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One of the country's best dance-music producers sits at a corner table at Jackson's Coffee in Uptown on a bright early-autumn day. On a couch a few feet away, a burnt-out customer takes a cat nap in the sun, an ironic picture considering my first question to Matt Masurka was going to be, "Do you think people in Minneapolis know there's a famous dance-music producer living in their backyard?"
They don't. Even in the local dance-music scene, Masurka—known as Gigamesh to the club world at large—comes and goes quietly, having returned this spring from a stint in Miami. The 28-year-old Waconia native didn't grow up a "party kid" like the rest of the aging ex-ravers of the DJ community, allowing him to roundly avoid scene politics and drama—especially the kind that comes with worldwide recognition.
Looking up from his mostly downed coffee and barely noticing he's literally being slept on by the dude next to us, Masurka offers a slight smile. It's not an expression he hands out easily.
"I'm really glad to be back in Minneapolis," he says in a tone that's both dry and pleasant, looking out at the first few fall leaves cascading around Lake Street. "I'm not ready for the cold, though."
The six-foot, five-inch-tall producer, in a solid plain tee with a gray cabbie hat shading his almost unsettlingly blue eyes, looks something like a Scandinavian superhero's plain-clothes alter ego. His long-limbed, pale frame is tucked artfully into the coffee shop's southernmost corner, blending into his surroundings. Masurka doesn't necessarily look like a guy who's made unfalteringly sunny remixes for Lykki Li, Radiohead, Estate, Foster the People, and so many others. He's not the first guy you'd guess made pop music chart-topper Mike Posner relevant to the mainstream club crowd. It was about a year ago now that Posner famously scrapped the original version of his "Cooler Than Me" smash for Masurka's fuller, shinier version.
Gigamesh's sound, produced only with Ableton software, borrows from French house, '80s synth lines, and classic disco, and if you hear a bit of Daft Punk influence in there, that's no coincidence: Masurka said he got into electronic music "like so many people did" with the unassailable robot duo. His music surely fits in with Miami's clubber-capital vibe, but he says the South Beach scene wasn't for him.
"It was a little too glossy," he says straightforwardly, noting that it was difficult to snag inspiration from other genres in a place that is so dance-focused. "All the bands that aren't doing dance are part of a completely isolated scene. I prefer Minneapolis and its open-mindedness, and my reasons for moving down weren't that compelling to begin with."
Initially, the plan was to tour with his side projects Señor Stereo and DiscoTech—both aliases headed up by Miami residents—and release more music right away. But keeping up with his own music proved to be a challenge.
"I was biting off more than I could chew and not enough money was coming in," Masurka says. "I came back for Christmas last year and saw all my friends and a girl I'm currently dating, so when I got back down there I was homesick."
Now back in the Twin Cities and quite aware of winter's bony finger tapping him on the shoulder, Masurka hopes his upcoming tour schedule in support of his first EP will keep him warm and paid, despite turning down a deal from respected house label Defected. After serious interest from the dance imprint as well as major labels that Masurka wasn't sure fit his interests, he finally signed to his manager's label (Our Label Int'l) to keep things indie for a while as he builds his catalog.
Masurka's trajectory as it relates to club music is more immediate than most; it's hard to believe that just a few years ago he was working a job putting up advertising on the sides of freight trucks, a gig he says took him all over the country. The last "real" job he held was with the family business before completely focusing on music and his production software. Masurka says his parents, who still live together in Waconia, only recently recognized their son's success.
"I think they finally understand it and they're proud when I can show them stuff that they understand like, 'Here I am on Billboard,' and things like that," he says. "They hadn't seen me DJ since high school and came out to Recess at the Varsity the last time I played there, and my mom loved it. It takes her two drinks and then she's dancing all night."
And to a DJ like Masurka, that's a dream crowd.
"My favorite gigs are where you know most of the people aren't concerned about being cool, they're just there to have fun," he says. "They're laid-back and not trying too hard. That's a big reason why I love Minneapolis."
GIGAMESH headlines Too Much Love on SATURDAY, OCTOBER 8, at FIRST AVENUE, and plays a CD-release party on SATURDAY, OCTOBER 29, at the KITTY CAT KLUB.