Matt Thomas, aka Rushmore, is a multi-tasker by default. His club nights, record label, clothing line and productions have been celebrated both locally and internationally. Over the past decade he’s thrived off a fast-paced, multidisciplinary approach to London club culture. But everyone needs to take a step back at some point. On a 2014 trip to Tokyo he found himself with an unusually generous amount of spare time, during which he drafted the framework for his debut album, Ours After. Both organic and raw but purposeful and composed, it’s a stimulating listen, aimed less at the dancefloor and more for after-hours. We spoke to him ahead of release this Friday to talk unplugging from the daily grind, and finding inspiration in unlikely places.
Raised as a Catholic, his family holidays often involved visits to religious sites, during which he and his brothers were taught to absorb the locality in a way that other families might avoid: “It’s an ingrained thing through my family, partly because of the religious thing”, he says. Employing this inclination to take a step back and observe, he found Tokyo a surprisingly tranquil place. “Mainly due to the people and the way they carry themselves; they’re more introverted in some ways”, he adds. This notion of inner strength over outward aggression is a recurring theme on the record. When discussing the influence of Japan, he jokes how the melodic jingles he heard entering a local supermarket had the strongest imprint on his musical sensibilities, as they “just created such a nice atmosphere.” This tendency to draw inspiration from a fusion of disparate places is an asset to his own constructions, which merge styles as contrasting as G-Funk and grime. The collaborations on the album were approached in a similarly unregimented fashion. None of the vocals were recorded in a professional setting, with one – ‘Izakaya Trance’ – using just iPhone recordings on a single take. A nightmare for some producers, Rushmore was happy to avoid technical perfection and spoke fondly of nuances in the sound: “It adds to the character, not being too polished.”
Purism is a word that keeps recurring throughout our discussion. A key interest of Thomas’ is the exchange between DJ and dancer, whether it’s “at your local Tiger Tiger on a Friday night”, or during one of his own sets. “You always have a concentrated dialogue, it just varies in intensity, and that kind of relationship has always inspired me”, he says. On the more purist end of the scale, he argues, are scenes like ballroom and footwork where dancers and DJs explicitly express their opinions to one another, “but that conversation always exists”, he says, regardless of how much significance is attributed to it.
We end our chat on the inevitable topic of London nightlife and the challenges facing a younger generation. On the question of whether there is enough exposure for lesser-known scenes, he’s hopeful that we’ve reached a point of sustainability, but emphasises the importance of integrity and patience: “You only get a second layer of growth when some time has passed, and it’s important that both generations stay focussed”. He also advocates the need to support other scenes whilst they are still emerging: “The way people are made to think is quite cynical, it’s like you can’t appreciate something whilst it’s happening”.
The breadth of Thomas’ influences add a distinct character to his work, whilst his experience as a producer allows him to convey an amalgam of styles with remarkable clarity – amounting to an exciting and strikingly original debut LP.
Ours After is out July 29 on Trax Couture. Grab a copy here.
Rushmore plays 3’Hi at London’s Ace Hotel alongside Jammer and IG Culture, July 31. More info here.
Words: Adam Sinclaire