INTERVIEW: Andy Matter Theorizes on his own Universe, the Nature of Music Criticism, and Manipulative Aliens!

Pictured above: Andy Matter communes with hanging ball gods as part of his vision quest. 

Andy Matter is as prolific as he is talented, which is to say he’s good at what he does, and what he does is good. My first knowledge of Matter came from the post punk quartet Opposable Thumbs. Such a good band. Matter has proven his ability to write catchy songs again and again since then, with Andy Matter and the Ten Wet Dollars, the kraut-rock inflected Mimi Von Schnitzel, and his most recent solo effort “Pacific Midwest,” which we discuss in a bit more detail below. What I can tell you in advance, is that Matter has offered me some very honest and well considered feedback, that has absolutely made me want to up my writing game, and I’m happy for that. You can catch Matter with the Ten Wet Dollars Sunday, August 17th with Die Rötzz and Blood Planet at The New Vintage. Learn more here, and read on.

Never Nervous: While, I am aware that you have been in a number of
bands, I’m not sure I know the full history. How would you write your
wiki page?

Andy Matter: First and foremost, that orange exclamation mark note about additional citations for verification will likely be a permanent feature. Perhaps the best way to go about it would be to set it up like wiki’s page for the TV show character John Munch, complete with links to somebody’s theorized Matterverse; plenty of crossover theories of how Louisville’s independent music scene and roller derby are dimensionally intertwined.

NN: How did the Pacific Northwest come to be? What inspired the writing, and who, if anyone, played on the recording?

AM: The title itself, Pacific Midwest, comes from jokes I used to make regarding this city’s occasional deluges and sunless stretches as a meteorologic karma for our wanting to be Seattle in the 90s. I can’t wait to see what Austin-like plagues we’ll be seeing in the years to come. The content came mostly from material that either had never been entirely finished or just hadn’t been suitable for the projects I was playing in. Through a series of unforeseen circumstances, I found a surplus of extra time on my hands, and I wanted to take advantage while these songs were still in my memory. I was fortunate that J Glenn, Bob Dixon, Jaye Wood (former bandmate in Red Light Relay and Half Sloppy, not the J Wood you’re more likely to know), and my bandmates in Opposable Thumbs and Ten Wet Dollars lent their talents to the album.

NN: What is your involvement with Mimi Von Schnitzl?

AM: I’ve been Mimi Von Schnitzl’s bassist/spontaneous co-collaborator since Day Two. I started playing bass with my fellow Henry County native J Glenn, a.k.a. Mimi, nearly ten years ago, as a backing player to his one-man-band act. Some time passed, and we expanded our sound through several rotation and format changes, only to end up as Mimi Von Schnitzl, alongside the steady hands of Rory Hanka and Jace Stone.

NN:
As a particularly prolific musician, how do you write for each project?
For example, is there a difference between what you would bring to the
table as Andy Matter and the Ten Wet Dollars that may be different than
what you would do as a solo effort, or with The Opposable Thumbs?

AM: I’d say that in the case for both Opposable Thumbs and Mimi Von Schnitzl, the songs are truly created in the practice sessions, when we trust each other to hack at and mangle our proposals until they become these beautiful collaborations we wouldn’t  have imagined unaided. With MVS I would say the process is more abstract, whereas with OT we’ll think about certain parts of certain songs we like, and then we’ll boil down, reverse engineer, and deconstruct those parts through our own individual interpretation. But, I think that difference is expected when time constraints per song (typical MVS song: 6 to 10 minutes, typical Opposable Thumbs song: 1 to 3 minutes) are as disparate as they are.

NN: What is the best song you’ve ever written, or at least one that holds up?

AM: My next one.

NN: Can you give us an update on what each of your current projects is or will be doing?

AM: I recently finished recording a track for the next Head Cleaner compilation. I chose a previously unrecorded Benanthrope track to submit this time. Rory Hanka on keys and Ben Lally on guitar made for an enjoyable recording, and 60% of a Benanthrope reunion.

This week I have begun practicing with what I’ve been calling the paternity edition of Ten Wet Dollars. While Ben Lally prepares for his upcoming organic cloning project, his fellow New Bravado bandmate Seth Thomas is filling in on the lead guitar, joining fellow New Bravado bandmates Adam Copelin and Jason Walker. We have a show coming up Aug 17 at the New Vintage, and we’ll be at Zanzabar on Sept 12 with the Broadfield Marchers. Hopefully we’ll have more shows to follow.

Mimi Von Schnitzl just released its self-titled album a few months back. We had a recent spate of pleasant experiences at Modern Cult Records, the New Vintage, and The Rudyard Kipling. We’re looking forward to maintaining our churning, burning pace. Hopefully we’ll have more shows to follow.

Opposable Thumbs is looking to return to recording in the coming month. Hopefully we’ll have more shows to follow.

NN:
As a multi-instrumentalist, which instrument do you find most enjoyable
to play? How did you develop the skill to play each? What was the
motivation?

AM: My initial motivation to learn bass came at age 14 because my friends in high school had a band, which seemed quite the opportunity for an extroverted weird teen in a rural surrounding. They told me if I’d buy a bass, I could replace their bassist, a far more talented but far less social person. To get the money to buy a bass, I worked at a tobacco field loading huge stakes of tobacco stalks onto a wagon. I did this for ten hours on one particularly sunny July Sunday, and when my mother came to pick me up, she seemed rather concerned for my health, and she promised to pick up the rest of the money for my first bass, a blue Squier Precision that I still own. So, I’m reminded of that struggle to belong, and that selfless love that was shown by my mother when I play the bass.

Plus, there are fewer strings, and they don’t break often.

NN: What makes for a great live performance and why?

AM: I think a great performance happens when the audience and the performer have that unspoken, unprovoked mutual agreement to shut out everything outside of that moment then and there. It’s the hardest and the easiest thing to do. I’ve seen it happen in various types of venues, some that barely passed for venues, countless genres and styles, some venues far better, and I’d like to think I’ve had some of those moments as a performer. Well, it was good for me, anyway…

NN:
Recently you made very public that you disliked a review that I wrote in the LEO about your debut solo release. Can you explain what it is
that you didn’t like about the review?

AM: Again, thank you or taking the time to listen to Pacific Midwest and writing your opinions regarding it, as I gather you’re busy enough as it is. And, again, I’m sorry about my hissy fit having caused those layoffs. My bad, everybody!

All darkly humorous coincidences aside, though, I think the print format music review, at least as it’s known here, does a disservice to the artist and the reader, in that the space allowed doesn’t allow the writer to give a proper review of a recording. What results is an economy-of-words situation, where each word carries more weight. I unfortunately bristled too much at the word “nostalgia” and its implications of an intended irrelevance that is seen too often in what is surely by now a billion dollar forced nostalgia industry. And, I understand that comparing local acts to far more prominent national acts can more easily  help the uninitiated reader relate, but I get the sleazy feeling that I’m being marketed to when I read those comparisons, and I’m reminded of the promotional gear at my old mall record store job. (“If you like David Bowie, you’ll love Robert Palmer!”)

NN: What makes for a good
review? Does it necessarily have to positive? What does someone deserve
in a critical analysis of their work?

AM: What I really look for in a review is what effect the reviewed piece had on the reviewer, be it a positive and/or negative effect. And this can be done in a number of ways, as the number of flourishing music blogs in this city proves. But the best music reviews, in my opinion, describe the music as listened in the kind of environment in which one might listen to music, i.e. while in a car running errands, during a morning run, the situations in which we most often listen to music. This is why I prefer the music blog format, as the writer is free to expound on the piece in question, and as a result the reader and the artist understand better that effect. But, then again, I’ve been told that I shouldn’t even read my own reviews. Okay, pal. I’ll do that when you stop checking your hair.

NN: Now for the hard hitting
questions: Do you think it’s more likely that what people claim to be
aliens are time travelers (like future evolved humans) or from an
alternate dimension? Space is a big place, and it would take a lot of
resources to make it here, especially when  you aren’t hostile or
especially interested in communication as they seem to be.

AM: I’m of the view that what we see as aliens are likely glimpses of some life form both physically and mentally beyond our comprehension that observes and occasionally manipulates us for its own personal amusement. Imagine how ants in a “farm” must view what we know to be the child in charge of its very existence; that distorted omnipresent image lording over them so hugely that one might, perchance, make out what it is it’s seeing, but still never understand it.

NN: Chipotle or QDoba? Defend your answer.

AM: The only defense for either is, “They caught me using their bathroom, so I had to buy something.”

NN: What non-musical items have had you excited lately? Anything worth reading or watching that we ought to know about?

AM: I’ve taken to watching the Zatoichi films as of late. They strike that rare balance of lighthearted mirth, gorgeous cinematography, and bloody swordplay.

NN: What have you been listening to lately and why should we?

AM: And reveal who I’ll be ripping off for my next recording? Nice try.