HITS Daily Double
"We’re not cookie-cutter. We try to get in the heads of the artists we’re working with."
——Scott Spock


An exclusive HITS dialogue with The Matrix’s Lauren Christy, Graham Edwards and Scott Spock by Simon Glickman
The Anglo-American hitmaking team known as The Matrix—Brit Lauren Christy, her Scottish hubby Graham Edwards and St. Louis native Scott Spock—registered bigtime on the industry’s radar after Avril Lavigne’s record exploded. The trio wrote and produced 10 tracks for Arista’s pop-rocking teen; six of these ended up on her debut album, Let Go, and three were successive smash singles. They followed up this coup by co-authoring Jason Mraz’s hit "The Remedy." But overnight acclaim was a long time coming for the industrious threesome, who toiled as artists (Christy as a singer-songwriter and Edwards and Spock in the band Dollshead, among other projects) before shifting gears and writing for other acts, including Christina Aguilera. Since Lavigne’s mega-sales made them the go-to Pop team, The Matrix have showcased their versatility by collaborating with Liz Phair (whose Matrix co-write "Why Can’t I?" is racking up adds), Britney Spears, David Bowie and Ricky Martin, not to mention up-and-comers The Troys, Lillix and Swollen Members. But after jawing with HITS agent Simon "Bongloaded" Glickman, they’re probably pining for obscurity.

Can you give us a thumbnail history of The Matrix?
Lauren Christy:
I met Scott eight years ago; he worked on my solo album for Mercury. Graham and I are a couple who kind of vowed we’d never work together. Graham’s band was on Refuge/MCA and Scott did some remixes, and we all realized that we knew each other. Graham loved what Scott did so much that Scott joined his band, and they started working together. Sandy Roberton, our manager, was my manager as a solo artist. He got me working on some other stuff, and he started working with them. So one weekend Sandy said, "Try writing something for Christina Aguilera—they’re looking for a song." The three of us got together and we knocked it out so quick, that he said, "Next weekend, can you do this for someone else?" And it just kind of snowballed—and we all realized that we preferred being behind the scenes.

So there was almost a band chemistry.
Graham Edwards:
We all have different influences. I come from a rock background, because of all the bands I played with as a bass player. Also, kind of R&B, slightly. Scott comes from a very urban, jazz background...
Scott Spock: I started off in jazz, playing trumpet on a lot of heavyweight records. Then I found out you don’t make any money doing that, and got into programming after I discovered Nine Inch Nails.
Lauren: I was a singer/songwriter who was into Kate Bush, but also dance and hip-hop. I liked the funkier side of things. With the three of us, it was just this chemistry—we’d been doing it long enough, that we weren’t afraid of saying, "N’yah, that’s no good" to each other. So we managed to cut through the crap. We could write a song in two hours or 10 minutes. We’ve all been in situations where you’re writing with people and you have to observe a certain etiquette. But we’re rude bastards to each other.

When you throw ideas around, are you thinking of a particular audience, or just trying to please yourselves?
I think we hate to go, "This is going to be for a 16-year-old." There are certain times when our radar comes up and goes, "That’s naff," you know?
Graham: Number one, we have to like the song. Number two, we have to like the treatment we give the song.
Lauren: And we really have to like the lyric. We were working on a song this morning, and Scott said, "Hang on a second. If the second line in that chorus were something hipper, it would be a lot better." So we just stopped, right in the middle of doing the vocal, and we all sat down and rewrote the lyric. We bust each other on everything. For us, a song’s never finished. Even when Britney Spears is standing at the mic, if we’re suddenly not feeling a line, we’ll stop and change it.

How would you break down what distinguishes your work?
First of all, we pride ourselves on writing what everyone hopefully thinks is a great song. It’s a meld of pop, rock and funk, with a great R&B groove. Then you’ve got a really nice, lush rock sound on top. It’s a mixture of a bunch of different styles, and that’s us.
Lauren: Someone once said to us that a great song is just a cool groove, a great melody and a really catchy idea. And it’s not really that much more complicated—excuse the pun. One thing we also have in common is that we all like aggressive and emotional music. If you look at "Complicated," some of the lyrics are really emotional. "You fall and you crawl," all that stuff.
Graham: When I played a friend some of the Ricky Martin and Christina Aguilera stuff we did, he was kind of shocked. "I hear the Jason Mraz stuff, and Lillix and the Troys, but this is totally different." We’re not just that pop thing. There’s Cuban and South American stuff in Ricky and Christina’s music. And people will go, "Oh, The Matrix do that, too." That’s the cool thing.
Scott: We don’t just do that Avril sound. We do stuff across the board.

But I’d imagine quite a few people come to you wanting just that.
We’re not complaining. We’re proud of that work.
Scott: But we’re not cookie-cutter. We try to get in the heads of the artists we’re working with. When we worked with Liz Phair, we were all fans. We assessed what she’d done before; we listened to the record she did with Michael Penn, which is a beautiful, amazing record… and part of what’s going to come out.
Lauren: With Liz, it was like we were old friends. We had met her before, which broke the ice. But we all just clicked; we had the biggest laugh. Everything she said we thought was funny and everything we said lyrically she thought was cool. It was probably the best writing experience we’ve had. Plus, she has a really unique voice and a big range.
Graham: I always listened to her records for the lyrics and the poetry rather than the vocal performance. We tried to maintain that, while bringing her voice and the songs out.
Scott: That’s really been our formula with every artist. We magnify everything that’s really great about who we’re working with and just bring it out, so the masses can hopefully identify with it. I’m sure all Liz’s fans will dig this stuff, but we’re trying to expose her to millions of other people who may not be familiar with her music.
Graham: We’ve kinda been pre-judged, and it’s funny as hell. On some of her websites and stuff, it’s like, "Liz Phair has hooked up with three soulless pop droids."
Lauren: We actually clipped that out and put it up on the wall of our studio. We think it’s brilliant.

People are bound to draw certain conclusions based on your mainstream success.
We’re looking forward to Liz and Ricky coming out. People can’t say we’re just one thing.
Lauren: We’re working with a band called Swollen Members, which is more of a punk thing. We just loved the name.

Speaking of names, what’s the origin of The Matrix?
It was before the movie came out. We went for lunch one day, after we’d just done the Christina thing, and Scott said, "I’ve got the name." He wrote it down on a piece of paper and slid it over to us. And we went, "That’s it." It just felt right. Because in the dictionary, it means the womb, which we thought was cool—a place within which it feels comfortable to develop. Also, it’s the rock, which everything comes from.

It also suggests interweaving strands, which makes sense, given your different backgrounds.
When artists come up to the studio, it’s like, "OK, you want a hit? Take the red pill. You want to have no success, but indie cred, take the blue pill."
Lauren: Or get out. We were a bit worried when the movie came out, but then when it was a success, it was like, well, thank God it’s cool!
Graham: It doesn’t matter what you’re called if you have a bit of success.

Tell us about a few of your other projects.
There’s the Troys, who are a hoot—real wild girls, two sisters, very talented. Also, there’s Lillix—they’re great songwriters, all over TRL and starting to make waves. They’re really talented and play their own instruments. Jason Mraz—fantastic. Came in with the verse of that song ["The Remedy"], and we went, "Omigod, that’s a hit. It just needs a huge chorus." We kind of jumped in on that one; it’s the only one we have on his record. We helped Keaton Simons on Maverick get his deal. We’ve worked with a lot of artists who didn’t have deals and helped them get signed.
Scott: We’ve got a song slated for Britney Spears’ new record, and maybe more.
Lauren: We hate to talk about it, because it’s a new direction for her, and I’m sure she wants to talk about it. But she’s very professional, totally unaffected by her fame—really a great girl, down to earth. Really willing to stand at the mic and just work and work until she gets it right, or she says, "You know what? I’ll come back tomorrow and get it."
Graham: She’s got good ideas.
Lauren: Good voice. She’s underrated, I think, as a singer. And the song we’ve done with her is super-cool. Another artist we’re excited about is Nick Lachey—working with him was a total blast. Because he’s this gorgeous guy who’s like the boy next door. He and Jessica [Simpson] have this reality show coming out on MTV.
Scott: The cool thing about his record is that it sounds like nothing else out there. We’re really excited about it, because when it hits, people are gonna go, "Wow, I can’t believe it’s him." It’s nothing like Justin or NSYNC.
Graham: We’re slated to work with a number of British acts coming over here, like Ronan Keaton and Sugarbabes.
Lauren: We met with Robbie Williams at the Grammys in New York and just said hi to him. We have so much respect for him, we said, "We’d love to work with you."
Scott: Speaking of our dream list, there have been rumors that we’re working with Gwen Stefani, but it’s not true. She’s on top of our wish list, but we’re not working with her.
Lauren: Rolling Stone asked us whom we dreamed of working with, and we said, "Gwen, David Bowie, Robbie Williams." Then MTV said we were working with Gwen Stefani. Which we’re not. The funny thing is, David Bowie saw it and contacted us, and we’re taking a shot at doing some production on his record. But we were upset that MTV took that out of context.
Scott: Robbie Williams contacted us, too. And we are working on something coming out next February that is top secret. It’s going to be so cool and different—but we can’t say what it is yet.
Lauren: We’re pushing the envelope a bit.
Graham: We’re actually doing the stuff we’ve always dreamed of doing.
Lauren: When Avril came, we’d been doing this for so long, it was like, "Oh, thank God." The three of us would get together and work every day, sometimes sleep in the studio. We have lives now, thanks to Sandy Roberton. Because the three of us were doing the artist thing, and this guy comes along and says, "OK, you three, I’m going to make you incredibly successful," and he did. And we didn’t even believe it. He told us in the first month, "You guys are going to be the biggest production and writing team in America."
Scott: He’s like the fourth member of The Matrix.
Lauren: We call him the Coach because he calls us 20 times a day: "Have you done this? Are you on this? Have you written this song?" He’s changed our life, literally.