Born on Halloween in Transylvania, currently based in Oxford, UK, Hungarian producer Máthé Szabolcs, the man behind Abnormal Projection records a mixture of atmospheric, ambient, laidback tunes that he fine-tuned throughout the past few years from playing acoustic guitar to laying down some seriously mellow, sometimes dark beats.
Let’s start from the very beginning… when and how did your fascination with music begin?
At a very young age my parents would often find me singing songs from various bands for our neighbours’ entertainment. It must’ve been quite embarrassing as I clearly recall my neighbours laughing and bribing me with candy and coins to sing more so that they can laugh till they tear up. Looking back at this memory, shows how much I really wanted to express with my very limited musical abilities and even though the effect I had on them wasn’t what most people want to achieve when they express themselves musically, at least I had some sort of effect on them.
My appreciation and fascination with music started with my father’s extensive disk and tape collection. Music for me has always been an escape and I was intrigued to find out how some of the songs were recorded.
You’re coming from a rather exciting and unknown corner of Europe, the infamous Transylvania. How did you end up in Oxford?
It’s fair to say that I’ve moved a lot in my life. It’s just something that happened due to the fact that I wasn’t ever entirely happy where I was at the time. I am very much aware of my roots and the fact that I was born in Transylvania, on Halloween makes me giggle with joy every time I have the opportunity to talk about this. Places I lived include: Budapest, Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca), Cambridge and Oxford.
Moving from Cambridge to Oxford was due to an emergency. I lived in a friend’s house for the summer which was very fun and productive as we formed a musical duo, playing acoustic songs.
I love living in Oxford and I can now finally say that I am entirely happy. There is something about this town that continues to inspire me. There is a right amount of gargoyles hanging on the side of buildings in town and the city just looks all mysterious and spooky when it gets all misty.
How about the birth of Abnormal Projection? Tell us a bit about the project for those who don’t know (yet) what to expect.
In 2003 a dear friend lent me his guitar when he moved to France for a year. Once I could play a couple of chords and tunes, I was already looking for means to record them but nothing serious was recorded due to lack of equipment.
The main event that kickstarted Abnormal Projection was a peculiar experience that I had when I was 16. I’ve started to have very weird dreams and one night I had a case of what the medical world describes as sleep paralyses. My brain catapulted me into a state of being aware of the fact that I was dreaming. I was in control of my dream. I woke up and I was paralysed in my bed while I could still hear sounds from my dream. It took 5 minutes or so for me to be able to move again. It felt too real. This experience is the core of Abnormal Projection. It is such a powerful experience that the only way I could cope with it is recording music.
The music I make draws its synergy from this unusual state combined with ambient sounds, dark and gloomy melodies. Listeners can expect electronic beats, abnormal sounds, dark yet mellow textures.
How do you find your audience, what do you think the biggest challenge is these days when you try to share your music with the right people?
I’ve spent half a year at my parents place back in 2011 and started learning how to use different types of DAWs. I’ve had a lot of time in my hands to experiment with different kind of ways to compose and record music. I would come up with a melody on my guitar and then use a midi keyboard to key it all in on Propellerhead Reason. I’ve posted a couple of tracks on Soundcloud and one day I’ve got a message from Peter O’Leary from the Wednesday Experiment to say that he really liked my synths sounds and the way they sat with the melodic pianos and beats. He suggested that we collaborate.
I recorded “Coffee Black Clouds”, sent the track stems to Peter and he got Emily Juniper, the vocalist of The Wednesday Experiment to sing on it with her magically unique voice. The track was released on The Wednesday Experiment’s album called “The Verse of You and I” in 2014. “Coffee Black Clouds” was also featured on BBC Radio Oxford in 2012.
It’s been in the soundtrack of an Australian movie: “Zoe Misplaced”. The movie concludes with “Coffee Black Clouds” playing in the background and fades into the credits.
I think the biggest challenge these days is to create music that stands out. I think it is sweet that I could record tracks in my bedroom and get them heard by people who were fans of Peter O’Leary and Emily Juniper. The best way to make great tunes that people want to listen to is to collaborate with like minded artists that inspire you. If you’ve created something unique, people will listen and share your music. The fact that anyone can now record music at home makes it very easy for anyone to just grab and instrument and start recording but the challenge is to create quality music and get it heard by the right people.
One day the BBC called… they wanted to hear and share your music. How did this happen?
I’ve got a phone call from BBC Radio Oxford to say that they really liked one of my recent tracks and they would like to play it on their BBC Introducing Show. There was a short interview on the live show and then they’ve played my track “Transylvania”. I was over the moon.
What was the feedback after that? Could you see a difference in any way?
I’ve been contacted by GD78 Music, a UK music publishing company and had my track “Waves” published through them. I am hoping it will end up being used in a film as I believe these unique textures and the mood that I capture with my music would go really well with visuals.
I’ve noticed that I had a lot more listeners on Spotify and Soundcloud since BBC Radio played my track on their show. It feels damn good to know that my music got listened to by an audience I could have never reached without being aired on BBC Radio.
What are your long-term plans with Abnormal Projection? Do you plan on keeping it as a hobby or you wouldn’t mind signing with a label?
There’s a plan to rekindle our collaboration with Emily Juniper. She’s recently sent me a track for which I’ve already recorded a few ideas. I’ll then send it back for her to have a listen and possibly record some vocals on top of it. We’ll then see where this takes us.
Recording and producing music has always been mainly a way to express what’s on the inside and to help me through difficult times in my life. Music is a poor man’s therapy for sure.
It is a challenge to find time to record music when you’ve got a full time job and other silly little hobbies so I would love to get signed by a label and focus on just recording music and getting better at it. That way I could then just sit down and do 15-20 hours recording sessions like I used to when I lived at my parents place in Hungary.
One of my all time favorite radios, SomaFM started playing my songs on their Groove Salad station. My music is currently in the top of their charts which is a wonderful feeling as I grew up listening to this radio. Now my music is played on a radio where I first heard Bonobo and Boards of Canada. This in itself has the potential to kickstart the process of getting signed by a record label and embark on the journey of releasing an entire album.
What other musicians inspire you the most these days?
I listen to a lot of jazz nowadays but besides that, Thriftworks, Lorn, Nosaj Thing and Baths are just a few artists that continue to inspire me.