Recloose on Detroit’s decline, bass music and “jamming with George Clinton”

Recloose is the oddly appropriate moniker for Auckland-based American expat producer, musician and DJ Matt Chicoine. A native of the Detroit suburbs, Chicoine rose to prominence with a string of twisted but melodic tech-funk releases including So This Is the Dining Room and I Can’t Take It on Carl Craig’s iconic imprint Planet E. (A tale is often told about how he got Craig’s attention when he was working at a local deli – he put a demo tape in Craig’s sandwich.)

Chicoine migrated to New Zealand in 2001, and has since greatly expanded his repertoire, releasing four albums featuring a unique fusion of complex analogue techno and live soul and jazz, and touring the world with a full band. Recloose is especially familiar to fans down under for his Hit It and Quit It series of radio shows (with Frank Booker) and eclectic but fun-filled DJ sets for the likes of Mad Racket. He’ll hop back over the pond this month to bring the party to Sydney for a headlining DJ set at Goodgod Small Club.

Chicoine has a very busy schedule – he’s researching a master’s thesis, teaching, raising two sons and working on new music, including a remix for the legendary Funkadelic – but he recently took some time to chat with us ahead of the upcoming gig.

What have you been working on lately?

I’m at school, I’m teaching at the moment – busy as per usual. I teach full time and I run a DJ and production program at the Music and Audio Institute of New Zealand in Auckland. We have various audio programs, music programs, live PA programs, and they started this DJ and electronic-music program about four years ago.

It seems like a dream job for a musician.

In some ways it is a dream job, because I’ve basically been asked to teach what it is I do. And in the process, in writing curriculum, I had to upskill as well, so I’m constantly engaging in increasing my own knowledge when it comes to production history. So the job, and writing the curriculum, has been great, and upskilling myself – there are great resources here. I guess the downside is I don’t have as much time to work on music. And I’m kind of jealous of my students – I can see them progressing in leaps and bounds, and while that’s encouraging for me as a teacher…as an artist, I’m sort of like, damn, I wish I had that amount of time just to dedicate to making music.

Will you teach your kids music as well?

I have two sons. My oldest is nine, and my youngest is a year and a half. For right now we just have fun with it. My oldest son has taken to drumming. He’s just signed up for drum lessons, and I’ve gotten him a practice kit. I had brought home my Akai MPC [a classic sequencer and drum machine] for him to play around with a little bit, which he had fun with. Now he looks like he’s poised to take it seriously with these lessons.

And then my younger son is obviously just a little toddler, but he loves to dance. It’s just crazy. So when I come home, the ritual is, he points to the turntable and makes a scratching sound, and then puts his arms up. Basically what that means is, “Dad, put on some house music, and I wanna dance with you!” And we do it every night when I come home, a couple of times a day. And he’s just hilarious, because he’s got great rhythm for a toddler. And he just dances all the time.

You migrated from Detroit to New Zealand 12 years ago. Have you ever been tempted to go back, or are you there for the long haul?

Well, that’s an interesting question, because 12 years in I’ve got a great job – and my family’s here. I don’t think I could be doing this in Detroit, my current job as a teacher. And it’s been a great experience, developing curriculum and being able to work with a lot of young talent, so on those fronts life is pretty good.

The flip side of it is that we are so far removed from the rest of the world, and the internet can’t overcome that, unfortunately. Touring is very difficult – and touring is where most of the money is these days. So in some ways, staying here, as awesome as it is, is also a career disadvantage. I don’t know, I guess I have mixed feelings. Are we here for the long haul? To be determined, really. Depends on what opportunities come up, but for the moment I’m happy here. Auckland’s been pretty good, and this job especially has been a joy.

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