Lee Norris has been making music as Metamatics since the 1990s but two decades later his music is firing a new wave of electro
Whisper it quietly: electro is back. Heavily synthesised breakbeat tracks have been standing out in the sets of DJs like Craig Richards, Ben UFO, Midland, Adam Shelton, Midland or Call Super. And not just electro, IDM too, thanks to artists like Aphex Twin and Bjarki. In truth, neither genre every went away. But the tentacles of both have embedded themselves even further into clubs this year. One of the key under-the-radar artists driving the trend is Metamatics.
An alias of UK producer Lee Norris, Metamatics began life in the 1990s, but is having its time in the sun again thanks to various re-discoveries and re-releases. Ricardo Villalobos most notably gave fresh legs to the Metamatics remix of A1's 'Just Do It from 1998 when Fabric posted a recording of Ricardo from the club using the track. It went onto become a sleeper hit popping up on the dancefloors of clubs like Berlin's 'Hopptetosse,' Paris' 'Concrete' or Amsterdam's 'De School.'
Ibiza Voice: tell us the story of Metamatics?
Metamatics: it was a project I started after experimenting for many years with synths and drum machines without any success and then one day everything just clicked. I bought an Atari ST1020 running Cubase and started knocking out Detroit style techno and music I was influenced by at the time by people like B12 and the Black Dog, Speedy J and early Warp records and especially Carl Craig and Model 500. Most of my early records were released on Clear records and Hydrogen Dukebox. At the time there was a bit of a buzz around my music but over the past year it's gone a bit crazy with DJ's playing my stuff thats now 20 years old.
And was this a surprise?
I think so. I still make music, mainly ambient, and I still do Metamatics stuff. I also do my thing as Norken for the housey Detroit crowd that goes down well. It's quite nice now that labels want to repress these old records and enjoy the sound people did not understand back then so I'm proud it's stood the test of time and become timeless.
What part did Ricardo Villalobos have to play in championing your People Do It remix?
I did not not know he played it and I don't know much about him but my girlfriend has seen him many times playing so it's cool he's been playing 'Do It.'I knocked that remix out in a day and at the time nobody cared for it but now it's become quite desirable and people seem to buzz off it.
Music is of course cyclical and trends come and go. Electro is currently undergoing a surge in popularity. Is it weird to be suddenly in a spotlight for a project that you were predominantly working on in the 90s?
Yes it is. I get this feeling that all my electro tracks I have done over the past four years will be in demand in 20 years time. That would be funny!
What do you think of today's current electronic music scene? Is it surprising to see things like vinyl or analogue hardware that were written off by the press in the mid 2000s to be fully back at the heart of music culture?
I really have no idea about the current music scene. I usually buy old German stuff like Conrad Schnitzler. I'm on a mission to complete my Conrad collection.
I always knew that hardware would make a comeback. It's a good job I still have my Atari and AKAI samplers and analog synths which I intend to write some music with next.
How does today compare to the early days of Metamatics? describe electronic music life for you back then?
20 years ago I was a young man so I was always touring, playing live or spinning records all over the world and constantly being interviewed by magazines and then as soon it started it stopped. I didn't want to do it anymore so i stopped doing the live thing and interviews. I always felt uncomfortable with being on stage and doing interviews. I just wanted to make music and I don't think this sort music needs a face behind it. I find all that part of it a load a bollocks.
What else are you working on currently?
I'm working on some new Norken material and have new Norken EP's out on Delsin, Neo Ouija, Third Ear Recordings and some other labels like Assemble Music, Lockertmatik and The Gathering from Berlin with a friend of mine called Nyquist and an EP with Ishq so that will be released under the name 'Norken&Ishq.'
You're a man of many aliases. What links all of these projects together?
Someone told me the other day I have released over 70 albums under different names and I was blown away by it so i had to check and I think it's more near 80! Fuck knows how many EPs, I never counted them. That's just fucking insane. I'm not saying they're all good but it's a lot of work. I love melodies. I love sadness in music as well which is what people like about the Metamatics and Norken sound. It's all about the strings.
Tell us about you..
I'm a born and bred Mancunian although I live in Devon countryside now in a lovely thatched cottage. Music is my full time job so I'm lucky in that respect.
I notice from your Facebook that you're influenced by psychadelia. Tell us about this interest?
Hah that's a good one. Taking acid when I was 16 changed my life and opened up my third eye as well as my third ear. Let's face it, you can't beat being in nature off your face.
Look out for the following new EPs from Lee: Metamatics_EP01 on Neo Ouij, Norken_Southern Soul on Delsin, Metamatics_Neo Ouija on Hydrogen Dukebox