ERIC - Oh, I was young. It was 1977 when I began my study of the trumpet. Miraculously, it was only a matter of weeks before I sounded great and was years ahead of the crowd. This dominance triggered the notion that I might shoot for a career in the orchestra. It was years earlier (when I was 6 or so) that I decided that I would be a conductor or a composer for either New York, London, Chicago-I was a very hip little kid with a knowledge of the symphonic literature so by the time I began to accell on the trumpet I simply shifted my dream position in the orchestra.
MARK - Who was your first main musical influence?
ERIC - My Father. From my first day, when I was brought back from the hospital my father played beautiful chords and sang to me. This continued and I can remember being two years old and attending my dad's gigs. He was the singer and 2nd guitar in bandsof LA from 68 to 70. My house in LA when I was a toddler was all band practices, records playing, joints burning (that lovely smell) and general bliss all centered around music. My dad quit the rocking and Mom, Dad, and I came up to Oregon. Here, in between ages three and my teen years he worked beautifully at his song witting and singing. All of these years were also spent hearing the best of pop, rock, classical, jazz, folk, and blues (YUK-ALWAYS HATED THEM COTTON FIELDS). I have thousands of records now---this product of the fact that my family spent a fair amount of time in the record shops...I ran madly into adulthood with this ideal. The influences are so many and I cherish more than any other time these glorious seventies that made me the freak I am today.
MARK - Was trumpet the first instrument you learned to play?
ERIC - Yes, I then worked the clarinet for a while to prepare my younger brother who was planning on clarinet for his first instrument. He was legendary and I sucked. I worked at the piano for a year or so but with no success, I was a bit old once I started. Later at conservatory I was even kicked out of piano class, the teacher took me for a short busser.
MARK - Can you tell us a little about your musical background?
ERIC - I have addressed much of my musical background in the first three questions. Here I can add the power and majesty of the 1980's. The bands of England changed my life. Along with my younger brother we endevoured to become Martin Fry, Martin Gore, Robert Smith, Andy Partridge, Steven Kilby (AUSSIE), etc...It was what I termed "Hard Wave". Although I sang my whole life with great pleasure and precision it was in these eighties that I really became a singer. This was a period of great and interesting music to sing. I am still "Hard Wave"
MARK - Tell me about Cardinal. How and when did you and Richard Davies hook up?
ERIC - Richard an I were brought together by one of my all time best friends, Bob Fay. Bob and Richard met at the Middle-East cafe, a nightclub in Cambridge,MA. I knew nothing about Richard but bob was keen and thought Richard was a genius. I did not think so based on the few things Bob had played for me but I agreed to meet him for a jam session with Bob. I was on bass guitar and that first day of meeting we recorded a spirited version of Richard's "The Last Poems", this was early 1992. That first day Richard and I sang together and it was beautiful. It was Cardinal.
MARK - Whose idea was it to start the band?
ERIC - Richard came to America for the sole purpose of getting a record deal and to find some fellows to help with what he was doing. Heaven made it happen but the idea was ours collectively.
MARK - Do you think there will be another Cardinal project in the future?
ERIC - I don't know. Richard and I have not spoken in years now. If our solo records don't make us famous soon we may have to. My hair needs some more gray in it before I really start to think about it.
MARK - What's the story behind S.W.A.T.? How were you involved in that project?
ERIC - Steve Hanford (my drummer on the "Cardinal" record and "It's Heavy In Here") was producing this SWAT thing and asked me down for some Issak Hayes trumpet licks. The SWAT record is weird and funny as hell and I must have been bored and generous as this is not the type of thing I do. I brought along Tandy Sturgeon on trombone (He is also the trombonist on the Cardinal record). It was a fun session though, lots of dark liquor and laughter.
MARK - What's the story behind the "Beltbuckle" Project? How did that come about?
ERIC - It was 1991. Before Bob Fay joined Sebadoh, before Sebadoh signed to Sub Pop, before Lou Barlow was a hit boy we got together to mess around. Me on bass again the three of us wrote a four song EP called Beltbuckle. It is silly and yet musically kind of cool. We would get together every tuesday morning for a couple of months and see how much weed we could smoke while writting and recording. I have hours of four trak stuff we did (I was producing LO-FI) and mabey someday I will plow through it all and burn it.
MARK - Do you ever see yourself performing to a live audience in the future? If not, why?
ERIC - Every once in awhile I have dreams in which I am a star of the stage. In these dreams I smile and carry on like a dandy. These dreams leave me feeling dirty and stupid. It's not my bag. I don't know if I will ever do it. Why not?, there are so many reasons. To go into all of them would not only confuse and offend my fans but it would also take too many words, to much bullshit that I have spilled fourth so many countless other times.
MARK - Being a Jellyfish fan, and conversing with other Jellyfish fans. I find that almost all of them bought your CD because Jason Falkner was on it. How do you feel about gaining a lot of your fan base through the Jason/Jellyfish connection?
ERIC - That is why I became his friend, to use his fans...NO. Funny thing about this is that I was his friend for awhile before I even heared of Jellyfish. It was my brother that realized that my new friend was in JF some years back. I think it is great for JF fans because if they get to hear more of the great Jason Falkner while hearing my nice little songs then let's party, crack one open for the winners...While JF was winning fans and Jason was going national for the first time I was locked in my closet starting to compose. I saw nothing, nobody, nowhere.
MARK - I personally didn't discover your music that way, believe it or not. I sometimes pick up CD's just based on the cover art. I saw "It's Heavy In Here" and loved the cover. It reminded me of some kind of mellow jazz or easy listening classic album form the 30's or 40's. You know, The kind of music that you would listen to in some skyrise New York apartment with the lights down low, a few candles and the love of your life as you sit together looking out over the city lights at night. I got all this from your CD cover, then I read the back of the CD and bought it. I then realized, to my surprise that Jason was all over the album. So with that said, Did you come up with the CD covers for both your albums? If not, who did?
ERIC - It was a collaboration. The basic concepts and photos were my department and Jeff Kleinsmith at Sub Pop did all the dirty work. Jeff is as good as they come as an art man. He takes my ideas and makes them look like album covers. For the first month or so the TOWER records chain filed "It's Heavy In Here" in their easy listening section. They had never heard of me and based on the cover art they figured that I belonged with Henry Mancini and Jonny Mathis. Mabey they should have left me there.
MARK - You and Jason are good friends these days. How did you two meet?
ERIC - At a record store here in Portland---The Grays were doing an in-store performance and I went down to meet the author of Very Best Years and the rest of his stuff on the Grays album. He was the first great man of the 90's and I could not pass the opportunity to sit with him. Richard and I had just finished the Cardinal record and I went down to give a tape to Jason. We had a great chat and he wrote me from the road with his admiration for my work and told me he would call me as soon as he got back to LA. A few times every lifetime one experiences these things, if things are going right.
MARK - What do you think of Jason's albums/music? What would be your favorite song of his that you have heard so far? I would have to say that mine is a tie between "Untitled" and "The Hard Way".
ERIC - I think so much of his songs. He is the Prime Musical Minister. My favorite song...that is tough. I think I would have to pick one of the new ones. He has made a record that will be released in a few months and it is full of masterpieces. That record is so good that for a while I was really messed up, weeping and choking, screaming and laughing. I cant name a single song, I simply can't do it...As they say in my town of origin, "Its all good". White Street, Compton---word to your mother
MARK - Do you know what Jason's favorite song of yours is?
ERIC - That's a good question. He has said very flattering things about alot of my songs. After he got a tape of the Lateness he called me and said "I really love Everything So Real, How come you didn't have me play on that song?" That hurt when he said that. I don't even want to think how much better that song might have been...
MARK - Spookey Ruben plays bass on "Lateness". How did you two hook-up?
ERIC - He got my first record and fell in love with my music. I got his and could not believe it, still can't. I was minding my own business at a Sub Pop party when accross the loud smokey room I saw this short beautiful little man. I had seen his video and knew it was him. Turns out his label TVT gave him a plane ticket so he could come to meet me. Another match made in heaven. We got drunk.
MARK - Have you gotten any ideas or begun work on a third Eric Matthews album?
ERIC - Yes, I have more than half of the next record written. So far I think it is smashing. I am changing and getting old. I am getting tired but this is still prime time for me. I believe I have at least two or three good records in me before I move on to my career as Hollywood punching bag---composer.
MARK - Being a fan of movie & T.V. music, do you ever think you would want to score or write music for movie or t.v.? Have you ever thought about this?
ERIC - I dream of it and all that phat cash just waiting for an aging me. Cash is the main incentive, as most of what comes out now in TV and Film is moronic garbage. The opportunity to write a love theme for any of the modern chimps acting today is barf making but where does one of my ilk go? The concert halls are too big and still playing Mozart every night. We are doomed. The 40's thru the 70's were my time but I was not there, ah..lament
MARK - Have you ever thought about composing and recording a classical-type album or a choral work?
ERIC - Yes, not choral but instrumental. I may have some good work of this type inside of me. I have many hundreds of these types of pieces already started, finished, and in the various stages. There is a great record company pursuing me now that wants to begin this part of my career. I am not sure I am ready to do it but the offer is intriguing. Sub Pop and I have an exclusive agreement but you never know...
MARK - Who would you consider to be your top 10 favorite composers/songwriters of all time? If you would like to add more than 10 please feel free.
ERIC - Songwriters are composers but the two are very different in my mind. We wont go into that, I will just give you two lists...in no particular order...
Composers: Bernard Hermann, George Dunning, Jerry Goldsmith, Alexander Courage, John Williams, Rimsky Korsakov, Aaron Copland, Pete Ruggolo, Claude Debussy, Erik Satie, and Hugo Friedhofer.
Song Men: Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Stevie Wonder, Burt Bacharach, Barry Gibb, Donald Fagen, Sting, Martin Gore, Captain Sensible, David Sylvian, Neil Hannon, Richard Davies, Jason Falkner, Spookey Ruben, Wes Matthews, Andy Partridge, Robert Wyatt, and Gordon Lightfoot.
MARK - These next questions are coming from a struggling musician's point of view:
MARK - How did you get signed, and when you got signed how did you get the label to pretty much give you space and let you do what you want to do?
ERIC - One of the guys from Flydaddy handed a small set of my demos to John Poneman at Sub Pop. John was one of the first to offer me a deal of my own and I liked him and what they wanted to do for me. I talked with other more major labels but I could smell them through the phone so I went with SP. I did nothing to get them to give me space other than just being myself. When a young man is so full of vision and vinigar you let him stand as an artist, independant of the commercial trappings so often the death of others. I am.
MARK - What advise would you give to other musicians who are trying to get discovered and secure a record deal in today's very fickle music business world?
ERIC - That is hard. The most brilliant musical minds in the world are just barely scrapping by or still unsigned. If you are something special and belong to the vast heritage of quality music then this is trouble. If you are Beck, or Rob Zombie, or a BareNakedLady you have a shot. These men are hollow, and clueless, a real sad joke and this is what is now needed. The record companies are floundering in their signings and if you have a fresh country rap rock project with a touch of hanson pop then you are in. If I were a new artist right now I doubt very much if I could get a deal. I just scrapped in. The hope of breaking heavy melodic becomes more unreal every damn month. The Tower of Babble all over again. I am going into the bathroom now to kill myself, no, not just yet... I am full of hope yet cant ignore all of the incredible ugliness prevailing in this industry of music. I have no advise other than to stay away and hope things change by the time you are at your best.
THIS CONCLUDES MY INTERVIEW WITH THE BRILLIANT MUSICAL MIND KNOWN AS ERIC MATTHEWS.