Matt Zimbel

Matt Zimbel


I’m a musician who, for the past 41 years, has been one of the percussionists and the leader of Manteca,  a world jazz collective that has toured the world and released 13 recordings. I  also write and focus on political satire. My book “Yes We Canada – The Progressives Guide to getting the Fu*k out” will be published in the fall. I am also an artistic director/producer of large-scale events – the most recent of which was the Pan Am games opening in 2015 and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame – honouring Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn, Beau Dommage and Stephen Venne at Massey Hall in 2017.

Where are you based?

I live in Montreal but spend a lot of time on the road, particularly in Toronto.

Where do you work? What do you do?

I have an office in my loft in Montreal and I spend a lot of time looking at screens!

What are you listening to?

As I write this I have headphones on and I’m listening to Marcin Wasilewski’s band, he is a pianist and composer in the ECM stable. Very thoughtful music that creates a nice contemplative vibe, which is what one wants when asked to answer questions.

How do you discover new music?

Mostly by word of mouth. But when I am working on a project as an artistic director I’ll seek out specific styles or artists to insure that the show touches lots of tastes, and regions and creates a narrative. That is a really lovely path towards discovery. Many times it will be through other musicians or managers’ recommendations, but it’s very effective because people know my taste from past work together. 

I ask people I respect all the time – “what are you listening to”. That is a good way in, it could be a label head or a niece. 

What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Services? Why?

I still listen to a lot of CDs because they sound way better than MP3 or Wav files. We have two wonderful sound systems so it is always a pleasure to really dive into a great sounding record and crank it. At the computer, I listen with headphones.

I see digital music services as out right intellectual property theft.

Where do you do most of your music listening?

At home and work – which are the same place.

How do you find and listen to pre-release music?

Labels or managers send it to me. I remember once Donald Tarlton aka Donald K Donald just finished a debut record for the Montreal artist Antoine Gratton and I fell in love with the record and licensed the whole thing for a tv show I was producing. They were shocked and delighted because I think I was like the first person they sent it to and to get such a warm reaction right out of the box was very encouraging. To this day Antoine Gratton merits that kind of reaction – even 6 records deep.

What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?

I find the whole digital thing very frustrating. iTunes library management is off the hook and dysfunctional and what really irritates me is I believe they have done that intentionally so we will just give up and subscribe to the music service. I see digital music services as outright intellectual property theft, for an indie artist it has destroyed all of our revenue from recorded music. It is so absurd that it is really hard to even fathom how this was allowed to happen.

How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?

Usually while muttering “goddamn, fucking iTunes”.

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Do you tip other people off to new music? How?

Usually with great excitement – sending links or MP3s.

Anything you want to “promote”?

My partner Lyne Tremblay has just finished her second recording which I  co-produced with Erik West Millette and it is a really unique record. Lyne comes from the tradition of Cabaret and this one is a kind of roots cabaret, that goes into some very unexpected and fat groove places. 

We have also been listening to a lot of the Canadian Jazz artist Elizabeth Shepherd. She is a real original, every single song on all of her 5 albums is great music to live with. She has a gift with a memorable melody and a great groove and lyrically she has important things to say that she frames in a very poetic way. One of our heroes’s no doubt.

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