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Band Bites: Pigs and Veggies With Matthew Herbert

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For someone so uncompromising in his attitude towards music, Matthew Herbert has seen success in a variety of fields. He heads up his own record label, Accidental Records, which he founded in 2000. To those new to his work, a Herbert album might initially sound like it fits into the dance and electronica genre, with regular rhythms and layers of techno beats. But, closer inspection reveals a layered mass of quirks, distinguishing it from the majority of dance music.

Accompanied by a live show in which food preparation and smell was a component, Herbert acquired new levels of commercial success, in tandem with being an increasingly in-demand collaborator. His latest album, One Pig, is derived from the birth, life and eventual death of a pig. It's available now.

We recently caught up with Herbert to ask him about his favorite food spots across the country and, "What's the deal with the pig?"

What's your history with pigs?
Other than the random trip to a farm and a bacon sandwich, not much. The more I looked in to it though, the more I realized pigs are everywhere in our society.

What statement are you trying to convey by linking a pig's life cycle to music?
I'm not sure I would condense it to one statement, but if I had to choose one thing, it would be that I think we should listen more closely to the world. In musical terms, it would be that a pig can be as musical as an orchestra. In moral terms it would be to ask people to listen to something before they eat it.

What is your goal in putting an album out like this?
Ultimately that people will hear less of a distinction between a pig and an opera singer. I hope it reshapes how we listen to the world regardless of how the music sounds. On a practical level, I hope it will encourage us all to eat less meat and to take care of the provenance of the meat we do consume. Pigs, after all, are kept in awful conditions for the most part.

What do you eat before a show?
One of the perks of touring is being taken out for dinner before a show. I try and make time to eat properly and to try something from the area we're in. I don't like eating something I could have back at home.

What's your favorite thing to get after a show?
Sleep

Does it vary depending on city?
Absolutely. In England, kitchens close early; in France you can get a great brasserie meal late.

What's your favorite post-NYC show meal?
Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn

What's your favorite post-LA meal?
I haven't been to L.A. enough to know my way around.

Have any groupies ever made you anything and sent it backstage?
There's a legendary woman in Tokyo who used to make cakes with the artist's logo iced on top and bring it to shows. The rumor was she would add a little "extra special" ingredient. Needless to say, it's not advisable to eat anything given to you by a stranger at a music concert.

Any food that musically inspires you (besides pigs)?
Bright orange farmed salmon, plastic bread, mechanically-recovered meat, hotel breakfasts. Bad, processed food is everywhere and it's getting worse -- it's inspiring to me to want to change things for the better.

What are your fondest food memories? Any of them documented in your music?
When I was on tour with Patrick Pulsinger in the '90s, we ate at a great place called Cafe Beograd in Vienna. Patrick's salad made a great noise and you can hear it on a track I did called "Cafe Beograd."

What's your favorite location for eating before or after you've played a gig?
Japan is the best place for late-night eating and drinking. Known as an izakaya, it's sort of a Japanese version of tapas. You can go until dawn eating deep-fried oysters, bowls of tofu, tongue and grilled gingko nuts.

What is your favorite tour bus snack?
Anything apart from a ham and cheese sandwich -- which is like the Esperanto of European service stations.

What hometown meal do you miss the most when you are on the road?
I often miss some decent vegetables or porridge. I know that sounds dull, but when you're eating out of the ordinary foods, your guts aren't always... regular.

Who's the pickiest eater in the band?
I tend to find that the best musicians are the most open-minded about food. There's a saying in New Orleans that a good musician is a good cook.

Who's the best cook in the band?
This is a bit of a cheat, but we have a cook in our band who performs on stage, Rosie Sykes.

Any food favorites of the entire band?
If it's free, musicians tend to find it particularly delicious.

Any on-the-road food discoveries, restaurants or cool roadside vendors you've come across?
Almost every city has a gem so the list is endless, but takoyaki (octopus balls) served from stalls in Tokyo are a personal favorite.

Backstage requests?
No to: crisps, supermarket food, processed foods, bottled water
Yes to: local specialties, small breweries, seasonal foods and tap water.
It may sound a bit worthy, but there's nothing more depressing on tour than to find the same array of bad-for-you foods that are impossible to not pick at. Day one it's fun, day 21 it's hell.

Have you ever requested 10,000 M&Ms, but none of them brown?
Our current rider requests a selection of dried pig bones, and where possible a live pig.

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