Matt Berry is one of the most versatile artists today. He is a BAFTA-winning actor and a star in many television shows such as The IT Crowd, Toast of London, Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, The Mighty Boosh, Snuff Box, and What We Do in the Shadows–the hit Hulu series, which is in its final season.
Matt is also an accomplished singer-songwriter who has a diverse body of work from 70s television themes to intimate acoustic folk, all of which were critically acclaimed and beloved by music fans not only in his native England but all over the world.
His latest album, Simplicity, released by KPM, is a love letter to his adoration for the golden years of British library music, which KPM spearheaded for decades.
We chatted with Matt and discussed everything from his new album, his favorite KPM 1000 tracks, and how What We Do in the Shadows should end.
I love your album Simplicity. The bass lines, drum grooves, and organ fills are anything but simple, though. What inspired the creation of this album?
I had been approached by KPM in the past to record an album of library music, after which the communication went dead for a while until I met Jack Lewis from KPM at a KPM QnA with Keith Mansfield and Alan Parker where he asked me directly if I'd like to record a library album to which I obviously said yes. It had always been an ambition of mine to be a composer for KPM, so when the opportunity came, I went for it. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I had probably too many ideas, so I spoke to Jack, and we focused on what he was looking for and I went off with a drummer and recorded an album for them.
How did you record/produce the tracks?
I recorded everything at home, using my studio, which is where I record all my albums. I don't think it took very long. I had firm ideas of what I wanted to cover in terms of themes and atmospheres as well as instrumentation, and I'm lucky enough to have Craig Blundell as a friend and possibly one of the best drummers in the world living a few miles away from me, so things moved fairly quickly in terms of the recording mixing production in general.
The drum sounds in the track "Transition To" are brilliant. How did you achieve that?
When recording Craig's drums, everything goes through outboard equipment; I use Neve EQs and compressors pre-computer. When I wish to reverse drums, slow them down, or add flange or phasing effects, I will transfer his drum track from Logic to a Revox reel-to-reel tape recorder. From the Revox, I will send that signal to outboard phasing or flanging to achieve the effect I'm looking for. It has to be as analog as possible and basically what is in my head.
Simplicity's album art is also not as simple as the title. What was the thought process behind the creative?
As this album was always going to be released on vinyl it was important that the artwork was considered and not just treated as another random digital download. I also knew that a 7-inch single was going to be released to accompany the 12-inch album vinyl. I was intent on one of those being a green sleeve. I decided that the green sleeve should be the 7-inch single and we should go for a more abstract, eye-catching, colourful cover for the full album, which is what we did, and I hope it works.
I hear you are a fan of the KPM 1000 (Green Sleeves) Series. If you were to create a playlist of your top ten tracks, what would be in it?
That's far too difficult and always changes. I go through phases of just listening to the percussion and bass of Herbie Flowers & Barry Morgan, to full orchestras and voices, to old favourites such as Mansfield's "Funky Fanfare." I've too many favourites due to the amount of material they produced from the late sixties to the early 80s, which is my favourite KPM period.
Amongst all the instruments you have, what would you save in a fire and why?
It's a good question because the older you get your answer changes. If you'd have asked me that question ten years ago, I would've given you a list, but I think as you get older, you realise the material objects are not all that important, and I've possibly put too much importance on equipment and gear in the past, mainly due to not being able to afford anything in my younger days and dreamed of owning guitars, electric pianos, organs, et cetera, but unless it's personal and has either been handed down from a family member or given to me by a loved one, I'm not fussed.
You are doing so well in both the television and music industries. Which industry is more challenging to navigate and why?
I just feel very fortunate to be able to work in both areas. I never dreamed I would, but I always dreamed of what it would be like, so to be able to spend my time doing either music or acting the clown is a continual bonus and something I'm always grateful for.
There are a lot of APM tracks in What We Do in the Shadows. Do you have a hand in music supervision?
I do not. The only contribution I make to the music in the show is I write the songs that my character sings. I did play random chords on an old pump organ during the pilot, which seems to reappear in the show now and again. I also sneakily played the theme on the piano from Toast of London, which is a show I made a few years ago, and it wasn't until the show went out that anybody realised what I'd done, so that was a personal win/bit of fun for me.
What can we expect from the final season of the show?
You can expect a show featuring unexpected things for the final time.
Given that the main characters are already "dead," I suppose doing a final dramatic death scene makes no sense. Can you give us three options on how to end a vampire series?
Invite a vampire slayer into their house, or invite a vampire slayer into their house, or you could even invite a vampire slayer into their house.