In Joseph Campbell’s 1949 book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, man is examined through mythological and spiritual lenses, through the multifaceted angles of the heroic figure and what it means in the grand scheme of life. Known for his many “faces” as a musician and a producer, composing for television and film, and touring and recording with Garbage, Smashing Pumpkins, Filter, and Morrissey throughout the past 25 years, Matthew Walker mines through more epic, orchestrated pieces with of1000faces.
On The Infinity Line, the second (following Astronomica) of two albums, recently released by of1000faces, and next-to-last in his “Monomyyth” trilogy, Walker navigates a multi-dimensional state of sensory bliss. Fused in its many celestial meditations, “Kabuki of the Starred Deep” delicately pierces through Japanese-inspired instrumentation, segueing into the trance-like state of “Somnium” (Latin for “dream”), then taking on more space-y elements through “Anaira,” a song partly based on Harry Martinson’s poem, “Aniara.” Exploring hope and space as a human refuge, the track is accompanied by a video, created by Walker and Chris Zabriskie, using footage from 1960s Russian science fiction films.
In each vast deliverance, it’s as if any instrumental may go on forever, from the mysteriously moving sound therapy of “Shadowlight,” into the kinetic “The Infinity Line,” on through a more tranquil “To the Touch” and the shadowy hum of “Rutger’s Passage.”
A slight departure from of1000faces debut EP Love Imperfect in 2013, featuring jazz guitarist Wayne Johnson and Chris Connelly (Ministry, Revolting Cocks), and later singles “MM/DD/YYYY,” featuring The Moth & The Flame’s Brandon Robbins, and the hazy “Sleeping’s for Dreamers” with Jimmy Gnecco of Ours, The Infinity Line is another embodiment of Walker’s musical expression. To Walker, of1000faces is a concept that keeps reestablishing itself.
“I like a lot of different kinds of music, and I like making a lot of different kinds of music,” says Walker. “I thought the moniker could speak to the idea of releasing all kinds of music. I have plans to carry me through the rest of my musical life with this project, from different concepts, almost like assembling a different group of musicians and writers into a room and all writing together.”
Expanding his scope around visual art, Walker recently revisited the work of late artist Lynd Ward, who was credited with creating the first graphic novels, depicted in wood engravings and acquired the rights to use his work as kind of a visual inspiration to writing a record. For Walker, visuals are just as critical as musical elements in his art.
“Sometimes, I’ll just spend a couple of hours working on a song or project and peruse images that speak to me or relate to the project,” says Walker. “I create folders that have dozens of images that I have up on my laptop, or I flip through, and they carry me along.”
Back home in Chicago, Walker says is a welcome break from constantly writing on the road, though the idea for this ambient trilogy was one that was born on tour, in middle of the pandemic.
“The inception of these two records—and the third I’m working on—was when I was on my last tour with Morrissey and we were in London, right when the pandemic hit,” shares Walker. It was the most unknown and scary time when everything was starting to shut down, and we were sequestered in our hotel for five days. That period of time was surreal, and that’s when I felt inspired to start writing the ambient music.”
Shifting from working with an artist like Morrissey or touring with Garbage, Walker says there’s no strategy in attacking each project. Some pieces are works in progress, while others like “Monomyyth” unravel faster. “What’s interesting is that with the ambient music, all of that material came in that moment, from that writing period in London to flying home,” says Walker. “I had my laptop out on a plane and I think I came up with six or seven ideas that ended up on ‘Astronomica.’
Immersed in his own musical and visual experiments, Walker says he’s always ready to jump back on tour with whoever calls. “I’ve been really lucky that most of the artists that I’ve worked for as a drummer have been artists that I was a fan of to begin with, from Smashing Pumpkins to Garbage. I’ve learned from all of them, and I pull all that experience into my own process.”
Always shifting into other music projects, including a collection of pop-driven songs in the works for some years, featuring a surprising mix of guest vocalists, Walker says the final piece in the trilogy is also on the horizon.
“At the onset of the pandemic, I felt like I wanted to work on those more pop oriented songs, but once I got into the ambient, I just kind of committed myself to seeing it through,” says Walker. “I could have just done one ambient record, but then I had the idea to do three, so I’m sticking to it.”