The thought of performing in front of thousands is crippling to most teenagers, and as a teenager Mathew Andrew (aka Mat the Alien) could be found before many of his early shows hunched over in an alley throwing up from the nerves of playing a big party.
Using the second location for his father’s record shop Muze, Andrew quickly moved from DJing small football clubs to opening shows for Marcus Intalex (a drum and bass DJ from Manchester).
Considering Andrew grew up between rows of vinyl and cassettes, it’s no surprise he eventually found himself behind a set of turntables.
“That’s all I remember growing up was being around records. We’d always be going to shows, festivals and concerts,” he said.
But growing up in Manchester through the birth of Factory Records, Stone Roses and New Order, led Andrew to the drums and he joined a band pursuing percussion.
Fed by the music scene emerging around him and the never ending supply of records at his dad’s shop, Andrew found acid house which was being played in illegal warehouse parties.
“We just stumbled on them when we were 14,” he said. “We weren’t even old enough to drive.”
Andrew and his friends would bus to the town where a party was being held and they would weave around cars knocking on windows asking for a ride to the party.
“We’d end up in this big warehouse with 500 or 600 people,” he said. “I remember the first time hearing the music mixed together. It was 1988, so there wasn’t the Internet or that much information. I had never heard anything like it before.”
Within a year the parties Andrew was attending grew to hosting 5,000 to 10,000 people and he was completely immersed in the world of electronic music.
Collecting mixed tapes from friends and tapes of pirate radio shows in London like one by DJ Hype (a drum and bass DJ) Andrew was actively learning all he could about the new genre.
What he didn’t know was in the crowd at the parties was a familiar face, his older brother who was also getting wrapped up in the music.
“I would tell my mom I was staying at a friend’s house to watch movies, but we would stay up all night listening to the music at these parties,” said Andrew. “It turned out my brother was there too, and eventually he ended up getting turn tables.”
While his brother was at work, he would go into his room and spend all day on his turn tables, going though his records and mixing music.
Through the record shop, they quickly got access to the music they were learning and started importing new music to the shelves.
“We had two record shops,” said Andrew. “We made one of them a dance music shop and the other had all kinds of music.”
As he grew up his love for DJing continued, but a new love would enter this life in the early ‘90s.
In 1994, Andrew visited Whistler for the first time to snowboard, the next year he had packed his things and moved to Whistler.
In England, he was playing some of the biggest some of the biggest drum and bass parties in the country, but when he landed in BC he found the music he had been playing had yet to gain a following in West Coast.
“It was still pretty small over here,” said Andrew. “A lot of the sound systems at the club just didn’t have enough bass and the drum bit was really trebly.”
Faced with the restrictions of his new environment, he started looking at what DJs were doing around him and found Vinyl Ritchie who was mixing funk, acid jazz and hip hop.
He also shared the stage with scratch DJ Kilo Cee where they brought four turntables on stage.
“It was fun playing in Whistler because you didn’t have to play one sound like house or drum and bass,” he said. “I could scratch and follow it with funk, and then play a hip hop track followed by a drum and bass track and some rock influenced stuff.”
In 2010, Andrew had the opportunity of playing for the Vancouver and Whistler Winter Olympics, and has also played the US Supercross, the Torino Olympics and the X Games.
While he often finds himself lost in a culture with a language he doesn’t understand, his music always translates to the people on the dancefloor.
“One time I was in Moscow and it was so crazy because no one knew what we were saying and we didn’t know what they were saying,” he said. “We got to the club and did some scratching and beats and everyone was dancing, jumping up and down and giving us pounds.”
In addition to playing stages in over 15 countries, Andrew has been a regular at Shambhala Music Festival in Salmo for the past nine years.
“Shambhala has been a big part of my DJing,” he said. “But sometimes I find my favourite shows are the small clubs where the crowd is right in front of you.”
Andrew will be playing Spiritbar on Saturday night.