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Matt Sharp & Goldenboy

Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Matt Sharp, Shon Sullivan, Bryan Bos, am: 27.12.2004 ]

Dass Matt Sharp Gründungsmitglied von Weezer und Mastermind der fantastischen The Rentals ist, dürfte kein Geheimnis mehr sein. Dass er vor kurzem ein sehr intimes, reduziertes und ungemein persönliches Soloalbum veröffentlicht hat wohl schon eher, denn dieses Album wird man kaum mit Hysterie umwerben können. Zu minimalistisch und fast zerbrechlich kommen die meist rein akustischen Songs daher, die Matt Sharp zusammen mit Goldenboy dieser Tage auch ausgiebig hierzulande präsentierte. Grund genug, uns mit Matt, Shon und Bryan über Einsamkeit, Studios und die Apokalypse der Musikindustrie zu unterhalten, wobei das Trio überdies als sehr sympathisch und gesprächig auffiel.


Musicscan: How has the tour been so far? Do you think the audience is any different compared to the US?

Matt Sharp & Goldenboy: Shon: Yes definitely. Especially at a night like last night were people came in and had dinner and just stayed there at their tables. It was more like a cabaret kind of setting with dinner where people just hang out and watch the show.

Musicscan: How does the communication with the audience work? I mean your music is quite stripped-down, minimalistic, even naked if you will at times. Isn't it harder to communicate with people?

Matt Sharp & Goldenboy: Matt: In some ways it is harder, but I don't feel as comfortable as in the States telling stories. Not even because of the language, because I know that most people speak very good English, but it's just that the sense of humor and how you convey certain ideas is lost. Especially anything that is ironic or even sarcastic or even when it is just slight, people don't seem to take it the right way. For example in the States we would goof off and play a funny part of a song by somebody else by the Sticks or Supertramp or something like that. And people would just instantly be happy or laugh and here there are more like "so what are you doing, what is the point of that, I don't get it."

Musicscan: Would you say people are a bit more serious over here, especially when it comes to music?

Matt Sharp & Goldenboy: Matt: I don't know about that, it is just a different kind of humor.
Shon: You are not more serious, we are just less funny (laughs).
Matt: That is a good way of putting it. But I think that is a good thing for us, because we just started playing together and all my life I leaned on the humorous stuff a lot to get me out of a jam. For us it is good, because we can let the music do what it does and tell our story that way.

Musicscan: Why then did you not print any of the lyrics in the booklet? How important are the lyrics to you and wouldn't that also enhance a certain communication with the audience?

Matt Sharp & Goldenboy: Matt: I don't know. My ex-girlfriend loved The Smiths with all of her being. She just loved it and would sing along with it and didn't understand a word of English. She didn't understand a word of what Morrisey was singing. One night or rather a few different nights we used to sit and we had that little cassette player by our bed and we listened to the "Louder Than Bombs" album and we would rewind each line at a time and I would translate the lyrics to her. It completely confused the hell out of her one time. You know lines like "I got confused I killed a horse, I can't help the way I feel". She thought I was joking around with her, that I just gave her some stupid lyrics to joke around with her. But she loved Morissey and The Smiths with everything she had and she didn't understand a word of it, so the content of the words are more her than anything else.

Musicscan: Is there then a reason why you didn't include the lyrics?

Matt Sharp & Goldenboy: Matt: I can tell you why, because Bryan did the artwork and I would have to handwrite the credits that we did. So that was a very long process and every time we changed something I had to handwrite it again.
Bryan: How we made up for it is, that the lyrics to each song are on the website www.mattsharp.net. The vinyl version that was released on PIAS as well has all the lyrics to the songs that are on that 12".
Matt: But those we got to type out. The handwriting stuff takes some time and you just get really self-conscious. You start looking at the way you write As and Es and the one looks better than the next and the next thing you know you are just sitting there and you just want to spell a word how you want it to look. It is like I should work on that E it is driving my crazy. Bryan really got into the details of everything like that (laughs).

Musicscan: So how did you guys end up making music together? How did you meet?

Matt Sharp & Goldenboy: Matt: Basically through the artwork.
Bryan: Matt and I were going to work on the artwork together. Shon and I had been playing together for several years as Goldenboy. So one night Goldenboy had a show and we asked Matt to sit in with us and we did a show that evening and it went really well. So we decided to do more shows, we did about four or five more shows in Los Angeles and then we booked a tour. So it wasn't that long ago. It was just six shows and then we were on tour.

Musicscan: Matt, you went to Tennessee again to record in a little hut or house in the middle of nowhere. How important is it for you to isolate yourself when you are writing and recording music?

Matt Sharp & Goldenboy: Matt: I don't know about the isolation kind of thing, but location is really super important to me. The location you record in leaves a mark on the record. You just have a certain set of memories to that time and that place you were in. The first Weezer record we recorded in New York. I mean we were living there, but we had to be convinced to leave Los Angeles and go there. The producer of the record would make sure that the reason we did it was so that we would have that memory of that particular time and being in this place. Ever since I have taken that as an important part of a record. I mean the last Rentals album we did in London and it is just important to me that the town that you were in leaves an impact on the record and you have memories of that time. Tennessee was the same for me. Whenever I go there I just get the chills from the landscape.

Musicscan: Isn't it also about escaping the hectic and increasingly complex world of Los Angeles for example? This seems to me what the album is also at least partly about.

Matt Sharp & Goldenboy: Matt: I don't know. I find Los Angeles to be a really mellow place except for the traffic jams, but L.A. for me is that place to get me shit back together again. I usually try to go out to make a record and then make a mess of it and when I get back to L.A. I try to get my focus back, because everybody is sort of isolated in their own world. It is a really good place to sober up.

Musicscan: Is that really the aspect you like about L.A. that it is people are pretty much isolated within this huge city?

Matt Sharp & Goldenboy: Shon: Yeah. I mean I live south in a town called Diamond Bar and it is about half an hour south of Los Angeles and it might as well be Tennessee. Just that you can get in your car and drive to Hollywood within 45 minutes, but it is its own little isolated spot. It is a suburbian, hilly kind of town where you can rehearse and I have a studio in my garage and you walk outside and it is just all quiet.
Matt: Los Angeles is weird. There are places where you wouldn't believe that L.A. is just 20 minutes away.

Musicscan: Could you imagine living somewhere else at this point?

Matt Sharp & Goldenboy: Matt: Yes, every time I come to Europe, which last time was about ten years ago, I nearly moved to Spain for three or four years. I was just about to move to Barcelona. I lived in London for six or seven months. Living in Europe is certainly a thought for me at some point.

Musicscan: I just read in an interview with you a couple of days ago that you when you first do a record you start asking yourself the question of why you like the music your are listening to and you start to hypothesize or intellectualize the act of making music to a certain degree. Was this the case with this album, too?

Matt Sharp & Goldenboy: Matt: With this album more than any other album, except maybe the first Weezer record I got to a place where the music I was listening to and the music I was performing where two different things. It was disturbing for me doing that. I could really enjoy the performance but there was just a big void between these two worlds, between what I liked hearing from other people and what I was doing myself.

Musicscan: How does it feel to play these songs live now? In how far is it different than playing with a band where you can hide behind a big wall of sound?

Matt Sharp & Goldenboy: Matt: Well, this band that we are playing in right now, is about the biggest band I have been in in many ways. Everybody is playing at least three instruments and everybody is doing multi-tasking stuff. I have done a bunch of solo tours and we all have toured in different combinations. Each particular set up is a new learning experience again, even for us. You learn to play in different environments. For example the place in Zürich last night was really different and if we are fortunate enough to garner success we will have to relearn all over again, as venue sizes and environments change. That all changes from 100 people to 300 people to 1000 to 5000 people it is totally different. You just have to keep getting used to your environment and being patient.

Musicscan: What did you learn from the time that you were in Weezer? What did you get out of it for yourself?

Matt Sharp & Goldenboy: Matt: I don't know, we worked really hard and we were really lucky. The thing I miss most about it and that I really enjoyed was something that was missing for me for a long time, was being around a group of people that I really enjoy and that through your energy you can just make things happen.

Musicscan: You seem really comfortable with the new songs. Do you think that you have finally found your place in a way?

Matt Sharp & Goldenboy: Matt: The thing I want to do is write and record songs with these two guys and continue to do artwork and continue to do things with Bryan and we are going to start preproduction for a new Goldenboy album in January. I really look forward to that. Listening to Shon and how he writes is totally different than the other people that I have worked with before. Being part of their lives and making great records and going on making solo records with these guys. And I hope we continue to get better at what we do and I am really confident that if we do what we do to the best of our abilities we are going to be fine.

Musicscan: Ok, let's change the subject drastically now. What do you think is one of the major reasons for the crisis of the music industry?

Matt Sharp & Goldenboy: Shon: What is the crisis?

Musicscan: Well, mostly the big players complaining about a massive decrease in sales to about 30% annually, along with a rigid downsizing process entailing large scale lay offs and of course mom&pop record stores disappearing.

Matt Sharp & Goldenboy: Matt: Looking at the Song/BMG merger, I think ultimately there is going to be one company left to be honest with you.

Musicscan: I believe you are in favour of file-sharing and downloading music, though.

Matt Sharp & Goldenboy: Matt: Well, I think there is little that you can do to stop any of those things. I think the record industry was really slow in reacting according to the situation. I remember watching a Seattle documentary talking about how the music industry is that big, stupid beast. And they covered the way how it came and sat down on Seattle and just lumbered all over it. It goes to do one thing and if it has to turn in order to do another thing, it takes a really long time to do it, because it has to move all this machinery and all these people. It is hard to react quickly to anything. I remember being at Maverick Records and it took them so long just to get a person dealing with the entire web business. I mean everybody was saying that is coming, but everyone was just enjoying the good life and weren't really worried about it. In the States before a film plays you get to watch these little trailers that shows a stage hand at a set for example going "I work really hard to do what I do and I have been trained to focus lights on a movie set, so don't download it, because destroys my job". They are totally prepping everybody for the fact that people are going to start downloading movies at the same rate that they can download songs. It is really not far off the corner. They are trying to learn from the music industry's mistakes, but I don't think there is anything they can do to stop it. It is just going to happen.

Musicscan: Do you think it is reasonable to assume that the physical record is going to disappear?

Matt Sharp & Goldenboy: Shon: That is a bit of a catch 22, because you want to make the artwork more elaborate and more appealing so that it catches your attention, it has the photographs, the pictures, the lyrics and I think it is fun to hold it in your hands. Everyone seems to enjoy that, no matter if it is a vinyl record, a cassette or a CD. But I was talking to Matt about that, maybe the internet is going to become that. It is going to be the place you go for when you want the lyrics and the photos and the artwork, which will wipe it out completely. If you make the artwork more elaborate it is going to cost more money and then the record companies are not going to pay for it, because no one is buying it. I am kind of worried about it actually.
Matt: There was an article about it in the L.A. Times, I think it was called "The Death of the Song Cycle" that said that the artists are holding on to writing a conceptual ten song album that is going to be about a particular period in your life, but now less and less people are doing that and they are just writing for that three minute moment, because it is just going in your I-Pod. You are then not thinking anymore about the images and the lyrics work together, but you are just going "call on meeeehhh" (sings the horrible Eric Prydz tune). That is all you are going to get and who gives a fuck about his artwork.
Shon: The other thing that they are doing is, you have your music on your CD, but then there is also a DVD that you can pop in your computer and watch a movie. You could put a clip about putting up a show in London in there for example, but there are lots of other ways that you can make the record stand out.
Matt: My feeling is that the record industry made one of its biggest mistakes from the get-go. As the whole downloading gets more prevalent and the whole industry turns to that, the music industry goes "well, instead of making the artwork more elaborate, let's make it less tangible". The music industry should have stated that they are proud about what they are doing, instead they kept going the other way and continued to make everything cheaper, the paper gets thinner like tissue and everything gets kind of weaker. They never stand from a position of pride in their product, they are always acting out of a position that they are being threatened all the time. Instead of saying that they are going to make the audio on CDs better, which they can do, they charge you the same price and make everything into a SACD with perfect sound quality. They should really promote the fact that what they are putting out is a better thing than anyone can get on an i-pod. But they are going the other way, because the probably can't hear the difference.

Musicscan: Isn't it maybe also a chance for smaller labels and bands to get recognition?

Matt Sharp & Goldenboy: Matt: I am a believer of the fact that if something is really, really good, nothing is going to stop it. People will find out about it. It just always happens.

  Matt Sharp