Matt Wells (of Jaded Lover) is one half of the new Chicago-based dynamic duo DJ partnership along with Mark Gertz (of Dark Wave Disco) whose combined creative efforts on the turntables is providing fun times for all who are within earshot. With a new Record Label, True Mother Records, a new single release entitled, "Time Enough" by Jaded Lover, and recording musical clients from around the world, DJ Matt Wells is enjoying fun times of his very own.
A conversation with DJ Matt Wells of True Mother Records at Cerise Rooftop at The Virgin Hotel Chicago
William Kelly Milionis, Editor and Senior Contributing Writer/Interviewer/Reviewer/Photographer for Chicago Music Magazine
William Kelly Milionis: Thank you for this interview opportunity. An honor and privilege it is to have this moment to chat.
Matt Wells: Thank you.
Kelly: Let's dive right in and start with your childhood, were you raised in a musical family?
Matt: No, not really. A restaurant family [chuckling]. So, I think actually piano was the one thing that I was NOT encouraged to try because both of my parents were forced. So then, as I progressed and started getting into music and DJing, I was always thinking, so of all the things you didn't make me take piano?! [laughter]
Kelly: So how did you become aware musically?
Matt: Turntables! I've been doing it for about twenty years now. And, so has Mark. I used to go to raves. I used to do the whole thing back in the nineties and in high school.
Kelly: Where was that?
Matt: I grew up in Valparaiso, Indiana, and then always came up to Chicago. Lived in Chicago forever. But, I will say too, working with people in New York, and working with people in Los Angeles, trying to branch out...this is the technological age that we live in now where you can work with people everywhere and expect to Dropbox everything. So I'm working with a client, a female vocalist from Turkey. She is very big in Istanbul. I'm super excited for her. Her voice is just amazing...very ethereal! She may even be visiting the U.S. in the next month or two. I really would like her to do some vocals. I am trying to work with everybody! Wherever! It's awesome! Technology right now is awesome! I would have never been able to do this stuff when I was younger. The trouble of trying to figure out the MPC2000 [Akai MPC2000 a professional and user-expandable 64-track sampler-sequence workstation] to make some beats back in the day. [hearty chuckling]
Kelly: [chuckling] Did you have a Technics Turntable?
Matt: Yes! Oh, yes! That's back to what got me into it. I was going to Gramophone Records Chicago, Mike Serafini is a buddy of mine, and saved up and bought my own 1200s [Technics series turntable used by radio and club DJs because of the direct drive, high torque motor design making it initially suitable for pushbutton cueing and starting of tracks on radio. The 1200s were the most common turntables for DJing and Scratching] when I was about sixteen or seventeen years old and spent a year in the basement matching beats on records. So, that was it! That was what started me off!
Kelly: To whom do you owe your inspiration?
Matt: Chicago guys! Green Velvet, DJ Sneak, Derrick Carter, Mike Serafini, Oscar McMillan and all the Gramophone Records dudes. Then, of course, the Detroit guys as well, Derrick May, Juan Atkins and Jeff Mills. That's what I started with, House and Techno.
Kelly: Have you ever been into 'Progressive House'?
Matt: Yes! Actually, I had a stint, still kind of do it but I just get bored really easily so I don't do crazy, crazy pop mash-ups or anything that is too over-the-top. As you've heard here at Cerise Rooftop, it's accessible, but it's also not avant-garde. I try to expand what people think they might like and then they don’t realize it and then all of a sudden they’re into it…yeah, this is really awesome. One of the best compliments I have ever received was, 'I don’t know what you are playing but I can’t sit down, I just got to get up and dance!' That was awesome! Thank you!
Kelly: Do you find yourself dancing behind the turntables?
Matt: That's actually one of the ONLY places I do dance if I'm really getting into it. Of course, I do the DJ head bob and the foot tap depending upon the show. Like, at Metro, you're not going to see me boogie-boogie down. Mark Gertz, my partner, performed with his Dark Wave Disco at Metro and we were all kicking it.
Kelly: Tell me about your new single, "Time Enough" with your group Jaded Lover?
Matt: We have a single, "Time Enough", with a release date of Tuesday, October 11th, that had been previously released on our full length, "Nite Moves" that was out on August 28th, 2016, on True Mother Records. I have Dave Rosario, Connie Yin, and Mike Reger, out of New York, and co-producer out of Los Angeles - Potions. Potions did his own version. We are a collective. We trade up music parts. A couple of tracks on the single are almost covers as opposed to remixes. The vinyl is remix only, but the digital contains the original ["Time Enough"]; an instrumental, of course ["Time Enough (Instrumental)]; and then four remixes ["Time Enough" (Dave Rosario's Shaved Hammer Special Mix); "Time Enough" (Connie Y Say What! Mix featuring Dylan Stillwell); "Time Enough" (Mikey Dub's Enough Version Time); and "Time Enough" (Potions Remix)]. The "Time Enough" remix single will enjoy a record release Porn and Chicken Party at evilOlive on Monday, October 17th. So, along with Orville and his Porn and Chicken crew, we will also have Mark Gertz and his Dark Wave Disco crew and Matt Wells with Jaded Lover. It's going be off the hook! Yes, it's going to be great!
Kelly: You mentioned working in a 'Collective'; are you all together in the same room at one time when recording?
Kelly: So, you work digitally by sending tracks online...
Matt: Yes. I work out of Dropbox a lot. It's not necessarily like the postal service where they actually mail DAT tapes and other things like that, but my production partner in Los Angeles and I have more or less the same set-up. We grew up together, so we've always kept up. We have been doing Jaded Lover for some time in various ways but now it's to this point where we have records and made a label around it.
Kelly: When you are working together and sending files via Dropbox is everyone on Facetime, Skype, or other 'visual' means at the same time?
Matt: When it comes to Potions and I, we just know each other. I've known him since sixth grade. I came up DJing, so I do some lyrics, vocals, and other stuff, but am more production and engineering. As far as everybody sitting in the room together like a band...it happens sometimes if we are around each other, but for the most part, here are some parts, let's do this or let's do that, and we'll just go back and forth via Dropbox.
Kelly: Many of the Masters of DJing, for example, Tiësto or Paul Oakenfold, amongst others, have stated that Chicago is one of the greatest cities to perform in with its handful of great clubs and a very astute and supportive fanbase; have you performed in the DJ meccas of Las Vegas, NYC, Miami, or Ibiza?
Matt: Once again, the last several years I've been doing more original stuff so I'm kind of popping back out and getting my hustle back on. But yes, Las Vegas at various private parties, and have spent time in Los Angeles, have spent time in New York with more underground parties...
Kelly: but that is where the business is now, doing your own original material...
Matt: Oh yes! Yes, and the plan is to reach out to everybody to keep pushing the original music. Part of the reason I switched gears if you will, from DJing to producing, is to get out, like you say Tiësto, these huge superstars, James Murphy of LCD Sound System. All those guys, the inspiration was there. When I first started, before I even bought turntables, we all had a TB-303, TR-909, and SH-101, we were all working on stuff. I did two live PA's just as a kid with midi-boxes all daisy-chained together. Then I got into DJing and I didn't produce anything so much or work on that. Now, it's come full circle. And, it's because years ago I went to see LCD, and then I see James Murphy DJing downstairs and I was like what am I doing. I'm just DJing. I need to go back and make the original stuff; and then go and DJ that and it will be a whole new experience. It will be something so much more original for everybody.
Kelly: So much more creativity and at the same time you are following your heart...
Matt: ...yes, absolutely! Several years back I was kind of burned out on DJing. I was not doing a lot of stuff that I was personally agreeing with. I'm going to need to make a change or otherwise I'll be hating DJing. So that is why I have the record coming out ["Time Enough" by Jaded Lover]. And, once again, inspiration from Michael Serafini of Gramophone Records has helped me a lot. Some friends in New York have helped as well.
Kelly: What would you say has been your biggest show?
Matt: It was a while ago. I've been really concentrating on production and putting together the Label [True Mother Records] and the Co-op. But, I would say my biggest show was House Of Blues Chicago with Samantha Ronson, and Jurassic Five. I've also been involved with new technologies...stream parties with Chris May out of Chicago who relocated to Los Angeles and were doing these things called, Top Floor, with ten to fifteen thousand people. At one point in time, everyone around the world was dancing and getting down to me spinning at a really awesome house party in Los Angeles. It's great! There is just so much going on. You just couldn't have even imagined this ten or twenty years ago.
Kelly: Ok, so I must ask, how did you come up with the name of your record company?
Matt: [laughs] It's kind of an inside joke [more laughing] concerning my partner in Jaded Lover, Potions, when I was living in Los Angeles with him. He has a cat. It's one of the only cats (I'm not like a cat person) but it's one of the only cats that I really love. So he used to joke about who the true mother of the cat was because the cat would trade who he liked sometimes. And so it was a big joke. You know, wait that's an awesome name for our record label if we are going to own our own music and do that. So several years later here we are. [hearty laughing]
Kelly: Thank you for this interview. I would like to wish you much continued success in all your creative endeavors.
Matt: Thank you.
Watch the music video for "Time Enough" by Jaded Lover on YouTube here.