Matthew O'Connor grew into playing synths/keyboards/samplers in groups among the eclectic and vibrant Bristol music scene and with a passion for classical piano he has morphed himself into the artist known as Phonseca.

Phonseca, amongst other things, has been busy composing for library music companies and his music has been recently showcased on prime-time TV shows such as The One Show and Benidorm ER. This taste and knowledge for film scores and soundtracks of all genres has Phonseca releasing his debut, having his earlier single 'I See Stars', from 'The Afterglow' EP, played on Gideon Coe's BBC 6Music show.

His debut album 'Between A Dream' was released in February this year and features a Robin Rimbaud (Scanner.com) remix of the same track. With three other tracks having vocals by Kristina Sheppard it has become a major contender for my album of the year already.

The lead track from the album is the euphoric 'Maybe Tomorrow' which features lead bass by Robin Hawkins, formerly of The Automatic. 'Between A Dream' was partly recorded at Invada Studios, engineered by Stu Matthews and mastered at Optimum.

We managed to pin Matthew O'Connor down and ask him a few questions.

PB: After playing synths in bands around Bristol’s eclectic music scene, with styles as diverse as rock, Britpop, shoegaze, psych and house, what made you go in the synth direction?

MOC: It’s the instrument I find the most interesting. You can do so much with it. Also the time had come to spend less time in rehearsal rooms with bands and focus on my own thing.

PB: How do you get your music down on tape? Do you have an idea first and keep at it until it becomes a reality or is it a little more complex than that?

MOC: I tend to work on three new tracks at the same time and if I hit a block on one I’ll immediately switch and work on the other two so I don’t lose momentum - or as soon as one is finished I’ll start a new one. Sometimes they come about as you’ve just mentioned, but new pieces can come from all sorts of starting points: a beat, a particular synth pad, a chord progression, a bass line, anything really.

PB: How does someone like Mathew O'Connor get his music aired in Poland and Romania?

MOC: Most of these were my library music compositions which is global so they could potentially pop up anywhere in the world. It’s a field I’m very interested in and i enjoy working to briefs as it can really focus my writing process.

PB: How did the collaboration with Robin Hawkins come about?

MOC: I knew Robin already and knew he played bass so when I needed bass on 'Maybe Tomorrow' Robin was the obvious choice. I’m so pleased he did it and it’s great playing too.

PB: Same for Kristina Sheppard - how did that transpire?

MOC: I had a very clear idea of the type of vocalist I needed. I already knew a lot of singers but I didn’t feel their voices were completely suitable and I wanted to use someone who I’d never worked with before. Then Kristina came literally out of nowhere, singing at a wedding fair I was at, and I knew instantly she was suitable for lots of reasons.

PB: When you could have picked virtually any track from any album why did you decide to record a version of 'Bizarre Love Triangle'?

MOC: I only like covers when they’re quite different to the original otherwise I don’t see the point. I chose 'Bizarre Love Triangle' because I was intending to do a piano/vocal version of it. Then it changed to a very minimal ambient version which developed again to what it is today, somewhere between Eno and The Pet Shop Boys!

PB: How does it make you feel when you hear you get comparisons with artists such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Joy Division, The Pet Shop Boys and Jon Hopkins?

MOC: It’s incredible to be compared to any one of those, let alone all of them. They’ve all definitely influenced this album so it’s justified and I love their work. I like the mix of 'I See Stars'.

PB: It is an unbelievable track. How did you approach Robin Rimbaud to do the remix?

MOC: I know it’s an amazing remix, he really did a great job. I emailed him and asked him to do it, basically, and amazingly he agreed. I saw his show with The Heritage Orchestra, re-working Joy Division, which was incredible and barely recognisable from the original tracks and I made a mental note at the time thinking this would be a great person to do a remix. Such a nice person too, we finally met at his Mass Observation show at the Pompidou Centre in Paris which was great.

PB: Will you be taking Phonseca on tour?

MOC: I’m just taking it a gig at a time at the moment. If anybody wants Phonseca as a support on their tour just get in touch!

PB: I know you are classically trained. Who did you listen to when you were young and who were your favourites back then?

MOC: I’m not one of these classical pianists who started young. I've always loved music and played a little bass and guitar from about 13, but nothing serious till about 17, and then switched quickly to synths and keyboards. I then took piano lessons as an adult at about 22 and got into classical music then. But yes as a kid it was pop music first then classical much later.

PB: Can we expect a follow up to this at some stage in the future, please?

MOC: Absolutely, it’s already about half-written but I couldn’t say when it will be finished. It will be quite different, though - I’m not interested in repeating anything and I like to keep moving forward.

PB: Is there any other material we have heard on TV that is yours?

MOC: Nothing major, I think the biggest one was on The One Show and there have been a few BBC and Channel 5 programmes. I’m looking to do more of that and more film work , also installations and theatre too. Anything that uses music and sound, basically, I’m interested in. That’s partly the appeal of music for me, that there are endless possibilities.

PB: Thank you.


Photos by Sarah Davis











Related Links:

https://twitter.com/mocphonseca
https://www.facebook.com/pg/mocphonseca


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