. Some of my favorite tracks have been inspired by trips or moments in my life that were cathartic. I have found it extremely difficult to write anything new of substance during the lockdown. We can’t really go anywhere, even now, and it’s hard to take inspiration; at least for me from being kind of “stuck” both mentally and physically.
I finally started something new last week after three months of virtually nothing but reworks and edits. I tried to force a lot during the beginning of lockdown, but a close friend gave me some sound advice on waiting until inspiration really hits. I just wish it wouldn’t have taken three months.
Aside from travel inspiring you creatively, are there any artists who have influenced you?
Oh absolutely. Techno wise anyone who is releasing on PoleGroup has inspired me greatly. Namely Adriana Lopez, Tensal, Oscar Mulero and Nørbak. Also, Jeff Mills and Robert Hood without a doubt. I think seeing Jeff Mills do a 15 drum solo on the 909 would inspire any techno producer haha.
More recently, Robert Hoff’s new stuff for sure. Aside from techno, my biggest non-electronic inspiration as of right now is an artist named Ruston Kelly. He’s a singer-songwriter based in Nashville, who writes incredibly raw and emotional music with a darker tone which I think translates well to the type of techno I make.
The chokehold that major labels and streaming services have on smaller, newer artists can be quite challenging. Not everyone has a ton of money to make sure their music is heard or seen, so it could be easily be buried in a Soundcloud feed or on Beatport.
Matt Altman on COVID-19’s impact for newer artists
As an artist who is looking to leave their mark in the music industry, do you feel hopeful for newer artists (including your career)?
I honestly go back and forth every day. I think to be able to do things DIY like I am trying to do with ALT Records, and just upload an EP to Bandcamp presents incredible possibilities. People dig for music every day, so the hope is that, especially in quarantine, people are listening to more music than they ever had. [Hopefully, they] are discovering new artists and sharing that music with their friends or whoever else.
I do, however, think that the chokehold that major labels and streaming services have on smaller, newer artists can be quite challenging. Not everyone has a ton of money to make sure their music is heard or seen, so it could be easily be buried in a Soundcloud feed or on Beatport. I have seen certain labels recently start to open up to lesser-known artists as clubbing and touring gets put on hold. There are some really amazing collectives out there dedicating their time to uplifting newer artists. I am lucky enough to be part of the newer, SYITS (See You In The Shadows) crew, who are doing exactly that and are truly doing this for the music. That alone gives me hope.
It would be great to see clubs give more opportunity to locals once lockdown is over. Bring things back to the start, and let the scene regrow organically through local talent.
Matt Altman shares how the music industry can better support newer artists
Between playing in front of a crowd (when this becomes a thing again) or spending time in the studio, what’s your ultimate goal as an artist?
My goal has always been to be a touring artist. I love playing in front of people, but I also want to be able to be a successful producer as well with my own brand and sound. That was the point of ALT Records; to be able to release my own music at my own pace [and] have my friends and other locals do remixes. Eventually, [they’d] have their own releases and grow it as a brand. Music has been my whole life, so I would love it to be my career as a whole.
In what two ways would you like to see more support from the music industry for newer artists?
It would be great to see clubs give more opportunity to locals once lockdown is over. Bring things back to the start, and let the scene regrow organically through local talent. I also think that the industry should rely less on social media presence (likes, followers, etc), and more on talent and the physical product from artists. There are so many incredibly talented unknowns out there who don’t get their due because their follower count isn’t high enough or their brand [isn’t] recognizable.
Anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
Definitely pay close attention to the SYITS crew and their insanely talented artists: AMD, Wave Reset, Karpinski, FadeFace and one of the founders, Starrk. [They] all have their own unique take on techno.
Also if you’re not familiar with the TechnoFist group on Facebook, I highly recommend checking it out. I most likely wouldn’t be involved in the NYC techno scene at all if it weren’t for the founder, Damon Bradley. Lastly, ALT Records will be out on July 6.
Thank you so much for having me again. It was great getting to chat!