Diversions, a recurring feature on Aquarium Drunkard, catches up with our favorite artists as they wax on subjects other than recording and performing. Matthew Dear was interviewed for this installment by Jason Woodbury.
Growing up in Kingsville, Texas, electronic producer Matthew Dear grew up surrounded by music very different from the dance and techno sounds he’s issued on labels like Ghostly and his Spectral Sound imprint for more than 20 years. Eventually, Dear found his way to Detroit, where he immersed himself in the rave scene. He found his “voice” creating music fit for his new surroundings, but on his new album, Preacher’s Sigh & Potions: The Lost Album, he indulges in deeply enjoyable time travel, pairing homemade country, folk, and blues-informed loops with Dear’s beats and driving rhythms and quixotic lyrical passages.
“My dad always had tape recorders laying around to record his acoustic stuff. I thought, let me try to record a song and loop it and build it, like I had been doing with electronic music,” Dear says of experimental recording sessions he embarked using his late father’s gear back around “2006-2008.” “I thought there were two paths that could not converge, but I started arranging and found how similar it was working with the process, just building things with guitar and vocals. My dad’s past, my past—I was surrounded by it.” Dear ended up shelving the sessions, until now. For this installment of Diversions, he explores the influences that shaped his youth, shares how sobriety and psilocybin have affected his life, and shouts out the master of modular synths on Instagram.
Herbie Hancock, “Rockit” (Official Video)
It’s partly timing. MTV was just coming out and they would play anything coming out at the time. I distinctly remember that video, probably because it was one of the only ones I was seeing. I had already taped the song off the radio, so I had a cassette recording of it, but the video was just so weird. I remember thinking, “OK, that’s an example of the future. I’m going to grow up and live in that world.” I thought there was a place you could go when you were an adult, and that video, at age eight or 10, I thought, “That’s where cool grown-ups go. I want to go there.” I still do. I watched it with my kids and it’s still creepy, the animatronic thing. There’s something strange about it. My kids request it too.
Depeche Mode Municipal Auditorium San Antonio, May 31, 1994
I have an older brother named Chris, nine years older, who’s been a big influence. Somehow in Texas he had friends who had access to industrial, new wave, and dance music. He wasn’t a goth—he was a normal tennis playing kid in Texas—but he ended up getting into all this music, Depeche Mode, Erasure, Yaz, and would play it around the house all the time. Cool big brother move, he took me to my first concert. “C’mon, let’s go see Depeche Mode, one of the bands you’ve liked since you were eight.” So we did and it was cool. I was probably 15 or 14.
What makes it so cool was not only that it’s great to see them in a basketball arena, but fast-forward to 2013. I got to open for them with my band on five European shows. So I took my brother to Düsseldorf for two nights. He flew out. Every show they were doing was sold out and for two nights he got to go backstage and meet Martin Gore, get catering, see the band, see everything. Not only is it that first moment, it’s the full circle thing of me getting to repay that favor in a totally different way.
The Sifl & Oly Show
The first time I ever saw it was after taking acid at a Steve Miller concert in Michigan. Someone I knew had had free front row tickets, so we bought lawn tickets. So I took acid for the first time. We’d trade seats: “OK, you have a turn in the front row.” So I’m tripping watching Steve Miller and these older ladies are like, “Yeah, Steve Miller!” So after the show to we go to a friend’s house and I saw this show. So then I watched this surrealist, completely off the wall puppet show. I couldn’t even fathom something that bizarre being on TV. And I was on acid. I fell in love with and ingested it obsessively when it was on the air. I just started doing my own show, this little Twitch thing that’s now going to be on YouTube, and without really thinking about it I started doing puppets and I think they’re paying homage to Sifl and Oly. I make them with my kids. It’s a lot of fun.
Detroit Raves of the Late 90’s/Early 00’s
I was a sophomore in college. I’d heard murmurs of these parties going on in Detroit but we were in the suburbs. My wife, then girlfriend, she went a week to her first rave a week before me with some mutual friends and told me, “You gotta check this out.” We always joke she had the up on me by a week. What can you say about raves in the late ‘90s? The time and place…it was like when you don’t realize you’re searching for something until you find it. This was the counter culture. In high school, I was still trying to figure it out. I loved the Woodstock videos I’d watch, I like all this music from the ‘60s, but the Black Crowes don’t necessarily do it for me. I need something. Where’s my thing? Like I said, I had my brother’s electronic influence so I already loved synthesizers and electronic stuff. Going to that first party…I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t do anything, but I stayed until the sun came up. A thousand people walking out of a warehouse. I didn’t understand house or dance music really. I was into Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk, the things that were kind of making their way to the forefront of pop culture, and I was like, “OK, this is cool. I like this.” Going to a rave it finally clicked.
I found mine in storage. It was in my wife’s parent’s closet with some other stuff. I plugged it in only recently with a new sequencer, got some more internal RAM for it, did the upgrades I could. But when I was coming up with this list, I was just jamming on it, hardcore. It came with the “urban expansion” upgrade. I remember at the time thinking all those sounds were so cheesy. Like bongo loops and hip-hop loops, “one-two-three-four,” and now I hear it and I’m like this is so fucking cool. Retro cool. The sound quality is amazing. It just brought me back. All the nobs are worn out where my fingers would touch.
Townes Van Zandt :: Live at the Old Quarter
He embodied so much about that outlaw songwriter thing, but it felt so genuine. He was such a pure soul. It’s stitched together from performances at the Old Quarter and it’s such a perfect recording of that time in his life. He apologies for it being so hot; they had to turn the A/C off to get the recording right. You can almost hear the drinks on the table. It’s such a cool recording, not pristine by any means. Guy Clark talks about how some nights Townes would be falling off the stool drunk, but some nights, he was magic. Live at the Old Quarter is that Townes. I close my eyes and imagine I’m there every time I listen to it.
Bob Dylan :: Blood on The Tracks
Dylan and Prince. Him and Prince, they basically have that otherworldliness. The story is he scrapped the album, went to Minnesota and redid the songs. I love the long story, “Idiot Wind,” “Tangled Up In Blue.” They’re novellas. So dense. Sometimes I listen to My Bloody Valentine and I feel like I hear new things every time. I can listen to Blood on the Track and I pick up phrases I never heard until that one moment.
I did it in college. Took mushrooms, freaked out. Never touched them again for a long time, or even thought about them. About five years ago I started hearing rumbles about mycology and how mushrooms can change the world, with the Michael Pollan book, and the popularity of Paul Staments. I started learning about microdosing. In college they don’t tell you about that. Knowing what I know now, it makes a lot of sense. When you’re that young, you’re not ready for it. When you’re young, everything is “drugs.” You don’t have that clarity. Now, I think there’s something to it. There’s something culturally happening that’s important for dealing with a lot of people’s ability to connect with something pure and internal.
I went off and on alcohol many times in my career as a musician. I think I first got drunk when I was 16 and never really looked back. It was something I used as a crutch to let loose. It took eight years of trying to figure out how to live with it, and about five years I said no more, light switch off. It’s been amazing. For me, there’s a freedom not having to even think about taking a drink. I think psilocybin definitely ties in…you still search for things. You’re always looking for the truest connection. But alcohol is a complete downer. Especially in this industry. I’d go to a show and they pay me in drink tickets. Here’s your rider, your bottle. Everyone is surrounded by it. In the beginning, I drank club soda. You’re going to want to drink something. It’s like an oral fixation. I recommend club soda.
Richard Devine on Instagram
I remember seeing Richard in Miami with Sam Valenti from Ghosty, and I remember thinking, “This is club music from 2025.” His Instagram still totally represents that. His stuff popping up in my feed, I look at it and it’s completely insane. He’s an example of somebody so expansive with their craft that no one else could do it. There will never be another Richard Devine in terms of modular synthesis. He gets everything. He has access to every module for any Euroack system. He’s helped designed half of them. He has so much know how. He puts these patches up and it’s like artificial intelligence. Of course he’s patched it all, but there’s a certain point where you push play and it takes on a life of its own.