41 Going On 13:
Talking With Matt Spastic
After More Than Four Decades In The Phoenix Metro, Punker Matt Spastic Waxes Poetic On The Local Music Scene, Punk Rock In General, And The Temptations Of A Musical Life
Matt Spastic. Images by Jeff Moses.
By Jeff Moses
Modern Times Magazine
July 3, 2013 — Local punk legend Matt Spastic turned 41 on June 13 and on his birthday he decided to allow me to interview him throughout his recording session, and birthday shenanigans. A self proclaimed “geek” Spastic took me on a journey through the mind of a punk rock mad man. From his introduction to punk rock through Boston college radio, to his struggles with addiction, on to his introduction to the downtown arts scene and beyond.
MTM: So are you actually from Phoenix?
MS: Yeah man, Born and raised.
MTM: How many bands are you an active member of?
MS: Two but kind of three. The Complaniacs aren’t going to break up or nothing, we just don’t play very often.
MTM: How long have you been playing music?
MS: Since I was like 12. I was in my first band at 14 — the paraplegics — we were fucking horrible. It was really, really bad. None of us knew how to play and we were just trying to cover these adolescent songs and we were bad at it.
MTM: So how old are you turning today?
MS: 41-years-old but I don’t feel it like most of the time. In Manhands, the next oldest guy after me I think he’s 31 now, he was telling me the other day he was like, “man I don’t know how you have all this fucking energy at 41.”
MTM: Where have been your favorite places to play in the Valley?
MS: I always liked the Emerald Lounge. It’s gone now, it was on 7th Avenue and McDowell. As far as places I have played that was one of the funnest. I don’t know I always liked playing house shows and shit. That’s why I like playing The Firehouse so much, cause it’s kind of more of a house show vibe where you aren’t worried about getting someone’s liquor license pulled. You know what I mean, cause you’re doing some fucking stupid shit. I like playing the Palo Verde in Tempe, the Yucca (Tap Room). As far as Phoenix venues, I don’t know I really just like playing The Firehouse, Lost Leaf is fun too but I don’t play it very often though. Trunk Space too.
MTM: What’s the biggest show you have ever played?
MS: I don’t know, we played the Surly Wench one time in Tucson, there were probably 200 people there. The Complainiacs, we got paid like 250 bucks to play a half hour set and shit. It was pretty awesome. We just played the Crescent last night with Manhands opening for the Thermals and there was probably a good 100 people there.
MTM: Why do you play Punk music?
MS:I don’t know, I like it. It’s what I grew up on. When I was like a 12-years-old kid and the shit on the radio back then was like Huey Lewis and The News, and crap like that, that I hated. So I ended up finding The Cure and I was like, “this here is kinda cool and different.” So I was over at a friend of my parents, actually, and they were from Boston and their son had this tape of Boston college radio, and he was asking me, “what do you listen to?” and I was all like “I like The Cure” and he’s all, “ever listen to punk?” and I was like, “no” and he was like, “take this tape home and tape it.” I still have it man. That was my intro to punk, it starts out with The Minutemen, and The Misfits are on there, and The Wires on there and Gangrene and just all these fucking badass bands man. I was blown away man, that was pretty much the beginning of it all. About a year later I started going to shows.
MTM: Who was your first show?
MS: It was The Vandals, the original Vandals, Steve-O singing back when they were good.
MTM: Where was it?
MS: The Metro on 7th Avenue and Camelback, owned by Tony Victor who owns Western Ticket Sales on 3rd Avenue and McDowell. He had this record label called Placebo Records they used to put out all the old JFA records.
MTM: What’s JFA?
MS: Jodie Fosters Army, an internationally known punk band from Phoenix that was all taken from when that guy tried assassinating Reagan. He was in love with Jodie Foster. He was writing her letters telling her he was going to do something big for her and he tried to kill the president. I guess he watched too much fucking Taxi Driver. So JFA, they ended up putting out a bunch of shirts and skateboards and it was Ronald Reagan's face in the crosshairs and they ended up getting a cease and desist from the fucking United States Government. So somewhere rumor has it in some warehouse somewhere, or in someone’s garage or something there’s a rumor that theres a bunch of the JFA skateboards sitting around because they couldn’t sell them. I just want to get my hands on one of those things. I don’t even think I’d skate it I’d just hang it on my wall or something.
MTM: So what band is currently your favorite?
MS: Ah shit dude that’s a hard question. Like, you know I used to work — well I didn’t really work there I wasn’t on the payroll or anything — Tracks in Wax Records on Central and when I was homeless I used to sleep there. Then I’d help Don put away records and stuff. Don Chiesa he was like an old record guru man. He’s been dead for a while now, died at 52 too many drugs and shit. But we used to hang out and drink beer and smoke cigarettes and listen to records all day at the record store and we just had that conversation you know if you could have five records to take on a deserted island which would they be. It’s just like an impossible question there is just too much good shit.
MTM: How many albums have you recorded?
MS: Oh I don’t know, five or six something like that.
MTM: So you prefer playing live as opposed to recording in the studio?
MS: I like them both, I don’t know it’s one of those things they’re like different animals you know. It’s like you run into those people who are like “I hate going to the studio” and I’m like why? That shit’s fun, its like different you know its you gotta be more precise cause live you can fuck up and they don’t know.
MTM: Who are your favorite bands to play with?
MS: Oh man, I like The Freaks of Nature as far as current shit. Those guys are rad. Shovel’s a good band. But that’s just Phoenix you know, like Shark Pants I’ve always loved playing with those guys.
MTM: Weren’t Shark Pants supposed to play The Complainiacs’ 10th anniversary last month?
MS: They were, they flaked. Yea they’re awesome, pretty much anything Isaac Reyes is in though like Langus Largus is fucking rad, a bit mellower than the Shark Pants stuff. He was in a band before that called the Swing Ding Amigos, fucking rad, everything that guy touches is fucking gold. I think Shark Pants is one of the punkest fucking bands in all of Arizona though, and they still play here and there. Complainiacs used to play with them back in the day a lot and basically the reason why was because I thought they were so awesome that I just kept asking them to come play shows like “hey I got this show you want to come play it?” And really it was just completely non altruistic selfish reasons. I just wanted to see those guys play again, and that's how you make people think you are cooler than you are by playing with really cool bands. I’m a hack I’m not a guitar player I just fake this shit and people believe it, that’s what’s funny.
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