The natural starting point for our frank discussion was the nature of his songs, as tracks such as 'Another Little Hole' from his latest album 'Still Life' and 'Falling out Of Love' from the Aqualung debut are sad and reflective; is it hard sometimes, to sing them with the feeling that is required to do the songs justice? Matt responded promptly almost as though he had pre-empted the question;
"Not really, a miraculous thing such as the birth of a child draws your mind to morbid subjects. For example, it reminds me that I am going to die. 'Another Little Hole' is about death."
There was a slight sullen and reflective silence, as I gather my thoughts and gaze around the dining area of the Manchester Apollo Theatre in search of a life jacket realizing that this is going to be a very deep experience, so much so that I was in danger of getting swept away in a philosophical tidal wave. Therefore, I decided to try and simplify matters to begin with; has he composed a lullaby yet? I enquired, as with his ethereal touch a soothing Aqualung lullaby would become the most popular thing since dummies were invented;
"There is a lullaby on the new album; 'Good Goodnight’ is a lullaby. I haven't written a lullaby for my son yet, he is more interested in the Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar".
How about turning that into a musical? A wry smile is emitted followed by an amused and then a thoughtful look. It was time to talk about the present, namely the nature of the support slot for Dido, as the Apollo and similar venues are quite spacious (2,000 plus capacity) were they worried about their acoustic sound being able to carry throughout the venue? Also, would Dido fans take to their somber and reflective sound?
"Our acoustic sets show people different aspects of our music and with it being just the two of us it makes it more interesting. There is an extra power to our music in spacious venues. We found this when we played One Big Weekend last year in front of 10,000 people. Some of our tracks take on a new lease of life like 'Another Little Hole' we find is more emotional."
In an attempt to lighten the mood I mention that Dido's soft voice would slide along nicely with his ethereal piano accompaniment, so were there any plans now or in the future for a duet? Also, whose songs would he most like to spruce up with one of his piercing piano melodies?
"There are no plans for a duet at the moment, but you never know she appears to like what we do. I really like the mellow stuff Beck is doing at the moment it is similar to our acoustic sound."
We move onto the topic of the future;
"I have been writing a lot of new songs so I want to get into making Aqualung’s 3rd album. Also, we are going to tour America, which will take up a lot of time. I am also producing Melanie Blatt's solo album (The ex All Saints Singer).'"
Hhhhmmm, I mutter as I try to stay focused. What is that going to be like?
"Kim and I have been writing material and I have been playing piano on it. Melanie has a decent soft voice that has character; it will be a warm classic soul record."
This led me to enquire as to where from where he draws his inspiration for his material?
"I quite like Samuel Beckett at the moment the way he tackles morbid topics like the end of life. His works possess a lot of humour".
I suggest that Beckett's works are like Aqualung songs, in the sense that you need to go back to them in order to fully appreciate their true value and significance? This was met with approval from the ever amiable Mr. Hales;
"Absolutely, those are the sorts of values I try to bring to my work. I think that art should be enigmatic and stand up to revisiting".
Just I was about to engage him in a debate about the transient nature of art, life and perhaps the meaning of the latter I sense I have run out of time as their sound check looms. The way that Matt approaches whatever he does in life i.e. with depth and feeling will ensure that people will be revisiting his many works for years to come.