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Daudi Matsiko Talks Underwater Gigs at The Red Bull Music Academy

3 July 17 interview: Sam Nahirny

With his beautifully honest songwriting, Daudi Matsiko has carved a name for himself as one of Nottingham’s standout musicians. The last twelve months have been huge for him: signing to the legendary Naim Records, touring with Keaton Henson, and gaining a spot in the Red Bull Music Academy’s training camp for musicians. We spoke with Daudi about these life-changing experiences, plus his love of a good firehose shower...

photo: Tom Morley

The past twelve months must have been crazy...
Yeah, The Red Bull Academy last year, the Keaton Henson shows – especially the Palladium in London – the GoGo Penguin tour, and then getting signed to Naim Records. And all my gigs; they’ve been crazy. From November 2015 to February 2016 I was touring, but hadn’t played any big capacity venues. The last show on the Portico tour was around a 500-cap venue, and then the GoGo Penguin tour was two weeks of that level of venue. That was mental, and I was fine with it; I did plenty of meditations, I lost some weight. I tried to get on top of life a bit, if you get me.

I’d never been on tour properly before, then I was crashing on sofas and showering in the venues. I tell you what, one of the best showers I ever had was in Manchester in a place called Band on the Wall. I was feeling so horrible, it was two thirds into the tour. The shower was this massive room and it was like a firehose. It was great. What can I say? Fresh and clean.

Were there any proper standout moments?
There were four gigs on the GoGo Penguin tour that were full-on mental. One of them was really hard, and the rest were fine. The first one was London Koko. I got on stage and everyone was quiet; that was ridiculous. I was so grateful for that. Especially as I’d experienced the other extreme on one of the other shows. Playing Amsterdam last year was incredible. The first gig was to 2,500 people, sold out. Those theatre shows were pin-drop quiet. There’s no way to feel other than, like, imposter syndrome.

How does it feel to have built a dedicated fanbase?
People are really nice. And they say beautiful things. You don’t wanna internalise it too much cos you can get bigheaded really easy. I’ve had a few messages and they’ll say something really heavy like “Your music saved me”, which is just incredible. I didn’t think I’d ever have people interested enough to be fans. I suppose you could ask me how I feel about Mogwai or Ryan Adams, and I’d be the same. If I ever saw Ryan Adams in the street, I’d get a restraining order.

Your two EPs are being reissued, on beautiful vinyl nonetheless. What’s next musically?
I just started working on an album. It’s taken me a while to get out from under the last two EPs. I’ve been working on these songs for ages, and they’re with a clear intention now. There’s only eight songs of mine out there right now. I’ve been taking my time with the music I’m releasing cos I write loads of songs, but I don’t think they’re releasable.

I’m really bad at finishing songs. I bought a new Shure microphone last year; there are over 400 recordings on it, and that’s not counting all my voice memos and voice notes. I’m like a musical hoarder. It’s challenging cos you’ve got no idea what’s vibey and what’s not. It’s kind of why I’m so happy with the last two EPs; it’s not just one thing. People don’t know how to classify it sometimes.

How would you describe your musical genre?
Genres are important, but I fit into the “I’m a guy that owns an acoustic guitar and does nice things with it” box. I often ask “How do you protect your creativity? How do you take it spiritually?” It sounds weird to say out loud, but you don’t wanna dishonour the process. You may want to write the song quickly, but you’ve got to ask what made you want to do it in the first place. It’s easy to commercialise your songwriting on a massive scale. It requires a lot of nurturing and self-awareness.

How does it feel to know your music has been listened to all around the world?
Mad. The first two records were recorded by me and my mates in a one-bed flat in Brighton, and it’s been listened to all over the world. That’s crazy. Gilles Peterson played Houston in the Blind, and people from South Africa were messaging me about it. My family’s from Uganda, and I go over there a lot, but to have people who aren’t relatives connecting to my music, that’s crazy.

How was the Red Bull Music Academy experience?
Crazy. The best way I can describe that was like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for musicians and people who like music. Two weeks of mad loveliness. It’s so far out of my normal existence. I teach guitar at primary and secondary school and, because I’m self employed, I was able to just get up and go. I arrived, and it turned out Narnia was real; there was this gig in a swimming pool where they hooked up a sound system so you could hear the music underwater. There aren’t many places you can experience that.

The studio was open 24/7 so you could go in whenever you wanted to record. We had two lectures a day and a gig every night. The whole time you’re there, you’re making music in these custom studios, then you’ve got all the people that work there who have crazy insights to share. I used to watch the RBMA lectures online, so it was incredible to see what actually happens.

What Nottingham musicians are you feeling at the minute?
My top homies are Keto and Shelter Point. I’ve been spending some time with Rob from D.I.D, too. Eyre Llew and Kagoule are incredible. Big up to Yazmin Lacey and her band, they’re all absolute dons. There’s a value in supporting your scene, and Notts is great for that.

Daudi Matsiko’s double EP reissue An Introduction to Failure is out on Naim Records now.

Daudi Matsiko on Soundcloud

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