Matt Tolfrey & jozif Discuss Their Kerb Staller Project

Matt Tolfrey’s fabric 81 mix might be dropping a little later this month, but at the launch party next weekend, it won’t just be about his own skill behind the platters: it’s also the live debut for his and jozif’s collaborative project, Kerb Staller. Something that’s been on the cards for a while, the project has started to come to fruition proper over the last few months.

Matt’s own productions, as well as his Leftroom label’s output and his sets, are primed for the dancefloor, but they often come with a twisted sensibility that makes it it’s easy to see why he’s had such a strong relationship with the club over the last ten years. jozif, meanwhile, has built up a similar relationship, including working alongside Craig Richards on their shared Fist or Finger imprint. jozif’s background as a pianist often comes through in his tracks, which develop with sensitivity and delicateness. Of course, both of them are seasoned jocks with many hours experience working up a crowd between them but Safety Instructions, their first Kerb Staller release that dropped late last year, hinted at a more upfront, acidic sound than either of them typically display on their own.

With the debut of such a new project looming, we thought it’d be appropriate to get stuck into the mechanics of how it all works, both in the studio and on stage. So, catching up with the pair we talked about their kit and working methods, and found out how the contrast between their styles is making for a healthy and fruitful collaboration. Oh… and we also have the privilege of streaming ‘Slow,’ an exclusive new Kerb Staller track... .

What are the origins of the Kerb Staller project? I hear you had been talking about a collaboration even since before you moved to your shared studio space in Hackney?

Kerb Staller: Yes, we'd been talking about it for a while, but it all came together when we moved in to our studio space. I don't think either of us really imagined it would be as productive as quickly as it has be though to be honest. We got lots of material done quite quickly.

How would you describe the direction and feel of the project and the music? Is there any kind of emerging concept or aesthetic? How has this followed on from the way the project formed do you feel it has followed on naturally from how you know each other and the way it has all come together, in some way?

The music definitely has an aesthetic as there are actually three of who contribute musically, us two and our vocalist, Duncan. It’s safe to say that recently our music has been evolving and developing as we get more and more in tune with each other in the studio. We've been starting a lot of sketches and ideas separately and then coming together and re-imagining them. Sometimes we can some good really good stuff out of it, but sometimes it's just a really good starting point.

Technically, I guess a good place to start is to ask what the setup of the studio is like: does it have a DAW at the centre or is it hardware-centric? What are the key bits of kit and who owns what?

We have Logic and Ableton as our DAW in the centre with all the drum machines (909, 707, etc) and synths recording in through our TAL valve desk. We've been having some really good late night jam sessions recently where one of us will man the machines and the other will be at the desk - loads of fun!

How would you describe the way of working in the studio? Jozif, your music tends to have strong melodic, classical tendencies, while Matt, yours is more techy and has more of a late hours vibe. Do you feel you each bring anything specific to the table when youre working together, musically speaking?

It's actually been a really good combination because we both bring completely different aspects to the projects. Matt is really good at stripping everything back and keeping an eye on the dancefloor, whereas jozif leans towards the synths and the melodic side. That coupled with our vocalist makes a mean team!

How would you describe the process of working while in the studio? Is there a division of labour, i.e. does one person use certain bits of kit, provide certain skills or work on certain parts? Or is it more fluid than that?

As mentioned earlier, we don't really have a set way, which we both prefer. One time we'll work one way, another time it'll be another way, it keeps things interesting…

"...we realised that as we're such a new act, and people won't be expecting to hear certain tracks of ours, then there is no preconception from the crowd."

How different is that to the way you work together? What have you learnt from working with each other?

jozif had to learn to be a lot more patient! I can sit and edit a piece of audio for hours where as jozif is super impatient and always wants to move onto the next thing. We've therefore learnt to keep things a lot more simple - layering too many sounds throughout the record can often make things sound messy.

Onto your live set. Why did you decide to do a live set?

Right from the offset, we wanted it to be a live project, two men in the engine room with one out front.

Can you give us an overview, in terms of the technical setup, and what you each do on stage?

It's gonna be quite simple to start with as it's the debut and it's only two of us. We're still working towards the full live show. This will be two laptops, a synth, a drum machine and effects. We want to make sure that the show is as good as it can be before adding extra elements and we'll also be playing some edits we've done, as well as our original material.

What does it share with your work in the studio, and what's different?

It's a very collaborative show, we're both gonna playing material back and forth whilst free styling in between.

And what’s it going to sound like? Is it about straight-up floor slaying, or maybe something else?

You'll have to come see the show!

How do you feel your experience as DJs has fed into and influenced the live set?

We actually tried to not look at it as DJs, which is pretty hard work. We've programmed the show in such a way that we made sure we allowed every other record to breath and talk for itself.

Did you intentionally develop it in some way, or did it just come naturally out of the way you work together in the studio?

Everything comes naturally with us, we never plan anything! It's the only way for it to feel organic and natural.

What part does improvisation play, and what parts are pre-determined or pre-programmed? Any reasoning behind this?

We've set out the basic set list and are gonna work around that, working off the crowd and how we're feeling. We have so much material, there's so much to play with. And weirdly we realised that as we're such a new act, and people won't be expecting to hear certain tracks of ours, then there is no preconception from the crowd. They are going to be hearing everything with fresh ears.

Peak time at fabric is quite a place to start. How are you feeling about the prospect?

We love this club! It is practically our second home, so we can't wait. We were never going to debut the live show anywhere else - we don't think Judy would have let us! Coupled with the fact it's fabric 81 release night, it's gonna be a special one!


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