For Tom Mathieson, AKA Perth hip hop artist, Mathas, the past year has represented a time to immerse himself once again in the creative realm, taking all that was learnt from the life-cycle of his acclaimed 2015 Armwrestling Atlas album and using it as a launch-point for both inspiration and renewal.
“Looking back, I feel I went for a bit of a run with my music over the last couple of years that was about learning as much of stuff as I could about how the industry functions,” he reflects. “Because really, that wasn’t a thing I’d ventured heavily into before.
“Now I’m just really interested in trying to focus on making new music and making something I’m really happy with.”
Armwrestling Atlas was a significant release for Mathas in various ways. Not only did it open him up as a national presence on the Australia music scene and lead to new and challenging touring opportunities, the album itself was a culmination of a long period of working alone on songs that crowds now sing along to at headline gigs and music festivals all around the country.
At this point, however, Mathas is enjoying the creative process as a shared experience.
“With the last release, I spent a lot of time in a room by myself working away at the songs,” he says. “That took me six years to finish. So my plan is to do it properly and do it in a studio with someone else to bounce off and have some instrumentals. I feel quite happy with the direction of the sound I’m moving towards. I don’t think I’m changing much other than trying to simplify things.
“Now I have this period of time where I actually have this breathing space and I’m finally producing again. I’ve been having a really good time with it and I’m bouncing some ideas to some friends and the guys in my band and I’m moving towards the next release. I’m just trying to finish a body of work first, songwriting-wise.”
After eight years of being a lone wolf onstage, being backed by a full band was transformative for Mathas both as a performer and songwriter. The effects and influences are still felt deeply and continue onward.
“While I’m not going to be writing the songs with the band, I’ll definitely use elements of the band in the recording” he explains. “So they’ll be in the studio and opening up to that will be interesting. It’ll also mean that whatever I’m writing can be planned and catered towards performing with the band, as opposed to just being me over a beat. It’s pretty exciting.
“Over the years my music became more and more insular, and I became more controlling over all the elements of it. Ultimately, I still want to have control over what the output is at the end, but I’m really enjoying bouncing off other people.”
While Mathas as a songwriter delves into personal reflection, he’s become known as a hip hop artist with a social conscience. His new work seems set to continue in that vein in terms of lyricism and theme, but he’s not one to beat you about the head with topicality, either.
“I’ve always been a big fan of subtlety,” he says. “I think I ventured away from that for a while and tried to open up the code to make my stuff a little more accessible, lyrically. I don’t really know where it’s going with this new stuff except that it’s reflecting on the way human emotion affects different aspects of the world and our society, as opposed to physically talking about topics.
“A little more general; skimming the surface and probably more coded. Subtler and more delicate. I’m not trying to angle myself to more of a pop audience but I think there’s more of an ‘upbeatness’ to it, in order to perform it with the band and enjoy the live show, but at the same time the lyricism will still be really thick.”
Catch Mathas Live At The Backlot: Up Close And Personal with Bob Gordon on Thursday, March 22. Full details and tickets via www.facebook.com/events/146338976045490/