It’s been 10 years since musician/comedian/actor and writer, Matt Berry, signed to iconic British indie label, Acid Jazz, and released Witchazel, an album steeped in his love of ‘60s and ‘70s folk-psych.
Since then, he’s put out eight more albums on Acid Jazz, exploring influences including funk, soul, electronica, garage-rock, vintage TV themes, country, prog and folk-horror.
This month sees some of the highlights from all of them, plus a whole bunch of demos, outtakes, and rarities, collected in a 55-track, career-spanning five-LP/four-CD box set called, rather appropriately, Gather Up. The compilation is also available as a two-LP or single CD edition.
Shortly before jetting off to Toronto for the rest of the year, to film the new series of US horror-comedy What We Do in the Shadows, in which he plays Laszlo Cravensworth, an English nobleman vampire, Berry kindly found the time to give me an interview to talk about his decade of making records for Acid Jazz. There was plenty for us to get our teeth into…
SH: Let’s talk about the Gather Up compilation. Does it feel like 10 years since you signed to Acid Jazz?
MB: No – it feels like two minutes. It doesn’t even feel like five years.
You were a big fan of Acid Jazz before you joined the label, weren’t you?
I was. As a youngster, in the days when you couldn’t search for everything on the internet, they put out some great compilations and stuff. To be signed to Acid Jazz was an honour for me. When I played them my album, Witchazel, I thought Eddie Piller [founder of Acid Jazz] might put out a single, but he put the whole thing out and that was that – it was done – and here I am, 10 years later.
You’ve curated the box set. Do you work quite closely with the label?
Very closely – there aren’t that many of us at Acid Jazz. Everybody is all over every aspect of everything, which is good, because I don’t want to f*** with their brand and everything which goes with that, but, at the same time, whatever I put out must be right for me.
Was it hard to decide what to include in the collection?
It was – no one likes to pick out the best of anything that they’ve done because it’s hard for you to tell. I asked members of my band, and Eddie and Dean [Rudland – Acid Jazz general manager] for them to pick what they consider are the best songs I’ve done on the label so far. They all came back with the same sort of things, so that’s how I arrived at it – I looked at all their lists and just did it from there.
From listening to the box set, it’s clear that your musical output over the past 10 years has been diverse – you have an eclectic range of styles and influences. When you make a new album, do you consciously set out to reinvent yourself, or react against the previous record, or is it more of an organic process?
It’s more organic, but to me it doesn’t sound that different – I’ll just take away some instruments or put every instrument on it. That’s all that I think I’ve really done. I’ve presented my songs in different forms, whether it’s with an acoustic guitar and a slight rhythm section, or with 15 guitars and 43 bass guitars!
The first song on the box set is ‘Take My Hand’, which is also the theme for your show Toast of London. It has a ‘70s pop singer-songwriter feel and the piano reminds me of Elton John’s ‘Song For Guy’…
I was doing a sketch show [Snuff Box] with an Elton John character in it, so I had to have some music for him to play – I came up with something very quickly and had that piano phrase. I must’ve been quite pleased with it because I developed it and it became ‘Take My Hand.’
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