Matthew Good and the great Radiohead controversy of 2000



Matthew Good is a loud rocker. That’s easily discernible from a quick spin of his band’s latest CD, Beautiful Midnight. Matthew Good is also a loud talker, as I discover for myself when he calls the Straight from his West End apartment prior to his five sold-out shows at the Commodore (December 27, 28, and 30, January 2 and 3) and two all-ages gigs at the Vogue (January 5 and 6). As soon as our chat touches on his recent comments about Radiohead’s latest album, Kid A, in Chart magazine, and the absurd fallout that resulted in the Canadian media, it’s time to hold the receiver half a foot from my head.

“Are you on tape right now?” he asks, turning his side of the conversation up to 11. “ ’Cause I want to make this very fuckin’ clear. I’m an artist in a genre, and my genre is music. Now, if I don’t have the right to have an opinion about the state of the union of my profession, then what’s the fuckin’ point of bein’ in it? If you go back and you read that article, I didn’t say anything inflammatory about Radiohead at all. I think they’re a fuckin’ great band. And I’m allowed to have my opinion as to what I think this record is like, and to tell you the truth, I think it’s an okay record. Is it a genius album? I don’t think it is! That’s all I said. And then suddenly it turns into ‘Matt Good thinks Radiohead sucks,’ right, and I’m like, ‘What the…where the hell did that come from?’

“I didn’t say that!” he emphasizes. “Nor would I think that. But if I’m not allowed to have an opinion, or if I’m just vilified for this for the sake of entertainment in this country because nobody else half the time has the balls to speak their mind… I mean, to tell you the truth, I just spent the last 48 hours over the weekend really doubting as to whether I would ever do press in this country again. I fuckin’ speak my mind about something, and then suddenly the press rolls over on it. And you know how boring media is in this country. They jump on anything they possibly can and turn it into a three-ring circus. If you actually read the story in Chart, in the same line that I said I didn’t really care for the record, I also said that I thought they were one of the best bands of all time!”

I can appreciate Good’s staunch defence of his right to an opinion about music—it shows that the intense guitar-rocker feels strongly about his art, and without that genuine passion he’d be just another Limp Bizkit frontman. Such zealousness on the part of the Matthew Good Band extends all the way to the group’s choice of handlers, Toronto-based SRO Management. SRO’s Ray Danniels was the guy who helped adventurous prog-rockers Rush stick to their artistic guns and still become a huge hit in both Canada and the U.S.

“The reason I chose Ray to manage the band was that, unlike any other managers I’ve met in this country—or in America, for that matter—he takes a band on if he believes in their music,” Good says. “I mean, let’s face it, Rush was not the most commercially viable musical group on the planet, and he helped parlay that into something that made sense for them and gave them a career. And when I sat down and talked to him, he had listened to what we had done, and he kinda went, ‘You know, I believe in you guys, and I like what you do, and I think you do it for the right reasons.’ And to me, that’s all there is. I didn’t want to hear other people givin’ me the usual bullshit lines about ‘Let’s go make a million dollars’ and that kinda thing. I didn’t get into this to make cash.”

Maybe not, but with nearly a quarter-million copies of Beautiful Midnight sold in Canada since its release in September of 1999, it looks like money can find its way to Good anyway. And most likely some sweet American moola will be heading his way too, since the single “Hello Time Bomb” is making tsunami-sized waves on U.S. radio charts. (During the second week of December, it was the second-most-added track at rock radio in the States.) Good is aware of his band’s burgeoning success down south, but hasn’t let it go to his head.

“The returns came in last week,” he notes, “and the numbers were huge on it, and everyone was freakin’ out. My assistant Christi’s jumpin’ around and shit, then she stopped and she’s like, ‘You’re totally not excited about this, are you,’ and I went, ‘No, not really.’ If it does well it does well, that’s fine by me, but I don’t know that I’d really want to go to America and sell 10 million records.

“I know that sounds weird, but we live in a day and age when, if you are the kind of band that sells so many records, you’re placed in the position that you have to outdo yourself all the time. And it’s not that outdoing yourself is all that hard of a task, it’s just that mentally it can really screw you over. Instead of writing about what you need to get out of you, you’re looking for things to make it seem all the more superfied, really, if that’s the word. If we went down there and we were a successful cult band kinda thing, that’d be fine. I mean, either way, music’s music and you get to play it and you get to write it. That, to me, is the bottom line.”

Matthew Good sounds off on the things that enquiring minds want to know:

On the current string of seven local concerts, which the band has dubbed the SkyTrain Series: “We’d already done the whole Commodore thing back in April, and we didn’t really want to do it again, but they just kept calling back and goin’, ‘It’s sold-out, we gotta add another show!’ And then I started gettin’ death threats from kids. Kids are callin’—‘You suck, Good!’—so we had to cave in and announce two all-ages shows.”

On why Radiohead’s Kid A is so popular among the young hipsters of today: “Anybody who listens to that record and thinks about it as a musical piece of work would go, ‘Well, Talk Talk did Laughing Stock in ’91, and that would be relevant to that, and so would a lotta early Eno and David Bowie.’ But you see, 16- to 24-year-olds don’t look for the connections like we used to when we were kids. You’ve got an entire fuckin’ generation of kids who like a record because the tastemakers told them to.”

On what he’s been listening to lately: “As embarrassing as it may seem, I’ve been listening to Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen nonstop for about two weeks now. That record is genius. I mean, if you listen to that record, there are a lot of cheesy fuckin’ keyboard sounds and shit, but it’s just so blue-collar, it’s just so raw, and just so emotionally open. It doesn’t smack of any pretensions whatsoever. That and Nebraska are just fantastic records.”

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