Seattle-based emcee/producer Matt Watson (aka Spekulation) works tirelessly to represent the city’s deep musical culture with his hip-hop records. Releasing several EP’s over the past couple of years, Watson has been cementing his name within the scene.
Released in the middle of June, The Crossover Event Volume 2 is the latest offering from Spekulation. The record features performances by bassist Nate Omdal (Seattle Jazz Composers Ensemble), keyboard player Josh Rawlings (Macklemore), guitarist Saba Samakar (Thunderpussy), and more. Today, Spekulation drops the video for the single “Dirty Money.” We also caught up with the musician to learn more about him.
Tell me about your first experience with discovering music, please.
The first time I discovered music could make me move was when I heard “Axel F” off of the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop… But the first time I realized that we each have a certain type of music that hits us more directly than all the other kinds, was when I heard “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J and was like, “I want more of THAT.”
When did it become clear to you that crafting hip-hop music was going to be something more to you?
I don’t know if it was ever a conscious decision as much as it was just a thing I compulsively did because it made me feel good so I just never stopped doing it. Nothing brings me peace or brings me down to earth like a long studio session, and I just think that’s kind of my natural habitat, and if left to my own devices I’ll always find my way back there.
You have been in the Seattle area for a little over a decade now. What was the driving force for you to move out to the Northwest?
The Jazz scene out here is bonkers, particularly ten years ago when more artists could afford to live in the city. I moved from the East Coast, listening to and making sampled, boom-bap hip-hop records, and the stuff I was hearing at Jazz clubs in Seattle felt like it had the same type of magic that was in the Jazz records I was sampling from decades earlier. So I pretty much moved here to sample the Jazz scene and to document it in my own way.
Being in Seattle for a period of time, what have discovered about yourself and your music?
That neither is particularly important and that what really matters is the community and that we keep creative traditions alive that gives voice to the community. I used to be very motivated by “the dream” of being successful enough to sustain myself on music, but living in a city that is rapidly fracturing and seeing so much of the community displaced, my priorities have changed and I’m less focused on sustaining my career and more focused on sustaining and protecting the creative community that was so vital to my survival.
A couple of years ago, I spoke with some folks in the music scene up there. There was a common theme of frustration with those in the outside. What would you say is the state of the music scene in Seattle?
The quality and quantity of music coming out of Seattle has never been better, but the community itself feels much more spread out and fractured. Ten years ago a lot of these artists would be sharing studio space, living on the same street, but these days most artists are living on the outskirts of the city and Seattle itself is just this thing that we all orbit around or the place we all come to play shows.
You received a lot of buzz and praise for your spin on Marshawn Lynch’s infamous press conference at the Super Bowl in 2015. What sparked you to lay down a track with the running back’s comments?
The way he talks is just so melodic and hearing him repeat the phrase over and over during the press conference it got stuck in my head. I remember having an unscheduled day off from work that day and throwing it together over the course of a few hours, then posting it to Soundcloud figuring it would languish in obscurity like everything else up there. I underestimated the passion of Seahawks fans that year.
How often do you get mentioning “Bout That Action” (laughs)?
Less and less every year, particularly since Marshawn left the team. I’m kind of grateful it’s tapering off because it’s so unrepresentative of my music, and I know next-to-nothing about football so it was getting increasingly difficult to bullshit my way through conversations about it.
You started working on The Crossover Event Volume 2 right after news of your second child was coming. Have you seen your focus and attention towards music change now that you have entered fatherhood?
Entirely. It was really difficult to find time to spend long stretches of time in the studio when I only had one kid, and it’s virtually impossible with two. People tell me it settles down in a couple of years, but until then I’m mostly focused on animation, video editing, and creative stuff I can do in small bursts during nap times so I don’t lose my mind.
The Crossover Event releases center around the concept of being the score of a comic book movie. Could you give us more insight into the characters and story behind your release?
(It’s about to get very nerdy, prepare yourself)
The first Crossover Event record was about a young Spider-Gwen learning about her way with her new abilities and the responsibilities that come along with them, dealing with the death of her hero, and realizing just how high the stakes are in this game. It’s basically about becoming an adult. Volume 2 picks up two years after. Gwen is more confident, she’s routinely foiling over-the-top evil plots, and is generally a cocky badass. But eventually her hero-ing starts to interfere with Kingpin’s money, so he hires a brutal hitman who ravages New York trying to kill her. It’s a level of violence and loss she’s never dealt with before, it almost kills her, but the city collectively pushes back, gives her strength, and she overcomes. It is essentially an allegory for the escalating violence and daily onslaught we deal with as a country these past few years.
What comic books did you look towards for inspiration during the creation of the Crossover albums?
The Spider-Gwen series was my main inspiration, not just because she was my main character, but because that book re-imagines the Marvel universe in such cool ways (Punisher is a cop, Kingpin is Matt Murdoch), and it inspired me to create a similar universe that borrows from all this source material that I love without being bound by its particulars. I was also inspired by the Marvel Knights series, particularly Alias, with its level of realism and noir sensibilities.
You feature quite the impressive amount of musicians on the new album. How did you go about choosing who would be good to work with?
I just made a friends-only post on Facebook and asked who would be interested in recording, and then doled out songs as folks replied. I left all the recording and artistic choices up to them, I just sent them the foundations of songs and then chopped up whatever they sent over. It was a cool way to let folks do the thing they’re good at, feel creatively invested in the project, and left the door open for new ideas.
The video “Dirty Money” offers the older viewers nostalgic snippets of cartoons that were widely popular in the 90s. What was the inspiration behind putting this video together?
I’m still really new to animating, so this started as an experiment in figuring out how to add characters into a scene. I’m not very good at drawing backgrounds yet so I just borrowed them from all my favorite places, and eventually, I smoked enough weed and asked myself, “what if all these cartoons took place in the same world and you could, like, walk through them, man?”
Your resume has included scoring music for a short dance video. What other projects do you want to get into the near future?
Scoring films is where I want to head. Crafting narrative music like that is really inspiring to me right now, and I love having the opportunity to live in those worlds while composing. These two Crossover Event records were essentially made as proofs-of-concept, to show that I could do it and that it would be dope. Sony announced a handful of new spin-offs from Into The Spiderverse and my current unattainable dream is to get to score one of those sequels someday. If not, I’ll just do a Crossover Event Volume 3 and call it a day.