By BRUCE DENNILL
Ard Matthews is part of the line-up for the 2019 installment of Amp Events’ Rock On The Lawns, headlined by The Cure and also featuring Fokofpolisiekar, Karen Zoid, Zebra & Giraffe, Opposite The Other, Southern Wild, Hellcats, Dimond Thug and The Robfather. The concerts will be held at Carnival City, Johannesburg on 16 March and at the Kenilworth Racecourse, Cape Town, on 21 March.
You’re currently a solo artist with a band. You’ve been a one-man act and also part of a successful rock band in Just Jinjer. What do you take into both backgrounds for the current set-up?
My years of being in a band with such phenomenal musicians has really helped me to understand the dynamics in a way that helps to bring out the best in all the members of bands I play with now. My new bandmates have years of experience between them and the transition has been effortless and most of all enjoyable and filled with laughter.
How does the system work – a democracy led by the guy with his name on the poster, or more an autocracy; a unit designed to make your vision happen?
While it might be my ‘solo band’, so to say, it is very much a team effort and I rely heavily on the experience that each member brings to the project. Having been in a democratic situation most of my career, I’ve learned the value of accepting and appreciating all advice towards the common goal.
In the above terms, would you say the live act is about you or about everyone on stage?
The current setup is based on showcasing my new works and I’m grateful to have members who encourage me to be the best I can be. That said, I believe there is a solid spread of invaluable contributions from each member
Rock On The Lawns: how are festivals as a fit for your current sound – your latest album Impossible Machines has a fair bit of production depth?
It’s been an interesting transition trying to replicate the new album live, and what we have discovered is that the songs work well in stripped-down grunge format. It took us a few shows to understand that the songs speak for themselves in just about any format, regardless of production.
Outdoors versus clubs or theatres: are there in the changes in the way you arrange your songs or add to the scale of what you present onstage?
Outdoors and Indoor shows are two different beasts altogether and require a unique approach each time. If anything, we are a bit more sensitive to the dynamics when it’s a smaller, more intimate environment, but overall, the ‘song remains the same’.
The optimism in your lyrics is notable because it’s rare. How much of it is intentional – trying to make a point or change a mindset – and how much is just an overflow of how you’re feeling (at least some of the time)?
I believe I have always written optimistically, as it’s just in my nature to do so. I feel there is enough negativity in the world today, so it’s an easy and natural choice for me to lean towards offering any kind of thought-provoking message. I think, as you become more established as an artist, you become aware of what kind of an impact you can have, and even if it’s just for one person, it’s worth it for me.
What are your songwriting inspirations, specifically in terms of these positive perspectives?
I have always written about life and love and the loss of both of them. I’ve been able to imagine how I would feel in a certain situation or about a certain topic and just write about it in as as free-flowing a way as possible.
The Cure: what part did they play in your musical development?
The Cure have been around as part of my musical understanding for as long as I can remember. There are many songs that are directly related to certain experiences in my life. I’m sure this would be true of almost anyone who has known anything about music for the last 40 years.
Were you a fan or an admirer (that is, just liking their music versus wanting to do specific things they did)?
I would say more of a great appreciator for their overall contribution to modern music.