Mat Fraser – UK Disability History Month – Transcript
Hello everyone. Thank you very much for tuning in. We have got a very special interview, the first of a few we’ve got planned for you from Hampshire County Council. You’ve joined us here at our offices in Winchester, I’m Jamie. And Hattie, as I understand it, you have had a sit-down, a skype call with, well do you want to introduce Hattie who you’ve been chatting to?
So Mat Fraser who is a drummer as well as an actor and his disability means that he has shorter arms so it’s a bit more difficult for him to play the drums. That’s quite amazing. So, it’s not just the drums he’s got under his belt, he’s an actor, performer, the whole performing arts, he’s quite a talented man. I think it’s important to see the person behind the disability that their talent and the person that they are is the thing we should focus on the most.
Yeah, absolutely. There’s loads of different people with loads of different types of disabilities and that’s what this UK Disability History Month is trying to show that everyone can get involved in music whether it’s if you’re deaf or blind musician. Anyone can get involved in music.
And on a Hampshire level, there is a service that we offer isn’t there?
So there’s Hampshire Music Service.
And you can find out more about the music service on Hantsweb I believe, it should be the first result. I’m really looking forward to hearing this interview. Let’s tune in and listen to your Skype call.
Hello Mat. Thank you so much for being involved in our UK Disability History Month. So just to dive straight in then, what go you into music as a young child?
Well, initially I wanted to be an actor but when I did the school audition everybody was so embarrassed, I was the only disabled kid in the school, everybody was so damned embarrassed by the very notion of me being on stage trying to entertain that I realised that there was a problem with my chosen vocation, and then years later, a few years later when punk happened and there was sort of a general liberation of the notion that you had to be good at an instrument in order to deserve to be allowed to play it in front of people, you know whereas anyone could have a go. So my Mum was dating a drummer at the time and there was a couple of Drum Kits round at our place and so I asked if one of them could be set up in my bedroom and I just started playing along with punk records and then my mate was like “I’ve learnt guitar” and so we formed our first punk band. Fairly soon I discovered the joys of drumming as a mode of entertainment for other people and it was a way of expressing. I have a lot of- I’m a very confrontational person and so I have a lot of in-built rage and aggression that needs an outlet and the drumming is fantastic for that so becoming to school punk like having an identity of a musician was so much cooler that the alternative, derogatory identity of disability which was just, you know now I see if as a badge of honour of course, a wondrous- I’m a battle scarred soldier of equality so to speak, fighter for justice, but the outlet that music provided me as an isolated disabled person that couldn’t express themselves was invaluable and it taught me to find my voice so, I mean, it’s the ultimate liberation for me.
So, you would argue that the benefits for music for everybody, especially disabled people, are huge?
I think so. I think so, yes.
So you’ve got music just in itself as a wondrous place to be if you’re feeling creative, frustrated and you’re disabled, then if you add music technology to that it can completely liberate your physical ability to realise your creative imagination and so, I’ve written an entire musical because of music technology so I am the biggest fan of music as a liberating force for creative expression for disabled people.
So if you could go back in time and you could have a chat with your younger self before you’d ever even picked up a pair of drumsticks, what piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
That is a really good question because I exactly know what I would say. Get over yourself. Use the modern technology that’s available to you because it will make you so much better at what you do and any notion that “No I should be able to learn it on an acoustic kit, guitar saxophone” whatever the instrument is when there’s an electronic version there to help you get good at it, and you will get better quicker at it then you must do it so don’t have some strange notion that there’s an honour in doing it the difficult way, your virtuoso skills will develop anyway but music technology is a liberator and you must see it as such because it will help you, not hinder you, so please use it. That would be the one totally piece of advice I would give my younger self. Absolutely.
So, you mentioned technology there. Technology must act almost as a vehicle if you like to show everyone your full potential?
Yes, it’s a disability- it’s an accessible vehicle. Absolutely. All that music technology does for me it turn, I’m going to use me as an example, turn me into a fully functioning, fully able drummer that can do anything any other drummer could do and you know, the harsh reality is there are some techniques that I can’t do, for example I can’t hit the bass drum and a cymbal and then immediately clasp the cymbal between my thumb and finger to get that ‘Tssst’ sound which is a very well know sound in rock, however I can recreate it on a trigger pad so I can play it with my electronic kit.
Ok, so another scenario for you. If you were in charge of Hampshire schools, what would you encourage your pupils to do to get involved and reach their full potential?
Arts, drama and music. I mean, drama for expression and music for creative soul expression. Drama for confidence building and being able to speak in public and all those things and then music for being able to flower and develop and release your soul into the world in a way that you choose to do, not in a way that has been inhibited and told to you by other people so that’s what a school could do to all pupils, especially disabled pupils, but all pupils.
And you also mentioned the confrontation and aggression which is obviously a huge side to punk music, but how do you use that emotion in your work nowadays?
Well I’m a rocker, always will be. Aggressive guitars and drums always get me going. As I get older, of course, because I’m an artist that strives to improve social justice in everything that I do, I realise that actually constant anger isn’t always a good force and so anger is about sensitivity and being hurt and unloved, and I know this sounds like a terrible old hippie adage but when you kind of get in touch with the love that you have inside you and spread it to other people, then you are really cooking. We have to show each other that we’re actually all the same and that all we need is love and community, and then we can all operate in an equal environment, and it sounds so hippie but that’s what I want to do now with my work, I want to make people feel better about themselves and show models for success, so yes, you show problems in your work, your music, your dramas, but you also show models of how people can get out of that and improve their lives. To this day when I have five minutes and I’m in a room with a piano, I’ll sit down and start playing and it’s just great. It takes you to a place, it’s a meditative thing. I don’t know what I’d do without it.
That was fantastic. Thank you very much for your time Mat.
No, not at all. You’re very welcome guys. I always enjoy talking about this sort of stuff and the best of luck with your project. All the best. Bye-bye.
Oh wow, that was - I mean, what a guy! I mean, what he just said at the end there summed it all up. He genuinely does love talking about his work, doesn’t he?
Yeah, he’s absolutely fascinating. All his work is about inclusion and getting disabled people involved in music and yeah, he summed it up right there.
Hattie, thanks so much for taking the time to have a chat with Mat Fraser. Who have we got next up?
So, the next interview is with a charity called ‘Attitude is Everything’ and they aim to improve access for disabled people into live music events and festivals.
Really looking forward to it. Hattie, thanks so much again. We’d love to hear your feedback on this as well so please drop us a line. You can find us on Twitter: @HantsConnect. You can also connect with us on Facebook and Instagram and all the other social media channels or go to hants.gov.uk. Thanks very much. See you soon.