I had the great pleasure of interviewing the very friendly and intelligent Mat Flint, guitarist for England’s Deep Cut, this past January. This interview evolved over the winter months and became my first short piece in Issue 70 of The Big Takeover. Mat was brutally honest about his past ventures in Revolver and Death in Vegas, and provided fascinating insight to his work with his wife, singer Emma Bailey, brother Simon Flint on bass, Ian Button on drums, and Pad Bailey on guitar. The band’s sound is a cool amalgamation of electronic and almost vintage 60’s psychedelia, overlaid by a modern sensibility. I predict great things for this East London group, and hope you enjoy reading this interview.
I know you’ve spent time in the US. Think we might see you over here touring your upcoming album, or will that wait until your children are grown?
MAT FLINT: We would love to come out and play in the US. I did spend quite a lot of time there in the 90s, both on tour and staying with friends, and I loved it. The problem – as with everything – is that someone would need to finance it! We don’t even have anyone distributing our album in the US yet – I think you can only get it on import. So, I can’t see anyone putting up the money to fund it at the moment, to be honest. Hopefully, if we release another album in a year or two, we can start thinking about it then, if we’ve got a label behind us there.
Would you mind talking about your band Revolver, and how your sound has evolved to what we hear with Deep Cut?
MAT FLINT: I was very young. We signed a 6-album deal with Virgin when I was only just 20, and the whole thing – when I think about it now – just went by in a blur. None of the decisions we had to make along the way turned out to be good ones, unfortunately, from the choice of record label, to the selection of certain songs as singles, to the amount of time we took to make our debut album. We just got everything so wrong! And it’s a shame, because we had the potential to become a very successful band, and we blew it. For a while in the summer of 1991, you couldn’t pick up a music newspaper or magazine without seeing us in it, and we should have released our album there and then, and capitalised on all that press attention. But our album didn’t come out until two years later, and that’s a hell of a long time in music. The press weren’t interested, the people who’d bought our early stuff had all moved on to something else.
It breaks my heart, really, to talk about it now. So, my memories of the whole time are bittersweet, to be honest. We did have some fantastic times, but I can’t help but feel that it was a missed opportunity. In terms of the sound, we were a bright, loud, abrasive guitar band that specialised in pop songs – we liked the Beatles as much as we liked My Bloody Valentine – but we got lumped in with whole shoegaze thing, and because we came along after bands like Ride and Chapterhouse, we started to get people saying that we were ripping those bands off. I mean, we didn’t listen to those groups – we just probably listened to the same records in the late 80s that they did, you know? And because of that, I spent the whole time in interviews trying to disassociate our band from that whole scene, and in the studio we tried to distance ourselves from that sound. So we started to try out different stuff, string sections, weird percussion, brass sections, and things that those bands didn’t do. And really, what I should have done was just stick to my guns and carried on writing upfront guitar pop tunes. But I’m proud of some of the stuff we did – I think the first EP is great, really strong; we did a track called “Venice” which I still think sounds fantastic today, and even though some of the experimentation on the album didn’t quite work, I still stand by “Cold Water Flat”. Anyway, I didn’t write guitar tracks for a long time after Revolver fell apart. I felt disillusioned with the whole thing; I couldn’t bring myself to finish any songs whenever I picked up a guitar.
I spent a year getting off my face and going to clubs, I joined Death In Vegas as their bass player and got much more involved in the dance scene. I didn’t identify with many of the Britpop bands of the mid-nineties, and almost completely immersed myself in dance music and club culture. My and my brother used to go to Andrew Weatherall’s club Sabresonic, and we used to go to see the Chemical Brothers DJ every week at the Heavenly Social, and I just became obsessed with dance music – techno, trip-hop, acid house, but particularly hip hop. I started DJ-ing hip-hop records out regularly, I played at the Heavenly Jukebox club at Turnmills every other week from about 1996 to 2000 – and it was a fantastic time for me, going on tour with Death In Vegas, coming back and DJ-ing in a really happening club. I was having a great time! It was so far away from Revolver and that scene that I didn’t listen to the records we’d made for many years. I still went to see bands like Primal Scream, the really great guitar bands of the era, but in general, I couldn’t ever see myself making another guitar record again. But something in me changed around 2003-4, when DIV were out on tour playing the Satan’s Circus album, I didn’t enjoy that tour as much as the earlier tours; even though I liked the music, it had gone very electronic and wasn’t as much fun to play live. And I started thinking about getting my own thing together again, maybe trying out making some demos when the tour was over. So I did, with my brother Simon, and that was the start of Deep Cut.
You also spent a lot of time touring with Death in Vegas, where you were the sideman. Now you’re the leader of the pack. How does that feel?
MAT FLINT: It feels good. But part of the attraction of being in DIV was that I had already been a frontman in Revolver, and was sick of it, tired of the responsibility – and going and playing bass in someone else’s band was the ideal thing for me to do. It also helped that I got on brilliantly with the people in DIV, and that they were a fantastic band. I genuinely believed that they were one of the best bands on the planet. And we had such a great time – I had some of the best moments of my life around the world with the people in that band. But yeah, it was time to try to do my own thing again. Even though it’s on a much smaller scale than DIV, I had to do it again. I realised by about 2006, 2007 that if I didn’t start writing songs again, it was going to be too late.
Do you still book time as a DJ?
MAT FLINT: Only occasionally. I did play a hip-hop set at a friend’s party a couple of months ago – and I loved it, it was great. My problem with that is that I fell out of love with hip-hop many years ago, around 2000 or so. I stopped buying the records as they were all dire. So I stopped being able to play new stuff – it was just the same old tunes over and over again. So I got bored of doing it. I do really enjoy playing guitar stuff out now, I play new stuff, 60s psych, post-punk, anything really. I can do a good Northern Soul set, or a set of reggae 7-inches. I played at the Club AC30 Christmas party. It was good fun! Basically, if people ask me, I do it.
Deep Cut went through a transformation from electronic music to something akin to shoegazing power pop. Can you describe that process?
MAT FLINT: Well, when me and Si started it, it was just me and him – and I guess we were coming from more of an electronic angle. Si had always been into acid house and techno, right from the early raves in 1988, when I was going out and seeing the Valentines and Sonic Youth and stuff. And by the time we were starting with Deep Cut, I was playing in DIV and going to clubs and things, and so electronic music formed a large part of what we were listening to. And so it inspired what we did. But it just went more and more guitar-y, it kind of got better as we added guitars, and I gradually began to realise that that is probably what I do best. So we went more down that route, and here we are. There is still an electronic element to what we do, though. There are loads of samples and loops on the album, and lots of it is programmed. And there will be more of that kind of thing on the next stuff we do. We’re currently doing quite a few remixes, almost as practice for doing our own stuff later in the year, and it’s got much more of an electronic feel. I’m sort of getting bored of guitars on everything again!
What’s it like playing with your brother and wife in the same group? How do you all approaching writing music and lyrics?
MAT FLINT: It’s fine, actually. In fact, it’s great. It’s nice to write with the two people that I’m closest to. It’s quite a straightforward process really… I normally come up with the first idea for the music – either some chords, or a bass riff, or a sample of something. And then me and Si have a couple of sessions where we basically knock it into shape, and get up a rough sketch of a song on the computer. Sometimes I have a vocal melody, or other times Emma just comes up with one, and she writes the majority of the lyrics too – although I did write a couple on the last album. We tend to discuss the themes of the tracks together, though – we have an idea what it’s going to be about, then one of us goes off and comes up with the lyrics. Then we have a demo, which we take into the studio with Ian and Pad, and we work it all out together as a band.
Musical touchstones include artists as diverse as Sonic Youth, Neu, and Big Star. How does all this inform your music, which reminds me of a delectable mix of Lush and vintage Byrds?
MAT FLINT: I have been obsessed with music since I was very small; I used to tape the top 40 and write down all the names of the songs in a book when I was 5. My Dad was heavily involved with the music press, and so growing up I always had access to NME, Melody Maker, Sounds, and so on. Therefore, I got into a lot of bands before a lot of other people, stuff only the older kids were into. So by the time I was actually in my first band – when I was 16 – I already had a lot of records and loads of things that had influenced me. And since then, I’ve always been in a band – Revolver, Death in Vegas, Deep Cut – where there are like-minded souls who love music and who bring more influences to the table, playing you things you haven’t heard before. So there’s a lot of stuff that’s gone into this music. That’s why I hate it when lazy writers say that we’re just another “shoegaze” band – I know that there’s so much more to what we do than that. I like so much stuff.
Being influenced by so many different musical genres, does the group have any covers you like to do? Because I can imagine Deep Cut putting their own totally original spin on another band’s music.
MAT FLINT: Actually, not yet. We have done one or two Revolver songs, but I guess that doesn’t really count! AC30 asked us to do a cover for a compilation a few years ago, new bands covering older bands’ classics. We were going to do “Reverence” by the Jesus and Mary Chain, but in a Krautrock style! But it never happened for some reason. I’m kind of glad really, as I believe that you shouldn’t mess with magic. I only really like covers where the band can put a different spin on an original or improve it in some way. Otherwise, what’s the point? I am always hearing things that I think we could do good versions of. I heard the Go Betweens‘ “Streets of Your Town” the other day and thought we could do a really good version of that, in our style. Sack the guitar solo, fuzz the whole thing up a bit.
You use a lot of different equipment. Do you have a favorite guitar you trot out more than the others?
MAT FLINT: At the moment, I tend to favour my Fender Jazzmaster for live stuff, but I have an American Telecaster Plus from the Revolver days which still gets used a lot. To be honest though, we tend to have a big selection of guitars there when we’re recording, and just use whichever one seems right for the part – rather than using particular ones because of sentimental value, or because they cost the most money. Lots of Disorientation was done with cheap guitars.
I love the rolling sonic waves of “Inner Star”. I heard it started out as a Verve-like tune, and ended up being something far more. Can you talk a little about your guitar sound on there?
MAT FLINT: Yeah, I wanted to do a song in that tempo – slow, 6 beats to the bar, something like “She’s A Superstar”, I guess. I’m not mad about later Verve stuff, but the first two albums have got a really great feel about them that we really like. But whenever I try to do a track that’s inspired by someone else, like this one, it always ends up not really sounding like them! I had the demo for a long time, it was just something I did on my own – it was called “Stars and Stripes”. We couldn’t finish it off, but one day when we were recording the album, we just decided to have another go at it, and it all came together really quickly. And it doesn’t really sound anything like Verve! Guitar-sound wise, I’m playing a Jazzmaster, through a Russian Bigmuff and a Memory Boy, into a Vox AC30. Pad’s playing an Epiphone Dot through a Rat, into a Fender Twin Reverb. Nothing more complicated than that – it sounds big because of how the amps are miked up. Ian, our drummer, is also our engineer, and he’s a genius with things like that.
And then “Dead Inside Your Heart”, to me sounds like an update to one of my old favorite bands (Lush). Has that band influenced your sound at all, because Emma sounds quite a lot like Miki Berenyi.
MAT FLINT: Other people have said that too, but I don’t think Emma really heard them much when she was younger, so if she does sound like Miki then it’s more by chance than by design. I liked Lush when they first came out; I bought Scar and went to see them at the Camden Falcon when they first started out, and I really liked “Deluxe” and “Downer” off the Mad Love EP. But then I don’t think I bought any more of their records; I always thought they were a pretty good band, but once Revolver started getting lumped in with all those other groups, I just didn’t buy any of their records or go to their gigs after that. Probably quite childish really! I don’t think musically Deep Cut sound like them at all, to be honest.
“Something’s Got to Give” is an homage to The Brian Jonestown Massacre. I think you succeeded in pulling that one off. Can we look forward to more tributes?
MAT FLINT: That’s more accurate I feel; we are massive BJM fans. I think Anton is a genius, he’s written so many incredible songs. It’s funny actually, because I wanted to do a song in that style – something like “When Jokers Attack” or “Going To Hell” or something, but I think our track ended up sounding more like the Dandy Warhols! It’s something that I learned from my time in Death In Vegas, actually, that you shouldn’t be afraid to go into the studio with another band’s record, and say: “let’s try to do something like this”. Because by the time you’ve done it, the chances are that it won’t really sound like that band anyway, it will sound like YOUR band, but playing in a slightly different style. Richard would always go into the DIV studio, whenever I was there, with tracks he was listening to, saying he wanted to try stuff like that; and I saw some amazing results from that type of approach. In terms of doing more stuff like other bands, I don’t know yet. I think the next album will be a lot less planned – I don’t want to do any demos, just do the tracks really organically, much more spontaneously.
And I understand you’re a Band of Susans fan. So am I! I seem to be the only person who remembers them, but hearing that massive sound you pulled off on “Another Look in the Mirror” really captured that vibe.
MAT FLINT: Yes, I really liked Band of Susans, particularly the Love Agenda album and the “Hope Against Hope” single. I saw them play, in 1989, supporting Throwing Muses in Portsmouth . I really liked the way that they had layers of guitars that all slotted together and made this massive sound. Often in bands, adding on more and more layers of guitar doesn’t really work, and can actually lessen the impact – as with a lot of shoegaze bands. But I loved the guitars in Band of Susans.
I can really relate to “The Letter” as I’ve experienced several communication breakdowns in the past year. Can you talk a little about this one?
MAT FLINT: I really like the idea of songs being snapshots – a fleeting glimpse of what you were thinking for a split second at one particular point in time. All of our songs are like that – the song can last for five minutes, but it’s about one thought that you had for a moment – even if you never had that thought again. So, some of our songs can actually be about things one of us might have thought, even if now we realise that we were being stupid, or the person we were thinking of was acting out of character, or something. I think “The Letter” is about communication breakdown with a friend, but it’s also about looking inwards and realising that you’re not being as good a friend as you could be, either.
The opening music on “Out of Nothing” almost reminds me of The Beta Band, and then it transitions into some great, spacey vocals.
MAT FLINT: Cool, you’re the first person to say that, and I think that’s probably bang-on. We loved “Dry The Rain”. “Out Of Nothing” is my favourite track on the album actually. It came from playing along with one of my favourite hip-hop records, and then just writing a song over the top of it. It’s really spacey and dreamy, and trippy. Not many people have picked up on this, but I sing all the lead vocal with Emma. It’s a mix of her and my voices together. On the other tracks when I sing, I usually harmonise what she’s doing, or sing an octave lower, but on this one we’re singing exactly the same notes – and I think that’s why it sounds cool. It kind of gives the vocal more depth – a different sound. When we mixed the whole track and listened back to it, I couldn’t quite believe that we’d made it… it just sounded so different to what we normally do.
Can you describe how you got some of the interesting textures on Disorientation?
MAT FLINT: Well, we like a lot of different types of music, and we try to incorporate a lot of ideas into what we do. We’re not afraid to try things out, either. I dunno, really, I’m just not content to make songs that don’t have some kind of interesting angle. Even if we do a straightforward punk track like “Makes Me Wanna”, it’s got things like a drill on it. Emma played a drill! Or, you know, there’s a bit at the end of “Cruel Reminder” where it’s meant to sound like a spaceship is taking off; that’s me sliding a beer bottle up and down the neck of the guitar. There are hip-hop loops on there, weird synths that you can’t really hear, sampled feedback stuff that as the listener you’re not really aware of, but that hopefully makes the whole sound more interesting to the ear. Lots of my favourite records have a psychedelic feel, and I hope that we get that in Deep Cut. Music that takes you somewhere else. The songs are often straightforward pop songs, but they’re pop songs with a twist. I’m not saying that we’re avant garde or experimental, because we aren’t really, but I really hope that we are subversive in some way, even if it’s just subliminal.
I read on your Facebook page that the band is involved in some remixes with Megaphonic Thrift. Can you tell us about that?
MAT FLINT: We got asked to do a remix of “Tune Your Mind”, their new single. It’s a great song, and it was difficult to mess with it too much. But it was quite short, three minutes, so we thought we’d draw it out a bit, make it lock in a bit more, a bit more of a mantra type thing. So we kept their drums – it’s a really mental drum sound, all the way through – and built up a track around that, with extra synths and selected bits of their fucked up guitars. But when we’d finished it, we suddenly thought: what would it sound like if we took all their drums out of it, and added our own really minimal ones – a bit like a Suicide sort of vibe? So we did that anyway, did another mix, and handed them both in. The band liked both mixes, and have used them both! They’re both on this free CD that you get when you buy the vinyl version of the new album. Although I’m sure you will be able to download them from the net somewhere – officially I mean – from Soundcloud or somewhere. We love doing remixes. we recently did one for Ringo Deathstarr which turned out pretty good; we’ve just done another one for a band called Velochrome from Cologne which is one of the heaviest bits of music we’ve ever done.
What direction will the band go in on your next release? Do you have any sort of time frame for when that will come out?
MAT FLINT: As I said earlier, I think it will be much more spontaneous, working with ideas rather than songs that we have already done 2 or 3 demos of. Doing these remixes for other bands – where they have all pretty much been a day’s work – has made me realise that I really enjoy working quickly, knowing that I’ve got to finish something that day. I don’t mean that we’re going to rush it – but hopefully build a lot of it up from scratch on the day of recording. The rest of the band are all really talented and all come up with good ideas, and we all work well together without any clashes of egos or anything like that.
The next Deep Cut album is still really in its embryonic phase; I’ve got a few ideas for songs but none of them are fully formed yet. We could just plough ahead and record them in a similar way to how we did Disorientation, but I’m quite keen to make a record that shows another side to what we can do. We’ve been working on a lot of remixes for other bands – we’ve actually done 7 in 7 months – where our way of working has been to completely deconstruct the original song, and then put it together again as if we were in the band that made it. And it’s been a really good experience for us, trying things out, learning how to do things that we haven’t done before. So, I think that the next Deep Cut record will end up sounding like a lot of the remix work we’ve been doing, only that it will be Emma and me singing, and it will be OUR ideas for songs that we’re putting through that whole deconstructing/reconstructing process. Some of the songs we’ve put out before on our two albums have been demoed several times, and worked on a lot before we’ve done the final version, and have therefore ended up sounding quite polished; this time round, I want it to be a lot more spontaneous. When we do a remix we only ever give ourselves a day to finish the whole thing; I like the idea of doing that with our own music. We are actually very good working under that kind of pressure. Doing 15, 20 tracks like that, and then picking the best 10 or so to make an album from. Should be interesting, anyway… and I really want to finish it this year, hopefully having all the music done by the end of the summer, and doing the vocals and the mixing at the end of the year.