Digging Beyond The Crates With Mad Mats

The word curation has been overused these past few years, it now belongs with all the other buzzwords we hear and raise our eyebrows at. Yet, music curator is probably what best defines Stockholm’s Mad Mats.

Before a track makes it onto one of his DJ sets or one of the labels he runs (GAMM, Raw Fusion, Basic Fingers, Local Talk) it goes through his own personal taste filter. Never one to fall into the traps of trends or gimmicks, the man digs in all music genres and truly digs beyond the crates. For his first compilation on BBE, Mats has put together a diverse selection of cuts; from reggae, hip hop and soul to boogie, electronica and house, reflecting his open-minded approach to DJing.

Coming from a strictly vinyl background, when Mats embraced Serato around 2005, he carried his crate digger’s mentality with him. Believing firmly that digging should always be about the discovery of great music regardless of the format, the concept of “Digging Beyond The Crates” was born. All tracks discovered digitally, ranging far and wide in terms of genre and tempo, the album is tied together by one common factor: this is feel-good music made for dancing.

I had a brief conversation on the inspiration behind his new compilation titled “Digging Beyond The Crates” coming July 28, 2017 on the legendary BBE Music.

Always good to talk to you good sir! How are you feeling a few days ahead of the release of your newest project “Digging Beyond The Crates”?

Mad Mats: Mighty happy to see this one finally come out. It’s been coming for well over a year now. But if you want to do something special you gotta let it breath normally!

You’re widely known as one of the best true freestyle/eclectic DJ’s on the planet, but beyond that, what is the inspiration and concept behind the compilation?

Mad Mats: Well, the main idea was to showcase that “digging” is a mental state of mind. Take me for example. I’ve been heavy digging vinyl for over 20 years but then switched to DJing with Serato in 2005. For some reason people now think that will effect my selection or how I play and relate to music. Nothing could be further from the truth! If you truly have the digger’s mentality you’re still gonna dig for those musical jewels. The only thing that has changed is the format.

Nowadays I dig on all levels, internet, personal exchanges with likeminded friends, vinyl, CDs etc etc. The important thing is the selection…or even more important…rejection. There is so much out there so you have to choose the goodies that suit you! Make it personal. Going digital can be vey easy if you’re lazy, but trust me, I’m not. I dig beyond the crates! [Laughs]

From DITC to DBTC indeed!

Mad Mats: Exactly! As much as I love vinyl culture, the revival has brought a lot of fakeness with it. It’s great to have a project like this which celebrates digging and curation as a whole.

So there is a split of older and newer tracks on the compilation too right?

I go all over the place as I usually do when I can have it my way. Musically you’ll find beats, roots reggae, jazz, gospel, house, electronica and so on, and the time frame ranges from the late 60s up to today. The only thing that was important to me was that I only include tracks that are really personal to me and maybe not the most obvious choices either. There are also some new exclusives as well that have not been previously released.

You are also known as the force behind hugely influential labels (GAMM, Raw Fusion, and Local Talk which you run with Tooli). How does this affect your approach to DJing? Does it make it easier to figure out which tracks you’d like to sign?

Mad Mats: I see the labels more as side-project from my DJing career to be honest. Sure, I of course play some of the tunes we release, but I don’t use the club gigs to try out new material. I usually just freestyle and just play what I feel right there at that time. But yeah, that last Cuthead track would have easily made it on to Raw Fusion back in the day… deep, dark, and so funky!

You started DJing when buying vinyl records was the only option. What impact do you think the digital culture and the internet has had on your approach to digging and music research?

Mad Mats: Back then it was the only option… there was nothing else. But I’m very happy that I was brought up in a healthy mentality where it was important to stand out with both your music selection and your technical skills. Today I feel it’s quite rare that you see both combined. For me I felt I lost a little of the selection side when I started with Serato, but nowadays I feel very good about how I deliver my sets even though I’m totally aware that some guys out there don’t think it’s “real” enough. [Laughs]

What makes BBE the perfect label for this compilation?

Mad Mats: BBE is cool because they simply just let me do my thing exactly the way I want. I’ve could have done it through Local Talk but BBE is more established and it feels better when someone else pushes me instead of me!

I feel that the role and positive impact of compilations is often underrated. Tell me about a few compilations from the past (or recent) that really stand out for you.

Mad Mats: I really love a good compilation, especially when it’s from someone you respect and they’ve chosen their personal faves to share to the public. BBE had a few big ones and I also think Jazzman delivered the goods over the years. But the most important compilation series have always been “Ultimate Breaks & Beats”. Trust me, I discovered so much music through these comps.

“Digging Beyond The Crates” releases July 28, 2017 on BBE

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