ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, AUG. 5, 2004
On the new Matthew Good CD, White Light Rock & Roll Review, there’s a printed message on the disc itself from the shit-disturbing local rocker. It reads “INSERT IN PLAYER/FEEL THE GLOW OF COMMERCE.” Although Good notes that it’s a “tongue-in-cheek” statement, it’s also very accurate, as the music therein exudes commercial potential.
Thankfully, it’s also gritty, honest, politically fuelled guitar rock of the highest order, making it the Coquitlam-raised artist’s most compelling work to date. And it was recorded in just nine days. “It was so fun to make,” says Good from his West End apartment. “I’ll never make a record–no matter whether its uptempo, downtempo, whatever way it goes–I’ll never record in the old step-by-step process again. Ever.”
The majority of White Light sees Good on vocals and guitar, accompanied only by bassist Rich Priske and drummer Pat Steward. (Christian Thor Valdsen handles lead guitar on four tracks.) The CD was produced, engineered, and mixed by Warren Livesay (Midnight Oil, The The), who had contemplated doing a straightforward, live-off-the-floor record with Good for some time.
“We’ve talked about it for the better part of five years,” says Good, “but we never really tried it before. I don’t think that the Matthew Good Band could have done it; playerwise, as a group, we weren’t capable of capturing that kinda magic. With this group of guys I play with now, playing live is one of our favourite things to do. And I’m sure if you talked to Pat, Rich, or Chris, they’d all say the same thing. We count the days between when we get to actually play together again.”
Compared to Good’s previous release, 2003’s difficult and patchy Avalanche, White Light Rock & Roll Review sounds like a frenzied guitar-drums-bass party, albeit with sociopolitical overtones on poison-pen tracks like “Poor Man’s Grey” and “North American for Life”.
A jolly good time was had recording it at Vancouver’s Mushroom and Warehouse studios, although some of the fun came at the expense of gregarious drum ace Steward. “Pat’s nuts,” relates Good, “and one of the greatest stories of making the record occurred because of him. We had this policy that when we would track songs, if anybody screwed up badly and actually blew a take, they had to drink a warm Rainier out of this old rusty cowbell. And the only person on the whole album that had to do it was Pat.”
The wacky Steward–who no doubt got used to guzzling skunky beer as an original member of Bryan Adams’s band–can be heard doing his finest Keith Moon impression on The Who-like “Ex-Pats of the Blue Mountain Symphony Orchestra”. And on the hidden track that closes the CD, he gets to swing on a bouncy country number, one that struck Good out of the blue during his morning ablutions.
“I jumped out of the shower and I’m like, ‘Aw shit, I need to get a guitar!’ ” he recalls. “And all my guitars were at the studio; the only one I had at home was a guitar that [racing legend] Dale Earnhardt Jr. had sent me, a limited-edition that Gibson made for him and his dad. So I jump on that, and of course it’s been sitting in a closet, hasn’t been touched in a year and a half, so it’s completely out of tune, and I’m like, ‘This won’t do.’ So my wife whips me over to the studio, I run in, and we lay the song down that day.”
Good brought in another long-time Bryan Adams player, guitarist Keith Scott, to lay down some ’50s-style Bill Haley rockabilly licks for the untitled country track. “He’s used to working with guys like [meticulous producer] Mutt Lange,” says Good, “where one guitar solo takes two-and-a-half weeks, ’cause all the notes have to be bent into tune and stuff, right. So he does it three times and I go, ‘Oh, that’ll do.’ ”
It seems a tad unusual that a musician who follows his own artistic path as readily as Good wound up using half of Bryan Adams’s old band, but the connections to the ultracommercial CanCon king don’t faze him. “All those guys, they’re just such lovers of music,” he says, “and they throw off convention. I think too many people are just so caught up in the whole ‘We’re this’ and ‘We’re that’ bullshit, and they just don’t shut up long enough to make music.”
|in & out…Matthew Good sounds off on the things enquiring minds want to know.
On his appreciation for country music: “I’ve been a big fan of alt-country and especially old-school country–like Hank Williams and that kinda thing–for a long time. Being in a band like MGB for so many years, which was kind of caught up in that radio/new-rock thing, it was very difficult to diversify. But I was all over it this time.”
On the commercial potential of his new album: “It’s probably far more accessible to people thanAvalanche was, but at the same time, I think it’s a bit of a departure from the things I’ve done in the past and I think a lot of people are at odds with that a little bit.”
On how he came to use local artist Lisa Visagie’s paintings, Second Beach Three and Second Beach Four, for the new CD’s booklet: “I thought to myself ‘I want the cover of the record to be a local Vancouver artist; I think it would be really cool.’ So I actually went on my computer and typed in ‘Vancouver artists’ and her name came up on a Google search. I clicked on the site and I saw that painting and I was like, ‘That’s the cover.’ ”
On getting drummer Pat Steward to imitate the manic percussion style of Keith Moon on “Ex-Pats of the Blue Mountain Symphony Orchestra”:“To tell you the truth, oneverything I tell him to do that. It’s either that or Levon [Helm]. I’m like, ‘Do Levon’ or ‘Do Keith.’ It’s one of the two.”