Born December 1969 in South East London and raised in North London from West Indian and English parents Matt’s journey through the UK music industry has been both influential and exciting
Matt grew up around a mixture of music from Soul, Calypso, Reggae, Jazz and Funk that his parents played, but it was through his brother that Matt got hooked and at 10 years of age already started to collect music.
“The first record I bought was probably Chic or Earth, Wind & Fire. I used to save my money and buy records from a really early age and it was kind of by accident that I got into the DJ side of my work.”
Matt’s brother used to lock him in a room to play records to him, and from an early age he quickly became fascinated by music itself and started to begin his out of control record collection. Matt’s brother was involved with a group of guys, one of which was a DJ and at a birthday party for his brother he first saw how a DJ played records to his audience. After saving his pocket money and getting a weekend job Matt saved up enough money to buy his first set of turntables and it didn’t take long before Matt was practicing day and night on his decks (much to his parents despair!). By this time Matt already had a pretty impressive record collection.
“I started making tapes for my friends and enjoyed it more as time went by. At this stage it wasn’t like I was scratching, but I had got a pretty good ear for the mixing side of things. Then one day I was walking down Camden High Street and saw that this guy was selling tapes with my music on it, I knew it was mine because I knew the order of the records off by heart and at what point each record would stop and start, one of my friends was selling my tapes to him and making money from it. First I got annoyed, but then I realized this meant that people enjoyed what I was doing, and I got inspired to continue.”
Shortly after Matt went to the US, and this completely opened his eyes. “I remember seeing DJs like Grandmaster Flash, Whiz Kid and Grand Wizard Theodore who featured in the legendary Hip Hop film Wildstyle scratching and mixing like I had never seen before and I decided I needed to master this. I always loved music but now I was obsessed by the art of the DJ. I only left my bedroom for food breaks and the rest of the time I had my headphones on and just practiced non-stop. In my spare time I was hunting for records and by doing so had got to know a lot of people in London’s record stores who kept me up to date with the happening tunes.”
Then came Matt’s first gig: “Ah, yes, my first gig was in my school youth centre, they asked me to play but I don’t think everyone was prepared for my mixing and scratching. Still I had loads of fun! The school I went to had a real musical history Eddie Grant (Electric Avenue) and Ms Dynamite went there, so I guess it was in my destiny to be in music!”
Matt continued to play at friend’s house parties and local events but it wasn’t long until he was introduced to Rap Attack who at the time was one of the biggest sound systems on the UK R&B scene. Matt played with them for a while before approaching Aitch B and Jazzie B to join Soul 2 Soul. Matt quickly became part of the team and played alongside Jazzie B, Aitch B and Jazzie Q at the Africa Centre amongst other places. Matt ended up working with the Soul 2 Soul crew for about 2 years including some remix production work on their legendary song “Fairplay” but then he was on the move again.
He started working with Derek B during times when Derek was on stage at Live Aid and doing tours across Europe and through working with Derek managed to end up in the studio working with the Cookie Crew as well. “I loved Derek, because as a DJ he was a legend, and in the studio he allowed me to have an opinion and input.”
After Matt got tired off the studio nightlife he started working at Catch a Groove Records in the west end’s Dean’s Street. “At the time Catch A Groove was only known for selling US house and other 4 to the floor dance records but when I started there we quickly established a reputation for good quality R&B and Rap music, whilst at the same time we were also able to cater for the old school soul and funk people who still wanted those rare grooves and modern records that fitted into to there musical tastes. After six months of steady sales and good feedback from the customers Catch A Groove decided to give Matt more responsibility and open up the shop downstairs and dedicate it to R&B, Rap and Reggae, they put Matt in charge and the Catch A Groove ‘Bassment’ was born! Matt quickly proved himself with outstanding knowledge of the urban music trends and the Bassment became massively successful. “I ended up providing all the top DJs in London with the newest tracks, Gilles Peterson, Trevor Nelson, Paul Oakenfold, Pete Tong and Norman Jay all came by to get their music.
During this time Matt was approached by Steve Jervier and asked to join him at Kiss FM. Matt, now 23 years old embarked on a new path as a radio DJ alongside Steve. Later that year when Steve decided to leave Kiss, Matt was asked to take over his slot. “At first I wasn’t interested and never really understood the power of radio until I was booked for a gig that Kiss promoted, they advertised this night so much and they billed me as ‘The Milk Tray Man and a Supermodel’. When I got on the decks this girl ran up to me took one look at me and said, “You ain’t no supermodel!” I couldn’t stop laughing, but I quickly realized the power off radio”.
Matt’s “Smoove Grooves” and “Ghetto Style On Ya Dial” shows ran on Kiss for 10 years and during this time Matt also played regularly at Yo Yo’s, Shuffles, Fresh & Funky, Rotation, Bar Rumba, Ministry of Sound and other venues across London and the UK. “It seems a bit crazy to me that I’ve held down a radio show for 10 years, two residencies one for nearly 14 years and worked at a record label for close to 20 years. Time flies when your having fun!”
The two club he mentioned are Bubbling Over at Bar Rumba which kick started the Sunday R&B club scene after years of having nothing, and he was the first R&B DJ to get a residency at The Ministry Of Sound with a concept he created from scratch called ‘Smoove’ . Matt was always in demand from high profile artists he met through the industry and his radio shows and it was not before long Matt was playing private parties for Boys II Men, Mary J. Blige, Toni, Tony, Tone!, Zhane, Mariah Carey and later Eminem to name a few.
Matt has also spun across the world. He has played locations as diverse as Dubai, Germany, Hong Kong, Greece, Malaysia, Taiwan and Croatia. “At the time I was the first UK R&B DJ to play Dubai and it is so refreshing to go to places like that. It was really interesting from a music perspective because people out there react differently to certain tracks. Some tracks that are huge in the UK just don’t work elsewhere.”
All this work did not gone unnoticed by Matt’s peers. Matt was nominated consistently for 5 years for The Best Club and The Best Radio DJ at The MOBO Awards, and in 2001 he picked up a Silver Award at The New York Festivals Radio Programming and Advertising awards for his Smooth Grooves show ‘Matt White Vs Dr. Dre and Eminem’ in the Best Specialist Event category. “I still don’t know how I got nominated, but I was very happy and over the moon to get the award. I’ve won an award as a DJ in American and they pioneered most of my music”.
Taking over the club scene as a DJ and appearing regularly on radio wasn’t enough for the young and extremely ambitious Matt White. It wasn’t long before he started a career inside one of the world’s top music companies Polydor.
In 1995 Matt was employed as promotions assistant and after 2 years Matt was promoted to promotions manager working with acts such as Zhane, Boys II Men, and Horace Brown. He was then promoted again and this time found himself as A&R/Promotions Manager. Matt was privileged to work on the Motown roster as well as artists such as Kele Le Roc. During a reshuffle of the company Polydor, lost Motown but gained Interscope!
When Matt saw the plans for the label he realized that he would no longer have time to do UK A&R and instead decided to make the most of his new roster as Head Of Urban Music. This is when Matt got a tip off about this new kid called Eminem and was quick to tell his bosses to get on it. This project proved to be huge success along with a list of other acts including Dr. Dre, 2Pac, Truth Hurts, Mya, Bubba Sparxxx, City High, G-Unit, 50 Cent and The Black Eyed Peas who to date have sold a staggering 1.8 million records in the UK alone.
As head or Urban, Matt was involved with all aspects of marketing and promotions for the artists he works on.
“Eminem was definitely a high point since it did so well, but also working with a group like Black Eyed Peas who I have supported since the release of their first album years ago and seeing them have tremendous success was such a great feeling. It is funny because people always said to me that it wouldn’t happen for them and now 1.8 million sales later I think I can safely say that they where wrong! It is great working with people and helping them achieving their ultimate dream, that is what keeps this job interesting for me, it gave me a real buzz.”
Matt has recently set up his own promotions and marketing company whose clients have included Nicole Scherzinger, Rihanna and Beats By Dre. ‘I wanted to be able to offer a service that uses my skills in A&R, Marketing and promotions and take advantage of my incredible contacts list’.
Outside of work “I have a four year old daughter so I don’t have that much spare time, but I always find time for my football addiction. I am a huge Arsenal supporter and rarely miss a game. I play a little bit of golf, and love cooking, believe it or not I find it relaxing and have plans to open a restaurant one day, but for now I want to leave the dance floor cooking!”
SHOW: Catch A Groove | Thursdays | 11pm-1am