article by: Krista Barry
This fall, the Norwegian DJ Tom Lagergren, better known as Matoma, is taking over North America on his 30 date ‘Party At Your Place Tour.’ Within the last three years, Matoma has gained an impressive following, one that seems to grow as rapidly as his repertoire does. After a long period touring as direct support for The Chainsmokers, Matoma is now headlining his own tour alongside his loyal management team and direct support including Cheat Codes, Steve Void, and Baynk.
Aligning with the instantaneous means of streaming services today, Lagergren decided to release his debut album Hakuna Matoma in a strategically unconventional manner. Starting in late 2015, Matoma began to add a new song to the album every couple of weeks, and as Lagergren revealed to Crave, a new addition will be released to the project at the end of this week. The extending album has found great success among the music bloggers and the mainstream, with songs highlighting pop powerhouse acts such as Astrid S, FRENSHIP, and Becky Hill.
Last night the ‘Party At Your Place Tour’ stopped through Colorado for a completely sold-out show at The Boulder Theater. Before his set, Crave the Sound had the opportunity to sit down with Lagergren and discuss his definition of tropical house, the tour, and Matoma’s journey to success.
You’ve performed in Colorado a few times now, including shows at The Fox, The Gothic, Mishawaka, and The Fillmore. What about Colorado strikes you when you visit?
It reminds me of Norway. The atmosphere, the smell, the fresh air. For me, it’s actually like being at home. So today, I actually said to (my tour manager) Stian that I could move here, because the town (Boulder) is so nice.
I really love your new album Hakuna Matoma and the format that you decided to release it in. What inspired you to release a song every couple of weeks as opposed to the traditional album drop?
The past two years I needed to gain followers, and it was a way to attract the blogs and get a subscribing fanbase. So to do that, I had to make a lot of music and release it. In one year I released 36 songs. When I signed with the label I wanted to have the opportunity and the diversity to just release music when I feel for it. For example, I have a record that is very special – “Paradise” is a song that I made with Sean Paul. We wrote and recorded it in one day, two weeks away from Coachella, and we just felt that it was a Coachella song. So we made a moment out of it, and we released it the same day as we performed it. And it wouldn’t have been possible if we didn’t have the album released the way we do.
It seems like you’re constantly touring. What’s that like?
My tour schedule is crazy, and this is just the beginning. Last year was even crazier. Last year me and Stion – Stion has been with me since day one, he’s my tour manager and best friend –
we had over 300 travel dates. But now I’ve got myself a girlfriend, so I need to keep her happy too, and I need to find a balance in life. I’ve been wanting to do this (tour) for many years, but I also want to have a personal life and a family life, so to find the balance of everything is important. But I also have the best management and the best agents that truly understands it, and they try to schedule everything to work with both my family life and touring.
How do you have time to write songs on tour?
I just need to find inspiration where I can. Sometimes it’s tough, because I’m used to the nature back in Norway, and I’m used to my spot where I have the most beautiful view Trondheim city with the Fjords. I’ve been living there for five years, so I miss the late nights there with my coffee cup, just sitting there and producing. But you manage to find inspiration as long as you focus on the project.
What have you been listening to listening to lately?
Everything. I really like Norweigan folk music. I’ve been listening to Kristian Kristensen, have you heard of him?
*precedes to play us a clip of Kristensen's powerful song “Du Som Snakke” on the tour bus speakers*
How long do work on a song?
It depends. Like one song I’ve been working on for a half year. And then the song I’m releasing this week I did in one day. Then it took me three days to get it finished with mixing and mastering. I do my mixes and mastering myself. I don’t like other people touching my work, because they don’t have the same visions as me. Of course, if I didn’t know how to mix and master I’d have to send it out. It’s like the final step of the song where you mix every element and get the right dynamics and the right holistic, sound but you also get every element. I also prepare it for radio. Yeah, I do everything myself. I’ve done that since day one.
Did you have any inspirations when you first started producing?
Not really. I was really into old school hip-hop and pop. So in the beginning, I mostly made urban stuff, but then when I started at the university I got more into house music, because I applied for a residency at the student community as a DJ there every Friday and Saturday. Then I started listening to more commercial electronic music, and I started producing and it sounded like shit, and I did that for three years until I found my sound.
I’ve always been very critical about my own music. I never released anything until it was at the same standard quality as the stuff you listen to on Spotify, and I also wanted it to sound better. In that period of time, SoundCloud was so occupied by all these remixes sounding like shit. One thing that I think really made my music stand out was because it sounded like it was album material. When the label hit me up to sign Old Thing Back as an official single, I asked for a proper acapella but they couldn’t find it in their archives so I used a shitty mp3 and I spent 2 weeks just cleaning the vocals just to make it sound right.
I read an article where they throned you as the next king of tropical house. How do you feel about that?
Of course I’m honored to be put in that genre, and I’m honored to be one of the founders of that genre, but I also feel that my music is so much more. A lot of music is inspired by tropical music, but it’s not necessarily tropical house. It’s easy for people to put songs that sound tropical in that box and call it tropical house. But when people address “Old Thing Back” as a tropical house song, I feel that it’s more inspired by hip-hop and new disco. But you still have the tropical elements such as saxophone, bongos, and plug sounds, so then it’s easy for people to say “oh that’s a typical tropical house song.”
I feel like EDM music today is very tropical inspired, and also the standard of pop music if you look at the top songs on the radio right now, it’s mostly electronic based music and it’s been that for like the last 5 years. David Guetta, Sia, Calvin Harris, Diplo, Major Lazer all are inspired by tropical house or reggae music. When I was in the studio with Sean Paul, we discussed dance hall music, and how dance hall is very tropical and reggae inspired, but no one is mentioning that. It’s like people don’t really know the different genres.