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Interview — Mohamed Sqalli
Illustration — Robin Eisenberg


Matthew Daniel Siskin, aka Gambles is a fearless person. When he approached his 30th birthday, he decided to leave his comfortable job as a creative director to start a musical career, releasing sober and powerful songs. His sometimes troubling Bob Dylan resemblance gives a special glow to his journey as a musician, touring alone with his guitar from one town to another, from one country to another, reviving his way the beat ideal.

Hi Matthew, how do you find Europe?

Man, I find it nice! To be honest, I didn’t expect anything from the audience. The fact that I’m going to places I’ve never been before and find people waiting for me to play is really great. I’m not going to lie, I’m a performer. I really like it.

Tell us about where you’re from in the US?

I’m from NYC, born and raised. My dad is a shoe designer, my mom is a model.

I have the impression that for you, music is as important as words. Which one of them two comes first?

I’ve always written words, and I think music is words. In the beginning, I was freestyling, hip-hop style. When you find things that you love, you have to start doing them.

Can you tell us about where this name, Gambles, is from?

The easy answer is that it’s from my friend Sophie, she just said it out loud one day. I heard it, I liked it and I just kept it in my pocket. When I began writing songs, I already had this name that just felt right. It means so many things, beyond the obvious gambling money. You gamble with people, you gamble with drugs, … I think gambling is a way of living. Not in a negative way, but just in a way where you don’t worry about the consequences of what you do.


Haven’t you considered the opportunity of keeping your name?

I thought about that, but it means already so many things. I felt the need of creating someone that is not me totally, that can do stuff that I’m not going to do. As a performer, I think it makes more sense than “I’m going to see Matthew Daniel Siskin tonight".

Don’t you feel alone sometimes onstage?

Yeah, but I like that! I like that I have complete control of every single molecule out there. I can stop playing. I can sing. I can not sing. I can walk around. I can talk. I like being so exposed. Especially when I play bigger venues, supporting people. Sometimes it’s hard; people just talk and you don’t have enough volume. So generally what I do is that I stop playing guitar and sing a capella. People are like “what the fuck? Who’s this guy shouting poetry?”

When I see your Facebook page, I always see that you’re posting photos and texts all the time, giving the impression that you want to leave a mark on everything you do. Are you just afraid of forgetting things?

 (Laughs) It’s just sharing, whether it’s a selfie or just words. I like the idea of holding some kind of public journal.

I really have the impression that I’m facing a 2.0 version of Bob Dylan.

(Laughs) Yeah, or a Woody Guthrie 3.0. More seriously, I think it’s just storytelling. I’m not saying “ok, well, I’m gonna pick up what you left off”. I listen to a lot of his music for sure. I think he’s incredible even if I prefer Leonard Cohen. But at the same time, when I’m writing, I don’t think about them.

What is your purpose in making music?

Just to share things, or pass things. If people find something in it, that’s theirs. They can keep it. It’s simple; I’m not trying to take over the world. People write about my music things like “this stuff isn’t breaking any ground”. Yeah, right, it’s not the purpose.

How do you imagine your music in a few years? Will your turn electric? – I promise, it’s my last Bob Dylan reference.

I imagine it different, evolved, changed, better, but not the same. I will probably do turn electric. I think it’s cool to be alone onstage but … I want to play festivals. I want to burn the room down. I want to have a drummer, a bass player and another guitarist. I think that all the songs would work really well. I love Richard Hell & The Voidoids, they have that kind of sound I want for the songs. I want a real punk band behind me and play all these love songs. Or hate songs, I don’t know what they are…

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More drawings by Robin Eisenberg here.