Matthewdavid’s Mindflight “It feels ancient in a lot of ways, it feels seeking, and finding some sort of source, or origin.”

Photo: Theo Jemison

Deep in the valley of northeast Los Angeles, between the San Rafael hills and the canopy of trees that stretches from the 110 to the 134, sits Highland Park, a quaint yet ever-busying district where Matthewdavid has set up shop. As the headmaster of Leaving Records, MD’s been channeling thunder from all different directions, be it the deep-bap of Ras G and Dakim, the internet overload of D/P/I and Smurphy, or the zen patchwork of M. Geddes Gengras and Ahnnu.

Above all however, Matthewdavid is a student to the holy spirit that is new-age, and with his Modern New Age cassette series issued through the graces of parent label Stones Throw, he’s been steeping the Leaving kettle deeper into the waters of droney bliss than ever before. Now on the verge of releasing a whopping 88-minute double-LP splendidly titled Trust the Guide and Glide, Matthewdavid sat down with TMT to wax on the nature of psychedelia, how new-age has seeped into the hip-hop community, and the magic of listening past the nine-minute mark.

So this Mindflight concept that you’ve been carrying out for the past couple years, it’s this thing that you do as part of your dublab show, you do it as a live ongoing performance, can you just describe exactly what Mindflight is?

Altered state of consciousness. And it’s actually something that I borrowed, used, from a new-age cassette that I have of a flautist… the name of the tape is Mindflight. And it’s a good tape, but really I was just honing in on that word, and the annotations that he provided, that the artist provided on the tape, is an explanation of Mindflight, but just really deep and poetic, and it just super stuck with me. I was like, “That’s a great word! Yeah!” And I look at the hashtag and there’s some funny stuff on Instagram. There was a book someone wrote, and there’s this funny logo of an airplane… But oh man, music is the sanctuary, you know? That’s the place of peace, and when you get to the Mindflight level that’s when stuff starts happening I feel like. That’s when deep listening starts happening and movement and stimulation and participation, meditation ultimately. Mindflight is meditation with music for this purpose. Mindflight is also that attained through other forms of whatever, art, or appreciation of nature, or whatever, but this is music-based, this Mindflight concept.

Do you meditate?

Music is the place where I learned how to meditate, and I use music as the intermediary between meditation and awaking normal everyday consciousness. And the music is the facilitator for me a lot of the time for attaining meditative states of consciousness, and really doing a lot of beautiful work and finding myself…that’s the Mindflight point for me. So it gets funny and deep and new-agey and spiritual for sure, and that’s why I’m wearing it on my sleeve for this project because I love being bold and putting this stuff out there like that and just letting people know what’s up and what they’re getting into and what the projected outcome that I want to achieve is basically.

I like that you bring up that it is kind of a funny thing, because I feel like ambient, noise music, sound collage, all that kind of stuff, it’s been around for forever, but especially in the 2000s it’s gone through all these stages of being subverted and reinterpreted. But the way you approach it is very pure, like it’s back-to-basics. Do you agree with that?

Huh, yeah. It feels ancient in a lot of ways, it feels seeking, and finding some sort of source, or origin.

Trust the Guide and Glide very much feels like an album, especially with how on Leaving you’ve been putting out all this mixtape stuff, these installations, totally just different changing forms of music. But this is like a full-on DOUBLE-LP.

I wanted it to feel like that, I want it to feel like a book, or like an anthology, or something that has weight that could live on a shelf or something [laughs]. That’s what I was going for man, and I’m really happy with how all it turned out.

What are some of your favorite new-age records that you’ve found over the years?

This one is kind of dedicated to one in particular, that sort of led me down the path, it’s from Michael Stearns, it’s called Planetary Unfolding. And when that was introduced to me, it kind of sunk in heavy. I was going through some heavy shit at the time personally, a lot of darkness, and that one helped me through that time. So it stuck with me, and this is an homage to that time in my life and that record for sure. It’s a super cinematic, lush, journey of an album. Space music, it’s like the holy grail of fucking cosmic new-age music. In my opinion it’s like, trapped in an elevator, on a desert island… that would be the one.

Did you ever get into that I Am The Center compilation that came out on Light In The Attic a few years ago? I know for me that was a total gateway album. I think Michael Stearns is actually on there.

An excerpt from that album is on there, yeah. I’ve been working really closely with the producer of that album, the man who compiled and produced that comp, Douglas Mcgowen. The Laraaji stuff wouldn’t have happened without him, this album wouldn’t have happened without him, linking me with Gilbert Williams, the painter… that one was very important, that I Am The Center comp. When that dropped, I knew I had to make this record. Cause there were a lot of recordings and archives and files and stuff I had been doing at home and on dublab, but when that came out I was like, “I know I have to do this now. It’s happening. There’s awareness of this, it’s happening, do it, go.” Big awesome fucking amazing compilation, just like [mind explode noise]. Feel like it stands right beside any important piece of cultural artifact. I feel like it’s a big deal, yeah?

Do you find that this mindset that you’re getting more into with what you’re putting out, being in touch with the vibrations of the universe, peace-seeking…

Sam, you can just call it spiritual. Or spirituality. You can just be like, are you a spiritual person? Are you getting more into spirituality? [laughs] Don’t beat around the bush dude! Because, it’s a funny one that people don’t like or want to or feel comfortable with saying, and new-age too. But like, new-age is cool, like I wear it on a T-shirt, wear it on my sleeve, I get it tattooed. I don’t know. I don’t want to use the word ‘preachy,’ but I think it’s really fun and important and meaningful to me to just feel free to use words like new-age when describing this stuff now, because I just have a different perspective now, and our generation, this generation, has a totally different perspective on it. And there’s lots of facets to new-age lifestyle and culture, but this music, it’s like, I’m calling this music new-age now. It’s 2016. That’s dope. And it’s spiritual shit actually, but you know, new-age is linked with spirituality and I don’t think there’s any escaping that. I just think it’s inherent.

Do you think that kind of spirituality that you’re talking about is particularly important today? Like 2016?

Yeah, I just think that the art of listening is so important. And what this music is hoping for is to attain a sense of deep listening with the person participating in the music. It’s like, honestly I don’t care if you want to use it in the background as ambient music for whatever, music for airports, music for fucking whatever. BUT, one of the main goals of this stuff is to engage the listener and have the listener participate, and then, like past the nine-minute mark, hopefully you’ll get to the Mindflight. Like, it’s been going on for that long, if you’re still engaged, there’s some shit that starts to happen around nine minutes. You start to go inside, things start to get spiritual. For me [laughs]. So it’s just like, you know, a diary.

I know exactly what you’re talking about man.

Or psychedelic. Hey, let’s use the word psychedelic. That’s a little bit easier right?

Photo: Theo Jemison

Well it’s funny that you bring that up actually, because what even is psychedelic? That word is such a shorthand sometimes for drugs.

It really is, yeah. It’s fair game though. You can use it. I think the most mundane can turn into beauty and psychedelia so quick. That’s just what happens. We’re just perceiving reality so artfully, we’re each shifting our own perspectives all the time on what this reality is, waking reality, dreaming reality, you know. It’s like, totally psychedelic all the time [laughs].

It’s trippy too that you said nine minutes into a long track, cause I know that when I meditate there’s usually a very specific point around seven, eight, nine minutes where I kind of bottom out, like I hit something. It’s hard to even describe.

Yeah, a sense of timelessness. A breach or a threshold that was burst through or breached in the timespace continuum, things start dissolving. And then that’s when the fun stuff happens. And dude like honestly, that’s when healing can happen, and this record is about hopefully getting to that point. And when I told myself that it was important for me, I had committed to going down this path and exploring this music more, it’s because I was getting results, man. It was working. It was beautiful. It was healing me. Just from listening to that record by Michael Stearns or whatever. People just helping me out during that time by playing me this music. It stayed with me, it was so permeating and it was so important. So then I was like, yeah. I’m happy that this record came out and I’m happy that it wasn’t rushed.

What do you do for Stones Throw besides hocking new-age tapes?

I do Leaving Records as an imprint of Stones Throw, so it’s my every day to operate and manage and curate and run the shit out of Leaving Records as an imprint of Stones Throw, who I’m in a deal with, a business deal with, but it’s a great deal, and it’s rad and a blessing. Other than that, I do project management, I do artist relations, I do A&R for Stones Throw.

It seems like you’re wearing a lot of hats right now, you’re working at a pretty big deal label, you’re a dad now, you’re basically a guru, do you feel like you’ve found a sense of balance between all these things?

Nah man, I’m still working on it dude. Still workin’. But I’m happy wearing all those hats for sure. It feels like they are syncing up, but I have yet to fully get them in tune totally with one another. But it feels good.

You were talking about this before, but the fact that you can balance all that kind of music under the Stones Throw umbrella is pretty incredible. That connection between hip-hop and ambient and new-age and spirituality is interesting.

I think something clicked with these guys when the Laraaji thing dropped, and all of the awareness around it. Peanut Butter Wolf was like, “Good shit on that Laraaji.” I’m like, “Thanks Wolf!” And J Rocc is actually a huge Laraaji fan already. And you know, Ras G, already. And people like that were like, “Dude, I didn’t know you fucked with Laraaji!’ And it’s just like, “Hell yeah, who wouldn’t?” [laughs] So that’s cool. I feel blessed every day, and I try not to give it too much thought, try not to let it consume me or confuse me, why these bridges are happening. I think it’s a beautiful and needed thing, all of the gap bridging across genre. It seems to me like, it’s an obvious importance for folks and music lovers and human lovers, and it seems to me that folks are giving it a little bit more attention and making it more worth their while to find stuff or seek stuff or come across things that are bringing people together.

Last thing here, wanted to check in on if there’s anything coming down the line from Leaving you can tip us in on?

Hell yeah. Some good stuff. While we’re just talking on the new-age tip, I’d be really excited to tell you and kind of announce this very obscure private issued, self-released new-age music from SunPath, who made a lot of this music in and around New Mexico in the late 70s and early 80s, and this is a hyper, hyper-rare tape, but some people have it. There’s two of them, some people have the first one, I don’t think anybody has the second one except for like, two people? And one of those two people passed it my way and was like, “You should really do something with this because it deserves to be out there.” We almost did it six years ago, we were gonna do vinyl for it, the gears were in motion for it but it got derailed because we got distracted. I’ve been speaking with the artist who now lives in rural Wyoming and is 70-something years old, and barely uses email. It’s incredible, very experimental, new-age, 30-minute pieces, four of them, and it’s insane music. It’s not on the internet, it’s gonna be a little challenging I think to introduce it to people, cause they’re not gonna have any idea what the fuck this is, but that is also the allure of it. So I’m extremely excited about that.

Hopefully by the end of the year we’ll have another Laraaji set of three tapes. A whole ‘nother batch. DAYUM [laughs]. And we’re gonna continue doing the MNA [Modern New Age] thing, I know Benny wants to do one, and he would do an amazing new-age tape, Benedek. There’s this dude Time Warp, my homie Patrick from Atlanta, who I think maybe lives somewhere in New York now, maybe not. [My wife] DIVA’s longtime overdue, DIVA has more ambient/new-age/psychedelic music. I kinda wanna do something like my record Trust the Guide for her because she’s got just as much potent music like that that has gone really unheard. So that would be really important to do. Fuck, there’s so much dude. It’s like the tip of the iceberg. I could keep going.

You gotta get your kid to put one out now dude.

[laughs] Well dude, they’re actually, DIVA and Love have been makin’ tracks dude, they’ve been laying down tracks, they have like two songs. Incredible stuff. We’ll probably do a tape soon. Music by kids, for kids, it’s like for kids to listen to. Not really meant for adults to listen to. Children would definitely gain the most from this listening experience [laughs]. She’s been killing it. I mean jeez, what else. I have all these jungle breaks that I’ve made, and I’m trying to put that out, actually sampling my favorite new-age records and just throwing crazy jungle breaks over them. And I’m trying to work on that. It comes in moments of inspiration, but that’ll be like a 12’ probably. I think it’s pretty good.

So you’re definitely pretty set on this path for now?

For now, yeah. I mean I’m supposed to be producing for this J-pop rapper artist in Japan, and she’s gonna want a beat, and these jungle breaks, that’s beat music. And I played Low End recently, it felt really good. But I don’t know man, this stuff is just, I mean I’m playing lots of flute in my spare time, and really honing in on recording and performing with it, and honing in on that cause I’ve had a few successful performances lately. I’ve been dialing it in, they’ve been rocky. Live mic’d with monitoring and lots of effects can get tricky onstage, like you’re asking for feedback and trouble, but I’ve been dialing it in here, monitoring and stuff like that. It’s kind of getting exciting, new-age flute music in 2016, like what’s that? That’s tight. Sounds like lasers [laughs]. With sub-bass.

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