The tropical-house sound brought new pleasures to many American ears in 2015 and now one of the genre’s foremost practitioners has presented a novel way to distribute his music.
Matoma, the 24-year-old Norwegian DJ/producer (aka Tom Lagergren), has released Hakuna Matoma, a digital album using a playlist format that can expand and evolve over time. Available via all download and streaming platforms, Hakuna Matoma includes recent singles like “False Alarm” feat. Becky Hill and “Feeling Right (Everything Is Nice)” feat. Popcaan and Wale, big remixes (“2 AM” by Astrid S), and other faves “Old Thing Back” with Notorious B.I.G., Ja Rule and Ralph Tresvant and “Try Me” with Jason Derulo and Jennifer Lopez.
Considering that, in one year’s time, Matoma’s releases earned over a quarter of a billion streams, his global fanbase should be primed for consumption. We caught up with Matoma as he prepped for his recent 27-date North American tour.
DJ Times: Tell us about your new digital album – it has quite a unique approach.
Matoma: Hakuna Matoma uses the playlist format to help the album evolve as I go. I’m also able to add songs for special moments. For example, I did a song together with Sean Paul called “Paradise.” We produced it right before Coachella, and we knew that we wanted to release it at Coachella. During the Coachella set, I brought Sean Paul up onstage with me and we made an amazing moment out of the song’s release. I could not have done that if I had waited for a regular album. This album is a story where you can subscribe, join the story and follow along.
DJ Times: How did you get involved in DJing?
Matoma: I started DJing when I was at a student-community [center], where I applied for a DJ position at the club and I got the job. It was amazing. The hardest things about DJing at the student community, though, was playing for the people that didn’t go to listen to your music and were just there to party and get drunk. I knew that during the night if I played a nice and people didn’t come up to the DJ booth and request songs then I knew I was doing something right.
DJ Times: In your opinion, what makes a good DJ?
Matoma: I think being a good DJ is about reading the crowd, adapting, making the best of what you have and always evolving your set. The energy and the dynamic are big aspects. In my opinion, you don’t have to be the most technical DJ to be a good DJ – you just need to know the right tools and how to take it from one place to another. You want to read the crowd and play what they are feeling.
DJ Times: Which DJs and producers do you find influential and why?
Matoma: One of my favorite DJs is Carl Cox. The energy onstage is amazing and he is also a very technical DJ who he has been around for 30 years. I really look up to him. For producers, I have to say Max Martin, the Swedish pop producer. When you listen to his productions, you can hear it’s him, but he always evolves and has new sounds that keep current with the music.
DJ Times: How was touring with The Chainsmokers and what did you learn from the tour?
Matoma: Touring with The Chainsmokers was probably one of the best experiences of my life. They had the best energy. I learned so much from them and from the touring life – from how to live on the bus to how to make a great show. Being able to become friends with them and know them on a personal level was really great. I loved every single moment of it and I think about that tour almost every single day.
DJ Times: For a DJ, what is the difference in approach for opening and headlining?
Matoma: As an opening DJ, you can’t play as if you are headlining. You need to be considerate of what the headliner is playing and you also need to be a bit chiller and not play the hard stuff – especially if you are playing a festival where a lot of DJs are playing hard tunes. It is important to respect the headlining slot and play music that’s suitable for an opening act.
DJ Times: What DJ gear do you use?
Matoma: I use a MacBook laptop, and I use [Native Instruments] Traktor software, connected to three Pioneer CDJs 2000NXS and DJM-900 mixer.
DJ Times: What are some of your favorite clubs and festivals?
Matoma: One of my favorite clubs is Omnia in San Diego, 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., and LIV in Miami. There are so many nightclubs, but usually the ones in the big cities are the best. I have so many favorite festivals, but to name a few – Firefly, Coachella, Electric Zoo, Electric Forest and Tomorrowland.
DJ Times: Why do you think dance music broke so big? What do you see next for this music?
Matoma: I believe that music is always evolving and getting more and more complex. All the producers these days are on the right path. Sounds are becoming bigger and bigger. EDM is more or less pop music, which everyone loves, so I think that’s the reason.