Recently, Matthew Dear found himself standing on the edge of XOYO’s dancefloor with his old pal Tiga while one of the support DJs warmed up the crowd. “He played a song with a big breakdown and you knew as soon as the kick came back that the crowd were going to go wild. I remember saying to Tiga: ‘That never gets old’. It’s been happening since the beginning of dance music; the build, the drop and the return. Everybody expects it, but everybody still freaks out. It’s a magical thing.”
It’s the reason why Matthew Dear keeps coming back to his playful techno alias Audion, despite his burgeoning career as a brooding synth-pop crooner. 2012’s enthralling ‘Beams’ album seemed to mark the point where Dear transcended the dance world in the manner of Caribou or James Murphy, and he ended the campaign supporting Depeche Mode at Rome’s 78,0000-capacity Stadio Olimpico (“when we went on it was probably only a quarter full, but still… it was crazy, man!”) Now 37 and the father of two girls, you could forgive him for quietly retiring Audion to concentrate on becoming a respected leftfield artiste. But instead he’s in Brighton on a blustery bank holiday Sunday, his usual black button-down swapped for a colourful abstract-print tee, ready to bring the party to anyone who’s not face-down on the beach.
Dear’s puppyish enthusiasm for dance music possibly stems from the fact that, as an American who came of age long before the EDM boom, he was never able to take it for granted. Growing up in Kingsville, a tiny city near the Texas coast, he didn’t even realise there was such a thing as dance music. “I’d hear a single by Happy Mondays and know I liked it, but I couldn’t place it.” His epiphany came after his family moved to Michigan in his late teens and he found himself at a warehouse party in Detroit, helmed by Underground Resistance’s DJ T-1000. “That’s when a giant lightbulb went off and smacked me in the head.” He immediately bought a sampler and a drum machine and funnelled his musical ambitions towards the dancefloor. Within a couple of years, he’d joined up with ambitious University Of Michigan student Sam Valenti, who founded the Ghostly International label as a way to get Dear’s music into the world.
As the records released under his own name became a byword for urbane techno-pop refinement, Audion was established in 2004 as a repository for Dear’s less inhibited dancefloor freak-outs. The records came wrapped in vivid, fluorescent sleeves and were given dumb, borderline offensive names. “‘Suckfish’, ‘Titty Fuck’, ‘Just Fucking’…” he shakes his head sheepishly. “I was young and I had a lot of fire inside me. Some weird, sadistic voice in my head was calling the shots: ‘Call a track ‘Titty Fuck’, it’ll be funny!’ Obviously I don’t think that way any more…”