Matt’s latest album, The Rhythm Of Life, debuted at #6 on the ZMR top 100. It was also nominated as one of the top 10 vocal albums of the year by Britain’s One World Music and is CD Baby’s “Editor’s Choice” selection.
Matt Venuti is a singer/songwriter who plays rare and captivating acoustic and electronic musical instruments. His songs, stories, spoken word and instrumental music have earned him the accolades of many world-wide fans. He tours nearly year-round, accompanying himself on 21st Century melodic-percussive instruments where he creates kaleidoscopic rhythms and melodies that are awe-inspiring and unforgettable. He’s one of the premier players of this new breed of instrument, starting with the Hang in Switzerland, that inspired a modern renaissance in musical instrument design. Matt is also one of the longest standing players of the equally captivating Electronic Valve Instrument (EVI) wind-synthesizer, upon which he creates lush layers of symphonic, cinematic and other-worldly textures and melodies.
Matt has a history of performing at progressive events and diverse venues that range from house concerts to concert halls. His band, The Venusians, have for years been influential in the ambient and world music scene of San Francisco and the West Coast and were in the forefront of merging electronic music with more traditional instrumentation.
For a more detailed look into Matt’s artistry and personal life…please read on.
Matt’s father was a jazz pianist and Matt started piano lessons at an early age before switching to trumpet. He became enthralled with the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument) after seeing Mike Metheny performing on an early experimental model. Matt got one of the rare instruments, and when the Akai Corporation began marketing it, he was hired to travel around the country demonstrating the progressive instrument. In addition, his band The Venusians were getting popular in San Francisco and became favorites of the SF underground and Burning Man community as well as the “digerati” of Silicon Valley with Apple, Google, Yahoo, Oracle and Microsoft hiring them to play gala industry events. According to Venuti, “My band-mates are stellar musicians who can play anything that I could conjure up, including something you might hear from the Star Wars “Cantina Band”. That was when George Lucas hired us to be that band for his Star Wars Gala event in San Francisco when he released the first prequel of the classic series. That event was a game-changer for the band and the calls were pouring in. We were employing cirque-like acrobats and exotic performing artists that complimented our interstellar identity. Craigslist founder Craig Newmark dubbed us the ‘Emissaries of Sonic Shamanism’.”
Because of Venuti’s reputation with the cutting-edge EVI, pop music celebrity Thomas Dolby asked Matt to play at the main TED Conference in his “TED House Band” with Dolby, Michael Manring and Rachelle Garniez in front of the most influential leaders in the worlds of technology, entertainment and design. In addition, Venuti was asked to open the conference with a solo EVI performance, and TED curator Chris Anderson asked Matt to give his own TED talk about the instrument on the closing day. Although he was riding high as the a frontman in this new world of technology and music, Matt was yearning for something new in his musical repertoire. He was experiencing, in his own words, “electronic overload” and he began to search for an acoustic instrument that would best help him express his musical ideas.
The Hang, Gubal and other instruments from PANArt
Eventually Matt discovered the Hang, a contemporary instrument introduced at the beginning of this century that resembles a flying saucer. Remarkably this metal-alloyed instrument, which is played with the hands, can be performed both melodically and rhythmically…simultaneously…with a tonal quality never before heard that has the capacity to melt a frosty heart. It’s a magical sound that leaves him and his audiences captivated and enchanted. Explains Venuti, “Hang means ‘hand’ in Swiss-German, where two brilliant artists and instrument-makers, Felix Rohner and Sabina Sharer, created it from their small company named PANArt in Bern. This instrument was not available in stores and very few were brought into the USA. I fatefully managed to acquire two Hangs and recorded a CD combining the Hangs with other instruments. I sent the CD with a note of gratitude to the instrument-makers and they replied by requesting more CDs and inviting me to visit them. It would be the first of yearly trips to Switzerland. The Hang kept evolving along with the material that it was made of; a patented metal alloy that Felix and Sabina created call Pang. Their Gubal instrument came some years later and was PANArt’s definitive step forward from the Hang. With the Gubal the sounds of a small ensemble can be accessed from my lap. It’s also an ideal accompaniment for my vocal compositions, stories and spoken-word poetry. PANArt continued to develop more instruments; most notably the Gudu and the Hang Gu. These instruments have offered me a unique expression that has deepened my connection to the world, to music and to sound.”
A New Journey
Matt remembers when he met Yolanda Bain, a yoga teacher. “She was standing on her head at the beach on a brisk day in late November. She became my wife and her fate would influence my life in unimaginable ways. Of all the twists and turns in my life, nothing would have as profound an impact as Yolanda’s death at the end of our 20th year together. I felt lost and disconnected from my life as I knew it. I would escape to nature with the Hang instruments, visiting the redwoods, the canyons, the ocean, the desert…anywhere that offered a peaceful environment where I could find strength in nature. In time my heart started to feel full again, but with a different level of maturity that felt more enduring. I began to develop musical motifs that came from these visits to nature’s sanctuaries, and they later evolved into compositions. I was writing lyrics that reflected the delicate passage of life and the human need to turn to the Heart. I soon realized this wasn’t simply my journey, but the journey of all humans, all of life. I found renewed strength and a commitment to share this music and my experiences and observations of the cycles of life.”
This journey is reflected in the music on Matt’s recording, The Rhythm of Life, which contains nine original songs plus a powerful version of Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me.” Matt sings lead vocals and plays several generations of the Hang, plus the Gubal, the Gudu, the Electronic Valve Instrument, keyboards, percussion and other instruments. He’s accompanied by a rich layering of female backing vocals, along with his longtime band-mates Robert Powell on pedal steel guitar, Daniel Berkman on African harp (Kora) John Steiner on piano and organ and Celso Alberti on drums. “This is music to inspire and to bring joy, contemplation and enchantment into your life,” states Venuti. These songs express a profound and heart-warming soundtrack into our connection to each other and the planet…a timely and welcoming alternative to the divisiveness and discontent that shadows our world today.