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Spin doctors: Music duo Matmos plays a washing machine

Brooklyn Paper
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This show is all washed up!

A washing machine will take center stage during a Williamsburg concert on March 19. The members of experimental electronic music duo Matmos will fill their personal washer with water and fabric and set it off on a 38-minute cleaning cycle during their show at National Sawdust. But they are not worried about getting the laundry done — it is all about the sound, says the band.

“If you just run it empty, it sounds like someone urinating, and it’s not a good water sound,” said Drew Daniel, one half of Matmos. “We are filling the machine with water pumped from a garbage can, so it’s not exactly making it all that clean.”

The sounds from the machine’s cycle are part of the new Matmos album “Ultimate Care II,” a catchy compilation of swishes, thumps, and beeps recorded as the washer ran its course in the couple’s basement.

During the performance, as the suds swirl around on stage, Daniel will run a pair of laptops with sequences and rhythms while his musical and domestic partner, Martin Schmidt, bangs on the machine as if it were a drum, using jazz brushes, drumsticks, and his hands.

The two have made music together ever since Daniel, 44, and Schmidt, 51, met at the Uranus Bar in San Francisco in the early 1990s. Daniel, wearing a jockstrap made of plastic fish, was shimmying as a go-go dancer atop the bar, they recall.

“Martin came and put a dollar in my jockstrap,” said Daniel, and Schmidt added: “I asked a friend of mine who was at the bar and he said ‘Oh you know, he makes electronic music.’ ”

It has been an electronic-musical match made in heaven since then, said Schmidt.

The duo now live in Baltimore, and when Daniel is not teaching his English literature classes at Johns Hopkins University, he and Schmidt find unusual objects from which to create their electronic music. The washing machine may be the most conventional instrument Matmos has played. For a previous album, they used a cow’s reproductive system — vagina, uterus, and all.

“We inflated the uterus with our vacuum cleaner — so it blew instead of sucked — and played it like a bagpipe,” said Schmidt. “So I sort of choked off the neck of it if you will, and it made the loudest queef you can imagine. Being a gay man, I only know about these things from hearsay.”

The duo know that their radical work is not for everyone, Schmidt said.

“I figured that we will not play in Peoria with our washing machine and reproductive tract,” he said.

But Williamsburg is open to all sorts of original music ideas, and the band is excited to break out the washing machine at National Sawdust on March 19.

“We stick with one crazy idea at a time. This time we’re just bringing the washing machine,” said Schmidt. “We’ve played in Brooklyn many times and have had the honor of playing at National Sawdust once before. It’s nice to know that this is a space with really good sound and that the people are super sweet. They’ve just opened their space and they aren’t jaded yet.”

Matmos at National Sawdust [80 N. Sixth St. at Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg, (646) 779–8455, www.nationalsawdust.org]. March 19 at 10 pm. $25.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
"For a previous album, they used a cow’s reproductive system — vagina, uterus, and all.
“We inflated the uterus with our vacuum cleaner — so it blew instead of sucked — and played it like a bagpipe,”

Pardon my asking, but how exactly did the cow feel about this?
You're looking at a very confused John Wasserman at the moment.
John Wasserman
March 15, 2016, 3 pm

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