If anyone can claim to have had their career choice in some way chosen for them, it's Aqualung's Matt Hales; born above his parents Southampton independent record store, with a piano dominating the front room, he was writing songs by the age of 4. By 11 he'd been commissioned to compose his school Song (the melody stolen, he confesses without a hint of shame, from Howard Jones' "Humans Lib" album), by 14 he was co-writing with his brother a clutch of "songs about road safety". Awarded a scholarship at 16 to study composition in Winchester, by 17 he'd had his first symphony "Life Cycle" performed by a 60-piece orchestra, with Matt himself conducting. No ordinary childhood. No ordinary child.
The parallel lives of Matt Hales- where classic(al) song writing ran alongside the more prosaic disciplines of the rock format- really begins here, with Matt forming his first band with brother Ben, performing Police covers and selling cassettes at £2 a throw outside his college gates. A Music degree course followed at London's City University- with 2 years studying composition at Guildhall- where Matt developed engineering and production skills at BBC's Maida Vale Studios. And while on the one hand his formal, quasi-classical compositions could already be heard gracing religious gatherings at The Royal Albert Hall, his new band incarnation Ruth were signing their first record deal and cutting their first ("over ambitious Supergrass") album "Harrison".
Despite favourable early signs - Radio 1 support and national TV appearances - Ruth came to grief, dissolving in a welter of band infighting. However, just eighteen months later, as new London outfit The 45's, Matt and the very same cohorts were the objects of a record company bidding war, signing a deal with Universal in Summer 2000. This was to be equally short-lived; 2 acclaimed single releases and tours with Electric Soft Parade and Cooper Temple Clause led to not much at all, and last Spring a disenchanted and out-of-pocket Matt opted out, to pursue solo, musical goals.
Inspired by the self-sufficiency of artists like Cornelius, Matt Hales sidestepped back to his parallel life and began work in his home studio on what was to become this Autumn's aptly-titled "Strange And Beautiful" album. And although clients as diverse as Mitsubishi and the Tate Modern had already employed Matt's music in the past, it was the discovery by a canny ad exec of the title-track -that ended up on the massive TV/Cinema campaign for VW Beetle- that changed Matt Hales' life forever. With record shops besieged by people desperate to find THAT song, and Radio 1 eager to answer the demand, Aqualung was born.
This album of dark and haunting songs, conceived in Matt's "classical" years, is set for a Worldwide album release this autumn. And the childhood prodigy that was Matt Hales has in turn become Aqualung, the distillation of all the musical elements that inform his bizarre and twisting musical tale. Strange and beautiful indeed.