Matthew Engelbrecht has had an extensive and adventurous career as a musician in the Australian music industry. He's an accomplished performer, composer and recording artist that has released albums under his own name, as a band leader and as a key member of bands to record with luminaries Bernard Fanning and Kasey Chambers.
Matthew graduated from the Queensland Conservatorium of Music Jazz Program and cut his teeth in the vibrant underground band scene of 1990’s Brisbane. A multi-instrumentalist with a career of wide experience as a composer of scores for string and brass sections, jazz ensembles and as a collaborator with DJs & electronic artists.
Matt’s extensive recording history has seen him perform on multi-platinum selling and award winning albums Tea and Sympathy and Civil Dusk for Fanning and Chambers’ Golden Guitar winning album Bittersweet.
pic by Monique Pizzica
He has been the Musical Director of Fanning’s band The Black Fins since 2004 and is also currently part of Chambers’ touring ensemble and a member of the instrumental duo The Invisible Numbers with fiddle player Salliana Campbell.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m prepping for a Splendour In The Grass show next week with the The Invisible Numbers. (*-editor's note: At time of interview Splendour was still a week away)
We played our last shows in Berlin in December and have both been busy with other projects so we are looking forward to gigging again.
Tell us about the Tech-House stuff you’ve been working on. Is to an upcoming album/release?
Its a full length album and I will hopefully have it finished early to mid next year.
I’ve been into a wide variety of electronic music for many years now and dabbled (on and off) in writing everything from Trance to Techno.
It sort of happened in between rock stuff and was primarily a hobby for the most part.
Last year after being deeply inspired by some new techno a friend introduced me to I started writing tracks with a somewhat more serious approach.
The record is predominately techno influenced although there are touches of progressive stuff and electronica.
I’m enjoying putting it together as a journey and not just rolling out techno banger after techno banger(!).
I see you’ve been augmenting programmed tracks with drums - does this help the electronic beats ‘swing’?
Having a real drummer play even the most basic parts makes a world of difference to just writing MIDI.
In saying that I do love getting into a programming vortex and great feels can be created if you take the time.
Combining the two is something I do a lot of. Its a sort of machine -meets-human thing and in a way that sits with the underlying theme behind this record which reflects concepts and developments in A.I.
Pic by Amanda Lee Starkey
Do you write on the road?
I do sometimes yes. I have mini Akai and little Focusrite for traveling and also run Touchable on my iPad.
It can be hard though when the touring schedule is very busy but sometimes setting the gear up and getting one small idea can lead to good things when you are back home.
Take us through your studio setup.
I run a 2017 MacBook pro 3.1Ghz Intel Core i7 with 16g ram as my work horse.
I use Ableton 9 suite, an Akai Advance 49 controller and a bunch of hardware synths all powered up via an Audient ID22 that feeds a pair of A7X's
What’s the one thing in your studio you couldn’t work without?
Probably a few things...My A7X’s have been a life saver after years with a crappy (not be mentioned) pair of monitors.
Having a beautiful stereo image and precise sonics from lows to highs is imperative and absolutely essential.
There a number of plugins I use as well on a daily basis that are key to my work flow.
I have some Rob Pappen gear which is constantly getting a work out, the Arturia pack and a simple but great plug from Sonic academy called Kick 2 which i just love… Thats three key ones of about 50 or so that I use.
You’ve worked with the ADAMs before - Bernard and (Producer) Nick DiDia both use A7X - what were your impressions?
Bernard and Nick have the A7X’s and subsequently I was in front of them for almost two years making Bernard's records Civil Dusk and Brutal Dawn at La Cueva. I always thought they provided a very accurate reference.
I took a lot of demos out of the studio for homework and always found that what I heard at home or in my car was pretty spot on. Admittedly when you have Nick Didia engineering things always sound good!
I've worked on A77X’s as well with Jordan Power and they are simply massive.
If I get the right space one day I will get a set of those as well.
Currently my studio is relatively small and those bad boys need space.
Has incorporating A7Xs in your setup changed or altered your recording process?
Probably the main thing is I monitor at a much lower level now so get more work done without fatigue. Its easy to hear whats going on in both the low end and high without cranking them.
In saying that when I want the full club experience they are powerful as hell.
How do the ADAMs translate across your different styles (Acoustic/Electric/Electronic et al.)
For my electronica I think the key factor is the bottom end. The A7X’s have plenty but not too much.
I think its very easy to get bogged down in sub and for mixing errors to happen as a result. I also love the tweeters and have found that that the top end is bright but simultaneously warm.
For any acoustic stuff i do which is far less reliant on sub and punch they just give me an accurate picture which I can take out of the room without any surprises.
Do you work with much outboard or mostly in-the-box?
My intention from the get go was to get everything up in the box so I had the tracks flowing. I am just at a point now where some of the plug driven tracks will be swapped with hardware sounds. I use a Moog voyager, Moog sub 37 and my old SH-2 amongst a bunch of other gear.
Many of the plugs I’ve been using for effects will also be replaced by hardware..particularly the compressors.
Ive been on Ableton for about ten years now. Its incredibly versatile and intuitive and
will also be what I take out live at some point.
You’ve got wide a variety of stylistic output - from Tech House, first-call session bass/guitar player and part of acoustic/world improv duo ‘The Invisible Numbers’. Thats quite a spread.
How does each influence the other?
At the end of the day its all music and I love it all.
Yes, its a vast difference playing instrumental fusion on guitar and then hitting the studio with a four on the floor kick and bunch of synths, but the core beauty in all of it is the same.
Pic by Stewart Munro
Is it a complimentary thing or do you prefer to keep in different creative compartments?
Definitely different creative compartments. To play the intricate guitar stuff I do with Salliana in The Invisible Numbers takes a certain focus and dedication to practice. Writing electronic music takes similar focus but the underlying inspiration is different.
With The Invisible Numbers things are more heart-based as its primarily improvisation. With my electronic music its more a head thing often driven by the latest A.I literature I'm into or the feeling I get when I see SpaceX land a rocket back to earth.
Tell us about Voyager Audio
I've done a few jingles and whatnot over the years and Voyager Audio was set up to provide original music for advertising, film and podcasts. Its a new business and I’m in the process of securing my first contracts now.
Is diversity the key to continuous work in this crazy business?
I guess it is for some. Certainly there are lots out there who have the one gig which is awesome.
I couldn't survive if I didn’t spread out a bit. I do feel blessed that with the projects I’m involved with, be it Bernard Fanning’s band or The Invisible Numbers, that everyone is a close friend…I guess thats the part that makes it way less crazy.
What does the next 12 months hold for you?
Primarily working on the album. This will take up most of my time.
The Black Fins (Bernard Fanning’s backing band) are on a break for a while now. We did two records back to back and a bunch of touring over the last few years so time for the boss to take it easy and write some new stuff!
Salliana and I are hoping to record soon (as Invisible Numbers) which will be great after a few years of jamming now.