It’s getting to be that time of year where folks brave busy airports and endure lengthy flights in order to be reunited with their loved ones for the holidays. Luckily for local techno fans, two such people taking transatlantic flights back to the Island happen to be Nathan and Mathew Jonson, Victoria natives who have spent the last few years in the techno mecca of Berlin, Germany.
Luckier still, their homecoming is accompanied by a live performance of their Midnight Operator project — a techno venture that joins Nathan’s harder-edged sound and Mathew’s jazz-rooted musical approach — at the aptly-named Lucky Bar this Friday.
“Nathan’s music is tougher and louder than mine, as it is computer based and heavily processed. Mine is a bit warmer and smooth,” Mathew says of the difference in their musical styles. “We take sounds I make in my studio on analog instruments and then Nathan processes them and chops them to shreds. Then I play rhythms from drum machines over all of it.”
The duo released a lone EP back in 2007, but have only really started revisiting Midnight Operator over the past two years. Not surprising, since the guys are each accomplished (and busy) musicians in their own rights: Mathew as a solo artist, a member of Cobblestone Jazz and the Modern Deep Left Quartet, and the CEO of the Wagon Repair record label, which he co-founded; and Nathan through his recordings and performances under the Hrdvsion moniker. Nathan’s move over to Berlin about three years ago (Mathew, who had been living in Vancouver, moved a year earlier) was also a likely catalyst. Both brothers say the move across the pond has been a positive one, although there are things they miss about the west coast.
“The west coast is a very inspiring place to write music,” says Mathew. “So I miss that versus living in Berlin.”
“Musically I’ve been granted a lot of freedom that I wouldn’t have had if I stayed in Canada,” says Nathan. “I miss the [Victoria] people the most. It’s hard to be away from so many dear friends all the time. Though with many moving here it’s made it easier.”
Indeed, the exodus of Canadian electronic musicians to Berlin isn’t anything new, something that Mathew attributes to cheap rent, clubs that stay open 24 hours a day (creating a lot more performance opportunities), easy-to-obtain artists visas and a population more in tune with electronic music. But Nathan says that generally, he and his brother are the exception to the rule.
“Really, there are only a few that have come over in comparison to how many incredible people have stayed,” he says. “I think as the musician scene grows more and more, the crowds will follow and eventually it will be possible for people to stay there to have a career.”
Until then, we’ll have to be satisfied with the occasional hometown show from two of our city’s top techno exports. M
(with Eames and Rhythmicon)
10pm Fri, Dec. 16
Lucky Bar (517 Yates)
— Amanda Farrell-Low