Herbert's omission of synthesized percussion is only one of many guidelines he's set for himself in what he's dubbed a PCCOM (Personal Contract for the Composition of Music). Many of the rules speak in a language that only studio engineers understand, but others invoke a poetic simplicity as to how to make music with the abundant tools of our time. It makes sampling others' music a cardinal sin, and includes this edict which also helps to better understand Herbert's music: "The inclusion, development, propagation, existence, replication, acknowledgement, patterns, and beauty of what are commonly known as accidents is encouraged." (Her-bert's PCCOM can be read in full at www.matthewherbert.com).
These guidelines manifest in songs that contain up to 3,000 individual noises, or perhaps an ambience created by layering and looping 40 different "elements of silence." He explains, "None of that was done to be geeky or boyish or anal; the end result is still to create something intimate and human."
Vocalist and longtime collaborator Dani Siciliano's voice adds a smooth and often haunting layer of icing to Herbert's purposefully jerky, lopsided structures. Through this as well, he has tried to break the mold of electronic music, "As soon as you add vocals, people assume it's less experimental and they stop listening, and yet it's some of the most conceptual stuff I've done." Again foregoing more traditional samples of snare drums or hi-hats, her lyrics appear in many forms during a single song, both as a conventional verse or chorus and also recycled into oblique stabs of abstract rhythm. The current US tour features Siciliano, pianist Phil Parnell, and not a laptop in sight. "It not like a gear-fest," he adds coyly. "They'll be filling out the songs and I'll be doing my best to throw them off."
Throwing people off is perhaps unavoidable when you try to incorporate radical commentary on everything from copyright law to globalization into a seemingly apolitical genre of music. Herbert has recently come the realization that, "Music doesn't have to be an escape from the horrors, it can also be a direct comment on it." The inherent problem being that "Electronic music is instrumental music, and it's very difficult to be political unless it's simulated in to another context." Taking a cue from plastic surgery sampling chums Matmos, Herbert will be using his sources of frustration as sources of instrumentation. He promises that the music on the next record, made under his Radioboy pseudonym, "will be made of Starbucks Coffee, McDonald's packaging, Coca-Cola, Rwanda, George Bush, things like that. The live show that I did as Radioboy generally involved destroying things, it's about time I started destroying things that are fucking up the world."