y. The Minor Arcana/Emotional Alchemy

So I’m breaking a rule here. Matt was no longer in the band in March when we did this interview, but now he’s back in. I didn’t want to lose all of this, plus he has an album coming out so here it is.

I met Landis on Valentines Day , 2009. It was right after one of those Terricloth solo shows he set up at the First Unitarian Church. My Valentine dumped me so I decided to drink with the crusty punx in the alleyway next to the church until i passed out. Matt thought I was a stray so he threw me into the back of his white van. This is when I first brought up the idea to anyone about this zine. He gave it a greenlight. I then e-mailed Masha & Chad. Then nothing happened until Hallowmas 2009, when I met Scott Hollingsworth at a Weezer concert.

anyway – thank matt for the Green Light.

Well this is exciting. you are actually the 2nd person that i have interviewed “live” so far.

Yeah, no worries. I’ve always loved books like “Please Kill Me” and I feel like World/Inferno’s story
is compelling enough to deserve it’s own oral history .

Yeah, what would you name the oral history of the infernos, from your experiences? Certainly not “Please Kill Me” , i hope?

Oh, hahahaha. Hmmm. Its funny I’ve thought about this and though it’s a long title. I thought “We’re Young, We’re Fast, We’re Dangerous & Hard to Catch”

I mean, some of those may not be true anymore (at 27 I’m the baby nowadays), but it sums up the spirit of the endeavor I think. I hope.

ahh! i like it! i might steal it! maybe. Jack passingly came up with Encylopedia Infernia…..but i like yours more.

yeah, the whole idea was to catch the spirit of this whole thing. Jack has a penchant for the Latinate titles. Which is fine, it’s part of our name-sake after all and I for one have always embraced the esoteric and intellectual side of Inferno. It appeals to my bookishness.

So , I believe that you’re one of the few people to make the transition from “fan” to member. At least this in this decade..

Yeah, as far as I know I was the only one to do it from the modern context of the scene, you know, with the board and all.

I mean, I remember during my first tour with Inferno in Europe 2008….a few kids on the board, admittedly people I was friendly with, were cheerleading for me, and asking for pics, info, bootlegs, etc and Jack sort of bemusedly and good-naturedly commented “That’s what happens when you promote from within the ranks” .
Yeah, the first time I sort of “auditioned” was backstage at that 2007 Philly show where they had no keys. And you and Brainy took me back there and I played the entire Charlie Brown Xmas soundtrack on that beautiful Steinway in the dressing room area of the First Unitarian.

Glad you crashed that party

yeah so am i.

So how many tours have you been on so far ?

Three-ish. Europe 2008 and 2009. Then I did a brief 5 or 6 day run in the Northeast in November 2008
and then a week after the Northeast run I did a one-off in South Carolina.

ah, so the “ish” is South Carolina. Got it! How were the crowds everywhere you went compared to the NYC/NJ area?

Europe is really, really um. How to describe the Europeans….

….they’re European. i mean just look at Konstantin.

Those kids are either WAY crazier….or rather, WAY more like shows circa 2003. or they just stand and watch you. Maybe sway and sing along.Stage dives aren’t as frequent.
um, the Europeans are also very honest. I can’t tell you how many times diehard fans have been like “Yeah, that show wasn’t so good.” Or “your solos were much better this year than last year”. Stuff like that.
Some of the kids are just insane. The kids in Jena, Germany BUILT A STAGE and a backdrop and a new lighting rig. They do that everytime we come through. They’re very appreciative, very respectful

Like they wouldnt rip apart a venue from the insides-respectful?

um, no. they wouldn’t because a lot of times we’re playing “Autonomous Zones” or artist’s spaces or squats. so there’s a community investment in the space.
that’s all those kids have in that town maybe. it’s not some shitty commercial club run by some mob connected jerk off trying to cram kids in like sardines …or LiveNation.
Do you think some people here just don’t understand that sometimes? or just are too punk to care?
too punk to care about what? respect for the venues?

Yeah. ie. the Court Tavern fiasco. I remember seeing an older guy almost crying after that matinee show.
the 21+ night show did much better.

yeah i mean. look, there are certain clubs that don’t deserve respect. the sorts of places I mentioned. but i don’t think you do anything that endangers the health or safety of the people you’re at the show with, like ripping out lighting fixtures ya know? Punk is primarily supposed to be about community, unity between outcasts and that unity means you have a responsibility towards the safety and well being of other people in your community. So that’s one thing.

The other thing is, a place like the Court Tavern, why fuck it up? Because you can? They’re taking a HUGE insurance risk to let these underage kids come in and see a band. It’s unnecessary

anyway, switching gears for a minute. less about destruction & more about construction ! what are you working on now? how is your new album coming along?

Ahhhh, nice segue!

Thank you. Its my first live interview segue. Seamless, no?

The album is coming along great.Basic rhythm tracking is finished (bass, drums, some guitar). Brian Viglione came down and played drums and killed it. I’m thinking March or April the album should be finished.

Wow. That’s awesome. I’m glad that Viggie added to it. I’m sure that’ll get some fresh gothic eyeballs looking your way.
Yeah, i mean, my primary motivation is he’s a great player but some exposure would be nice. I’m always a bridesmaid never a bride. I’ve been a bridesman too damned long.

I think you’re a beautiful bridesmaid by the way…

I also just self-published a chapbook of my poetry, in a limited run of 30 and have been working with a group of poets doing performances, workshops, readings, and other events called the New Philadelphia Poets

oh great, were is that available? & are you doing any more spoken word?

Oh, they’re available through me and at readings. I’ll be doing some more stuff with the New Philadelphia Poets. spring time-ish i think. i’ll keep you posted

Going back, what has your music career been like? have you released other work before?

Oh, I started playing in bands when I was 15. My friends dad was an amazing blues guitarist. I got my start sitting in with his band. Then I joined some friends bands when i was 16 or so, playing keys, contributing a couple songs. Then I played in cover bands for money at some pretty rough biker/trucker bars. Ya know, playing tons of Hendrix and Allman Brothers. I recorded my own music for the first time with my friend Matt Coslop when I was 18. And I’ve demoed a bunch and self-released an ep, “Beneath the Fold” last November. I’ve also done a bunch of jazz gigs at brunches and wineries and the like. I also have done some stints as a sideman for Philly artist Joshua Park and helped on the production end of his ep “One Wish”. I’ve been jamming some with this AMAZING goth/country/Nick Cave-ish sort of band, Sweetheart Parade as well.

I’ve been playing music with alot of the same people for YEARS. Matt Coslop , for one. Also my good friend and current guitarist and co-producer Carl Cheeseman. I’ve played music with him on and off since I was 15. He has this great project The Savage Detectives which is sort of an extension of his work with Boatload of Madmen (me and the Boatload drummer Tony are still part of the project). Boatload is going to release the record we recorded at some point (Peter Hess plays sax/clarinet on a track there). We’re remixing it and then mastering it soon.

oh, i also forgot to ask. is the record you’re working on now a solo project or with the “band” ? the lines are so blurry!

Yeah, because I’ve always worked with the same people when it comes to my music.
I’ve never had my own band till now (well Carl and Phil, I dunno about Brian…he’s got a lot of irons in the fire, i’m just grateful he did the recording session) but I’ve ALWAYS worked with the same people. I’m very hands on, very picky and when I bring my songs to other people I’ve usually got a pretty damned good idea of what the songs are going to be and how I want it played. I don’t trust very many people to convey that.

Writing with the Inferno at all?

I wrote a couple songs that I gave to Inferno to consider. One of the ones I sent is actually going on this new record I’m working on, “Waiting for the Fall”. And I’m sort of glad they never decided to use it because honestly, I like the fact that I ended up getting to have control over it’s development. Well me and my co-producers Carl and Jeff Hiatt.
Carl’s project, The Savage Detectives, is kinda his thing. But it’s really being run as a collective. Spoken word artists, other guitarists, all kinds of people are going to end up working on it, along with myself and Tony Mascara (who formed Boatload of Madmen along with Carl). This just feels better though, the whole concept of it running like a collective, sort of centered around a small handful of songwriters but having a really big pool of people to pull from as far as performance options go. And not having any ego about who gets to do the gig who doesn’t, who records on what…just being at the service of the songs or the performance. It’s liberating. I’m glad Boatload ended up sort of turning into this more amorphous concept, sort of closer to what Inferno was at its inception from what I understand. I think that’s a vastly underrated model and could be very frutiful creatively

your current band, ‘Boatload of Madmen’ is ending? or changing names? or whats the scoop….

The record I’m working on now is my thing, a solo project, I wrote all the material and am co-producing the record and doing all the dirty work (horn and woodwind arrangements, etc that Carl and Jeff helped sort of sure up). I may end up naming the band, ya know…just because I like that. I’m toying with Matthew Landis & the Minor Arcana. Tarot references….familiar, eh?

got it! i like the ring to the possible new name. I might steal that name too if you dont ever use it. Or if you are not too careful & piss me off. Sure, my name isnt “matt landis” and it might not go over well ……OR it’d be a damn good story. Either way i would never win in the legal battle.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’ll end up using it. So yeah, to be clear, Boatload of Madmen is no more. But we will put out the record at some point. But all the guys in Boatload are still playing together (with TONS of other people) in Carl’s new project/collective The Savage Detectives. “Roads to Rosary” is being folded into the Savage Dectetive collective sort of thing. It was the intial step away from Boatload.

So we’re leaving Philadelphia. Going back up route 95 & the Garden State Turnpike for one more quick trip around Inferno-ville & we’re out.

sure thing.

what do you think of ‘the scene’ these days? predictions?

I wish the scene had some perspective on this band. They’ve busted their ass FOR THE KIDS for well over a decade and all they’ve ever really sought from it is the ability to make a living doing it. Not get rich, not even necessarily get famous, to make a living. And they really are in it for the kids. I know I am. There’s no shame in wanting to make a living entertaining people and giving people hope in a frequently vile and cruel world. It’s admirable to choose that as a profession, but it’s hard achieving it. It’s hard making a living doing it. You need to make difficult decisions: creatively, personally, business-wise. And these aren’t easy decisions.

So as someone who came out of the scene to join the band and is still part of the “scene” as it were, I’d just like to say, if you think this band doesn’t care about you or what you feel you’re wrong. They do. They WANT you to like their music, they WANT you to have fun. But part of having integrity is doing what you think is best as a person and as an artist. Maybe the kids dont agree, hell maybe I don’t agree, but they’re never anything less than absolutely sincere.

I personally don’t think it’s too much for a group of artists to ask and pursue the ability to make a living creating their art. That means things change, and maybe it can’t stay this small party or this tiny sideshow. But I think it’s disingenuous for these kids to sit there criticizing the band for trying to be put in the position that a lot of them wish their fledgling bands could some day be in. I don’t know a single kid in a punk band who doesn’t wish he could quit his crappy job and just practice with his band and record and play gigs and make enough money to pay his bills and buy some booze and hang with his friends at the end of the weekend by playing in their band.

Any favorite gigs?

The Boston TT the Bears show. As far as a show I’ve played. The club was sort of being anal about stagediving, about kids drinking. My girlfriend at the time got kicked out and I remember Jack being really pissed by that. Really upset. And there was this real sense that it was us against the club. That we were going to go out there and play the wildest, most enthusiastic show we could. And we just slayed that night. The band was tight, everyone was on and super energetic, the audience was flipping out. There’s a picture on the My Space of Pid doing this epic stage dive off the monitors. And at the end of the night the kids had a great time, danced their asses off, stage dove like crazy and there was a real sense that the band and the kids united to have a good time and put on a great show in spite of the uptight club and promoters.
These kids who came to a show earlier that tour from Maine drove down to Boston to see us and one the gentleman was in a wheelchair. He was hanging out right up front singing along and I passed him the mic during the long outro of “Anarchists” and he was passing it around to the other kids in the area and it really felt like the audience and the band were one unit, one organism that night and that was the perfect way to symbolize it.

Could I squeeze one more story out of you before we go?

So, the Paris story was from the 2008 Europe tour. We drove all night from London or Bristol, to Paris. We arrived and you go down this narrow alleyway and the buildings in the alley were all squatted, as well as this small barn-like structure. We had hours to kill before the show, but we were all exhausted. I walked around Montmarte with Hess and we got back and I crashed out. I woke up about an hour before the gig, got in my suit and went down stairs. Now, this barn is TINY, there HAS to be a couple hundred kids packed into it and there are no windows. It’s easily 95 in the middle of August in Paris. These kids are INSANE. We launch into the set, people are climbing onstage because there’s no where else to go, hanging and diving from the rafters of the barn, fighting with the cops to prevent them from coming in and shutting down the show. Some guy was harassing a girl and they are just no nonsense and give the guy a very modest ass kicking and kick him out.

Completely insane, but totally just….committed. Committed to having an awesome time to keeping the space safe and friendly for everyone to get everyone there as fucked up as possible. Unfortunately, that squat got shut down, so it was the one time I’d be able to play there. Which might be good, the show was so hot, Brian and I pretty much passed out on stage from heat exhaustion. But the energy from the show, the effort the audience put out and that the band put out (I climbed on top of my amp and jumped over the keyboard to land on the last chord of “Brother”) was just insane.
That weird little Parisian squat, housed in an alleyway full of buildings, with bikes hanging from wires overhead and art and mosiacs being built like…while we were playing in the courtyard outside the barn. There was a daycare, kids roaming around, and just the craziest, drunkest, most creative, posi bunch of people I’ve met. I’m really sad their squat got shut down. That show was a really important personal and artistic moment for me.

Thank you for your time, Matt.

No worries , it was fun. This is the first time i’ve really gotten to seriously reflect on the past couple years with the band. i’ll let you know. And if people want my chapbook they can email me at boatload.of.madmen@gmail.com or contact me through my blog http://abecedarianfx.blogspot.com

woo hoo shameless self promotion!



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