British A&R man and Universal marketing maestro Matt White heads to Dubai next week for the launch of Ministry of Sound’s R&B Anthems at Club Sensation on September 23, where he’ll play a headline DJ set. We hit him up for a proper introduction.
It was White’s older brother’s influence that got him into music. ‘My brother was really into the music scene, and in the early ’80s he was involved with the black music coming into the UK. He used to lock me in his bedroom and play me the music, teach me the moves and make sure I had all the latest T-shirts. I think he felt pop music wasn’t good enough, so made sure I was exposed to all the good soul, jazz and funk. He’s a tax consultant now. He kind of went full circle.’
He got his start with Soul II Soul. ‘I did a set at London’s Notting Hill Carnival when I was 17, and some of the Soul II Soul guys saw it. They were impressed by this kid who was able to do this crazy cutting and scratching, and using old records mixed up with new records, and they asked if I’d join Soul II Soul. Naturally, I said yes. They went on to become superstars, and I’ve been in the industry ever since.’
He’s currently working with some of the industry’s biggest names. ‘I run the marketing campaigns for groups in the UK, namely The Game, Timbaland, LMFAO, 50 Cent, Far East Movement, Keri Hilson and Dr Dre. That’s a full-on job, but I also run my own online promotions company.’
He founded Smoove at Ministry of Sound in London. ‘We had a very successful period in the UK. We had everyone from Eminem to footballers come down. It was a really big deal in the UK, and now they’re taking it out to Dubai. I suppose a set with the person who put it together is a good way to launch it.’
The ever-changing way in which music is consumed presents him with his biggest challenge. ‘There are so many ways to consume music, whether it’s YouTube or Soundcloud or Mediafire, and all these different ways that people are finding out about music, with social networks like Twitter and Facebook. It’s a struggle to keep on top of everything.’
He learned some time ago to go with his gut instinct. ‘The worst advice I was given? “Stop banging on about Eminem – he’s a foul-mouthed white rapper who will never sell a record.” I’m not going to tell you who told me that.’
He believes Stevie Wonder’s ‘Living for the City’ is the closest a track has come to perfection. ‘The way he sings it is just beautiful. He’s got so much emotion in his voice. It’s one of those records that if you have soul inside you, it will touch you. There are few records like that. I know I could listen to it 50 years from now and it will still have resonance.’
Matt White plays Ministry of Sound R&B Anthems launch party at Club Sensation on Friday September 23.