A very tall Norwegian guy approaches me, introduces himself as “Tom” and starts telling me how much he’s been enjoying “chilling” in New York City. We’re at Panorama Festival on Randall’s Island and I’m interviewing Norwegian DJ and producer Tom Stræte Lagergren, better known as Matoma.
This fresh-faced European rave-maker is most known for his remix of The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Old Thing Back” that helped introduce him into the EDM community as a tropical-influenced producer. Matoma’s 2015 debut studio album Hakuna Matoma featured hits “False Alarm” featuring Becky Hill, and “Running Out” featuring Astrid S as well as “Old Thing Back.” Although Matoma has a clear identity in tropical house music, his roots may surprise listeners.
“I used to play classical piano very seriously,” Matoma reveals. “I would practice five hours a day and when I was 16 I grew tired of it. I had a lot of pressure from my parents and my society and I wanted to do something else.” He purchased a computer and started sampling music in his bedroom, the beginnings of what would eventually allow him to perform at events such as Firefly Music Festival, Life Is Beautiful and Electric Forest.
Following high school, Matoma served in the Norwegian Army for two years. While serving and contemplating pursuing a military degree, he fell ill and was forced to stay in the hospital for some time. It was then that he had a bit of a revelation. “While I was laying there, I was just thinking about my life and what I wanted to do,” he says. “I decided I wanted to make music. After the army, I applied to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and ended up graduating with my bachelor’s degree in Music Technology.”
The transition from being a classical pianist into an internationally celebrated DJ may seem unique but Matoma’s musical preferences stretch even beyond that. He shares that he’s always been heavily influenced by hip-hop and R&B music as well as trance music. “I love trance music because the melodies and patterns are very similar to classical music,” he says. All of these types of music have helped to shape Matoma into the success he is today. But the ultimate goal is to offer good vibes to his fans through his music, no matter the genre or influence. “Music isn’t rocket science,” he says. “Music is made of feelings, heart and passion. It should be easy and not complicated.” Although his “easy” music has been becoming more and more popular every day, this electronic artist is steadfast in his positive outlook and down-to-earth vibe.
“Of course I want to reach new heights and I want my music to reach more people and to be more successful,” he says. “But I never look at myself as a person that is not touchable. I’m just here to spread the love and spread the positive energy.”
With new music expected to drop later this year, fans can look forward to more of Matoma’s infectious tropical sound and easy-going vibes to match.
Main image credit: Jimmy Fontaine