ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON DEC. 26, 1996
By Steve Newton
Christmas came early for Matthew Good this year. On the same day that I interviewed the up-and-coming local rocker, he received a present from his publisher at EMI: an autographed picture of American astronaut Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon. The souvenir is in keeping with the title of Good’s first CD, Last of the Ghetto Astronauts.
“It’s like Buzz, and the flag, and his signature,” glowed Good of the pre-Christmas gift. “It’s pretty nuts!”
The scoring of that cool collectible was only the latest good thing to happen to the 25-year-old musician this year; another was landing the opening spot on the Who’s Quadrophenia doubleheader at GM Place in October. First news of that achievement was dropped on Good the day after he and his girlfriend had visited the venue for a Canucks game and experienced something of a premonition.
“We stood up to leave and I said to her, ‘I wonder what it would be like to play in this place?’ We talked about where they’d put the stage and that for a bit, and then Frank [Good’s manager, Frank Weipert] calls me the next morning and says, ‘Hey, man, you’re opening for the Who tonight!’ And I didn’t believe him for 10 minutes, because Frank’s pulled shit like this with me before, stuff like, ‘Aw, yeah—we’ll take the plane and play Glastonbury, it’ll be great.’ But finally I came to realize that he wasn’t kidding.
“So we got there, and it was cool, but to be quite honest with you—and I don’t mean to sound pompous by saying this—after the first 30 seconds of the first song it was like every other show. You’re onstage and you’re playing.”
During his high-profile opening gigs, Good hung out backstage with the likes of Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, but he was more impressed by meeting Gil Norton, producer of one of his fave bands, the Pixies. But after hobnobbing with millionaire rock legends and industry bigwigs, Good still had to make a chilly walk to his West End apartment; there wasn’t a stretch limo in sight when the Coquitlam native headed home after performing in front of some 16,000 stoked-up rock fans.
More glamorous postshow transportation could be in the offing for Good, though, especially in light of his recent signing with L.A.–based Private Music, which has major-label distribution in North America through BMG. The Matthew Good Band is the sole rock band on the Private roster—which also includes such quality acts as Leo Kottke, Etta James, Taj Mahal, and Michelle Shocked—and next month it will start recording the full-length follow-up to last year’s Ghetto Astronauts indie release.
“We went with the company we went with because it was completely unsolicited,” explained Good of his Private deal. “We had not sent them anything, we just got a phone call one day, and that affected me a helluva lot more than if we’d been trying to ram something down their throat. I’m glad it happened that way, because if someone would have just walked up and said, ‘Yeah, you sent us that demo, and we think it’s great, and we’re gonna make you a star,’ I probably would have gone, ‘Oh man, I’m gonna go work at a coffee shop.’ ”
Private Music has made its faith in Good evident by hooking him up with producer Warne Livesey, whose credits include Midnight Oil and The The. Livesey and the MGB have six weeks in January and February slotted to record, but they won’t be holed up in any highfalutin studio in Hollywood or New York—or even England, as some recent rumours have suggested. They’ll make the music in Good’s own backyard.
“We’ve been out of town for eight months,” he said, “and only back for weeklong periods at a time, so we’re sick of being in other cities. In October we were in Los Angeles for two weeks, and L.A. has got its good points—and hey, it’s got its bad points, too—but I don’t know that I’d want to go there for two months and make a record. For me, this being the first major-release record that we’ll have, I would rather we do it from where I came from, which is here.”
Before hitting the studio, Good’s band—which includes keyboardist-guitarist Dave Genn, drummer Ian Browne, and bassist Geoff Lloyd—plays a New Year’s Eve gig at the Town Pump, and local followers can also keep their Good vibes rolling via the five-track EP Raygun, which will be released in January. Good said the new Raygun material—as well as that to come from the early-’97 sessions—has a less harsh lyrical bent than his stark early work, although his cynical streak isn’t going anywhere.
“It’s ingrained in my DNA,” he said, “and I can’t get rid of that. But I think on Ghetto Astronauts I was maybe guilty of using too many words, and I have calmed that down a little in some respects. For me, there’s always underlying themes in a song which are extremely personal, but I tend to think that people are intelligent enough that they can take away from it what they need. There’s a million ways you can look at it, and that’s what I think will always be the coolest thing about music—that every person can see different pictures in their head.”