Before Matoma’s Life Is Beautiful set, our team gained some insight into his exotic life with an exclusive interview. Tom Stræte Lagergren, better known as Matoma, has quickly become one of the most credited tropical house DJ’s and producers with over 260,000 followers on SoundCloud. The Norwegian artist displayed his many musical talents at his packed set at Life is Beautiful.
Let’s Talk Matoma: Life is Beautiful Exclusive Interview
What initiated your tribute to the Notorious B.I.G.? Do you consider yourself a huge fan?
Biggie is one of the reasons I am in this industry. My brother introduced me to his music when I was seven. I didn’t understand his lyrics then, but I understood the flow and groove in his beats. I fell in love. I used to say to my brother, “you have to play this every single day,” while dancing to his music.
When I got older, I started to read about Biggie. I’d translate his lyrics to understand what he was singing about. I couldn’t quite connect, because I’m from Norway; we have a really good system in Norway. We don’t have that type of environment he sings about. I read more about the East Coast, West Coast beef, and I understood it was a culture thing. I thought that it was sad that he had to pay the price of his life for his music, because it’s SO good. His music inspires and changes people’s lives.
When I got to college after being in the army, I was still listening to him every day. I applied to music school and went to the University of Music Technology and Science. I took a bachelor in music and then during those years I attended a program for DJ-ing at the student community. I was playing Biggie every single night, but people weren’t connecting, because people hadn’t heard about him that much. They didn’t know his songs. Then, suddenly this tropical house, good vibe music was really popular. I was playing it in the lounges, not the bodegas and clubs, but the more chill places.
I thought to myself, maybe I could try to implement some of those sounds and mix them. I started searching on the internet for Biggies a capella. I found some a cappella’s from Will Smith, Snoop Dog, Dr.Dre, and Ice Cube, but I really wanted to remix Biggie. I came over the song, “I got the old thing back” with Ja Rule. I didn’t quite like the original. It was a tribute song on the ‘Born Again’ album, so I tried to do my own flavor to complement his voice. I put it up on SoundCloud and half a year later Atlantic Records called me. They wanted to sign the song as an official single.
Are you happy with the feedback the track received?
Yeah, I’m super happy. Almost 200 million streams on Spotify.
Listen to Matoma’s iconic tribute of Biggie here:
So, are you a Spotify or SoundCloud person?
I’m a SoundCloud person, but the last year and a half, they tried to do what Spotify does, with having subscribers pay for it. Their original concept that I loved is gone. I feel it’s a little like they lost their mojo and their touch.
Are you happy that SoundCloud is still around?
Yeah, I love SoundCloud. They are the reason I broke out, so I will always support them, but right now I feel like they went in the wrong direction. I want them to go in the right direction again. Their concept was based on people that were independent who didn’t have the opportunity to sign with big labels. They could do remixes and mix tapes.
The big labels saw the opportunity to buy themselves into SoundCloud and to even shut it down. For example, Sony did a big campaign where they said that all the Sony songs that are remixed, everything that is not official, we are shutting it down. I think it’s sad because they make so much money either way. If someone wants to do a tribute to an act they love, they strike it, because they want to make money off of it. It’s just sad. It’s terrible.
Check out Matoma’s track, False Alarm:
In a previous interview you mentioned, “life will always sort itself out if you spread good energy and love.” What have you gone through to have an open perspective?
My father worked in Africa doing charity work there for the United Nations. He told me stories, and my girlfriend has worked there voluntarily. We came from a rich country, with all the resources to do what you love. You can pursue your dream and believe in yourself in Norway. I come from a small community; a town with 800 people. I played the piano when I was young. I played soccer, but I wasn’t good. I was a goalkeeper. I didn’t like it. I tried swimming and was pretty good, but I really had a passion for piano. My mother and father, my brother and my friends supported me.
One thing I have learned in life is you can always complain and see the bad in things, but that only brings bad energy. Nothing gets better if you groan and moan and say to yourself, “Aww life is shit, I should’ve done that.” Then do it. Action is the requirement.
To go down the path you want to go is necessary for success. Believe in yourself and don’t listen to anybody else but your heart and what you want to do with your life. Don’t take any shortcuts and work hard. Wake up in the morning and work until you go to bed with the mentality of spreading good energy. Then, everything is possible.
And of course, luck. You need luck in your life, but at some point, if you always spread good energy, never quit and believe in yourself, it will happen someday. I didn’t say to myself, “I want to travel the world being a DJ and producer.” I said to myself, “I want to do music.” Music is such a big aspect. You can be a music teacher, a music engineer, a music producer; you can do so much with music. The one thing I figured out was that I wanted to do music. Then, everything from there has sorted itself out. I found my path, and I believe in it. And I have the right team that pushes me every single day.
What is the dynamic like with the people that tour with you?
The dynamic is family. For Andrew, it’s work and family. I’m very simple. I love traveling the world, but also love being with my girlfriend and my family.
Not to put you on the spot or anything, but do we hear any wedding bells in the future?
Not yet. We just moved in together, but she’s still in school and studying, getting her University degree. We’ve been dating for three years. She’s a big part of Matoma Love.
Give Matoma’s “Girl at Coachella” a play:
You just released another collaboration with The Vamps. How was that entire production process compared to the last time you worked with them?
Basically, after the first time, I got to know the guys. I feel like I am their bigger brother. They are so talented, so nice, and treat their fans with the same respect that I treat my fans. We have the same mentality and we feel the same; without them there would be no us. We really cherish that. So we connect in that way. We want to spread good energy. They are so nice, humble, and hardworking people. After, “All Night,” and the success we had with that, I told them, “Maybe you guys want to come to Norway and we can shoot a music video, have some fun, and make a song together.” We did that.
Basically, Staying up was just a follow up of All Night which was more trappy and drum and bass. Staying Up is more four on the floor at 120 BPM.