Matthew Halsall

Matthew Halsall is an incredibly talented and cool jazz musician from Manchester. I interviewed him in Barcelona before his gig in La Nau (November 2023).

How was the creation of the new album “An ever changing view”? Nature has a very important presence in this work.

I have a crazy life running a record label (Gondwana Records) and being an artist, so I block periods of time to focus when I’m composing. For this album I decided I wanted to escape my city, Manchester, and compose in beautiful inspiring places, close to nature, by the sea, or near the ountains. I composed on the Welsh north coast, in the Isle of Anglesey…. I’d always compose looking out the window like an impressionist painter.

What influence has meditative music had in your work?

I studied transcendental meditation and Buddhist Kudampah meditation and all sorts of other meditations. But one of the meditations that I find most useful is mindfulness meditation. Focusing on composing for eight to ten hours a day has become my meditation. My personality is quite peaceful and spiritual, so that adds to the music as well.

In what way do you redefine spiritual jazz?

I’m not trying to recreate the beautiful spiritual jazz of the past. I love Alice Coltrane, Fariah Sander, Youssef Latife, Don Cherie, but I wouldn’t say that this new album sounds like any of them. It has more contemporary elements. It’s got a lot of sequencing and sampling in there and layers of looped percussion that make it sound more like contemporary sample culture music. I’m inspired by artists like the Cinematic Orchestra and Bonobo.

You grew up in the electronic music scene of the nineties and early 2000s… How does this reflect in your work?

The DJs were like superstars from when I was 17 to 25. Live music almost disappeared. I was listening to more club culture, people like Mr Scruff, that had a very eclectic set, but they had jazz elements into it, with new jazz. Being in those clubs and dancing and listening to all sorts of eclectic stuff like reggae, hip hop, jazz, soul, afro-beat definitely has come into play in my music because they were an important part of my education.

What is your view on the so-called British Jazz Explosion?

In the history of jazz there have been hypes. It’s true that the excitement about jazz among young people is the highest I’ve seen in the 15 years I’ve been releasing music. There’s a lot of young people listening to jazz, it has become cool again. Now there are some artists like Shabaka Hutchkings, who deserve credit, he’s an incredible saxophonist and is now demonstrating great talent as a flautist and composer. Nubya Garcia has definitely been the linchpin of UK jazz, she is a great saxophonist and it’s great to see a female artist as the UK jazz scene is predominantly very white, male-dominated. But aside from London, there are great artists from Wales, Northern Ireland, Birmingham, Manchester, everywhere.

What are your plans for 2024?

2023 has been a crazy year. In 2024 I will start writing some music, take my time, then record. Around September next year I will release a deeper, darker, high energy record that represents the club culture but in a deep jazz way. I can see and hear the record already and I know what I need to do to go and make it, I just need to spend a lot of time in the studio late at night.