We’re back with an extra special form of Student Success – our Student Spotlight: Overcoming the Odds series. This three-part series will shine a light on a select few Point Blank alumni who have overcome some incredible obstacles to achieve their goals.
For the final instalment in our Overcoming the Odds spotlight series, we have Matt Gray aka Matt Gray (UK), a talented DJ and producer who since graduating from Point Blank was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. Through dedication, hard work and perseverance, he continues to make the music he loves. Follow on below to learn more about Matt’s story and how he manoeuvred an unthinkable situation to succeed.
Matt Gray’s passion for music started at a young age through his fascination with his dad’s vast vinyl collection. He bought his first pair of turntables at 15 and now has over 20 years experience in DJing and vinyl-hunting. Over the last 5 years, the DJ and producer has been a resident for the NoExcuse Records label parties as well as hosting his own show on Select Radio. He’s played at iconic London venues such as Egg, Ministry of Sound, Gigalum and Fu Manchu to name a few and has original tracks and remixes released with labels such as NoExcuse, Ole Records, Klaphouse Records, Pure Enjoyment, Habitat Records, Black Seven Music and more. His collab with Lokia, ‘Work Together’, released on Pure Enjoyment, reached number 23 in the Beatport Minimal/Deep Tech Hype Chart. Find out more about Matt’s journey, his time studying the Music Production Certificate at Point Blank, his collaborations with Lokia and much more below.
You told us that you were diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. That must have been challenging. Could you tell us a bit about your situation?
I was diagnosed in July 2018 and I honestly knew nothing about the disease apart from it was what Stephen Hawking had. Obviously, it was a huge shock for me and my family and life changed dramatically overnight. The disease is a degenerative disease that attacks the motor neurones, which is what basically controls all your muscles. So over time, every muscle in the body starts to waste away, meaning mobility, swallowing and eventually breathing are all affected. Initially, I lost all motivation to make music – mainly because of my mental health and the fact that my hands were the first thing to be affected. It made using the computer really difficult but now I use the brilliantly named BJoy Ring which clips on to the joystick on my wheelchair and allows me to use the mouse relatively normally.
Even throughout all this, you continue to make music and DJ – that’s incredibly inspiring. What have you taken away from this experience?
When I was finding it difficult to find the motivation to keep making music and DJ, the music community was what really helped me get back into it. I just got approached one day to do a remix for Mooncircles Records and it gave me a deadline and that little bit of external pressure that I needed to get going. I felt a bit daunted by finishing a whole track by myself as my workflow is slowed down a lot, so I reached out to a friend, J Matin, who I met DJing for NoExcuse Records. Jordan offered to come to my studio and smash out the remix with me. We then went on to release an EP together on Ole Records later in the year. So, what I’ve taken away from the experience is to not be scared to ask for help from the music community and if you have any doubts, just go and try something. You never know – you might succeed!
You run your own successful show on Select Radio and have a DJ residency with NoeExcuse Records. Could you tell us a little bit more about this?
I was playing back to back at Gigulum one night in 2014 with GuyMac, and the promoter for the night introduced us to the owner of NoExcuse Records. We went on to play NoExcuse label nights at Ministry a few times and then we moved to Egg for 3-4 years – we played there almost every month. We even did NYE and Boxing Day parties a couple of times.
I listened to Select Radio in my car and always wanted to do a show with them. One day in 2016 I decided to be proactive and make something happen for myself. I recorded a demo and sent it off – luckily they offered me a show! I did my show for nearly two years and had loads of amazing guests such as Tomi&Kesh, Rone White, ANEK, Bassel Darwish and Lokia. I also DJ’d a few Select Live nights, which were awesome.
When I got my diagnosis I had a few things in the pipeline such as a mini-tour in Australia and some Select Live’s (one on NYE) and I was desperate to be able to play them all. I spent 6 months wondering whether my hands and arms would still be ok enough to do them – luckily they were! I haven’t been able to DJ since Australia in January 2019, but I feel like I ended on a high.
As someone who still remains active in the industry with a disability, what advice would you give to other disabled musicians looking to break into the industry?
I think my main advice would be to keep believing in yourself. The music industry seems to hand out a lot of rejections, so just keep plugging away and keep learning and try and engage with as many artists as possible. Also, let technology help you and keep looking to see what’s out there. In 2021 there are all kinds of things to aid people with disabilities to keep doing what they love doing and I personally wouldn’t be producing music without the mouse technology I use.
How did you discover Point Blank?
The reputation Point Blank has in the industry made it my first choice when I decided to switch my career in teaching to become a music producer. I’d seen lots of great feedback about the college so I was really excited to start working towards my Music Production Certificate.
Could you tell us a little bit about your time at Point Blank? Were there any things in particular that really stood out in your memory from studying here – this could be a technique you learned? A module? A lecturer?
I absolutely loved my time at Point Blank! I was so inspired by chatting with likeminded people all day. Because everyone was just starting out like myself, it was amazing to connect with other artists at a similar stage in their career. Just sitting and talking about music all day was so exciting. I didn’t really enjoy that many subjects at school, but I adored pretty much everything I did at Point Blank – all the modules really improved my music It was probably the first time I’d ever wanted to learn as much as I could about the subject I was being taught. Nick aka Ronin was really good fun to have as a tutor and he made the classes really interesting. It was actually on his course that I met my production partner in crime, Tom aka Lokia.
How important do you feel seeking mentorship/guidance is to overcoming lifestyle issues, breaking down barriers and progressing as an artist?
It’s always important to have someone to ask questions to so you can progress. I spent many, many hours on my own in my studio wondering if what I was making was any good and wondering how to get a good kick drum, for example. So just being able to talk through ideas or ask a little piece of advice can really help if you’re not feeling confident about what you’re doing. Sometimes, just one new tip or technique can spark a whole new load of ideas for a track.
What advice would you give other young creatives (or anyone else) going through a similar situation to yours and help make sure they stay focussed, motivated and creative?
Everyone has their own way of doing things, but for me, it’s been about collaborating with Lokia. We both love the same music so it’s been really easy to work with him. It’s been so exciting receiving a project back and seeing what he’s come up with and what he’s added etc. So for me, it’s definitely been collaboration. Without Lokia I may not have released any music last year, so it just shows the importance of connecting with the industry around you for support.
What’s next for you? Do you have any projects in the pipeline you’d like to shout out?
I have got a few releases coming up with GuyMac and Lokia. One’s already been signed and Lokia and I have been asked to do a remix for Sweet Milk Records – and of course, we always have a few projects flying about! Personally, my wife and I have a one-year-old and another one on the way in July – so the future will be about juggling time. With the strange world we’re living in at the moment, a lot of releases are being held off until the clubs are open, so we’ll have to wait and see what 2021 holds for us!
Successes such as these are common among our students and alumni. We can teach you how to DJ like the best of them at any of our schools. If you’d like to learn how to produce, then we can build your skills from the ground up with our range of degree programmes. For more information, you can contact us here.
We compile these every month showcasing students that have studied with us for any length of time at any of our locations: London, Los Angeles, China, Ibiza, Mumbai, and Online. If you’re interested in learning the ins and outs of music with Point Blank, we’re currently offering 25% off our selected online and LA practical courses until 31st January. So, be sure to sign up before this offer ends using the codes ONLINE25 and LA25.
Register to Access Free Courses, Plugins, Projects, Samples & More
When you register with Point Blank, you access an array of free sounds, plugins, online course samples and much more! Simply register below and visit our Free Stuff page to get your hands on a range of exclusive music-making tools and tutorials provided by the team. Fill your boots!