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Matthew Garrison is a bassist based in New York City where he is the co-owner and creative director of ShapeShifter Lab, a gallery and performance space. He has performed and recorded with Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, John McLaughlin and others, and has released several solo recordings wherein he explores the furthest reaches of bass, electronics, and spacialized sound.  We caught up with Matt to talk about his ideas on music, his performance space and coding new vehicles for creative performance.

For starters, can you tell us who you are and a bit about what you do?
I am primarily a bass guitarist, but I also like to consider myself an artistic and social architect of sorts in my own little world. I’m thoroughly interested in how human beings relate to creative forms of expression and how that strata of abstract information affects their lives. I feel music is at the core of our collective creative consciousness in particular, and I’ve dedicated my life to examining and understanding that dynamic.

Being both an in-demand sideman and an accomplished solo artist, do you find you approach those roles differently?
At the core of both directions I always maintain the basic principle that I must serve the mission of the music first and secondly I upgrade or downgrade the degree of skill necessary for the tasks at hand.

Can you give us a rundown of your rig?
My current rig is:
Laptop Macbook Pro with a swapped out SSD drive. 8GB ram.
RME Fireface 400 which I’ll replace shortly with a Keith McMillen KMix
A Keith McMillen 12 step which gives me access to Ableton plugins, specifically their reverbs, delays, chorus, and their looper.
Ableton Live 9 which I use to trigger samples, play virtual synths (Omnisphere, Absynth, Reaktor) as well as just the principal
software for all routing options in and out of my laptop.
20 year old Rat distortion pedal.

Do you find you create music differently in a surround-sound environment?
Absolutely! The whole notion of how to interpret where instrumentation can appear in a spatial aspect is up for personal interpretation. I tend to use surround sound in more experimental sonic explorations versus the positioning of specific instrumentation. Long reverbs, delays that fully bounce around the listener, sound generators. I like to think of a surround environment as a wide open canvas where I can paint with sonic frequencies

Tell us a bit about your multi-use performance space Shapeshifter Lab. How did it come about?
I grew up in SOHO, NY in the 70’s in the midst of a specific movement by artists that was called the “Loft Scene”. We had a loft. We were part of the scene. I have vivid memories of some of the most far reaching experimentations with music of all genres (but specifically avant-garde improvisational forms), modern dance choreography, laser shows, painting exhibits, scenery construction, etc. You name it, it happened in the home where I lived.

ShapeShifter Lab is essentially an extension of what I experienced as a child. It’s been a long time dream of mine to recreate an environment in NY where anything and everything on the front of artistic expression is a key goal. We’re helping redefine the importance of arts and culture in this city and I couldn’t be more exhilarated observing the results of our team’s efforts and the hard work of the artists involved.

Given your experience livestreaming workshops and performances from the space, what are some of the assets and drawbacks to teleperformance?
I think time zones are one issue. The other is the expectation that we can run our streams as companies like CNN can do. The technology is there but the fact that we have to rely on private internet providers has left us in untenable positions at times, where the networks don’t deliver their full capabilities. Drop outs, hold ups, having to contact customer service that is not accessible in the midst of performances to resolve issues, etc. This has made our streams a little unpredictable in nature, and definitely beyond our control. The upside of course is when things go right, the experience is thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated by all customers who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to see a performance unfold live.

What’s been inspiring you lately?
Coding in Objective-C. I finally decided to not just be an observer and user of software tech. I want to actively participate in the creation of software that can expand our collective knowledge.

What’s next?
The results of some serious coding studies. I’ve been working on a few apps (desktop & mobile) that will first serve our internal business workflow, then of course another few apps that will help me release new music projects and educational materials in exactly the manner that I’ve been thinking of for years. I’ll leave it a surprise how exactly it works, but it’ll definitely blow some minds. It certainly flips out all of the musicians that recorded on this specific current recording project. The future looks bright!

Thanks for your time, Matt!


Here’s a video of Matt playing a solo set at ShapeShifter Lab: