DJ, producer, bandleader and Accidental Records founder Matthew Herbert is known for making music that engages deeply in current affairs. Over a career spanning two decades, he has utilised recordings of everything from Libyan bombs to internal organs for his productions, not to mention the time he noisily destroying a recreation of a meal cooked by Nigella Lawson for George Bush and Tony Blair. With a tank.
It’s no surprise, then, to learn that Matthew Herbert has now turned his attention to the biggest issue affecting the UK at the moment: Brexit. For this he has reverted back to one of his favourite forms – big band jazz – for a typically unique and ambitious project that aims to celebrate cross-border collaboration at a time when it seems at significant risk.
The Matthew Herbert Brexit Big Band began the moment Theresa May triggered Article 50 in March, and will culminate with a multi-ligual album released when Britain actually leaves the EU in 2019. The finished record, which will include the setting of Article 50 to music, aims to feature over 1,000 professional and amateur performers recorded across every country in Europe, interspersed with a series of live dates and workshops collaborating with local artists and choirs.
Matthew Herbert explains the motivation behind the project:
“I simply wouldn’t be the musician or person I am were it not for the countless collaborators and interactions with people from very different backgrounds, and nationalities to my own. I have learned so much, from so many disparate and often overlooked voices. The message from parts of the Brexit campaign were that as a nation we are better off alone. I refute that idea entirely and wanted to create a project that embodies the idea of collaboration from start to finish.
“The project should aim to live its beliefs: that collaboration across borders can not only be the most fruitful and rewarding way to create, but essential to living an engaged and tolerant life.”
“In an increasingly fractured and divided political climate where tolerance and creativity are under threat, it feels like an important time to assert the desire for our bit of the musical community in Britain to reach out in solidarity with some of our closest, but soon to be less accessible, friends and neighbours.”
Having already performed events such as Rotterdam’s North Sea Jazz festival, The Matthew Herbert Brexit Big Band makes its British debut at London’s Barbican tonight. Billed as “something between a mini festival, political rally, a broadway musical, a rave and a farewell party”, it will feature over 130 performers including the Borough Market Choir and Koruso! Southwark Community Choir. A few tickets are still available from the Barbican website, and you can follow the project via Matthew Herbert’s Twitter account.