Matthew Silberman is a Questionable Creature! (exclusive interview)


   Matthew Silberman a Brooklyn based artist stands out in the world of jazz music. From the jazz quintet comprised of Silberman, Ryan Ferreira (guitarist), Greg Ruggiero (guitarist), Chris Tordini (bassist), and Tommy Crane (drummer). A quintet that is not typical for the jazz genre but nor is Matthew and his music where it is very forward thinking of a very progressive jazz sound infused with rock. Matthew has had a very eclectic musical career joining at separate points a hip-hop, rock, and country-rock bands where he brings all of those influences to his own masterpieces of original compositions and live performances.  His brand new album which is his also his debut album is available now entitled; “Questionable Creatures” (released on DeSoto Sound Factory).

  Matthew also manages, owns, and founded DeSoto with DeSoto Sound Factory and DeSoto Picture Company’s being divisions. The companies themselves deal in the music industry along with music videos and photography.   

Matthew Silberman's Official Website:
DeSoto Website:                           

 Column Written By: Mason Williams


Matt, let me first mention it is a true pleasure for you to take time out of your busy recording sessions and projects to do this interview.

Your first debut album; “Questionable Creatures” is a great album, what an introduction! Please tell us the journey it was on deciding the conception of this album, the songs chosen, cover art etc.?

Thank you Mason! Much appreciated.  The album is sort of a culmination of my life up to that point.  I think every album is in a sense, but especially your first one.  At the same time, I chose songs to record that felt current, and inspired me.  I didn’t want to record anything that didn’t feel real, didn’t make me excited to play it.  So all those songs were the ones of mine that were really speaking to me.

It was also about telling a story with the album as a whole.  I chose songs that I felt would connect together in a way that it took the listener on a journey.  I want all my albums to lead the listener into different worlds, different feelings, different experiences.  I like that the album does that.  You go from this deep groove on “Ghost of the Praire” to a quirky march inspired by ‘Amelie’ on “Questionable Creatures (Writing on the Walls)” to a dream world on “Dream Machine,” etc.

The cover art started with conversations between Sandra Reichl and I.  Sandra is the artist/designer who did all the album art, my personal website and logos, and the DeSoto website/identity.  She asked me about what kinds of things I was thinking about from the music, what the songs were about, etc., and what artists I liked.  Knowing that I’m a huge Dali fan, she had the idea of representing me as this Dali-like deconstruction of a nose and a hat.

We met up a couple of other times to expand on it, and thought up different representations of the pieces on the album in the form of different characters or icons that you can see in the album artwork (all of which are on the poster insert that comes with the CD).

I love that you are a singer/songwriter and all songs are originals which take that much longer to bring together songs that you truly want to bring to the world and will be a good musical journey together on one album, what message(s) and musical journey did you set-out to do with your current album?

I wouldn’t call myself a singer/songwriter.  I sing some, but not on this album, and not lead, and although I’ll reference music I write as ‘songs,’ often for easiness-sake, they don’t necessarily fit into any kind of song-like structure. 

That said, on the album, I don’t really have a message per se, as much as I want to inspire listeners and take them on a trip.  I want them to feel something, and gain maybe some kind of insight or awareness into themselves and/or the music.  To me, the music that always spoke to me the deepest was music that made me feel something profound and experience things newly.  So I guess I’m just trying to give people the same feelings and experiences that I’ve had as a listener.

Walk us through the process for you when getting into “the writing zone” for songwriting?

I don’t really have a specific process for writing.  Maybe that is my process, I don’t know.  As long as the music that’s being made feels fresh, personal, and is inspiring me, it doesn’t matter how I come up with it.  Some of the pieces on the album were written very quickly.  “Mrs. Heimoff” I wrote in maybe an hour, after thinking of this woman I used to sit next to in synagogue when I was a child, and the opening melody popped into my head.  Then I sat down at the piano and wrote out that song.  “Questionable Creatures (Writing on the Walls)” happened similarly.  “Dream Machine” I wrote after getting home from seeing a Brion Gysin exhibit at the New Museum on Bowery, and I thought “what if I take his [and William S. Burroughs] idea of the cut up and apply it to music?”  I wrote 3 or 4 of them, but “Dream Machine” is still the one I like best.  Or sometimes I just sit down at the piano and start to play around, and if something hits me then I’ll develop it into something.  That’s what I’m doing now more with Pro Tools and Ableton Live as well.

Do you have one special song on your debut album that for whatever reason speaks to you and your core the most?

I don’t have one specific song on the album like best, no.  I like them all, some for different reasons. 

From the vast background which is very eclectic from joining bands that are rock, hip-hop, and country-rock, what did you take away from those experiences to bring you today where you are as an artist?

Playing with bands of different genres and styles I think really helped open up my mind and artistic palette.  Going to jazz school sometimes your musical world and opinions on music can become very small, very narrow.  The only thing that matters sometimes is “learning how to play,” instead of necessarily making great music.  It becomes often more about virtuosity and playing your instrument well in a way that gains the approval of your peers. 

For me, playing in many bands from different styles, I got to learn a lot about making choices that were purely musical, not about showing off.  I realized much more that just because a musician doesn’t have a lot of theoretical knowledge or technique doesn’t mean they’re not a great musician.  At the end of the day, we’re all trying to get to the same place, to make something great. 
How would you describe Matthew Silberman music?

I have no idea hahahaha.  Hopefully just ‘good music’ would suffice.

Your debut album has been well received, it must be that much more gratifying to see people enjoying your hard work, what do you think of this and why do you think people are connecting with you and your music right now?

Thank you.  It’s definitely nice to hear some kind words about the music, and see that it’s been well received amongst the press and my peers.  It feels good to know that people like what you’re doing.  I think people may connect with my music because I’m trying to make music that’s really honest and personal. I think the more honest/personal music is, the more universal it is ultimately, because it’s really just expressing something human that other people can relate to.

When performing you have a wonderful quintet you perform with, tell us how they four of you gentlemen came to know one another and decide to collaborate musically together?

I met Tommy Crane and Chris Tordini at the New School.  Tommy and I started playing together right away as we started at the same time, and Chris started a year or two later.  Greg Ruggiero I met through Tommy; they new each other from when Greg was visiting Tommy’s hometown of St. Louis. I can’t remember exactly how I met Ryan Ferreira.  I saw him play for the first time with Ralph Alessi’s “Modular Theater” at Tonic, and may have talked to him then, but we lived in the same neighborhood, so I’d see him waiting for the train, and we talked and eventually started playing together.  

We played together as a band for the first time in 2007 for a gig at Rockwood Music Hall.  I’d been thinking about trying something new instrumentation-wise, and Greg and Ryan were (and are) two of my favorite guitar players.  I thought their styles would mesh well, as they’re so different but complimentary.  I also wanted a more open sound, and was listening to a lot of Blonde Redhead at the time, so the two guitars helped get closer to that sound.  The first gig we played there was a definite synergy.  I didn’t revisit that until 2011 as I was doing a project with violin and cello for a while, but when we started playing again there was a magic that was developing, and fortunately we got to play a bunch of shows before we recorded, so I think by the recording session our chemistry had really grown into something special.

What are your thoughts of the current musical landscape? I truly think we need artists like yourself and more of you getting your music and messages spread throughout the globe. It is time for more creative music and not simply tuning into a Top 40 list which in my book has you miss out on some of the best artists and music right now. Enough of me you tell me your thoughts on this.

We’re in an unprecedented state of music now because of technology.  It’s never been easier to make a record or EP and put it out by yourself or through an indie label.  It’s also never been easier to pirate music.  That’s changed the landscape for better or worse.

On the one hand, it’s made music more of a meritocracy.  If you’re really good, and your stuff is available, people can and will discover you.  You don’t have to wait around to get signed by a big label, you don’t have to be the thing they are looking for.  You can just do what you do, get it out to people reasonably cheaply, and see what happens. 

That has flooded the market though.  There are so many bands now, that I think listeners can get overwhelmed trying to sort through it all and keep up.  And in a sense, things haven’t changed that much, because if you’re on a big label with a big budget, you’re still going to get a lot more money behind you, and generally more press/listeners/opportunities than someone who’s not.  But now the indie people have a chance to be heard too, where in the past you might not.  And you can have someone like, say, ‘Tyler, The Creator’ rise to the top by putting his stuff out there, playing shows, and the word spread because people love his music.  Now he’s aligning with big time distributors to get his stuff out there, but it was all because the technology allowed him to do what he did without waiting for someone to give him a deal or studio time.

In part because of the piracy issue though, a lot of the ‘top 40’ music, or music that is aimed at that market, has become more and more diluted because the labels that are putting those types of artists out are more concerned with profit than music.  Not that that hasn’t always been the case to varying levels, but big labels used to take more chances, and now they’re more focused on having a safer investment.  As a result, you have a lot more imitation and dilution in the pop sphere. 

But there is a TON of great music coming out, and because of the democratization of the industry, it’s so easy to find out about great bands.  I’ve been super inspired lately listening to everything from St. Vincent and Buke & Gase to Glass Ghost and Half Waif, from Flying Lotus and James Blake to Tyler, The Creator and Kendrick Lamar.  I think it’s a great time for music for the curious/motivated listener.


With your musical career in high gear right now what is the biggest achievement thus far that you see that you are arriving into the scene in a bigger way?

Well, it was great to finally put out a record of my own.  I never wanted to rush it, but I feel like I’ve put something out of value.  And as they often say, the first one is the hardest because it’s sort of a summary of your life up to that point.  Now I feel a big weight has been lifted in a way, and I’m more free to do what I want. 

Being an accomplished composer, saxophonist, singer, singer/songwriter, and also founder/owner of DeSoto Sound Factory/Picture Company; is there an area that you are still dying to expand and venture into?

I’m not really a singer and not a singer/songwriter, but am a composer and founder of DeSoto (DeSoto Sound Factory and DeSoto Picture Company being two of its branches).  One thing I’m getting into is becoming a producer, and exploring my composition in that way.  I’ve built a studio where I can produce and record my own music, and collaborate with and produce other artists, so look for a lot of music to start coming out under the DeSoto name.  DeSoto Picture Company is also in the early stages of pre-production for our first short film, hopefully out sometime in 2014.  We’ll also have more merchandise available as well, so definitely keep an eye out (everything to be featured on the website,

What came first for your musical career, the composing, playing the saxophone, and or singing? When did you know that you had a gift in the arts and wanted to venture to all of these areas?

I was always around music because my mother is an opera singer and voical teacher, so it was just something that was natural I guess.  But I wouldn’t say I had a ton of natural talent necessarily, just a love of music.  I started with the piano, then the clarinet, and then the saxophone.  When I started playing the saxophone at age 13, that’s when I really became obsessed and music became life, not just something that was fun and that was around.

How did the DeSoto Sound Factory & DeSoto Picture Company come to life?

(It’s DeSoto Picture Company, not DeSoto Pictures.)  DeSoto started as a part of a moniker that a great friend of mine, Mac Robinson (of Fisticuffs Productions), bestowed upon me.  A year or two before producing “Questionable Creatures,” I’d been thinking about names for a publishing company, because I wanted to publish my own music and own the masters.  The name DeSoto Sound Factory kept coming up in my head, so I went with that, which also became the name of the record label.  So it’s really become a multi-faceted branch of DeSoto, a studio, music publisher, and record label.

Then when we were producing the “Ghost of the Prairie” music video, the director, Taichi Erskine, and I, wanted to have an official title for the production company, so we came up with DeSoto Picture Company, which is now the visual side of DeSoto.

I worked with Sandra Reichl, who came up with the corporate identity, website, and initial merchandise designs, and we officially launched in August, 2012.  It’s been quiet the last few months as I was building the studio and making more merchandise, but expect a big push and a lot more coming from DeSoto next year.

What is your mission and vision with both companies?

Well it’s actually one company with different branches.  The overall mission is to create original, thought-provoking sounds and images that inspire and affect.  We want to move people and raise the bar.  We want to make things that people love, things that give people something more.  I remember how, especially as a kid, when I went to a movie or a concert that I really loved, I immediately was thinking how I was going to integrate what I just saw into my life; I want DeSoto to have that same effect.

I cannot wait to hear about another album on the way from you and other projects, tell us about current & up-coming projects that you are working on.

I’m currently starting to work on a solo project under the DeSoto moniker.  Not sure if it will be a full-length album, I may release a 3 or 4 song EP first.  It’s definitely different, not like “Questionable Creatures” at all.  As far as another ‘jazz’ or saxophone-driven album under my ‘government name,’ I have a few ideas, but probably won’t be recording for at least a few more months.  Right now I’m focusing on the DeSoto album/EP.

Do you have some touring under way, please tell us about where we can find you live and what should we expect for a live performance from you? Will the entire quintet be present on the touring as well?

We did an east-coast mini-tour in July, playing NYC and Boston with Press Play (the band on my album), and played recently in Brooklyn for James Carney’s Konceptions series and in Manhattan at  Bowery Electric. Last week I also played with my ‘film-music’ band, “Cinema Varitek.” Right now I’m taking a break doing gigs as a leader to focus on recording the DeSoto album.
Is there anyone that you would love to collaborate with musically (perhaps to either write with, sing with live or for an album) and why?

There are a ton of people I’d love to collaborate with, for different reasons.  Flying Lotus, Björk, Blonde Redhead, Jason Moran, St. Vincent, Me’shell Ndegeocello, Tom Waits, etc.  The list is huge.  Just so many great artists out there.  Flying Lotus has been someone who has changed the direction I’m going in.  Jason Moran has been one of my favorite contemporary jazz artists, and an inspiration with how he thinks of new ideas, new ways to express the idiom in different ways, and in tandem with other mediums.  He always sounds fresh, which is how I hope my own music sounds.  Bjork has always just made music regardless of concern with what genre someone wants to call it.  She’s not someone who sees the need to put herself in any type of box.  She’s just creating, without limitation.  Tom Waits is the same way.  There will always be an infinite list of artists I’d love to collaborate with, but right now I’m primarily concerned with honing my own voice and creating something new, fresh, and personal.  I feel like the collaborations will come down the road, and be more fruitful, when I have developed even more as an artist.

Who inspires you in both your personal and professional life?

I try to draw inspiration from anything I can.  Obviously different musicians, but I draw inspiration from all the artistic mediums.  I love going to museums, as painters have been a constant source of ideas and different perspectives.  Basquiat, Dali, Picasso, Miro, and Cy Twombly are some favorites.  Film is another big influence.  Sports, seeing how athletes move and express themselves, say Messi or Jordan or Floyd Mayweather for example, as well as being inspired by how hard they work.  Nature as well: the ocean is my temple. 

I don’t really see a distinction between personal and professional life.  Life is life.  So for me inspiration can come at any time in any form, we just have to be open to it. 

Music is a powerful tool, what does it mean to you as an artist?

Music is life.  I am fortunate to have grown up with it.  It’s just how I am I guess.  I’m always hearing melodies and/or rhythms in my head, always improvising/composing in a manner of speaking.

One of the things I love about music is the inspiration it can give people, the power it has.  I want to create music that takes people to different places, places they may not have been before but that they love.  I hope what I’m doing can inspire people, uplift people, give them a feeling of timelessness, infinity.  That’s what life really is anyways.

What made you get into the music industry?

I guess just being a musician and choosing to dedicate your life to it, one is sort of forced into the music industry part hahaha.  I didn’t really think too much about the industry aspect initially, I just loved to play and was (and still am) consumed with a desire to keep growing and improve my musicianship and creativity.  Being in the industry is just a byproduct of that.

What was your first gig?

I don’t really remember.  I think I was 16 or so, a sophmore in high school.  I’m not sure where or what is was though. 

What was your first milestone as a musical artist?

Playing at the Hollywood Bowl for the first time as a sophomore in high school was pretty incredible.  My high school band performed as part of the Playboy Jazz Festival.  I also got to perform there the next two years, as well as the ’99 Monterey Jazz Festival.  In terms of an actual artistic accomplishment, I think the first time I composed something for a recording session my high school composition class did was really rewarding.  We recorded a piece I wrote for septet called “Eleven-Eleven.”

What is it like getting into the music industry?

Uh…I don’t really know to be honest.  I’ve been in it since I was a teenager, so essentially half my life or more.  It’s just life I guess, I don’t know,

How do you choose cover tracks to sing?

I don’t really sing, or at least not lead.  But as an instrumentalist, I choose covers that I think will be adaptable to the sound of my band(s), and covers that inspire me, that make me want to play them, and sound like something I wish I’d written.

When people listen to music from Matthew Silberman, what do you want them to remember about your music?

I hope people hear something honest, passionate, and personal.

How would you want someone to describe a Matthew Silberman concert when seeing you live to others?

Hopefully people are moved at the shows and are excited about what they’ve seen/heard.  I don’t really care how they describe it as long as they’re honest; hopefully they loved what they saw and tell they’re friends about it.

Is there a dream venue for you to perform at, why?

I’ve always wanted to perform at Carnegie Hall and the Village Vanguard.  We’ll see, hopefully one day that happens, but where I’m performing isn’t as important to me as what I’m performing, and with whom.


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