John Matthias’s background lends itself to a blending of tradition with futurism. As a child his skill as a violinist took him across Europe with a youth orchestra, honing his performance chops in front of thousands. Equally talented academically, John headed off to Exeter in the late ’80s to read theoretical physics.
At university his interests in music and science continued to develop side by side, occasionally intersecting. In 1991 he co-formed the Exeter Contemporary Music Group, organising a three day festival of contemporary classical music. This included performances of their own music based on mathematical pseudo-random models in traffic flow systems. At the same time he was deep in research for a Ph.D in physics entitled ‘Quantum Evaporation from Superfluid Helium’ which was completed in 1998.
John moved to Bristol in 1998, but continued both his research work and his music. Musical collaborations include his violin playing on Radiohead’s ‘The Bends’ and The Blue Aeroplanes recent LP, and work with the vastly different musical forces that are Lunatic Calm and Matthew Herbert.
As well as musical collaborator, Matthew Herbert is also owner Accidental Records on which John Matthias’ first album, ‘Smalltown Shining’ was released. A collaboration between John and producer Nick Ryan (who previously recorded as ‘Silverkick’ for Fused and Bruised records), the project combined John’s love of classic strong structures and live instrumentation with the loose grooves and dissonant arrangements of electronica. The unique melding of styles is brought together by John’s sublime vocals and the experimental but engaging production from Nick Ryan whose experience in sound innovation led to his appointment as Head of Sound Design with the BBC’s Creative Development department. Additional production work on the album came courtesy of Matthew Herbert and Richard Bell.
John has collaborated with Coldcut, co-writing and performing a track on their 2006 album, “Sound Mirrors”, and also with Corker-Conboy on the track ‘Radiant Idiot’ which is on their recent album of the same name. The request to remix ‘Radiant Idiot’ provided the opportunity to form ‘Derailer’ with collaborator, David Prior. These collaborations have also moved John Matthias into the world of film music composition working with Corker-Conboy on ‘The Hamburg Cell’ (Directed by Antonia Bird) and ‘Three degrees colder’ (Directed by Florian Hoffmeister)
Matthias is a member of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research at the University of Plymouth, where he developed a new granular sampler using spiking artificial neurons. Nicknamed “The Brain,” John’s device is used throughout his new album. “Stories From The Watercooler”.
John has also been shortlisted for this year’s “PRS New Music Award” for boundary pushing music for a pitch called “Fragmented Orchestra.” If they win, he, Jane Grant and Nick Ryan will place 24 samplers around the country and all the samples triggered will be played through speakers in the FACT gallery in Liverpool. The winner is announced on 21st April.
In addition, John Matthias and Nick Ryan will also be releasing their ‘Cortical Songs’ project and album in Summer 2008. The “Songs” are played by a 24 piece string orchestra, where each member ‘s parts are triggered in response to a computer’s promptings.