“Founding member of the Seattle Indie rock band Minus the Bear. Producer, engineer, songwriter, and musician. NPR listed his work with Mastodon as one of the most important recordings of the decade.”
Bay-Less is the man. Certainly one of my favorite Washington based producers of all time. You can look through his full discography at the end of this article, but anyone familiar with the heavier side of Seattle music knows Matt’s work. Northwest classics such as Pearl Jam, Rocky Votolato, and The Murder City Devils are honorable acts that come to mind. The fact that Bayles has continually worked on such fantastic records, and that bands wish to work with him release after release, speaks volumes about his professionalism and work ethic.
Most Has it Leaked readers will be familiar with Atlanta based Mastodon whose phenomenal album ‘Blood Mountain’ Bayles produced and engineered. Rolling Stone listed the album ninth on their top fifty albums of 2006. Before Mastodon however Bayles mixed and engineered the 1999 masterpiece ‘We Are the Romans’ by Tacoma based mathcore band Botch. To date numerous bands cite ‘We Are the Romans’ as large influences on style and technique, many even go as far as citing Botch as the band which created mathcore. Add to the list ‘Panopticon’ by Isis which Rock Sound listed as their 2004 album of the year and Bayles becomes as quadruple threat.
As a Washington native it’s amazing to see the people he has worked with as a producer- Dave Knudsen (guitarist Minus the Bear/Botch), Jake Snider (Sharks Keep Moving/Minus the Bear), Dave Verellen (Botch/Narrows), Morgan Henderson (The Blood Brothers/The Cave Singers/Past Lives), and Brian Cook (These Arms Are Snakes/Botch/Russian Circles) to name a few. Matt clearly has a very good working relationship with these individuals as both a producer and sound engineer. Most of all these people are his friends and from a listener’s standpoint, that connection is what makes his catalogue of work as significant as it is.
Seattle indie rockers Minus the Bear returned once again to Bayles for their fifth album which is slated to be the groups “most aggressive record yet.” Omaha based Cursive also released another fantastic record with him in late February of this year. Currently Matt can be found expanding gear at his impressive Red Room recording studio in Seattle.
Russian Circles – Station
Second full-length album from Chicago instrumental rock band Russian Circles. It’s interesting to note that Morgan Henderson, formerly of The Blood Brothers, provides double bass on the release. This is also the first band release to feature Brian Cook handling bass guitar duties.
What makes the release so great is the record’s massive sound. The guitars are pitch perfect and the bass is gritty where it needs to be which is always a plus. What really should wow you are the sounds Matt and David coached out of the drums. Phenomenal sounding kick drum that reverberates through the room when you see these tracks live sound just as powerful on the album.
Layout wise the songs alternate from the heavier riff oriented tracks to the subtle and more atmospheric based ones but it was a step in the right direction. Fans of the previous band release ‘Enter’ will recognize that signature Russian Circles guitar tapping sound while newcomers can enjoy a different side to the group brought about no doubt by the fantastic work of Bayles. He also pulled out some of his old tricks with Minus the Bear to lend additional keyboards and organ to further layer the dense atmosphere of the record.
Fans have said that this release is not as heavy as the band’s previous album ‘Enter.’ However, with the guidance of Bayles, this record is arguably more ferocious than anything previously put out. Listeners are not bombarded with riff after riff, but instead allowed instead to relax with more layered tracks before being hit with Sullivan’s intricate fretwork. Less in this case is undeniably more.
Botch – An Anthology of Dead Ends
Known as the final release by Tacoma based Botch, this EP saw a posthumous release in 2002.
Decibel magazine selected the group’s 1999 release (also with Bayles) into its Hall of Fame in the fall of 2005. The significance of Matt Bayles on the recording of Botch and the exposure the band’s releases garnered Bayles as a music producer are one and the same.
Even today, when compared to more contemporary artists these songs are as fervent and charged as they were a decade ago. What surprised me most was the fifth track “Afghamistam.” Featuring spoken word segments, the song is a prime example of the development that both the members of Botch had made as musicians and strides Matt Bayles had made as a sound engineer. I’m more of a read a review, listen to the album type of guy rather than take someone else’s word on a release. I’ll hope that you’re the same ; )
Sharks Keep Moving - Sharks Keep Moving
Alongside Botch’s first release this self titled album, from Seattle based Sharks Keep Moving, is where Bayles first cut his teeth as a producer. The work put in to record these tracks reminds me a lot of the early relationship between Connor Oberst and Mike Mogis during the time of ‘Letting off the Happiness’ and ‘Every Day and Every Night’.
Simply titled “Full Length Album” the release consists of four tracks and four instrumental interludes showcasing immense technical and melodic ability. Flowing bass lines, intricate guitars, and jazzy drum rhythms are found throughout the album. A lot of it sounds improvised, but somehow still tethered to structure and the rest of the album. Minus the Bear fans will certainly hear bits of Jake’s signature guitar work but Sharks Keep Moving is in a space all its own.
From the standpoint of Bayles, the most fascinating note about the group is that while they were working on these tracks he was also working with Pearl Jam, Rocky Votolato, and Botch. He is certainly a competent engineer that understands various genre recording demands and as we’ve seen from his discography up to current date, is able to work well in numerous disciplines.
“Interlude” and “Jet’s Jets” are textbook Bayles production. This release is an instant Northwest classic.
2004 Minus the Bear‘Menos El Oso’ | Produced (along with the rest of the band and Chris Common), mixed, and engineered. Last Minus the Bear album to feature Bayles as a member on keyboards and electronics.