Richie Matembo draws influence from exploring identity, engulfing listeners in a universe of delicate textures and intimate narratives. The writer, vocalist and producer releases music projects as MTMBO – creating from a melting pot of influences steeped in his Zambian roots and London upbringing. MTMBO fuses Matembo’s neo-soul roots with sparse beats and ambient sensibilities to create projects that take concepts through a carefully crafted web of sonic and visual experimentation.
1: Energy never dies.
2: I’m learning Spanish, slowly.
3: Here for now, but not for long.
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
Definitely storytelling. I think sharing stories is such a big part of who we are as humans. Working with sound is just the method that eventually came most naturally to me, but we’re all storytellers. At the very least we all have a story to tell and our ability to do that in so many ways is unique to us and that is very special to me and my process.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
I’m sure it was around 2014. A friend and I took a trip to Prague and one night while relaxing in our hotel room, he takes his iPad out of his bag and casually starts making music on GarageBand while walking around the room, almost as if it were an afterthought. Before this, I literally thought you needed a professional studio and years of training to do what he was doing.
So I got home that week, discovered Garageband came pre-installed on my laptop and that was it. I remember never really feeling like I ever had a moment where anything clicked. I just kept coming back to it every night and I haven’t been able to stop since.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
This list is completely different every day of the year, today it is:
Metronomy – The English Riviera
Radiohead – In Rainbows
Jamie Woon – Mirrorwriting
Whitest Boy Alive – Rules
Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
I’ve only visited twice and both times it was never long enough to get a true sense of what it must actually be like to live there. But the first thing I think of when someone says Berlin is that it’s a nice place to be when the weather is warm and people want to sit outside.
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
It’s a small, quiet park next to my house that sits on a hill with a magnificent view of London. Turn around and on the other side of a gravel path there are stables with horses, donkeys and the most beautiful old tree that stands alone in an empty field towering above the animals when they’re out during the day. I take everyone that comes over to this place whether they want to go or not. I think it’s quite something.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
The answer to this changes daily too. Today, I think I’d be in Archeology. A part of it that marries using my hands and exploring the stories behind things. It’s always fascinated me that our civilization is a flash in a timeline that has run for so long, and the story still has millions of years to run whether our species is in it or not.
My thing is our story goes so deep into history and if you acknowledge that for a moment and just look up it’s so cool the signs are all around you. A typical daydream for me is: Here we all are. Currently at the tip of this endless list of variables that could have tumbled one way or another. Depending on how things happened to go on one particular day in the past, on a day that probably felt as normal as today does – something you know to be true now could be or would not be. If there’s something I can do exploring all that in some way, I’d imagine that’s where you would find me spending my time.
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
Haich Bar Na put out a lovely EP called ‘From Then ‘Til Now’, I just bought that on Bandcamp so I can take it around with me on my old iPod. I like how smart my phone is but the illusion of infinite possibilities can be crippling sometimes. Using an iPod satisfies that feeling I miss of being in a car, flipping between the same three CD’s for a year and falling deeply in love with everything.
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Parker Heyl. He builds and designs things, I’m not quite sure exactly what he does, to be honest. I found his work online and I’d love to work with him on a set for a show or some kind of immersive experience that involves bringing visual, sound, and people together. There is a purity to the way he puts things together because nothing about the way it’s made is hidden. Other times the one thing about it that is hidden is the genius behind why it makes you feel something every time.
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
Last year I played a show that two or three people turned up to and I’m sure two of them worked at the venue so stuck around either out of kindness or to lock up after I was done. I remember it all so well. The intimacy between us all was electrifying, the gaps between phrases and sounds felt so charged. It’s the most transcendent I’ve felt while performing live so far.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
The technology of the era I’m living through is to thank for the reason I’m at all interested in music as much as I am. It makes chasing my curiosity easy and brings all these tools and resources from the past into the present. It’s turned strangers into collaborators and dear friends. It’s brought ideas into reality in ways better than I imagined. The more I lean on technology, the more confidence it’s given me to do it over and over again.
11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
Two older brothers and a younger sister. It’s a nice feeling to hold their kind words of support every now and then. A part of me does wonder what it would be like to have a private hobby that I put this much time into though!
Photo © Elena Cremona