Chain DLK interviews Matt Rösner

We received and published this chat with Matt Rösner with a certain delay (one year and a half more or less). The ratio of this exchange of words was the release of “Snowmelt” (12k) by the end of 2021 coming from the collaboration with Seaworthy (aka Cameron Webb), who wasn’t able to reply due to lack of time, I guess. In spite of its age, this fascinating hybrid between ambient music and field recordings grabbed by these two Australian artists during the exploration of Kunama Namadgi (Mount Kosciuszko) in the Australian Alps features the conceptual framework of climate change, but the idea of dealing with this alarming topic by highlighting the beauty we’re losing sounded interesting to me. Here are the replies by Matt.

Chain D.L.K.: Hi there! How are you doing?

Matt Rösner: All is well, it’s winter here in Australia at the moment and the days are short and cool. I really dig this time of year.

Chain D.L.K.: Before focusing on your recent “Snowmelt”, let’s step back to the past. First, how did your artistic paths intersect?

Matt Rösner: I think the first time I met Cam was when I played a support slot at Seaworthy show around the time when 1897 came out. We then did an improv set at a warehouse in Sydney in 2009 and from there, our collaboration on Two Lakes and Snowmelt started.

Chain D.L.K.: Any word on your solo projects?

Matt Rösner: I had a solo record come out on room40 last year and there is a follow-up in the works, also coming on room40.

Chain D.L.K.: Speaking in general, “field recorders” have to establish a particular connection with the territory and the surrounding environment. How would you describe your way of connecting your creativity with it?

Matt Rösner: For me, it’s about being in nature as much as possible. Tuning into the surroundings and deeply observing not only the aural landscape but also the visual. When we made Snowmelt, we took a mountain of photos. At the end of a day in the field, we’d look back on the images whilst listening to the field recordings and jamming along with the minimal setup we had. The photos played a part in the creative process. 

Chain D.L.K.: Regarding the last question, do you think that being native of a place used as a sound source or translated into sound has some importance?

Matt Rösner: If you mean native as in connected to a place, then I think that is super important. The interesting thing for me is that Two Lakes and Snowmelt were recorded in places on the East Coast that I had not visited prior to the recording sessions, but by just listening I began to feel a connection between New South Wales and my home on the other side of our continent, 4000 km away in Western Australia.

Chain D.L.K.: Many years passed after your previous collaboration “Two Lakes”. How come?

Matt Rösner: We actually recorded Snowmelt in 2012, but we didn’t work on the record for a long period. Time slipped by, and we were both busy with careers and our young families. We didn’t feel the need to force the release of Snowmelt. 

Chain D.L.K.: What are the matching points between “Snowmelt” and “Two Lakes”? Any upgrade in the used equipment to grab sounds?

Matt Rösner: Our equipment was more advanced with Snowmelt, but the way in which we recorded the sound was similar for both records. On both records, we recorded from very early in the morning into the night. We go to a location, set up our microphones and record a long period of time, sitting dead still and observing our surroundings. 

Two Lakes was recorded over 3 late autumn days. For Snowmelt, we recorded in Autumn and then again in the proceeding spring to capture the difference in seasons across the unique Australian Alpine habitat. 

The way in which the tracks were arranged and mixed was different – Two Lakes was mixed and arranged by Cam and me on the South Coast, whereas Snowmelt was a loose collection of ideas that we worked on remotely, including adding overdubs. Later on, Taylor Deupree mixed and mastered at the 12k studio in New York. 

Chain D.L.K.: Can you tell us some unknown story or maybe any weird events regarding the recording sessions you held on Mount Kosciuszko and its surroundings?

Matt Rösner: We were crossing Spencer Creek which was half frozen and I lost my footing and ended up with a boot full of cold freezing water. The cold seems invigorating now, but at the time I was more worried about getting dry quickly and not losing any equipment. 

Chain D.L.K.: How would you describe the process of integration of instruments/musical parts into field recordings? What do you try to render with music? 

Matt Rösner: When we recorded both Snowmelt and Two Lakes, the compositions started with the field recordings and the instrument parts followed. Sometimes we might find ourselves working the other way around, there might be a guitar part that we add field recordings to in the second stage of the composition process. I find when creating music, or any art for that matter, there aren’t hard and fast rules to give structure to the process. It’s up to the creator to know when the work is complete, what to leave in, and what to take out. Certainly, with Snowmelt, we were trying to create a space where the listener can contemplate the environment through sound and in doing so we hope they will see the fragility of these ecosystems that are under stress from Climate Change, Drought, Bushfires and Pollution.

Chain D.L.K.: “Rennix Forest” is one of my favorite moments of “Snowmelt”, in spite of its “minimality”, to say so, as it evokes the peaceful place where it was supposedly recorded. Any words on this track?

Matt Rösner: The Rennix walking trail is located on the road up to Charlotte Pass. It starts as a wide open marshland, which then moves into a woodland of Snowgums. The recordings were taken around the edges of the marshes and further up into the forest. The guitar parts were pieced together from loops and fragments of an acoustic guitar improvisation recorded in a small cabin on the edge of the National Park. 

Chain D.L.K.: I noticed that tracks in Rennix have been matched together in the tracklist, while “Spencer Creek” and “Charlotte’s Pass” have been split into different parts and put in slots that are not contiguous. What are the ordering criteria of tracks in “Snowmelt”? 

Matt Rösner: We did spend some time thinking about how to order the pieces, one criterion was to group the tracks according to Altitude, like a sonic document that captures shifts in the soundscape as we climbed up to Charlotte Pass. In the end, it kind of worked out that Rennix pieces were recorded on the Autumn trip, as there was not a lot of sound activity on the high peaks at that time. The Spencer Creek and Charlotte Pass pieces were recorded during the spring trip when there were strong winds, rushing streams, and melting ice dotted around the slopes and creek edges. 

Chain D.L.K.: Besides the instrumental part, there are many moments of “Snowmelt” that could resemble shamanic music or the ritual ones that got played in some Buddhist rites. Is there any connection with the mentioned or other spiritual movements or religious beliefs? 

Matt Rösner: There is an element of meditation in our works, a mediation with nature at its core. If we can inspire our listeners to spend more time outdoors, escape their screens and be one with their surroundings, then there is a spiritual side to our records that hopefully improves people’s well-being.

Chain D.L.K.: There’s a moment when the sound seems to get expanded in a wide open perspective that is “Saw Creek”. What’s the connection between the sound and the place?

Matt Rösner: Saw Creek is quite close to the cabin that we were staying in. We’d stop there in the car each evening to get an idea of what sounds we might be able to record during the night. There was quite a dense forest around Saw Creek that had an amazing natural reverb to it that we tried to capture. The drone undercurrent is a bowed guitar played through effects pedals and digital processing. 

Chain D.L.K.: Have you ever thought of doing a record of a place you already visited?

Matt Rösner: Yes, for sure. My solo work is always grounded in the location of my old house in the small coastal town I lived in for over 10 years. Even when I am not physically in the old house, its ambiance still filters through in my compositions. As far as a collaboration with Cam goes, I think we could each create something new based on our shared memories of the Australia Coastline, where we grew up, and the places we still visit now. 

Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?

Matt Rösner: We hope to start work on a new record soon, we’ve been sending files back and forth to each other, but nothing is too concrete yet.