Matthew Herbert (born 1972), also known as Herbert, Doctor Rockit, Radio Boy, Mr. Vertigo, Transformer, and Wishmountain, is a British electronic musician. He often takes sounds from everyday items to produce electronic music.
Herbert began experimenting with aleatoric processes while studying drama at Exeter University in the early 1990s. He gave his first professional public performance in 1995 as Wishmountain, reportedly using a bag of crisps as an instrument. Two years of performing under this name followed before he retired Wishmountain in favor of Radio Boy. In addition to creating rhythmic musique concrete as Radio Boy, however, Herbert worked on more traditional, yet relatively experimental dance music.
In the mid 90s he traveled to San Francisco, where he met jazz singer Dani Siciliano. In 1998, Herbert issued Around the House, which successfully mixed dance beats, sounds generated by everyday kitchen objects, and Siciliano's wry vocals. By the late Nineties, Herbert was remixing tracks for dance artists like Moloko, Motorbass, Alter Ego, and others. (Many of these were later collected on Secondhand Sounds: Herbert Remixes.) He also recorded singles, EPs, and albums under a variety of aliases (Doctor Rockit, Radio Boy, Mr. Vertigo, and Transformer) as well as his own name.
In 2001, Herbert issued Bodily Functions. Similar in structure to Around the House, it culled sounds generated by manipulating human hair and skin as well as internal bodily organs. Less severe than Matmos' work, its light and sinuous dance sound augured the rise of microhouse. Bodily Functions benefited from a deal Herbert signed with electronic imprint Studio !K7, making it his first full-length to receive worldwide distribution.
Goodbye Swingtime, a 2003 album issued as the Matthew Herbert Big Band, combined the political commentary of Radio Boy with the song structure of his Herbert albums. Recorded with sixteen musicians from the British jazz world, including saxophonists Dave O'Higgins and Nigel Hitchcock, pianist Phil Parnell, and bassist Dave Green, the band is complemented on stage by Siciliano, Arto Lindsay, Warp recording artist Jamie Lidell, and Mara Carlyle.
In 2005, he released a record entitled Plat Du Jour, a record made entirely from objects and situations in the food chain. He recorded beneath the sewers of Fleet Street, with Vietnamese coffee beans, inside industrial chicken farms, drove a tank over a recreation of the dinner that Nigella Lawson cooked for George Bush and Tony Blair, and recorded 3500 people biting an apple at the same time. The track entitled The Final Meal of Stacey Lawton was made in collaboration renowned chef Heston Blumenthal
On May 30, 2006, Herbert issued Scale, his most successful album to date. In the U.S., it reached number 20 on Billboard's electronic music album chart. Entertainment Weekly remarked, "Herbert sneakily subverts Scale's apocalyptic thematic thread into something warm and danceable." Online magazine Pitchfork Media noted, "Sophisticated and whimsical, joyful and yet tinged with sadness, Scale is one of this year's great albums."
In October 2008 Matthew Herbert released the second album by his Matthew Herbert Big Band project, entitled 'There's Me And There's You', fronted by vocalist Eska. On the record he recorded inside the houses of parliament, at a landfill site, and in the lobby of the British Museum with 70 volunteers.
In 2010 Matthew Herbert released two of a three part trilogy of albums. The first: One One, was entirely written and performed by Herbert alone, the seconds : One Club was made exclusively out of sounds recorded at the Robert Johnson nightclub in Offenbach in Germany on one night.
That same year he also released a reworking of Mahler's tenth symphony for the Deutsche Grammophon's Recomposed series. Much of the recording was made inside Mahler's composing hut in Toblach, by his graveside and in a crematorium.
In late 2011, the final part of the trilogy "One Pig" was be released. Herbert recorded the life cycle of a farmed pig from birth to the dinner plate. The animal rights organisation PETA condemned the album when it was announced without hearing it. Herbert, who is not a vegetarian, responded that their complaints were "utterly asburd" and that he wanted his music to encourage people to "listen to the world a little more carefully."
On 11 March 2013 a newly commissioned work by Herbert, for orchestra with electronics, based on a work by Rameau, was performed at The Roundhouse in London, as part of BBC Radio 3's "Baroque Remixed" series.
Theories and politics:
In 2000, Herbert wrote a manifesto titled "Personal Contract for the Composition of Music (Incorporating the Manifest of Mistakes)", which served as a theoretical guide for much of his ensuing work. Often referred to as PCCOM, some of its eleven goals includes a personal ban on using drum machines and pre-existing samples, and ensuring that anything created in the studio can be replicated in live performance.
Many of his less dance-oriented projects (chiefly those not recorded under the name Herbert) address political concerns, using specific objects to create a conceptual piece. His 2001 project as Radio Boy, The Mechanics of Destruction sampled McDonald's and The Gap merchandise as a protest against corporate globalism. It was made available as a free MP3 download, via concerts and by post from Accidental Records.
In 2005 Herbert released the album Plat du Jour under his proper name, Matthew Herbert. The disc addresses commercial food production and marketing.
In February 2006, Herbert helped form the virtual community Country X. In an introduction posted on the website, he writes, "Why not start a country? only this time, a virtual one. free from the necessity to defend its borders physically, we can reduce the violence of exclusion. a new description of resistance."
Herbert shared some of his thoughts on the future in an article for UK music magazine, 'Clash', writing "we are facing a perfect storm of shit: global financial meltdown, massive climatic shifts and the end of oil."
By 2000 Herbert assembled several microlabels he initiated, including Soundslike (for his Herbert alias) and Lifelike (originally called Lowlife, begun in 1998 for his Doctor Rockit alias), under the umbrella Accidental Records. In addition to documenting Herbert's sundry projects, these imprints issued works from The Soft Pink Truth, Mara Carlyle, Mugison and Beckett & Taylor among others. Between 2008 and 2009, the label released 'Butterflies' by Finn Peters, the sophomore record of Matthew Herbert Big Band named 'There's Me And There's You', The Invisible's debut album, Setsubun Bean Unit, and Micachu's debut named 'Jewellery'.
2010/2011 sees the release of a trilogy concept album by Herbert, beginning with 'One One', followed by 'One Club' and 'One Pig'.
Matthew Herbert has produced remixes for numerous artists, including Moloko, Ennio Morricone, Quincy Jones, Björk, R.E.M., Perry Farrell, Serge Gainsbourg, Yoko Ono, John Cale, The Avalanches and Cornelius. He programmed three tracks on Björk's Vespertine, and produced The Invisible's debut album, along with Moloko singer Róisín Murphy's album Ruby Blue. He has also produced albums for Micachu, Merz and Finn Peters
He has contributed music to several films, including Human Traffic and Dogme 95 director Kristian Levring's The Intended, Agathe Clery, Le Defi, HBO's A Number, as well as UK television, theatrical and concert dance productions.
Herbert also wrote music for the YouTube documentary film Life in a Day along with prominent composer Harry Gregson-Williams.
In 2010 he produced a new project at the invitation of London Sinfonietta called One Day in which he set to music a Saturday edition of the Guardian newspaper, performed at London's Southbank Centre in the London Jazz Festival. He went on to create a short encore for the ensemble involving a live remix of a concert at the BBC Proms in 2012 using recordings on mobile phones.
In 2012 he is relaunching the museum of sound at www.museumofsound.com
Also in 2012, he was appointed as the creative director of the newly revived BBC Radiophonic Workshop.