Photography by James Thomas Marsh
Drew Daniel and Martin “M.C.” Schmidt, the duo behind avant-garde electronic act Matmos, met two decades ago, when Daniel was a go-go boy at San Francisco’s Club Uranus. Schmidt slipped a dollar bill into his homemade G-string, the front of which Daniel had made out of a plastic fish, and the artistic and romantic partners have been reading each other’s minds ever since. Their 16-year creative output, a sort of pop take on musique concrète, has included a techno record that sampled sounds from liposuction and nose job procedures as well as a song that featured Schmidt playing an inflated cow uterus.
No surprise, then, that their latest offering, The Marriage of True Minds, literally revolves around the idea of ESP. It derives from a set of experiments they conducted over the course of four years with around 50 subjects, from academics to garbage collectors and sex shop workers. Participants wore halved ping-pong balls over their eyes and headphones emitting waves of white noise over their ears, and attempted to identify the concept of the forthcoming album while Daniel tried to transmit it to them telepathically.
“The goal was to shut down seeing and hearing so that other pathways of experience might open up,” Daniel explains. Schmidt recorded the subjects’ verbal responses, and then the pair selected highlights from the sessions to produce nine eclectic -- and surprisingly catchy -- musical interpretations, folding in Latin rhythms, club beats, heavy metal, and Ethiopian folk. “There was so much psychedelic, bizarre, rambling, free-associative madness that came out of some people,” says Daniel, who won’t reveal the concept he kept projecting, even to Schmidt. “I mean, this one Oxford professor just said, ‘I think it’s something people and penguins would enjoy.’ ”