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Recording artist and violin looping extraordinaire Sieben, otherwise known as Matt Howden, has been impressing audiences with his beautifully crafted music for well over a decade. As well as producing a vast amount of material and performing a huge number of live shows as a soloist, he has kept his foot in a host of creative doors. Matt’s latest project comes in the form of Rasp, combining forces with cellist Jo Quaill to create something innovative and exciting. Last month Rasp put on their first event, Write > Perform > Record, where the two recorded their first album onto two-inch tape live in front of a small audience at the incredible venue and recording studio Club 60. Having written the album the night before at the Lantern Theatre – also live, and streamed online for those who couldn’t make it – the album is about as real and raw as it gets. Tell us a bit about Rasp. How did you two meet? I met Jo Quail in Leipzig at a festival called Wave-Gotik-Treffen. We were both looping using different layers and fell in love with each other’s music. This Rasp idea started in my shack in the back garden on a rainy night at midnight after the last Lantern concert. She played and I played and then we thought, “Let’s do a couple of songs together”, without any rehearsal or anything. It was just lovely. Then, barbequing chicken in a rainstorm on a really warm night, we said, “Let’s do it again, and let’s do a full set together.” We’re planning to tour Australia together so it makes sense. Her, me, and us; we’re three bands and we’re only two flights and two hotel rooms, so it made sense to have a product. Where did the attraction to the loop pedal come from? Independence, I suppose. I’ve always liked working with limitations and it’s quite limited in some respects. It makes me work harder with my songs. For instance, with my cheap loop pedal I can’t take anything out, so I have to be really judicious about when I do add things in otherwise it can become over cluttered easily. I’ve done loads of playing in bands with other people and I love that too, but this is my own little world and I like to drift off into it in my own way. Watching the live recording was a very visual experience. Is performance a big part of what you do? We’re both solo artists alone with looping, so rather than end up stood there like a lemon on your own, you’ve got to move. Sometimes the loops do tie you to a place, so I do kind of move about a lot to compensate for the fact that I’m often on quite a physically big European stage – big enough for a 20-piece band. Jo moves beautifully. We both really give it some. Are you going to be continuing with your Sieben work? Yeah, that’s the life blood of what I do. I’ve got ten albums and just on to my eleventh which was recorded down at Club 60, live but with no audience. I did it to capture the live energy of the loops. It sounds beautiful, especially because it’s down to analogue tape down there. It’s funny because I’ve spent years and years doing these loopy layers with Sieben and I’d find all kind of blokey ways of making things really complicated for myself and I neutered it a bit. Actually what’s nice is that when I loop new things, the old ones disappear. I simulated it with automation and lots of computer programming. It was an ex-girlfriend who said, “I like your albums but I think I actually prefer it when you’re playing live because it’s just like a continuous sculpture.” What can I say, she was right. I wish I’d have thought of that and saved myself about 10,000 hours of editing. When is the album out and who will be releasing it? Probably February and probably on my label. We’re up to about 12 releases now. It was all so manic that by the time Jo and I were in the car going to Club 60 we thought, “Oh, what if the tape runs out?” We worked out it only ran for 33 minutes. And then we thought “What if the tape does run out!” as in, let’s play for 34 minutes so that the only people who hear the last minute of the album were the people who were there - just a little moment in time. It worked and actually at the end of the first set we ended on a song that kind of broke down from some beats into “Radiate, power”, and the tape runs out on the word power. I do actually have a little cheap recording of that last minute but I might bury it in the garden because I think that should just remain that perfect moment in time. Rasp artwork by Martin F Bedford )

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