Eoghan Scott chats to Julio Bashmore (Matt Walker) who hits The Academy in Dublin this November.
Producer Matt Walker, better known by his stage name of Julio Bashmore, got his start in Bristol’s dubstep scene. However, in the four years since his breakout single The Battle for Middle You, he has since migrated over to the burgeoning UK House scene, where over the past few years he appears to have found his true voice as a producer.
“It’s a funny one, what with the big dubstep scene in Bristol, ‘cos [sic] I always wanted to DJ but I ended up playing dubstep nights which I kinda just had to deal with. I was making music that could go between house music and dubstep… I’d go on after a dubstep DJ at like 140bpm, I’d have like 20/25 minutes to get it back down to 115bpm so that I could play Motor City Drum Ensemble or something…and then I’d have the next half-hour to bring it back up again for the next dubstep DJ. So from day one, all I really wanted to do was play House music.”
Despite not having a major presence on social media, he is well aware of the profound effect it has had on the industry, and the benefits he and his peers have likely reaped from it, which they may not have been afforded ten or twenty years ago.
“I’ve got a minimal approach to social media, I’m useless at it. There can be good and bad sides to it… but ultimately, I think it has had a huge part in things, just ‘cos it’s how it works now. For me, it’s definitely been a huge help, especially in the habitual stages, ‘cos it allows so many of us young producers to send each other beats, like instantaneously, and that was a huge thing, it’s how we all got going back in 2009. You basically make a scene out of nothing, you know? And I don’t think that would be possible without social media.”
Having grown up in Bristol during a period when bands like Massive Attack were taking over the music scene, one would expect Walker to have been aware of what was going on at the time, or to have been somewhat influenced by the music surrounding him; not so, he contends.
“When it comes to local goings-on, I’ve always kinda had my head in the sand a bit. When people think of Bristol, and that amazing diverse music scene, they’re not talking about where I’m from; I’m from an area called Knowles – a predominantly white, working-class area. My brothers and I, we were always a bit detached from that whole scene. It’s how my brother got into US House and all that stuff. It’s all just ‘cos my Dad would play Michael Jackson around the house, I suppose it was a natural evolution from that…”
Despite what his current output might suggest, Walker’s early influences are far from obvious: “The Doobie Brother’s, stuff like that… MJ obviously; Michael Jackson’s Bad album is probably one of the greatest influences on me if I’m honest. Full stop.”
From the likes of J’Danna, Seven Davis Jr. and BIXBY (all of whom feature on his recently-released album, Knockin’ Boots), Walker has made a habit of finding lesser-known, underground artists to collaborate with in his work.
“I find a lot of new stuff online. So for example, with J’Danna, I saw that video the Gilles Petersen Worldwide guys put up of her covering a Gil-Scott Heron track and it completely blew my mind. So I just said yeah, I want to work with her. I got in touch, reached out to her and it was great.”
He also praises Jessie Ware, whom he produced on her track ‘Share It All’. “She’s great, man. We’ve been working together for like 5 years now, and yeah it’s been amazing – watching where she’s gone with stuff and the success she’s had. It’s beautiful, it’s great to see and she’s also just a really good pal. I think we’re gonna keep working together and see where it all goes; she’s great to work with.”
Many readers might perhaps associate the name Julio Bashmore with fellow house artists Disclosure, although Walker is quick to point out that they have never in fact actually worked together. However, he laughs at the confusion caused.
“Yeah I did do a remix of their track Holding On. There was a lot of confusion ‘cos we’d both put out tracks with that same name at the same time, and I just added to the confusion when I was like ‘yeah, I’ll remix it!’ I really like the vocals on that track, and Gregory Porter is amazing, so it was great they allowed me the opportunity to do that really, it was very nice. “
For his own version of Holding On, he worked with the Chicago-based hip-hop singer-songwriter Sam Dew, whom he credits for helping the song come to life. He went on to explain how this collaboration came about.
“Basically, we’d written a track with Jessie Ware for her album Keep On Lyin’, and he’s a real songwriter. So I was a little bit skeptical to be honest, but a) he’s like the nicest dude ever, so chill, so relaxed and b) he’s like…I dunno, it was like the way I can pick apart a snare drum, he can pick apart a vocal, like a harmony and he’ll just know what sounds good. It blew my mind, his skill – next level stuff. I had the beat for Holding On for a while, and then he came up with the hook, all that, and yeah he killed it. I’d be excited to do more stuff with him, 100%.”
Matt Walker was first signed to Claude VonStroke’s Dirtybird label back in 2009. Back then, he had no idea of what was to come.
“That was insane. Basically, a week before I heard that they wanted to sign me, I said to my brother that my five-year plan was to go to University, learn how to produce and maybe spend the next few years after that trying to get signed to Dirtybird. A week later, they got in touch wanting to sign me – it was amazing.”
It was clear to him that with all the time he had put into his music, he needed something to show for it, to prove his doubters wrong.
“Well people aren’t sure what it is you’re doing when you’re locked in your bedroom all day making music. They say ‘Does he have a problem?’; and ‘cos you spend so long at it, even you begin to think yourself ‘uhh…. it’s been a couple of days now… I haven’t seen much daylight.’ Getting signed to Dirtybird kind of affirmed that I was doing the right thing, which was great.”
Knockin’ Boots, his first full-length LP, is Walker’s first release on his own label, Broadwalk Records, and he claims to have felt less pressure than ever putting music out on his own label.
“I feel like it’s less pressure than if it were signed to a massive label. If that were the case, I’d kinda freak out a little bit; but this has actually been great, it feels really… it gives you the control to do it your own way. It’s just me dealing with me, with no interference.”
Having released a plethora of non-album tracks in the years before the release of Knockin’ Boots, one might imagine it would be simple for Walker to just put out the record loaded with previously released music. He explains that he’d rather not do things this way, however. “It’s pretty much all fresh. Once I’ve done something, it’s done. I don’t like doing the same thing twice; so I imagine, if I do another album, it’ll be very different to this one.”
Performing at The Academy in Dublin this November, Walker has much praise for the Irish audience. “It’s always been so consistent in Dublin ,” he says, “It’s up there with the very best parties.”
Yet not everything about the Irish music scene has been rosy for the Bristol-born artist. “The crowds have always been good. Except one guy. I think my first gig in Dublin, someone stole my hat; but since then, it’s been great. And that was a pretty good party to be honest.”
Potential hat-thieves aside, he looks forward to playing to his Irish fan-base in November.