Originally written for eVent! magazine [ep] on October 21st, 2005.
When asked about the title for his new album In A Coma, a collection of his greatest hits, Matthew Good says simply, “Aren’t we all?”
There’s more to it than that though. For the first part of his career Good was in a dysfunctional band that kept him from exploring his full artistic potential while helping to provide him with his greatest commercial success. In a way the title references the first half of his career, a long artistic sleep that only now he is waking up from.
Talking about his career in the Matthew Good Band he is out spoken, like he is about everything else. “People have misconceptions about the band like that we were all friends, we were never all friends. It was a situation where we all ended up working together and the first record that I did, Last of the Ghetto Astronauts, just became such an independent success that the people that I had made it with basically became the band and from there things just went on.”
The band dynamic never jelled and despite making their mark on the Canadian charts with singles like “Everything is Automatic”, “Apparitions”, “Hello Time Bomb”, “Load Me Up” and other songs, Good was never comfortable within the group. “There was a lot of convulsion, there was a lot of manipulation amongst people, there was a lot of intrigue with people trying to assure their position within something,” Good explains.
The conflict within the band began to affect the work in the studio. The work recording the band’s last album The Audio of Being, released in 2001, was rumored to have been fraught with conflict. It’s a record that Good has previous expressed disappointment in. “The artistic aspect of the band was never given that much focus. At the end of the day it just became one of those things where (we asked) ‘Why the hell do we even bother doing this?’”
“By that time everyone’s head had gotten so inflated that they figured that they could do it completely by themselves, and you know I had spent ten years being the guy writing all the songs so I said fine. I had been so exasperated being the guy trying to hold it all together I just said, ‘You know guys I’m out; I’m not going to do this anymore.’”
The tumultuous time within the band has not coloured Good’s view of the songs he wrote and performed during that time. When asked how he relates to a song like “Apparitions” which is so closely tied to the old Matthew Good Band, Good is able to set aside the past. “When I perform it live I perform it by myself on an acoustic guitar. So for me sure, from a songwriters stand point yeah, I can disassociate certain things from it (the history of the band). Obviously when I hear a specific recording of it I’m transported back to that specific time when I recorded it in the studio. Obviously there can be some negativity with that if that experience wasn’t good. But I find that when I actually get on stage and perform them live now with a completely different group of people they actually take on a life of their own. It’s actually quite a pleasure in a lot of ways to go back and do some material that you wish you had gotten better the first time around and now you have that ability to do it night after night, so it’s fantastic.”
In A Coma includes two new songs, “Oh Be Joyful” and “Big City Life”, which Matthew Good recorded just for the greatest hits package. “I just did it for the greatest hits. I just tried to write two songs that would thematically suit the record. I’m not really in that mind frame right now, in terms of writing new material. Everything I’ve written for the future is quite different than that. For me as far as that new material was concerned I didn’t want to lose it, I didn’t want to lose two songs so I basically just wrote two songs that were going to fit with the rest of the music on the release.”
In the past Good has released songs either free through his website or in the case of “Annabelle” as a special release on Apple’s iTunes Music Store. The freedom offered by the internet and the iTunes store excites Good. “I think whether it’s through iTunes or your own site, if you can some how use a backend on the web that lets you have your own media player that you can control and upload songs to and people can stream them I think absolutely. I think the internet’s fantastic for that. I don’t buy music anymore except off iTunes. I’m a huge, huge Apple guy anyway but why go spend thirty bucks more when I can get all of Nina Simone’s greatest hits right there on my computer and from my office at home play them wirelessly on my stereo in the living room. I can take my whole music collection wherever I want.”
“I’m totally for it. I think in the future artists are going to start releasing three or four song releases and not full records and they’re going to be releasing them a lot quicker,” Good says.
The internet is also a home to Matthew Good’s website. It’s a site that has gone from a fan run collection of photos and audio clips combined with Good’s manifestos, monthly pieces of short literature that he later published in a book titled At Last There Is Nothing Left To Say, to today being run by Good himself as a blog that focuses on politics and especially America’s foreign policy.
In such a political time Good is outspoken and articulate about what his views. When I ask him whether or not America should pull out of Iraq, he has obviously spent a great deal of time thinking about his answer. “A mess is going to be created no matter what they do, you’re talking about a highly sectarian country, and you’re also talking about a country that didn’t exist prior to 1919… It probably would have done a lot better for the future of that country had they not deposed him (Saddam). They’ve gone in there now and tried to deliver Jeffersonian Democracy to a country that will just out of hand culturally reject it, not democracy itself as a model, but such a westernized model of it.”
“Saying the Americans should stay there because they’ve created a mess and it would create an even bigger mess if they left, at the end of the day people have the right to determine their own sovereign future, the United States doesn’t have the right to do that.”
While In A Coma and the tour to support it might is Good’s way of closing the door on the first stage of his career, there is no doubt he will continue to remain articulate about his political passions and continue to make great music.