I adore punk band, The Bronx! I first spoke with Matt back in 2003 when their first self-titled record came out, and have continued to keep the conversation going over the years; it’s amazing to see a band grow in popularity, creatively, and as people. We spoke again just a few days ago, The Bronx fresh from their Reading and Leeds jaunt. We chatted about his beautiful pup Mamba, songwriting, confidence, depression, creativity, inspiration and photography. As always, it was a total pleasure. Love you, Matt… see you in Australia in October!
Firstly, how amazing is the painting you posted recently that Boss Dog did of your pup, Mamba?
MC: It’s unbelievable! I got home from tour playing Reading and Leeds about two days ago and it was waiting for me when I got home. I opened it up and thought it was so cool. It’s the coolest to get stuff like that, especially when it has to do with the greatest dog on the planet, Mamba! She’s got a little shrine now, a couple of artists have done stuff for Mamba, she’s got a good little collection going.
How did she come into your life?
MC: I lived with my brother for a long time, we live at the beach; I’m here now and he’s since moved out. We got this place ten years ago and we were just chillin’ and I said, this is a great place for a dog, let’s get a dog! He was like, “nah, you’re on tour a lot.” Finally I talked him into it though and we went down to the Long Beach Animal Shelter and Mamba was the only dog that was chillin’ amongst all these other dogs that were barking and going crazy… we were like, what’s up with this one? They were like, “She’s taken.” They were waiting for her to be picked up… we were super bummed and were like, if something falls through let us know. I called them the day she was meant to be picked up and they said the people had flaked and she was available, so we got her! She’s been a miracle pup ever since. She’s awesome! Dogs are great, animals are amazing, I can’t say enough about them. They bring so much happiness into your life. She’s an amazing dog. I encourage anyone and everybody to get out there and adopt an animal whether it’s a dog, cat, whatever—they’re great!
Totally! Most of the time I think I prefer dogs to people…
MC: Yeah, there’s that whole unconditional love and not being able to talk thing that works in their favour [laughs].
This month you guys celebrated 15 years of making music and the anniversary of your first Bronx record, I was watching a short vid of you talking about the album and you said that lyrically you didn’t have confidence in anything that you were doing at that point; do you feel confident now?
MC: Yeah. Confidence is a tricky thing, with everybody it comes and goes. At that time I didn’t really have more of a self-confidence than specifically a lyrical confidence, I didn’t know who I was or how I fit into the band. I didn’t know if I could even do it. There was so much I didn’t know. I never really had too much confidence in myself. Now thankfully it’s completely different. I know this is something that I’m supposed to do and was born to do, I love it and embrace it and want to do it the best I can. When I sit down to write I have a smile on my face and I try to pull out things that mean a lot to me and that I think would mean a lot to other people and I have fun. I feel great about it. Being a musician is a wonderful thing and being able to create for a living is a gift that is hard to explain how much it means to me—it keeps you sane. The whole world is so insane, trying to survive is so insane, having a creative outlet where you can express yourself and just write things out, it’s life saving!
When you write do you put pen to paper or type in your phone or on your computer?
MC: I do it with a computer or sometimes pen to paper, but my writing is so bad, my brain moves faster than my hand and when I go to read it back it just looks like my hand is trying to catch up with my mind, it just looks like scribbles. I don’t’ have the patience for the two second delay between my hand and mind, if I type it’s a lot faster. Originally I was one of those guys that was, fuck computers! [laughs]. I was all about writing stuff down, writing stuff down on the weirdest stuff imaginable because you have that romantic image of having your lyric in the Smithsonian and you don’t want it to be on a laptop, you want it to be on a stained piece of paper that’s got your blood on it [laughs]. I’ve since let that go and I’m at piece with computers now and it’s all good [laughs].
Where do you find you get best ideas?
MC: Lately, I think they come out of frustration, it changes though. Sometimes things come out of something that’s just so amazing and beautiful that just happened. There’s so many big band moments that come from positive and negative charges, it’s just about whether you’re aware of them or not when they happen to grasp it, write it down and chase after it. I haven’t written in months but then I had this spark a couple of nights ago and I just rattled off six to eight pages of lyrics and song ideas. I had a total flush of all this stuff that’s been sitting inside of, it felt so, so good. There was nothing in particular that brought it on, I just think I got to a point where there was so much that I could take before I had to write something down or commit something creatively. The frustration turned into me writing something for two to three days straight. The thing for me that has always been important for me is to not be lazy about it, like, oh that’s a good idea but I’ll write it down later or put a reminder in my phone about it. It’s like, no, you gotta take the time to put it down, go after it and follow it and keep writing… that’s where the good stuff comes for me. When it stops, it’s like, ok cool, I’ll take a break. I got three song ideas and lyrics for five, it’s time to go get a beer and chill out.
I know that one of your other creative outlets is photography, you do your photo-zine/book, Stolen Tuxedo; where did that passion come from?
MC: It’s one of those things that honestly once you dive into it, you just kick yourself for not doing it sooner. I started looking back on all the photos I had and have just taken, 15 years of being in a band or on the road, whatever… you realise, god, ok I’m in a band and get to do creative stuff for a living and then you realise it’s true on so many levels, you have this opportunity because you’re travelling the world and taking photos it’s like—do something with it. You can dive into that too. You can focus on that but you don’t need to change your life and focus on this crazy 100% lazer focus on it but, you can give it a little love. Do some research go out and get a camera, just do little stuff here and there to nourish it. For me it ended up turning into something really cool, it turned into something I love doing. I can come home from a tour and going through photos and just put out these cool books. It’s fun, it’s creative and it keeps my mind creative but gives me a break from doing music non-stop. Anytime I get to do stuff like that I am all over it.
I’m the same that’s why I always have so many creative things on the go. Was there ever a time when you thought about quitting music?
MC: No, I mean I guess you could say yes, but never with my heart. You get to a point sometimes as a human being in a band where you’re up against the wall that you never thought you would be, no money, you’re scrapping by, your body is depleted, you’re emotionally drained… at that point you’re like I don’t know if I can. It’s not wanting to quit music, I love music more than I love myself. It’s something I never want to quit, but sometimes you get to a point where the logistics of it put you in a place where you might have to make that decision, that’s the hardest part. Anyone hat is in a band, whether you’ve sold a ton of records and have a lot of many, I think there’s times when you’ll still feel like you’re up against the wall or feel compromised, or that it doesn’t feel right. In that respect I’ve had that conversation with myself and been down that road but outside of that from a place of just my personal relationship with music, I would never want to quit that.
Yay for us then!
MC: [Laughs]. Yes.
You were going through a depression when you wrote the last record and I know that mentally the last couple of years have been tough but you’re feeling in a better spot now; what helped you get through?
MC: Acknowledging it. I think that was the main thing. Finally being able to say, hey, look, I need to address this, pay attention to this and rebuild myself and talk about it, honestly. It was bad. I had a panic attack and a breakdown, I’d never had one of those in my life and I’ve been through some crazy stuff. It came to a point where my body literally couldn’t handle what was happening in my mind. It was horrible. It was one of those things like, now there is no more hiding, you have to address this, you have to battle it you have to take it on. Ever since then, honestly, it’s gotten way better. Once it happened I don’t’ know if it ever really goes away but you learn how to navigate it and deal with it—you have to stand up to it and face it. For me, talking to my mom about it was a big deal, I knew that talking to her made it real. I knew once I told her what was going on that there was no going back from that. Once she knew it was going on, for better or for worse, out there. It gradually got better. You learn to stay active and to keep pushing yourself to become a better person. It’s a constant fight, but so far I’ve been able to stay on the good side of it and turn that corner. I’m alright now days but I know it can be a very heavy battle for a lot of people going through a lot of crazy stuff. It sounds dumb to say, but it’s so easy to think that you are so alone in it… whatever you can do to get out of that feeling is the first step in the right direction. It helped me step out of my own bubble, because your mind is in such a place, you can’t correct that from the inside, it has to spill out first.
I know the feeling. At points in my life I’ve been diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety… on the outside everyone always thought I was doing great but inside I was losing it and feeling broken, withdrawing more for people. When I finally got to the point like you, when I said stuff out aloud and reached out to others, that helped me to heal.
MC: Yes, absolutely.
Is there a record that you can put on that can help to cheer you up?
MC: Yeah, there’s a bunch. One is Kiko by Los Lobos, that always reminds me of hanging out and meeting David and Vince [Hidalgo] when we were in high school… the first time that I learned their dad was in Los Lobos and listening to all those records, being young and having the best time ever. It’s funny ‘cause Kiko is not a kid’s record, it’s adult music. It’s such a great record. Honestly anything by the Descendents puts me in the best mood. Listening to The Minute Men makes me happy. Listening to bands like Judas Priest, Mötley Crüe, all that glam stuff reminds me of my family and my sister, it puts a smile on my face and reminds me of growing up and discovering music—that was my gateway into punk rock. Music is such an awesome powerful thing. The crazy thing is… to think of attaching negative memories with music – I know they exist, sometimes you hear a record and it reminds you of this or that – to me the difference between negative memories and positive memories with music is 99.9% positive to 0.1% negative. When I listen to music it makes my heart happy. When I’m at home and going through my own record collection, like last night I was on the patio having beers and I was listening to – this is going to be terrible – I was listening to Steely Dan and The Animals [laughs]. I put on a Damn Yankees 7 inch at one point. I was listening to the Detroit Cobras. I was just having a blast! It’s no secret, everybody knows how amazing music is. Anytime you can play it, listen to it, appreciate it, it’s a good thing.
Last question; is there anyone or anything that you’ve seen or an experience you’ve had lately that’s really inspired you?
MC: Specifically, I will say my brother. He’s been kicking a lot of ass lately. He’s been through a lot in life and to get to where he’s at, he’s a manager of a smaller grocery store, working his ass off and getting all these crazy awards. He’s such a good person. He got a big promotion. It’s inspiring to see him working so hard. It’s inspiring to go back and forth with each other and making sure each other is working hard and doing good.
When I came home from the European tour I was in a funk. We were on tour for two months in Europe, we were going at it every night and I felt so good on tour. I thought I’m gonna come home carrying all this positive energy and I’m going to hit the ground running and kick ass! Cut to the next scene, I get home and it’s the exact opposite, sometimes with your body on tour you don’t realise it but it’s just being held up by adrenalin. You get home and everything falls apart, your back is hurting, your leg is numb… I had this crazy abscess tooth come in. My body was wrecked and that derailed my momentum, my mind got wrecked because I couldn’t be productive so I just felt like a loser! I was like, fuck! I’m in this rut! You have all this time off, can’t do nothing, you can’t even go to the gym—you just feel like a total zero. It was like, aaahhhhh, this is such a bummer! It was he exact opposite of what I was hoping to do. We went to Reading and Leeds fest this past weekend and before I went I thought ok, this is going to be a reset for me and I’ll come back and kick ass and get things going how I wanted it to when we came back from Europe last time. Since then my brother got this crazy award while I was away and we were talking… he watches Mamba when I’m on tour, catching up with him and seeing where he’s at really motivates and inspires me. By having people like that in your life, friends, family, whoever they may be, it helps keep you clear. It kept me from putting too much pressure on myself about trying to come home and do all this awesome stuff and be this person that gets up every day a accomplishes a zillion things – sometimes I can put that pressure on myself. Coming back and talking to him and getting myself right, everything has been good. He’s been balancing me. I can attribute me getting things done and me writing, to being in the right headspace to look at things clearly, to him.
*Photo’s courtesy of Matt’s IG: @213mattman