With the dogged reputation of ‘being a real a——,’ Canadian music veteran Matthew Good is more the guy to say “F—- ‘em” than stay on the sidelines. By way of political activism, varied artistic pursuits, and a brand new album that marks a noticeable change in both influences and musical direction, the three-time Juno winner – who loudly rejected each award – strives to “perfect what can’t be perfected” and is quite comfortable critiquing his own work and admitting to mistakes he’s made over the course of his almost 20-year career.
Dallas Green told me that people were angry when he started City and Colour alongside Alexisonfire. Are people bothered with you wearing different hats?
After all this time, people pretty much know what I’m about…but Dallas’s situation is ridiculous. When [Alexisonfire] broke up, he got a lot of evil heat about it. There was stuff on his Facebook page that I thought was utterly unconscionable. We e-mailed back and forth while it was happening and I told him, ‘Dude, hang in there. You’re one of the most brilliant songwriters in the country so f—- ‘em. You just made a fantastic album, you told the guys this was coming,and you gotta do what you gotta do.’
Were you pulling from personal experience?
Yeah. I’ve been in the position of being in a band where you are the majority creative force. When the band breaks up, people who have no insight into that, view every member as equally important and get upset. It’s a difficult position to be in. If things aren’t working out and you want to go in a different direction, then you have to change that reality. People get unhappy when you do though…and that sucks.
Tell me about Lights of Endangered Species.
It’s red and white, kinda (laughs). Well, that’s if you actually buy a real copy of it.
Is it one of your better albums?
Art is the exercise of trying to perfect what can’t be perfected, you know? People try to build bigger and better s— but never create the ultimate thing that can do it all. Everyone starts off with that fire in them, but the trick as an artist is to realize that you will never perfect what you do; you just find ways to come up with other interpretations.
Did you take consciously take chances?
Oh yeah. Compared to the majority of my work, there’s pretty humongous musical chances I’ve taken on this record. The single that’s on the radio right now doesn’t have a single note of guitar in it.
As a rock musician, you can do stuff using guitars…but I’ve been a student of jazz and classical music and the way melody and counter-melody can be used, and I focused more on that. I used a lot of obviously different instrumentation that’d be more conducive to that.
When you look back on your career with 20/20 hindsight, what do you see?
If I look all the way back to the beginning? I had to have my head up my a– (laughs). With my solo work, there’s maybe a couple things where I look back and think, ‘Errr…maybe not…’ but the majority of it is pretty good work.
Let’s do album title association – if I say Avalanche, what do you say?
I’d say I love that record. There are songs that went in after the fact that shouldn’t have ended up on there: Lullaby for the New World Order and Song for the Girl. The rest of it is solid as hell.
White Light Rock & Roll Review.
There are mistakes on there. In North American for Life I made references to a specific person…and I find that naïve after the fact and probably shouldn’t have done that. Ex-Pats of the Blue Mountain Symphony Orchestra I’d leave off now because it ultimately comes across as a little too…Who-inspired.
I wouldn’t change a f—— thing. That record to me is great. There’d be no changing it.
I’d probably do Empty’s Theme Park a little differently. There’s just something about the mix; I could have made it breathe a bit more but I didn’t.
Is Lights of Endangered Species too fresh to know how you feel about it?
Even if you ask me 20 years from now, I wouldn’t f—— touch a thing. This one I did with exact imprecision (laughs).
You said earlier that people pretty much know what you’re about – but do you?
Artistically, you don’t get a handle on yourself. Ever. I mean, I work in certain ways and there are patterns but as far as a definition is concerned, I don’t think I’d ever really want to know.
Matthew Good is touring Canada through December in support of his new LP, Lights Of Endangered Species. For a complete list of concert dates, visit www.matthewgood.org.
*Originally published under ‘Interviews’ on MyTelus.com.