ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 23, 1997
Inside the False Creek offices of A&M Records, a scrawny young guy is struggling to record a promotional sound bite over the phone for a Prince George radio station. “Hi, this is Matthew Good, and you’re listening to…what are those call letters again?” After a couple more aborted attempts, it becomes clear that Good—now pacing frantically—is not having fun. After he finally gets it right and hangs up the phone, he confirms that perception. “I hate doing those fucking things,” he declares, then greets the newly arrived Straight scribbler with a wry smile.
Keyboardist-guitarist Dave Genn sits at a nearby table, looking content in the knowledge that he doesn’t have to do any radio sound bites. I recognize Genn as a former member of local act Dead Surf Kiss and, for many years, various configurations of Art Bergmann’s band. I wanted to ask him about the unusual manner in which he joined the Matthew Good Band. According to the group’s newly printed bio, the band actually auditioned for him.
“We should clear that up,” Good blurts out. “What happened was Dave was playing for Art Bergmann at the time, and he came in and played keyboards on our first record [Last of the Ghetto Astronauts]. And we were all going, ‘We gotta get Dave in our band, he’s gotta be a permanent member.’ So we were playing this little show at the Gastown Music Hall, and we said to Dave, ‘Listen, we’re gonna try playing this as a three-piece, but you should come out and you gotta tell us: do we need you in the band or not?’ So he came out, and walked backstage afterwards and said [flippantly] ‘Oh, you need me.’ ”
Although the intense, guitar-driven sound that alt-rock hero Bergmann is famous for isn’t too far removed from that which Good’s been blasting forth the past couple of years, Genn points out that playing with Bergmann is a lot different than his current gig.
“Oh, let me count the ways,” quips Genn. “I can remain vertical for more than an hour! No… I mean, I learned a lot in the five-and-a-half years I played with Art. But I also learned a lot about what I do for Matthew, which is sort of shaping songs and writing bridges and turnarounds for him.”
Whatever it is Good and Genn do together—and in the company of bassist Geoff Lloyd and drummer Ian Browne—it seems to be working. The proof is in Underdogs, the just-released Matthew Good Band CD, which was produced by Warne Livesay of Midnight Oil and The The fame. Both Genn and Good were thrilled to work with the British knob-twiddler—even if it took a while to warm up to him.
“He comes from a different part of the world,” explains Genn, “and he definitely had that sort of polite arrogance to him which is typical of the English. But any time you have an opportunity to spend three months with somebody that’s been involved with the records that he’s done… I mean, I’m a massive The The fan, and when he came to the table saying that he was into making our album, it’s like—here’s the guy that produced Mind Bomb and Infected! Those are incredible-sounding records!”
The one influential recording that Good raves the most about is the Pixies’ Doolittle (which Livesay had nothing whatsoever to do with). That 1989 masterwork was what made Good decide in ’95 to harden his sound and move away from his folk-rock roots.
“In my opinion, Doolittle is one of the best records that’s been made in the last 15 years,” he states. “I mean, if that record were recorded today, it would be massive. And while I hate emulating people—I would never try to take something and make it what we do—I think that certain songs by different people just invoke things that you latch onto, and the Pixies did that for me a lot.”
The dynamics of Frank Black and company on Doolittle also had a commanding effect on 28-year-old Genn. “That record, and the Pixies in general, were just a little bit ahead of their time,” he says. “Without the Pixies putting out the four records that they put out, Nirvana never would have broken.”
While the Matthew Good Band will never make the same kind of trendsetting waves as their heroes in the Pixies, they’ve certainly shown a healthy capacity for pleasing both alternative- and hard-rock-minded listeners. Last of the Ghetto Astronauts, the band’s indie debut, sold more than 22,000 copies, and Underdogs should easily surpass that, thanks to standout tracks such as the exhilarating first single, “Everything Is Automatic”. Good reports that the band has been performing the brunt of the album live for more than a year, which bodes well for its opening slot with Aerosmith at the Pacific Coliseum on Saturday (October 25).
“I listened to Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy and Live at Leeds over and over and over again,” he points out, “so for me those two Who shows were just amazing. But Aerosmith is gonna be good because people are gonna be standing; it’s gonna be more of a rock show. And I think it’s gonna be a little bit more interactive with the crowd, especially because a lot of people are gonna know who we are—I hope. It’ll be fun, but in a situation like that we just go out and play.”