Matthew McQueen is running a little late.
“I was outside finishing breakfast,” he explains. After all, the 30-year-old producer and Leaving Records boss is a busy man, and the least he deserves is 15 minutes for food.
Even though the everyday and ordinary may not be the first things that come to mind when one thinks of McQueen’s mixed-up, kaleidoscopic musical persona, he has a strict daily routine that he fits in between his collaboration work with Stones Throw and watching episodes of Star Trek with his family. I’m just thankful he was able to budget time to talk to me; mild tardiness is not a concern.
“I’m not saying I’m some vast, all-encompassing artist,” he demurs. “And besides, a lot of people don’t think that’s a good thing. You know, a lack of discipline. But I think it’s fun and I think it’s interesting when people start to question what they’re listening to.”
His latest foray into head-scratching music, aptly titled In My World, is a masterful ode to his new role as a father, husband, and lover. Finished when his daughter Love was born last December, McQueen dedicated it not only to her, but to the entire concept surrounding her birth name. Tied together to form a narrative statement, it’s an intense, incredibly lush album that reflects the heightened state of emotions he was undoubtedly going through at the time of her birth. “I was going through an important shift, a paradigm shift,” he says. “Life, the birthing of the first child, deciding to get married…it was a time of heightened sensitivity.”
The record is definitely a reflection of that hyper-aware, exploratory state of mind. While he was already known for his signature genre non-specific style, McQueen wanted to go in a completely different direction for this album, which is a flamboyant, androgynous, and glamorous take on slow burners. It feels completely different from the ambient interlude-loving noise of 2011’s Outmind.
“I made the decision not to start different aliases or monikers for when I was ready to explore,” he explains. “It’s all coming from me. Other people like to focus on techno music and manipulate a kick drum over and find the perfect beat. I’m an adventurous scientist.”
In My World is quite the mad creation. Synthesizing an entirely new, utopian paradise for himself and his family, it’s a plush, ultra-textured record filled with futuristic R&B that slithers and slides between reverb-laden vocals and crackly tape samples. Ranging in stylistic inspiration from fast-paced footwork to slow, sensual quiet storm, it’s gorgeous in its intricacy and adherence to the cosmic love jam vibe.
Most poignant is when the record completes its half-an-hour run time. The final whirrs of “Birds in Flight” are an abrupt kick in the sonic gut, as you spend so much time swaddled in a lavish texture that’s almost embryonic in its all-encompassing nature. It’s a strange, vulnerable feeling, which goes to show how far-reaching and entrancing McQueen’s talents as a sonic innovator actually are. You don’t even realize how engulfed within his world you actually are until your iTunes cruelly decides to start playing Liturgy at full blast.
McQueen is obviously much better than a machine at the bait-and-switch technique, and he likes to fancy himself a “trickster,” a man who enjoys the unintentional exposure to different styles that comes from listening to his multidirectional music. “You can pull people into a certain genre style or sound or play some sort of trick or cast a spell,” he says, his voice practically grinning. “They’ll just be like, ‘Hey this wasn’t really what I was expecting.’”
He explains that his penchant for defying platitudes comes from his roots as a hip-hop kid, as it’s a style born from so many external influences and genres. A little bit of disco, funk, reggae, and jazz, it marked the beginning of our post-modern cultural fixation of taking something old and turning it into something new.
The reinvention philosophy is something McQueen is happy to see reaching the younger generation, but mash-digging, SoundCloud-trolling kids aren’t the only ones embracing In My World, as international response has been exceptionally favorable toward his “tricky” take on glamorous, genre-bending grooves. “Journalists in America have a hard time knowing me,” he says. “And I don’t want them to know me, because if they know me, then they’ll know I’m a trickster.”
“Maybe I cursed myself when I decided to play the card of ‘genre non-specific,’ because I think journalists and the general music listening population have a hard time understanding that,” he continues. “But that’s kind of the point, because if you’re interested in just one little thing, other things wont really make sense.”
McQueen prides himself in serving as an entry point to other genres of music for a lot of his listeners, citing his love of the element of strangeness and desire to throw people off as big reasons behind why he’s constantly battling this idea of strict genre boundaries and a narrow, dogmatic approach. “Even if they’re uncomfortable and I give them something unexpected, I think I’m doing my job,” he says. “I think I’m accomplishing something important, just opening people up.”
That’s not the only way he wants to help people, though. Education about the benefits of healing tones is also an important endeavor for both him and his wife, musician Diva Dompe, who does guided meditation and transmission work around Los Angeles. “Instead of preaching gospel, I just try to heal through sound,” he says with a shrug. “A lot of people think it’s cheesy, but whatever. I think it’s beautiful and I always sort of come back to that basis when I think about music. It’s a powerful force of expression and that’s really where the new age thing comes in.”
While he’s ever the ethereal explorer and sonic innovator, McQueen says that the record is mostly dedicated to that idealistic dream, prodding “some of the darker pathways one must take to reach better places.”
It shouldn’t be surprising that the record’s emotional journey has managed to tame even a seasoned adventurer like McQueen. Even for someone so used to avoiding all of the ruts in the road, the routine of “adult” life has its merits, as it’s allowed him to shift his perspective on the overarching philosophies that guide his life and become more flexible in his approach. “I used to think of it more as a lifestyle and in a weird funny way I had this weird dogmatic approach,” he says. “I’m now not super subscribed to this funny lifestyle thing, but I do really relate.”
Which is all well and good, as it also meant that he could re-embrace his personal ethos of open-mindedness and self-awareness. “If you really want to be really deep in some new age spiritual music you kind of have to…” He pauses to re-evaluate his statement. “This is kind of what I cosigned to. But now I have this kind of more open, free approach.”
He’s struck a happy balance, content with just following the rules of his own little world nestled in the foothills of Los Angeles. “I still practice practical new age philosophy with my raising my child,” he explains. “You know, living in an urban environment and being responsible. Being present and have a sense of center and self.”
However, when I ask him to elaborate on what exactly that means about his parenting style, he understandably bristles, explaining that “people start to judge” and that it’s “a path he doesn’t want to run down again.” It’s a brief exchange, but one that proves he takes his role as a parent incredibly seriously. The love for his daughter all too real in the way he rears his head in defense of his family.
It seems like he’s keeping most of the naysayers at bay, content in his new role as a family man and doting dad. You can practically hear the smile in his voice as he talks about how she’s starting to eat solids and babble, as well as how they put on new age music when they all wake up early together. The only thing in between is work.
He’s now focusing full-time on his own label Leaving Records and their partnership with Peanut Butter Wolf’s influential Stones Throw outfit. McQueen is also in the process of helping Dompe mix her first solo record, which she’s working on in between guided meditation and sound healing events. It’s a obviously quite the stark change for him, but one he’s happy to make for his daughter, who he just wants to surround with a sense of inclusion and musical community.
“Daddy duty is on,” he laughs as he describes his evenings. “It’s the main thing now.”
You wouldn’t expect any less. After all, Love truly does make the world go round.