Written & Interviewed by: Katie Pasternak & Mitchell Tillman
Since breaking through the Tropical House scene in 2014, Thomas Lagergren, more commonly known as Matoma, has rocketed his career toward sold-out shows all over the US, and his first conventional studio album coming out in August of 2018. The 27-year-old Norwegian producer has developed an incredible fanbase of more than just “people in Hawaiian shirts on the beach.” Since debuting his first album as a “living playlist” his sound has been ever-changing as his playlist evolves. Beginning with Tropical House remixes of songs by icons such as Biggie Smalls and Snoop Dogg, he recently expanded to pop music with singles such as “Lonely” and “All Night”. With a wide ranging sound, from his established tropical house brand to a more experimental “darker sound”, Matoma has been touring all over the world at events such as Corona Electric Beach. This is where we caught up with him while headlining alongside other big name artists such as Thomas Jack and Jack Novak.
Even after having been on the road for over 300 days last year, Matoma’s energy was vibrant and palpable. He loves what he does, he loves his fans, and he loves sharing the music he is clearly so passionate about with all of them.
What can we expect to hear from you today?
Matoma: “I’m gonna go tropical, and I’m gonna play some really, really cool mashups… Just do my thing!”
Have you played in Chicago on the beach before?
Matoma: “Not on the beach before! But I’ve played many times in Chicago. I’ve played at Concord Music Hall, I did my One in a Million Tour there in March– and sold it out twice– so now I’m back!”
You’ve been headlining Corona Electric Beach for a while now. What’s been your favorite event so far?
Matoma: “I remember last year, from 2016-2017, I played the New Years Eve party [Corona Electric Beach] had in Chicago. I brought my brother, my best friend, my girlfriend and two of her best friends. We flew from Norway. We made a holiday out of it, and it was really special. That’s one of the best memories I have from playing with CEB.”
Who’s been your favorite artist to have been on tour with so far with CEB?
Matoma: “I have to say, I was really excited to see that Thomas Jack was playing with me. Him and I go way back. We play at so many different festivals together. I’ve played with him in Prague and Budapest. So, I’ve had a lot of fun with him. It’s good to see him back here in Chicago!”
Who’s been your favorite artist to collaborate with on tracks?
Matoma: “I have to say, Enrique Iglesias, Jennifer Lopez, Jason Derulo… I really loved working with The Vamps, they were super, super nice guys. Astrid S has always been a big favorite of mine. I have so many! All of the people I collaborate with I end up having a close relationship with and they become my friends. So, it’s hard to say, ‘that’s my favorite,’ because every song I make is my favorite. The making of a song is what makes it special and in that moment it feels great! But of course, making a remix of Biggie… Doing the twenty year anniversary track with Snoop Dogg and Faith Evans, that was a big moment to honor his name and legacy.”
So, how does being from Norway affect your Tropical House style?
Matoma: “I think my style is a lot of different flavors, of course Tropical, but the newer stuff I’ve made has been Modern Pop and Modern Tropical. As long as people enjoy the music, they can call it what they want. I see people with Hawaiian shirts, and it’s super cool, but I think creatively, I just want to make music that can be dark, or sometimes more tropical, sometimes more EDM, other times, Pop. I make a lot of different flavors. I have an album coming out on August 22, 2018, with eleven new songs, and you will hear all of that on the album.”
So far, your album style has been “one long playlist”. Is this new album different from that?
Matoma: “Yeah, this is an original, traditional format album. So, there will be fourteen songs on the album, eleven of them are new, with maybe a special treat!”
Who or what keeps you grounded?
Matoma: “My girlfriend and my brother. He has always kept me true to my mission and myself. And I surround myself with down-to-earth people that see me for Tom and not for Matoma. At one point in my career it was really hard. After that 300 day non-stop touring, it was hard to identify myself in a way, because it was always Matoma, always interviews, and the same stories all over again. And then I got back home, and I felt a little lost. But when you see your family, everything just clicks again. It’s important for a world traveler to have some connection to his roots. And for me, that’s Norway, and it will always be Norway. And it will always be my girlfriend supporting me, and seeing me as the person I am. There’s only one person that truly understands me and that’s her.”
What’s your favorite flavor ice cream?
Matoma: “Oh, I have to say, chocolate. I’m a chocolate guy.”
If you could go to dinner with anybody, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Matoma: “My girlfriend. I could never have enough of my girlfriend.”
Ok, aside from her!
Matoma: “OK, I have to say, Will Smith! I always say his name in every single interview in hopes that one day he will listen!”
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
Matoma: “I don’t know. I’ve always had a passion for music. I’ve been on some different paths. In high school, instead of doing the academic side of things, I took electrician courses, and then I went into flight mechanic school, but that didn’t work out. After one year, I didn’t see that turning out well. So, I took a year to focus on my grades and get into university. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to study so I went into the army for a year and a half. Long story short, I ended up in the hospital for two months thinking about my life. I was really sick, and then I figured out the one thing I’ve always been passionate about and had a love for was music, ever since I started playing piano when I was seven. So, I discharged out of the army, and applied for music school in Norway. Over 300 applied and only twenty-seven got in, and I was one of them. I took a bachelor in music production technology. I produced on the side of school, but I didn’t know any song writers or artists. So to show my talent I did remixes. I started putting on shows for the student community. And you know students, they’re a tough crowd. My mission every night was never to get a single complaint, and if I managed to do that, I knew the night was good because Norwegians can come up to your face and be really crude if you play the wrong type of music.”
So, were you successful with no complaints?
Matoma: “Haha! In the beginning, no. In the beginning I got a lot of shit. Tough crowds! I’ve grown so much as a DJ. Of course I have a lot of respect for the industry, but I see a lot of big DJs that don’t DJ, but they call themselves DJs because they produce music. And I understand the brand aspect and the concept of DJing, but what I don’t understand is calling yourself a DJ and not playing live. So, I’m a big believer in shaping my sets during my sets, to read the crowd and take different directions. DJing doesn’t come over night. You need to have the confidence to take your music on different roads. If you don’t have that, it’s so easy to end up having maybe five songs mashed up and bad transitions.”
You play, piano, guitar and flute. What’s your favorite musical medium?
Matoma: “Piano. I wanted to become a classical pianist until I was sixteen, but I put too much pressure on myself. My family supported me, but at one point I sat down to play and I didn’t enjoy it as I did before. So, I wanted to quit piano for a year, and my dad was very encouraging of me sticking with music. He told me that I really had an ear for it and should think about doing maybe something different with it. He asked me, ‘What about producing?’ So, I bought a computer and ever since I’ve been producing. But I play drums, a little guitar, and piano. I’m terrible at the flute. I only play it on the keyboard!”
Any hidden talents, or fun facts?
Matoma: “I can sleep wherever. I’ve been on so many shows, even festivals with big ass sound systems, and being back stage with the bass going, I just fall asleep. I think that’s a talent!”