Sunday, May 4, 2008

Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered - The MATT EBERT Interview/Review

MATT EBERT – “R & Bewilderment” CD ’07 (Private, US) - You know what I really like? The fantasy of getting stuck on a desert island with my wife, copies of “Stained Class,” “Black Rose,” “Vol. 4” and possibly any Accused disc (with a CD player, of course), a lifetime supply of Squire’s Pizza, plenty of drink & sunscreen & a nice split-level beach house. In lieu of that, however, something that really floats my boat is getting a piece of playable musical plastic in the mail that takes me by surprise in a very pleasant way. I mean, let’s face it, there are some kinds of things I expect to get: metal, punk, stoner, folk…albums that follow the general paths of genres I ve trodden many a time…and rule. And yet, every so often, something shows up that comes from the proverbial realms of left field and does so in a very appealing way. Such is the case with this ’07 release from Georgia’s MATT EBERT. Yes, true to it’s very title, there is a good bit of the feeling of old soul & R&B that abounds in these grooves (ok, encodings). Take a little audio guzzle of the cover of the Four Tops “Ain’t No Woman.” Sticking to a fairly standard arrangement, it’s given a helluva shot in the arm by EBERT’s throaty Waits-like application. But sticking to the covers here for a minute, wait until you feast your hammers, anvils & stirrups on the molasses-sweet confectionary groove of “Communication Breakdown.” Yesiree, that’s the ol’ Zep manifesto and yet, here unencumbered with chugging compresso-Page chords, it sidles along with all the sexually-charged blues of a late night in Café Wah. Add to that the brooding lurk of Temple Of The Dog’s “Hunger Strike,” which suits MATT’s voice alarmingly well and…well, goddamn pardner, you’re not even on the 9 originals that form the bulk of this nice little piece of work. Going from the near desperation of “Sweet Nothing,” in which EBERT’s vox take on the awesome presence of a bit of early Peter Wolf (J Geils) to the raw, Tom W git-down of “Big Toe Blues” to moments that would make Capt. Beefheart take pause, this is as wide a palate as any artist should ever be asked to brush into a single painting and yet MATT does it with ease. Couple that with the fact that the guy does a lot of the instrumentation here as well, aided by his bud Allan Ray & you’ve got a disc that coulda, shoulda, hell woulda made my Tops of 2007 had I gotten it in time. Best news is, not only does an exclusive interview with the man himself follow, but this disc is available FOR FREE (!!!) at 9.5

RAY - One thing my dad always told me was to start at the beginning. This is something that has served me well in ventures across the board, from both calculus to sex. Anyway, so onto the beginning. What’s the story behind MATT EBERT? Who are you, where are you from, how did you get involved in music, influences, etc. How did it all get to the point of “R & Bewilderment?”

MATT - My name is Matthew James Ebert, born 8/7/80 in Atlanta, Georgia. My family(mom, dad, 2 sisters) lived in a declining part of ATL for the fist 7 years of my life, we then moved to my grandparents farm in north Georgia(Cumming, GA..he he) and that is where I grew up. We had a bunch of animals, we didn't really "farm" any of them. It was pretty much a petting zoo. During these "farm" years is when I started to develop as a musician. I started playing bass in middle school during the "grunge" deal. So, the Seattle bands were a big influence. Hendrix was always HUGE influence. My best friend and I were Hendrix fanatics. When I started High School I switched to playing drums. And we(my best friend and myself) started my 1st band. We played alot of Hendrix tunes....not the radio stuff but the deep cuts....playing "3rd stone from the sun" in the 10th grade. After high school I got really interested in Miles Davis and LSD. That combination really opened my mind to what was possible in music. I got really interested in writing my own stuff. So, with the help of Allan Ray my good friend, I recorded my 1st solo full lenth cd in 98-01. released it in 01. The album was almost entirely instrumental and didn't really get much response. SO, I decided I should probably do some singing on my next release to maybe get some attention. And that was kinda the 1st step for R&Bewilderment. I recorded it between projects in 01-06.

RAY - Where the heck is Gainesville, GA? I ve been in Gainesville FL, so at first I thought I d read it wrong. Ever heard of Ludowicki GA? I remember driving to Florida many, many years ago and I -95 wasn’t complete so you had to go on these little back roads. One of the towns you went thru was Ludowicki and it was a speed trap. Every block, the speed limit changed from like 40 to 35 to 30, back up to 35, down to 25, etc. They waited, pulled you over, then took you to the judges house and said “guilty” and made you pay right then. But, you’re from there & so are the Allmans, so that’s pretty good. :)

MATT - After H.S. I grew so tired of my dad bitching about my music and volume that I decided to save all my money and buy a house so I could freely create without interrupting peoples naps. Ended up moving to Gainesville ,Ga (poultry capital of the world). It was the cheapest house I could find that was close to my work and family. Gainesville, is about 40 min north of Atlanta and 60 min west of Athens. We got one of the largest man made lakes in the US. and the chicken deal and that’s about it. It is(g-ville) north ga, you must have been traveling in south Ga. Its too damn hot down there for me, however I did work in Macon for a while and visited Duane Allman and Barry Oakley's grave....they also got the Ga music hall of fame in Macon. But yeah alot of rough justice down there, that’s why I stay up north, little more civilized.

RAY - The first thing I noticed about your CD is that it’s a CD. That’s always good, makes playing it easier. The next thing I noticed, upon playing it, is that there is a tremendously wide range of material on it. I mean, you’ve got everything from a pretty straight-ahead (and very good!) interpretation of “Ain’t No Woman” to moments of out-on-the-edge bizarre-ness that have a decided Beefheart flavor. And yet, it all fits. How difficult is it to have a wide palette to work with and NOT have it sound like you smashed it all together with a jackhammer?

MATT - I wanted R&Bewilderment to display my different influences and styles ALSO it was recorded through a 5 year span so, sometimes I was in a blues song kinda showed what I was listening to at the time and maybe a musical growth/understanding. The majority of the instruments were played by myself and Allan Ray so I think that also helped tie it together. But even when I listen to an album, I like alot of variety of sounds. Gets kinda boring staying in one genre.

RAY - The cover of “Communications Breakdown” impressed me…possibly because with 5 kids and a business, I haven’t been out of the house for 3 years but I think it may also be that it’s pretty damn inventive. I had never imagined in my life, that song without an overdriven, chugging guitar rhythm but…there it is and it works like a charm. What led you to trying this arrangement?

MATT - Well, I was going for a James Brown take on the song But I don't feel like I got the vocal energy. I did the drums, bass, and vocals and turned it over to Allan with putting James Brown in mind and he really brought it altogether with his guitar playing. I could have put my own lyrics on it but it just sounded right with Zep's.

RAY - Your version of “Hunger Strike” is also quite interesting? I dig the shit out of it & was wondering if Chris Cornell had contacted you to offer his compliments? Reason I m asking is that when that bozo David Cook did Cornell’s version of “Billy Jean” on American-I-Suck-More-Than-Billy-Idol, he apparently called him the next day. Just sayin….

MATT - Haha good question---All the covers I had to pay royalties was only about 100$ per song. They have a web site set up( where you can buy rights to songs with your credit card according to how many cds your making etc. They got just about every song ever written on there...including really obscure artist. I bought the rights to Ain’t no and Com breakdown in like 5 min NO PROBLEM.....however they had no listing of "hunger strike". I called the company....Sony music...tried to contact Chris Cornell....couldn't figure it out..that was a hit song! I was about to say fuck it and leave it off the cd but a company I found said they could straighten it out. Turns out it was a glitch in the system and for some reason was not put up for purchase...but we got it taken care of and Chris Cornell got slightly richer.....ended up delaying the release about 3 months but hey after 5 years that ain't no big deal.....He probably owes me for getting that straightened out for him.

RAY - But hey, let’s not just talk about your readings of other people’s stuff. How’s about we look at a few of your’s? Can you take, say 3 of your originals on the disc and give us a little bit of your feelings on the music, the lyrics, what they mean to you, etc.? That would be cool…and I know you’re cool.

MATT - Alot of people mention the 7th track "Raymond" (shit, it’s my name…ed) ---I have a recorder hooked up to my phone that records one day while driving around at work I got an idea for a song....I called my house and my old girlfriend picked up and I told her to press record cause I had an idea. So that little thing is me driving around ATL beating on my steering wheel trying to remember an idea. I came across it on some old tapes and thought it was funny and put it on the album. Maybe I 'll have the finished song on the upcoming.

The 6th track "Demonic Hodown" is actually the fist song I made for the album. I was still coming out of my instrumental phase...I had meet this awesome sax player threw some mutual friends and asked him to play something on it. I really liked the end result and asked him to play on "the rise and fall of alagon". We did a maniacal version of the Little Richard song "keep a knocking" which he tore up!.....but I lost the master in a computer crash(forgot to back up the file). I have never seen or heard from that guy since we sat down to record all that 4 years ago. Never even got to give him a copy of the cd....i've looked for him every where. He owes me 50 bucks too.

The 3rd Track "The top of Gainesville" I wrote about the strip club in Gainesville of the same name. The 1st time I went there the 1st thing I saw was a pregnant stripper.....and it went down hill from there. That joint is the nastiest, funkiest(yet very entertaining), place on earth and I think my song really takes the listener threw a night at "the top".

RAY - You do a lot of the instrumentation on “R & B…” and a lot of it is done by Allan Ray. Do you consider this record to be a solo album or a “band” project of any sort? Do you basically get people who you think will work best on each track or what you’d like to handle yourself? Or am I just pissing in the wind, making no sense whatsoever? Like I usually do…

MATT - Well, alot of times I would have an idea on an instrument that I couldn't play. So Allan(being the multi-instrumentalist) sometimes would try to play what I hummed out for him or I would just give him a song and he'd write his own parts. That’s why on some originals he's credited for writing w/ me and some he's not...however I could not have made this cd with out him. So, I believe it to be a joint effort between the 2 of us. The guest artist(not allan or m.e.) are people that I had in mind as I wrote the song. For example the 1st track I wrote especially for Journee B to sing back up...otherwise there's no song. And the cover of "hunger strike" I begged my friend Josh Looper to lend his southern twang(vocals,banjo, guitar). Basically the album is directed by myself but I need the supporting cast to make it work. The tile should be "directions in music by matt ebert"

RAY- Back to Georgia, and Gainesville in particular…. What’s it like there as far as doing live shows? Do you do live shows? I m just assuming…. If so, are there places that will let you play or are most of the establishments there more respectable than that? :) How far outside the greater Gainesville Metroplex have you strayed to ply your wares? Any chance of THE MATT EBERT EXPERIENCE making a touchdown in Baltimore? Trust me, we haven’t gotten the Ravens to do that lately.

MATT - Gainesville has no original music scene. Any band worth a damn from here have left for Athens or Atlanta long ago. There has been some patches of talent around town but I think since some local clubs have shut down the original scene has died.--- I have tried NUMEROUS times to start a band in which I front and sing in. But I can't ever get the musicians together due to flakiness or lack of interest(money). But I haven't given up yet. However, I have played drums for several different groups around Atlanta and Athens threw the years...toured up to Chicago and Virginia. Currently I 'm playing drums for the eccentric Doug Knight. I 'll keep ya posted on the matt ebert exp-i envision a high energy Motown meets grunge type of show.

RAY - What’s next on the agenda for you, Matt? I think I saw on your site where you’ve got plans for a new disc in 2008? How’s that going, any new songs/ideas in the works/in the can yet?

MATT - Yes, I PLAN on getting something out before 09. But I only have 1 track complete currently. I got the whole album in my head...we just gotta convert it to the studio and probably more like 09....unless I start doing music full time(not likely).

RAY - Ok, delve deep into your darkest corners here….tell us a story from the story of MATT EBERT as a musical artist that is simply one of the funniest, weirdest, most controversial or disturbing things that’s happened to you in regard to this business.

MATT - HAHA yeah I got a few good stories, there's ups and downs....fights on stage...attacks by cooks in parking lots...noted female vocalist peeing on ....banned from 2 clubs and 1 amusement park. BUT I won't go into those.....but I will tell you any show that I 'm involved with will be entertaining.

RAY - Any final commentary for the readership?

MATT - I 'd just like to say that my cd is available for free on my web site and you can contact me there for new music and shows and pictures of my misadventures.

Well, what more can I say!? Besides being the undisputed King Of Lower Case making me as an editor realize I m not being paid enough to be an editor…J), he is also the author of one simply fantastic piece of work in “R & Bewilderment.” You need it. And it’s free. You know what the hell to do.

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