Coachella 2016: Matoma Talks Surprise Guests & His Evolving Debut LP

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Matoma brought out the big guns for his Coachella debut. He was joined in the Sahara Tent by Sean Paul, who voices the Norwegian DJ’s new single “Paradise,” Nico & Vinz, Madcon and Ja Rule. (The ’90s rap sensation flew into the Indio desert via helicopter just to perform remix hit “Old Thing Back”). The 24-year-old’s collaborative approach resulted in one of the most enjoyable — and strangely nostalgic — DJ sets of the festival.

I caught up with rising producer before the show and he explained how his blockbuster Coachella set came together. Matoma also spoke about his dual singles, the above-mentioned Sean Paul collaboration and Astrid S.-voiced Spotify smash “Running Out,” and evolving debut LP Hakuna Matoma. Tom Lagergren (his real name) also opened up about his deep appreciation of hip-hop. Find out more in our Q&A below.

How will your Coachella set differ for the songs you normally play?
This set will be quite different from my other festival sets and there’s a lot of pressure behind this. Of course, it’s Coachella, it’s a huge festival, and I’ve been looking forward for this for so long. I’m also bringing a few special moments in my set, so of course you have to think a little more about what you’re playing, but I always try to keep it creative when I play, and to interact the best as possible with the crowd.

This show is going to look really, really good. The production is amazing. I haven’t been to the Sahara Tent yet, but I saw some photographs from YouTube and it looks insane. I’m really looking forward for this.

Which artists are you looking forward to checking out?
I definitely want to see Ice Cube. He’s on my list.

What about DJs?
I tried to see Jack Ü last night, but it was too crowded and I didn’t get in. I also want to see The Chainsmokers tomorrow. I was on the bus tour with them. They’re really, really cool guys, and they’re the best guys who do that. They are like me… very easy guys. They just love what they do and love the music and they’re passionate about it. They are down to earth really, really good people.

You’re bringing out some very special guests.
Yeah, we’re bringing Sean Paul. I’m bringing Nico & Vinz. I’m bringing Madcon and Ja Rule. He’s flying in to the helicopter right now.

How’d you swing that?
I met him in New York because I played there. I invited him to meet me. He came and we had so much fun and I just invited him to Coachella. I said to him, “Let’s do this.”

Speaking of Sean Paul, he’s on your new single “Paradise.”
I just wanted to create something new, inspired by Jamaican music and reggae. I mean, I really, really like Major Lazer, so I got a little inspired by them. I think I brought my signature sound and my signature production skills into the song. Sean Paul did an amazing job, writing it with Bonnie McKee and then we got KStewart to sing on it. It sounds incredible, so I’m excited about the track.

Do you have a concept for the video?
I’m always thinking about it. It would be really insane to shoot it in Jamaica. I’ve never been to Jamaica, but Sean invited me. He and his wife invited me, so … who knows? Maybe I will go there soon.

I also love your song with Astrid S..
Thank you.

Are you promoting both songs at once?
I think “Running Out” is doing its thing here in the States. The label is pushing for that song here on radio. Then Sean Paul will probably be pushed in Europe and the UK. It just hit talk radio in the England. That’s really cool, and the song is doing good things. For me, I’m not a rocket scientist, I just produce the music and let the label take those decisions. If they want to push “Paradise” in one area and “Running Out” in another, then they do that. I stick to producing.

There are so many great Norwegian singers at the moment. Astrid S., Anna of the North and Aurora. What’s going on?
Yeah. It’s really, really good man. I think Norway has very talented musicians since the early 2000s. They haven’t really try to exploit it before. We used to have folk music and weird music, but now we have looped more into pop and become more globalized, but at the same time kept our identity. I think that’s the reason.

Your album, Hakuna Matoma, has the best title ever. How did you come up with the idea for an evolving tracklist?
I just wanted it to be easy to release music. To get people to subscribe to the album. It’s like an organic playlist. That’s because of my generation on SoundCloud. For me, when I wasn’t signed to a big label, and was independent, doing like remixes, I used SoundCloud as a tool to spread my music and to gain followers and to gain attention on my page.

I needed to release stuff all the time. I want my music to be instant, not wait for a specific date. Like, for example, with the “Paradise” track. I wanted it to be special for Coachella, so we released it on the first weekend of Coachella and made a moment out of it. The playlist allows us to do that. It’s really nice.

Are you producing for other artists at the moment?
I did “Stick Around” with Akon. Forever, I tried to do both. I write a lot of music, so maybe what I don’t use, they could have it.

Do you ever feel pigeonholed as a tropical house producer?
I do what I like. If I want to produce deep house, I produce deep house. If I want to produce tropical, I produce tropical. If you go on my SoundCloud page, you can really listen… everything isn’t the same. For example, “Old Thing Back,” that’s a more new disco music. It has a few tropical elements, like the saxophone, but it’s not like a typical, tropical house track, if you know what I mean?

Definitely. You collaborate with a lot of hip-hop artists. Where does your passion for that genre come from?
Yeah, my brother introduced me to hip-hop when I was 6 or 7 years old and since then I just fell in love with it. The older I got, the more I understood the lyrical part of the songs and the message and I got really fascinated by their culture and the histories. I started reading books about it.

What’s the highlight of your set?
My “Party & Bullshit” remix with Ice Cube. That’s a very unique track.

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