The UK is bursting at the seams with incredible house and techno talent right now. From Glasgow to London and practically everywhere in between, the country produces amazing new electronically-inclined musicians at a frankly astonishing rate. And anyone in the know will tell you that Leeds has long been one of the UK’s most fertile stomping grounds for emerging talent. One such man at the forefront of the city’s contemporary scene is Matt Farrow aka Kepler. A prodigiously prolific and impressive musician, he’s perhaps best known for his work on Burnski & Jon Woodall’s Constant Sound, though he also releases music for similarly discerning outlets such as EYA Records, Rooted and German label, Pleasure Zone.
What’s more, he’s even done a mix for us, complete with his own edits, productions and remixes. In short, we’re more than happy to have the Perspective label owner on our series. But what’s been happening in his world of late? We put some questions by the Kepler recently, discussing Australian tours, working as full-time musician, dealing with self-doubt, as well as his thoughts on the modern-day Leeds scene… It seems like you’re an artist who was really finding his feet before the pandemic. Did you use the time constructively? How difficult do you find it to make music when you’re not in the right frame of mind?
Taking a step back from the parties and my full-time job meant I could re-evaluate where I was at and what I wanted. It led me to quit my job and focus on music full-time and I was also able to make tons of music and spend time getting more familiar with my record collection that I’ve been growing for years. Towards the end of the pandemic, I’d stacked up lots of music and was fully ready to get back out there again.
You’ve been making music for a long time now. What motivated you to do it in the first place? Who were your early influences?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want this to be my career. I’ve grown up in a musical family and my parents were into electronic music. I was making music from about 12 years old (with a CD from a cereal box) and I used to try and sell mix CDs at school ha! Influence wise I was always into classic 90s house and artists like Aphex Twin and Boards Of Canada.
When did you get to a stage where production just clicked for you? How did you teach yourself?
I’ve made all sorts of different styles from the more commercial side of electronic music, through to drum and bass, UK garage and eventually house and techno. I have a degree in music production, but for me when I started the Kepler alias – that was when I was really making music I was truly happy with.
As a producer, do you take steps to ensure that you’re feeling your best then? Does that translate into the quality of the music you make?
When you’re playing gigs every weekend, it’s easy to fall into the trap of partying all the time. I am guilty of indulging (often) but during the pandemic I focused a lot on my fitness. It keeps me grounded and healthy so I can still go and enjoy the weekend without putting too much strain on my body and mental health.
You’ve played some awesome venues and parties of late, including fabric and even SASH in Australia. Can you tell us a bit about those experiences?
Those two particular bookings came in two days apart and I was buzzing. Going to play music on the other side of the world and having it received so well just inspired me so much. SASH was always a bucket-list gig and it exceeded expectations. An amazing crew and vibe and I would love to go back soon. I love the travelling aspect of what I do too as it’s amazing to meet so many people who share my passion, and to experience different places. I feel grateful to be in this position, but at the same time it has happened because of persistence and hard work.
Naturally they’re ‘dream come true’ type gigs, but did you ever have times were you asked yourself if it actually was going to come true at all? How do you deal with periods of self-doubt? And what keeps you going from that side?
Many times, self-doubt as an artist is something you have to deal with I think, no matter what level you’re at. You have to remember that you’ve been booked for these gigs because of the music that you make and the sets you’ve played. I think the key though is to be doing it for the right reasons. I make music because I love the process of being in the studio and creating something from nothing, and I love sharing music with people. This has been what has kept me going. I love discovering new music, I love making music and I love playing music to people.
Outside of music, what do you get up to then? Is it a full-time thing for you?
For about 5 or 6 years I was a teacher in a college where I taught music production and sound for film. It was a great job but it got to the point where I was too tired (and hungover) from the weekend of gigs, and I was in a position financially where I could follow my passion. I left that job almost a year ago now and it was the best decision I’ve made. Aside from my own music, I run an online production tutorial platform called Studio Orbit where I aim to share everything I’ve learnt over the years.
It’s often said that dedicating yourself to one thing can lose the magic a bit. Is this something you’re conscious of?
If it’s truly what you love doing – it’s a dream and I feel happy to be able to do this as my job.
We’ve probably touched on careers for a while there, so I also wanted to ask how’s the scene in Leeds right now? And can you tell us a bit about your involvement there?
A lot of great venues in the city have sadly closed such as Mint Club, Canal Mills and The Garage, but the scene here is still really healthy and there’s some great venues such as Wire, Mint Warehouse and Distrikt. The city has been home to some amazing talent such as Jack Wickham, Bobby O’Donnell, Hamish Cole, Nathan Pinder, Pete Melba and Burnski to name a few. I’ve been educated massively during my time in Leeds and have seen some of the best selectors in the world here such as Zip, Villalobos, Del Garda, Evan Baggs… the list goes on. I’ve held residencies at Mint Club in the past, along with playing in the city for years, including the festivals here and a night with a few friends called MASS. It’s taught me a lot and the crowd here is amazing.
Your sound’s quite interesting in that it encompasses a lot of different vibes and styles, spanning house, techno, minimal cuts and more. How do you decide what the vibe is going to be before you get into the studio?
I have to be excited about the music I make which is why I’m constantly looking to make something different when I get in the studio. Some artists develop a very specific and focused sound and stick to this for their whole career which is great, but for me I’ve always wanted to show versatility as I’ve got such a broad taste, and I want this to be evident in my productions and my DJ sets. When I get in the studio, I just let it happen and it could be any style just based on how I’m feeling on that day.
The Pleasure Zone release was a personal favourite, and we also loved the last one on Pespective, your own label. And the artwork was killer too! So we were wondering if you could tell us a bit about your motivation behind the label and what’s to come?
With Perspective, I was getting sent some great music from friends and I wanted it to be a platform where I can share the music that I’m into. The sound has developed over time, like my tastes. There’s some great music on the way from Toke, Bassam, Midge Thompson, Mculo and a 5 track EP dropping at the end of the summer from myself and good mate Jack Wickham. I’m also growing the label into a party.
In terms of signing artists, what are you looking for when they send you music?
I think it’s important that people sending demos have listened to the direction of the label sound-wise and send music that would be a good fit. I quite often listen to music that I’ve been sent and it isn’t stuff I’d personally play. The music I’ve signed has mostly been from friends or artists that I love that I’ve reached out to. I listen for tracks that are unique to me and that will have an impact on the dancefloor.
What’s the thinking in keeping it vinyl-only? Do you worry that might exclude some people?
At the moment to keep the releases special, it’s important they stay on vinyl for now. Selling records isn’t easy and in order for me to keep pushing the releases and selling copies of each release I feel it’s important to prioritise the physical format. I have plans to move it to digital through Bandcamp soon though, and hopefully that will push the music out to a wider audience.
Out of curiosity, how do you generally approach the music search these days? And can you talk us through some of the last few great records you bought?
I sometimes visit Si at Tribe Records in Leeds. He understands my taste and picks out newer records and reissues that I’d maybe have missed or slept on. Other than that, like many artists these days, I spend a lot of time on Discogs going through older music. I have a real soft spot for the UK sound of the 90s and early 2000s – but also Italian House and Electro. I’m also lucky enough to have some talented friends that share music with me regularly. I recently picked up the reissues of the Primative series that was a tech house label coming out of Swag in London from the late 90s. Timeless stuff. I’ve picked up newer records from Matthias, Taslo Valve, Idris Bena and Man/Ipulate recently though that have been great.
Can you tell us a bit about your favourite records of yours over the years and why you love it so much?
A recent record of mine I’m proud of is my split EP as Kepler and Relpek on Body Movement. I think it represents me as an artist really well and there’s a real variety of influences on there including Italo House, Deep House, Tech House, Breaks and Detroit Electro. One of my other personal highlights is my Contact EP on Constant Sound, with the A1 being one of my favourite productions so far and it had some amazing support.
Ok, one last question… if you were to introduce the sound of Kepler in three tracks, which ones would you choose and why?
My main influences would have to be Deep House, UK 90s Tech House, UK Garage and Electro. I think these tracks highlight what I’m about musically.
Words from nightclubber.ro