Interview with Aqualung's Matt Hales

Today Glasswerk has the pleasure of chatting to Matt Hales. The man that is Aqualung offers a candid and honest view on his success to date.

Hi Matt, how are you doing and what you up to?
I’m doing fine, mostly rehearsing for this goddam tour! I’m looking forward to it but I’d lost count with what week was what week. I didn’t get a diary for Christmas! So I’ve been rehearsing with my brother and getting things ready for the acoustic tour.

Did you get any good Christmas presents? Obviously not a diary!
I got some excellent presents but maybe the most thrilling was this ice-hockey game. It’s like table-football but table-ice hockey. My dad brought it home one day when I was about 8 and we used to play it all the time. Then my brother found one and bought it on the internet, and unwrapping that was the most incredible moment

What was the idea behind the 2-man tour before the full band?
One of the nicest things about not being in a band but being a solo artist is that you can put together a tour according to how you feel -get a different dynamic in different venues. It puts a different angle on it and I’m hoping that will be interesting for the audience… different versions of songs.

It seems that the venues are quite unusual – art centres, churches rather than your more traditional low-key venues.
It gives you the chance to get off the usual circuit. As a fan you go in to a church with a different expectation of what the gig will be like. Your mind is more open, and that’s a nice way to go into a concert. Certain places have an atmosphere all of their own and that’s a sad missing element of a lot of the bog-standard functional venues across the country. You have to work hard to make an atmosphere, so if you find a venue that already has one then you are half way there to a great concert.

Up until THAT advert, nothing had taken off big time for you. Did the jump from virtual obscurity to national fame as it were suit you? Were you prepared for that?
I suppose we had been trying to make it happened for ten years, but you can’t really be prepared for that. Things get really stupid when things like that happen but because of the way it happened I wasn’t personally thrust into the spotlight. The music became sought after and it was perfect for me. Obviously I went to Top of the Pops which was hilarious but I wasn’t being stopped in the street or anything. I just found the music had touched a lot of people. It didn’t change my life or anything, I was just grinning a lot. I never sought celebrity status, I just love making music and it was jut a dream come true.

Glasswerk has a lot of young bands trying to make it in the music wold. Is writing songs for radio play a good way of getting into it?
Not really, no. It’s a good way of earning some money which is why I did it. Every musician has their main thing, their true pet project but sometimes it’s a good idea to think “what other music can I make?” There’s a lots of demand out there for people who’ve got a bit of skill to write music for things. It keeps you alive and out of the rut you can get into with a band. There’s more potential for something random to happen, which is what happened to me. If you’re very lucky, like I was, a song that you really care about and is important to you suddenly gets massive exposure. But there’s a massive lot of luck involved.

A lot of people who don’t know Aqualung will judge the band by Strange and Beautiful. Is that a fair assumption?
It’s not totally a mistake. The first album has a similar mood running through it. I’m happy that it was the breakthrough song because it’s very softly spoken. It’s not the Cheeky Girls! It’s restrained and has a kind of poise which I want to have in all my work. It was great to get in the top ten for the first time with a song which was not written to be a top ten single! Sometimes a breakthrough song is of a very different style and you can’t shake it off so you try to write more songs like that which isn’t your thing. In that way Strange and Beautiful has been no millstone round my neck

Are you most comfortable writing on your own or is input from others, such as you brother, beneficial?
Its certainly beneficial.. all the songs start with me on my own then there comes a point where I go to Ben or Kim (my wife) and its time for them to get involved. It can’t just be anyone though, it has to be one of those two people because they have such a deep understanding of me and the music. But I have been there when all my songs were conceived, they are like little kids to me.

On Tour with Feeder that must have been a great experience…
It was good fun. I have to admit I was surprised when we got the call asking us to do it but when I thought about it and listened to their latest album it made more sense. It was exciting because apart form anything else, we were playing with a band who were playing at these venues for the first time as well. They were really excited and that spread through the crew and support bands – we felt like we were sharing a real moment for them

What’s it like touring with your brother?
I’m used to it. We’ve been prisoners of war for so long it just seems normal. It works very well. In a way we would get on less well if we didn’t have music to bond us together. We get a lot of tension out through our music. It just seems to work for us. Of course he’s got his awful habits but it’s one thing you have to be tolerant of because even the little things are magnified after 6 months in a tour bus

So what happens next with you music?
I don’t know in all honesty. I will start accumulating ideas for songs like I always do, then eventually complete these songs. Then listen to them and try and work out what they want and need. One of the most exciting and creative things about being a solo artist is there’s the chance to work with different musicians and make different sounds. I would love to surprise myself and other people with my third album. If I can always do something I’ve never done before on anew album then I think that would be a great way to sustain my enthusiasm through my career.

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