“We thought [Korn would] kick us out of the studio, but they all started high-fiving each other. It was like, ‘You guys don’t suck after all.’”
——Lauren Christy
The Matrix Reloaded
An exclusive HITS Year-End Dialogue with Lauren Christy, Graham Edwards and Scott Spock by Roy Trakin
The Matrix—Scotland natives Graham Edwards and wife Lauren Christy, along with St. Louis jazz trumpet player turned programmer Scott Spock—have been one of the most successful production/songwriting teams in pop music over the last few years. After getting their start with Christina Aguilera, the trio—under the management of Sandy Roberton’s Worlds End—have gone on to create hits for Avril Lavigne (“Complicated,” “Ska*ter Boi”), Hilary Duff (“So Yesterday”) and Jason Mraz (“The Remedy”) as well as a long list that includes Liz Phair, Ricky Martin, Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and Mooney Suzuki, among many others.

After an aborted “band” project with NoCal songstress Katy Perry and British rapper AKA was shelved by Columbia, the group returned to the recording studio with a vengeance, collaborating on the newest albums by Shakira (Oral Fixation Vol. 2), Korn (See You on the Other Side) and INXS, as well as Skye Sweetnam and hot newcomer/former O Town singer Ashley Parker Angel. The trio took some time to try to coax a chart-topper out of HITS’ own resident malcontent, Roy “Neo” Trakin.

What happened with The Matrix album?

LC: It took quite a while to make the album because, as soon as you think about doing your own record, it becomes personal, and it’s hard to write about yourself. We had a really good time doing it, though. We absolutely loved the record. The problem was, we didn’t think we’d have to go out and promote it…by being in the videos and on the album cover. We found ourselves sitting in our studio doing phone interviews when we really wanted to be working on other projects. When we started having to turn down stuff, we began to re-think the whole thing. We are producer/songwriters, and we like being behind the scenes. We don’t want to step into the limelight. It’s the greatest record never heard. We like it as a snapshot of all our lives at the time. It’s a little piece of history for us, but we don’t know if anyone else will ever hear it.

SS: We had to figure out who we were as artists, and that wasn’t easy.

GE: We stopped doing what we should have been doing. The best part of doing it, though, was it forced us to be more personal as writers. It took us to another level.

LC: Any chance to expand what you do as artists is interesting to us. I think several of the songs are some of the best things we’ve ever done.

So what have you been up to lately?

SS: Since we made the decision to move on, we found this fire in our belly again to get back into the studio and start writing with and for other people. Out of the blue, we got a phone call from Shakira to get on a plane to Madrid and spend some time with her, so we went for it. Once we got over there, it was great. We ended up writing seven songs together, including the first single, “Don’t Bother,” and “How Do You Do?,” which could be the next one. Once we got back, the snowball started going down the mountain, and we began writing with tons of people. And then we got a phone call from Jonathan Davis from Korn, which surprised all of us. He told us he wanted to write “with a bunch of great pop writers” and see what becomes of it. When we first got to the studio, it was, “Oh my God, what’s going on?” But after the third or fourth day, something happened. We came up with this idea that we all liked and the band liked. Suddenly, the ice was broken and a flood of material came out.

What was it that clicked with them?

LC: We’re used to sitting down at guitars and piano and writing, but we rethought that. We let the band jam, took snippets and turned them into songs, which is kind of the opposite way of how we ordinarily write. There are certain places they go to, and if we heard a particular riff that was amazing, we’d just grab that. And they might not even be aware it would make a killer chorus. We cut up their music and took it back to them. We thought they’d kick us out of the studio, but they all started high-fiving each other. It was like, “You guys don’t suck after all.”

You’re no longer just pop devils. Now you’re honest-to-god rock Satanists.

SS: We really want people to recognize that we’re not just pop-rock producers. We came into this business from three completely different backgrounds, and that’s why we click so well. We pull those three areas into a mutual middle ground. That’s what’s helped us survive. At the beginning, when we did Christina Aguilera, it was like, “They just do R&B.” And then when Avril came along, it was “They just do pop-rock.” Now we just did the darkest Korn record people will ever hear.

LC: We wrote 23 songs in three weeks with them, and it was the most creative period of my life. We just all clicked. One of the things we brought that they responded to was our sense of melody. And they weren’t frightened to try it.

GE: It’s more song-based than most Korn records, but that doesn’t take away from the darkness of it.

SS: When they write as a band, it tends to be a jam session. What they realized is, when someone comes in, grabs parts out of those sessions and structures them, that’s really cool. They needed that outside perspective. We didn’t know where the line was to stop. They’d play us stuff, and we’d flip it, record it backwards and give it back to them. And then they’d try to play it live and reinterpret it. We had three Pro Tools rigs going at the same time…all this regurgitation of ideas back and forth. It was nuts, but great.

LC: They were so open to trying new things. It was very liberating.

What are some of the projects you’ve done since then?

SS: Britney Spears’ ex-manager Larry Rudolph brought us an artist named Ashley Parker Angel, who used to be in O Town. He played us some demos and we realized this kid is really talented. His story is the stuff of fiction. He went from the top of the heap to disappearing, going broke and living with his pregnant girlfriend and her mother. They started following him around with a film crew, and now MTV is making his story into their next big reality series in January, There and Back.

GE: He has this kind of Oasis/Coldplay thing going on. Great voice. Grew up in Northern California. He’s signed to Barry Hankerson’s Blackground label through Universal.

LC: We have two songs on the new INXS record out this week, “Hot Girls” and “Perfect Stranger.” The lead singer, J.D. Fortune, is going to be a star. We’re also working on the new Skye Sweetnam album. But we’re not doing the pop-rock thing with her at all.

SS: We have created a new mixture of genres. There are so many Avril and Britney clones, we wanted to create something fresh. A lot of people are copying that sound, and living off that. We kind of wanted to not fade away with it. And create something different.

It’s a double-edged sword when a sound becomes so dominant, and you’re associated with it.

LC: We’ve had people tell us recently our stuff is too “rock” recently, that it sounds too much like Korn. You get typecast no matter what you do.

How do you feel about the current state of the record industry?

SS: I think The Matrix reflects the trend towards collaborations, which started in the rap and hip-hop world. If everybody begins melding together and bonding, you’re going to come up with some innovative stuff. Look at us. We come from three totally different backgrounds, but we’ve created some very cool stuff when we combine forces.

LC: What’s going on now is so scary. As long as I’ve been doing this, I still don’t quite understand why some things become hits and others don’t. We just have to hunker down and concentrate on the art, on making music. And just hope that the stars will align.

GE: We’ve had an amazing journey. While the industry has been in turmoil, we’ve been at the top of our game. We’ve ridden the wave, and been really lucky. I think the business is getting back on its feet. There are more smart people in there, thinking clearer, with modern ideas. I’m hopeful.

Marketshare machers. (10/27a)
Lamar enters the House of Jody. (10/27a)
It's a lock. (10/27a)
Planning for an Election Day hopped up on painkillers. (10/28a)
Vote. Do it now. (10/28a)
Bring your umbrella.
Mulling possible surprises.
Why not wear a mask indoors?
What drugs will help us get there?

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