International Musicians, DJs, and producers Matt Waters and Matthew Busch aka Intro to Music Theory have been on an eclectic musical journey since their time as musicians in Los Angeles, and more recently after the founding of IMT in 2019. These Southern-California born and Hainan-based musicians have racked up a plethora of experience in a multitude of genres- first in the classical, jazz, and freelance world in the United States, and later as electronic artists and producers in China. 2021 is poised to be a breakout year for Intro to Music Theory – continuing on the success of their past release, their new album, First Inversion, will be dropping on June 11th in partnership with some of the largest tastemakers in the NFT world. It’s the perfect time for DMCWORLD to find out more…
What’s the biggest difference between life in Southern California and Hainan, China?
The biggest difference that we notice is in the music community here. With both of us being so involved in the music scene in Southern California, we were spoiled for choice when it came to performing and experiencing all types of music, from orchestras and jazz bands to nightclub DJs and experimental electronic music. While Hainan is a beautiful island, it’s not a cultural hub like Shanghai or Beijing, although the beach parties are pretty awesome and worth a visit. Things are picking up here and it’s going to be interesting to see what kind of local underground music takes hold. On a personal level, we miss burritos! It’s hard to find quality Mexican food, but the coconuts here are tops. We have at least one a day!
What got you interested in the crypto/NFT space?
We’ve been dabbling in the crypto and NFT space for years on a personal level as the premise of getting rid of middlemen in social interaction has been quite appealing. With the big boom in the NFT space recently, we’ve been seeing the potential for musicians being realized – mainly connecting artists directly to fans without the gatekeepers that exist in the traditional music industry. We’ve seen a lot of support from a bunch of artists and projects in the space to realize this vision of a direct connection through platforms like Charged Particles, Token Smart, Dao Records, HMP Records, and Bittrees.
How did the name ‘Intro to Music Theory’ come about?
‘Intro to Music Theory’ started off as simply ‘IMT’ and a bit of an inside joke. At the beginning, we were DJing at a few clubs here in Hainan, and decided to bring our horns onstage during a back-to-back session. We billed ourselves as ‘IMT’ as we were constantly asking the other which key the next track was in so that we could improvise over it. Over time, the name stuck and we’ve embraced ‘Intro to Music Theory’ as an homage to our early instructors who drilled into us the importance of the fundamentals in music training. We wouldn’t be where we are today without their guidance!
What made you both decide to pursue electronic music in particular?
Electronic music has been an avenue for both of us to experiment with a variety of different genres within a single session, be it combining sounds into our productions or spinning a wide variety of music in the DJ booth. Hainan has a small yet dedicated music scene, so in order to hear the music we enjoy, we often have to perform it. This has been a blessing, since it hasn’t tied us down to a single genre – our past releases and our upcoming album reflect that.
What’s been the best part about creating your upcoming full-length album, ‘First Inversion’?
The best part about creating this album was how eclectic it turned out to be. This album is a small reflection of our extended 90-minute live set, which at the time of this writing is around 21 tracks long and full of live brass recording, looping and sound manipulation. It’s a blast to perform and spans the BPM range of 72 to 124. We’ve been blessed to perform it in a few cities around China, including Shanghai, and we love to see the crowd dancing and vibing to an electronic performance that isn’t constrained to the typical BPM ranges or genres, and we hope that the album conveys that same energy. Throughout the writing process, we really focus on letting the music flow out naturally and allowing it to take us outside of our comfort zone.
The lead single off of the album ‘The California Almond’ features a lot of unique jazz-infused elements — what was your production process like when crafting it?
‘The California Almond’ was a unique track for us to produce because the entire process was quite unconventional, even for us. It was written along with the majority of the tracks from our live set and this album during a 28-day government mandated quarantine in hotel rooms and in our studio. ‘The California Almond’ began with the basic percussion elements, bass line and vocal chop, and existed for some time in our live set as an open instrumental groove for us to improvise horn loops and experiment with solo FX. It has definitely been a crowd favorite from the beginning! When it came time to narrow down tracks for the album, all of the horn licks for the track came together in a fit of insomnia, and it was all arranged and recorded the next day. It was almost as if all the licks and melodies we had performed over this track boiled down into the studio version, when in most of our production the horn lines come early in the writing process.
How did the exclusive remix contest in conjunction with HMP & Dao Records come to be?
Dao Records has been what we would consider the leading community in the NFT Music space for a while – they’ve been super supportive of all of the insanity we’ve been up to in the space. Between them working with the NxM Music Guild, minting the first audio NFTs ever, and their founder Vandal making space for anyone who wants to get involved, it was a no-brainer to partner with Dao Records and their community to run this contest. We really can’t give enough praise to the work that they’re doing over there – it’s absolutely instrumental for the future of the NFT music space.
What’s been the most exciting part of being actively involved in the crypto space right now?
The most exciting part about being in the crypto and NFT space at the moment is how quickly everything is moving. It seems like every day there’s a new project happening and there are new stunning artists being discovered. With Ethereum 2.0 around the corner and L2 solutions such as Polygon gaining traction, there’s going to be an absolute explosion of interest and possibility in this space. We are constantly in a state of learning – researching, connecting, staying on top of what’s happening, discovering the potential of a project and how it relates to the wider community has been both exhausting and exhilarating. It’s a very inventive space. The interaction of tech and creativity is just starting to see its potential tapped and it feels like the sky really is the limit for musicians and artists.
What were your musical backgrounds like before deciding to pursue music as a duo via IMT?
Matt: I grew up very lucky. Early on, I started taking piano lessons and singing in my elementary school choir. I remember singing The Beatles and Heard it through the Grapevine. In 4th grade, I was able to choose an instrument for the school band, chose trombone, and never looked back. Looking back on it, I was lucky enough to grow up in some of the best school districts for music education in the world, and that continued at university where I studied Trombone at UCLA for both my Undergraduate and Master in Music degrees. During that time, I had the fortune to perform with all types of groups in a thousand styles under some absolute legends: James Miller on trombone, Charley Harrison and Kenny Burrell in the jazz department, Dr. Carlson for music theory, not to mention a dozen others that would make this answer way too long if I really went into it. I’m indebted to each of them in their own way. It was a musically eclectic time performing with marching bands, jazz bands, ska bands, orchestras, djing, wind ensembles, salsa groups and anything other performance opportunity I could weasel myself into. After moving to China, it made sense to combine all these influences and do something truly new. IMT was born.
Matthew: I started singing from an early age – my father is a choral conductor and organist and my parents were very encouraging as I discovered music. Around the age of 10 I picked up a trumpet, discovered how loud I could be and I never put it down. I earned a Bachelors from Concordia University, Irvine and a Masters from Redlands University, both in music performance. Before we came to China, I was performing in orchestras and jazz combos and teaching music. Electronic music was always something I listened to, especially trip-hop, but I never considered producing it until I came to China. Working together as IMT gives me the possibility to explore soundscapes and the freedom to put my individual mark on a piece of music.
If you could perform your music live at any event or festival in the world post-lockdown, where would it be and why?
Two festivals we’ve been eyeing heavily over lockdown would have to be Wonderfruit in Thailand and Exit Festival in Serbia. Wonderfruit is everything we love about a festival, mainly that it goes beyond the music to create an atmosphere that focuses on creativity, mindfulness and the environmental impact of the global community beyond the festival itself. We loved Thailand during our tour in 2020, and can’t wait to explore more. We love how eclectic the lineup at Exit is every year. You can find Honey Djon and Paul Van Dyk on the bill next to Eric Prydz. That’s not even mentioning that the mainstage is in a fortress or how much Matt loved Belgrade when visiting a few years ago. A frickin’ fortress!