Matthew Herbert (1972 - ); also known by the anonyms Herbert, Doctor Rockit, Radio Boy, Mr. Vertigo, Transformer, and Wishmountain; is an influential and critically acclaimed British electronic musician. His avant-garde electronic work, highly influenced by the techniques of musique concrète, helped pioneer the microhouse genre.
Herbert began experimenting with aleatoric processes while studying drama at Exeter University in the early 1990s. He gave his first public performance in 1995 as Wishmountain, reportedly using a bag of crisps as an instrument. Two years of performing under this name followed before he retired Wishmountain in favor of Radio Boy. In addition to creating rhythmic musique concrete as Radio Boy, however, Herbert worked on more traditional, yet relatively experimental dance music.
In the mid 90s he traveled to San Francisco, where he met jazz singer Dani Siciliano. The two became collaborators and romantic partners, and eventually married. In 1998, Herbert issued Around the House, which successfully mixed dance beats, sounds generated by everyday kitchen objects, and Siciliano's wry vocals. By the late Nineties, Herbert was remixing tracks for dance artists like Moloko, Motorbass, Alter Ego, and others. (Many of these were later collected on Secondhand Sounds: Herbert Remixes.) He also recorded singles, EPs, and albums under a variety of aliases (Doctor Rockit, Radio Boy, Mr. Vertigo, and Transformer) as well as his own name.
In 2001, Herbert issued Bodily Functions. Similar in structure to Around the House, it culled sounds generated by manipulating human hair and skin as well as internal bodily organs. Less severe than Matmos' work, its light and sinuous dance sound augured the rise of microhouse. Bodily Functions benefited greatly from a deal Herbert signed with electronic imprint Studio !K7, making it his first full-length to receive worldwide distribution.
Goodbye Swingtime, a 2003 album issued as the Matthew Herbert Big Band, combined the political commentary of Radio Boy with the song structure of his Herbert albums. Recorded with sixteen musicians from the British jazz world, including saxophonists Dave O'Higgins and Nigel Hitchcock, pianist Phil Parnell, and bassist Dave Green, the band is complemented on stage by Siciliano, Arto Lindsay, Warp recording artist Jamie Lidell, and Mara Carlyle.
On May 30 2006, Herbert issued Scale, his most successful album to date. In the U.S., it reached number 20 on Billboard's electronic music album chart. Entertainment Weekly remarked, "Herbert sneakily subverts Scale's apocalyptic thematic thread into something warm and danceable." Online magazine Pitchfork Media noted, "Sophisticated and whimsical, joyful and yet tinged with sadness, Scale is one of this year's great albums."
In October 2008 Matthew Herbert released the second album by his Matthew Herbert Big Band project, entitled 'There's Me And There's You', fronted by vocalist Eska.
Theories and politics
In 2000, Herbert wrote a manifesto titled "Personal Contract for the Composition of Music (Incorporating the Manifest of Mistakes)", which served as a theoretical guide for much of his ensuing work. Often referred to as PCCOM, some of its eleven goals includes a personal ban on using drum machines and pre-existing samples, and ensuring that anything created in the studio can be replicated in live performance.
Many of his less dance-oriented projects (chiefly those not recorded under the name Herbert) take on sundry political concerns, using specific objects to create a conceptual piece. His 2001 project as Radio Boy, The Mechanics of Destruction sampled objects from McDonald's & The Gap merchandise as a protest against corporate globalism. It was made available as a free MP3 download, via concerts and could be acquired by sending an addressed envelope to accidental records. It is still available to download for free.
In 2005 Herbert released the album Plat du Jour under his proper name, Matthew Herbert. The disc addresses commercial food production and marketing.
In February 2006, Herbert helped form a virtual community called Country X. In an introduction posted on the website, he writes, "Why not start a country? only this time, a virtual one. free from the necessity to defend its borders physically, we can reduce the violence of exclusion. a new description of resistance."
By 2000 Herbert assembled several microlabels he initiated, including Soundslike (for his Herbert alias) and Lifelike (originally called Lowlife, begun in 1998 for his Doctor Rockit alias), under the umbrella Accidental Records. In addition to documenting Herbert's sundry projects, these imprints issued works from The Soft Pink Truth, Mara Carlyle, Mugison and Beckett & Taylor among others. Currently the label is working on a new Matthew Herbert Big Band record, and with the Invisible, Setsubun Bean Unit and Micachu.
Matthew Herbert has produced remixes for numerous artists, including Moloko, R.E.M., Perry Farrell, Serge Gainsbourg, Yoko Ono, John Cale, The Avalanches and Cornelius. He programmed three tracks on Björk's Vespertine, and produced Moloko singer Róisín Murphy's album Ruby Blue.
He has contributed music to several films, including Human Traffic and Dogme 95 director Kristian Levring's The Intended, Agathe Clery, Le Defi, as well as UK television, theatrical and concert dance productions. He has recently finished work on BBC/HBo production, 'A Number'.
- 100 lbs (1996)
- Parts One Two and Three (1996)
- Parts Remixed (1996)
- Around the House (1998)
- Bodily Functions (2001)
- Secondhand Sounds: Herbert Remixes (2002)
- Goodbye Swingtime [with The Matthew Herbert Big Band] (2003)
- Plat du jour (2006)
- Scale (2006)
- Score (2007)
- There's Me and There's You [with The Matthew Herbert Big Band] (2008)
As Matthew Herbert
- Letsallmakemistakes (Globus Mix Vol. 5) (2000)
- Plat du Jour (2005)
- One Pig (2010)
As Doctor Rockit
- The Music of Sound (1996)
- Indoor Fireworks (2000)
- Veselka's Diner (2003)
- The Unnecessary History of Doctor Rockit (2004)
As Radio Boy
- Wishmountain Is Dead, Long Live Radio Boy (1997)
- The Mechanics of Destruction (2001)
- Wishmountain (1998)
- Wishmountain is Dead (1998)
- Matthew Herbert's own website
- The Matthew Herbert Big Band website
- 100lbs website
- Scale website
- The Mechanics of Destruction
- Matthew Herbert fan website
- Accidental Records website
- Matthew Herbert's PCCOM manifesto
- Country X website
- Matthew Herbert at Discogs
- Plat du Jour website
- Matthew Herbert and Accidental Records activity
- Cool Hunting Video on Herbert released jan. 2007
- In The Studio interview with Matthew Herbert from IDJ magazine, December 2008
Biography from Wikipedia