Matthew Good The Exclaim! Questionnaire

Matthew Good The Exclaim! Questionnaire
What are you up to?
I’m pretty much just sitting on my ass rehearsing and playing guitar. The tour that I’m going to be doing, like the one that I did last year, is entirely acoustic, so I’m basically just playing by myself on stage. And given that my back catalogue is so large, I have 72 songs to really go over, so I tend to get up, do the research that I do on a daily basis to do with other matters and then I’ll eventually pick up a guitar and start going through it.

What are your current fixations?
My current fixation usually has to do with geopolitics and anti-war and human rights activism — be it by way of my website or other outlets.

Why do you live where you do?
I’ve lived in the downtown core of Vancouver for 16 years of my life, and I’ve watched it change dramatically in those years; a lot of it is very comparable to West Hollywood, which I don’t find desirable whatsoever. It’s just full of bullshit, that prevalent attitude of money and possession and people really forgoing what they are and more directing their attentions on what they want to appear to be, and I’m not really into that. After my tour’s done I might move to some other part of British Columbia. I might move out to the Island or move out into the Valley, somewhere with a little bit more peace and quiet. I would love to live near the ocean probably, just in a small little house, somewhere where I could work in a small community of people, where you know your neighbours, the kind of place where you can go to the grocery store and know the people. And that’s something, unfortunately in our society, that’s getting more and more difficult to find. But maybe that’s highly idealised on my part too.

Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
I’d have to start with Picasso’s "Guernica” and go from there through myriad things that would include Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock, to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil to Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

What have been your career highs and lows?
High would have to be the record I just did because not only did I get to produce it, but I play all the instruments on it, except for the drums on a couple songs. It’s the first album in my entire life that I’ve ever really been able to do without anyone, be it a producer or somebody else, kind of doing any other kind of second guess work or whatever. I just went in and did exactly what I planned to do.

The lows would probably be the seven years that the band was together. We were just a dysfunctional band. We were a band full of people who didn’t particularly like one another. There was a lot of personal manipulation of different situations going on. It was very political; you had to kind of look over your shoulder a lot of the time. And that was just an atmosphere that I was not at all comfortable in.

What’s the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
Oh Christ, that’s a list, to be honest with you, given my nefarious media-fueled reputation, that would be long enough to wrap around an apartment building. A lot of it is after the fact, second-hand shit, but obviously fans don’t say that kind of thing when they come up to talk to you, but there are people who yell stuff. For the most part, it’s mostly emails for me because I am so accessible on the net. I get a lot of people that just email me anonymously, rather cowardly, that just spiel a whole bunch of shit.

What should everyone shut up about?
I don’t think that anyone should necessarily shut up about anything. As far as living in a participatory society I think that it’s essential that people should be more vocal than they are. A lot of people believe that someone in my position should just shut up and be a musician and not bother focusing their time on things like that, which is obviously ridiculous. If you happen to say that just because I play a guitar for a living means I’m not allowed to have my opinion in a society in which opinion, discussion and debate is the cornerstone of our entire political process, then who’s it left up to? If anything I think people should just shut up about celebrity worship. It’s not so much that it angers me, it’s just I don’t get it. Why do I really care about what Paris Hilton did last week?

What traits do you like and most dislike about yourself?
That’s a tough one; I suffer from type two bipolar [disorder] so my answer to that would be quite lengthy. I don’t know if I can answer that question without just saying, simply, there are things in everyone’s life to do with themselves that they have to constantly work on and it’s a process that goes on until the day you die.

If you could have any superpower what would it be?
The ability to turn all military machinery or weaponry into styrofoam.

What would make you kick someone out of your band and or bed, and have you?
Never kicked anyone out of my band, per se, unless they were a hired individual and I was unhappy with their work. With regards to the Matthew Good Band, no one was kicked out. If anything that was just a situation of an entire building falling apart. I mean, obviously there were last ditch efforts, in a lot of regards on my part, to try to at least get a tour out of that [last] album. The problem with the band was that with that particular juncture everyone had their head up their ass.

What was the first album you ever bought with your own money?
Led Zeppelin II, because it was cool and because in the neighbourhood I grew up in that’s what you did. We used to do this hilarious thing in the summer when we were kids. At 12 o’clock we’d all open all the windows in our houses, and four different guys on the street would all drop the needle on [Led Zeppelin IV’s] "When the Levy Breaks” at the exact same time and you would hear, boom boom, and we’d just all sit on our lawn chairs and drink Kool-Aid. We always started with that track, which was kind of stupid because it’s the last song on the record so you’d always have to go back up and flip it over and start it again.

What was your most memorable day job?
My first job when I was 14, I was a ski-tech. It was really funny because people would come in and they’d want their skis waxed or bindings adjusted or whatever else before the weekend. And I worked with a group of guys who were all in their 20s, so they used to have this deal with people: "If you want your skis done on time, bring me a case of beer.” So I’m getting off of school, taking the bus all the way to the other side of town to work in this place where, on Friday nights they would be sitting there with this 14-year-old nothing, throwing back beers.

What do you fear most?
I don’t have children, but my little brother does and it’s the mess that we’re going to leave for them. I think that if I were to worry about anything it would be that and the daily exasperation that I feel with regards to people’s apathy to do with things that they should give a shit about. And the fact that we live in a society, in which in a lot of cases, the arts and entertainment and the rest of it ties into that distraction, rather than countering it.

Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
I’d probably have Kurt Vonnegut over for dinner; I don’t what I’d serve him though. Maybe we would just do steaks or something. If you’re going to have a conversation with anyone, I think having one with Kurt Vonnegut would be fantastic — and barbequing is easy.

What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
I’d like all of Górecki’s "Symphony #3” played. Actually, when I die that is actually what will happen — it’s in my will. I think it’s the most sorrowful and yet beautiful piece of music ever written. And I would rather people just sit there and listen to that and not have a bloody word said.

At age 36, Matthew Good has experienced the success of being in a popular Canadian rock band, has become a prominent activist through his own web forums and puts out another solo album this month. One would think that he would be happy with his accomplishments, but the album is called Hospital Music for a reason: he had a near-death experience last fall after taking too much medication, spent a week is a psychiatric ward and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

"It’s one of those situations where you wake up in the emergency room and your mother’s talking to a doctor and your sister-in-law’s lying next to you and you don’t know how long you’ve been out for.” But, like most artists, he says music is something he has to do, and after last year’s events, his self-contemplation comes through on the honest and intimate album, the first he’s done without any outside influence. "It is personal, and it was approached that way and the songs reflect that; I wanted to present the evocation of that record in almost the simplest terms, yet with enough of a musical background that makes it endearing and memorable.” Getting a proper diagnosis has helped him understand certain events in his life, which led to both desperation and empowerment, emotions he channelled into the album he’s most proud of in his whole discography.