BuzzChips Interviews Matoma
Watch out, Stargate. There is a new Norwegian record producer on the scene making people feel good with his bouncy tropical house melodies. Born Tom Stræte Lagergren, Matoma has been working his way onto US radio lately by way of Jason Derulo’s single “Try Me” featuring Jennifer Lopez. Before collaborating with Derulo, the DJ’s star factor became evident when he remixed The Notorious B.I.G. track “Want That Old Thing Back” featuring Ja Rule and Ralph Tresvant. Last year, Matoma amended the tune’s title to “Old Thing Back,” added his signature tropic-tinged bells and whistles, giving the track a second wind. BuzzChips sat down with the 24-year-old Norwegian to chat about mandatory military service, learning his craft at university and Sweden’s Max Martin.
The Norwegian Armed Forces calls for its male citizens to complete a compulsory period of military service. After high school, Matoma began his conscription. “I got sick during my service,” the DJ says. “When I was lying in the hospital after the Army, I was thinking about my life because I was seriously sick. I found out that I wanted to pursue my dream of making music.” Matoma began playing the piano at age six. For the next ten years, the producer trained classically. “I bought myself a computer when I was 16 and did basic producing,” he recalls. “Not GarageBand; more sampling and creating urban beats. Doing the next level up from GarageBand.” After his time in the Norwegian Army, Matoma applied for music school, going on to receive a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Production and Technology from the University of Norwegian Technology and Science.
During his bachelor thesis, the DJ became bored of school. “It was after three years in school and I wanted to do something differing during my free time,” says Matoma. He started remixing songs. After encouragement from his brother to start putting the remixes up on SoundCloud, Matoma was met with positive feedback from the very first song he posted. “That inspired me to do the next one and my fanbase slowly grew. After one and a half years, I had almost 190,000 followers and 100 million plays in my SoundCloud.” Matoma lucked out from a lack of producers and DJs not optimizing the service at the time. “Not many put out remixes,” he explains. “I did something special; I did old school hip-hop - tropical, new disco flavored sound.” That distinct sound is a main factor in Matoma’s success. “People like my music because they can see the guy behind the music and feel like it’s a story. My tracks have a red thread. They are different, but at the same time you can hear it’s me.”
Production duo comprising Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Storleer Eriksen, professionally known as Stargate, are arguably the most successful musical export to have hailed from Norway. Matoma is a fan, gushing about his love for the melodies and simplicity of their beats, but at the same time in awe that it sounds so big. “I saw a Norwegian documentary of them,” says the producer. “I got inspired by how they moved to the States and pursued their dream to become Stargate. They have been a big influence on me.” Though the young DJ and Stargate have never met, it is only a matter of time until the Norway connection brings them together. Let’s hope it’s in the studio.
The talent being pumped out of Sweden cannot be ignored; especially if like Matoma, you live in the country next door. “I like Max Martin,” states Matoma. “He’s great. He’s a genius. With Max, you hear that it’s a Max Martin production. He’s so diverse and talented to produce. His sounds are so unique and his melodies are sick.”
With the plethora of good music coming from Scandinavia, Matoma is glad that Norway is starting to expand worldwide and that people are starting to look at Norway for exporting music. “Norway has a lot to offer,” enthuses the DJ. “I think it’s because of nature and the people there and the uniqueness of how we create music when we go into the studio.”
Last month, Matoma released a rather unconventional album. The producer's "Hakuna Matoma" consists of new tracks added over time based on the playlist format. The DJ is using streaming media platforms to release new material while keeping previously released tracks. Most recently, he introduced Akon collaboration "Stick Around" and his latest single "Running Out" with fellow Norwegian Astrid S to his "Hakuna Matoma" playlist.
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By Jennifer Boyer