Photo by Kevin Eisenlord
Interview by Dave Cotton
Taco fest, Diecemberfest, Matt Bayles, the Whammys, Dixie Dave, Burger fest-the list goes on. These are but a small sample of the people and events that have been graced with the association of musician/promoter Johnny Matter. A long running fixture of the Vancouver music community, when Johnny isn’t playing in one of his three bands (sludge/doom five piece BOG, avant soundscape duo ELEVATOR COMPACTOR, and the noise punk outfit MESS) you can find him founding or curating a festival with his Apocalypse Sunrise productions moniker, at a show, or helping other bands. Today is a particularly meaningful day as it marks the eve of the inaugural “Whammys” awards being held tomorrow evening at the Wise Hall. Johnny and Rob Stewart from Suna studios came up with the idea as a means to recognize local artists in Vancouver and in the process- throw one hell of a diverse, debaucherous party. I’ve been wanting to pick the mans brain for awhile about all things music related, so lets get to it.
Svbterranean: I’d like to ask you first about your current sludge/doom band BOG. Your drummer Poib referred to the band as “the Captain Beefheart of doom” can you elaborate a bit for us? What are you presently working on?
Johnny Matter: BOG is a sludgy, discordant doom band that does things a little different than most of bands in those genres.
JM: We try and jazz things up a bit with the song writing with multiple parts and tempo changes. Our newer songs we are working on at the moment are a good example of that direction we are going. We all come from different musical backgrounds and listen to different things and I believe that’s what makes us sound a bit unique.
I’m the vocalist and noise maker in the band. We are currently writing our 2nd full length that will turn out late 2016 early 2017.
Svb: Your previous band ANION recorded their album “Without Solace” with acclaimed producer Matt Bayles (MASTODON, BOTCH, THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES, CASPIAN). What was that experience like?
JM: Working with Matt was a great experience. He’s a good guy and really pushes you to get the best out of you in the studio. I’ve never been challenged like that before. I’d definitely recommend him and work with him again.The guys a master in the studio. His resume alone is proof of that.
Svb: In an era where bands are falling over themselves and each other vying for position, you instead put on festivals that are inclusive and often times in support of a charitable cause. Where does this aesthetic originate from?
JM: As an artist I’m always down to play for benefit shows. As a promoter I think it’s important to get involved in the community and help out where you can. I notice a lot of social issues that effect people and friends in my life. I try and make a difference anyway I can. Living in East Vancouver it’s in your face every day so many people that need a helping hand whether it’s food on the table or a roof over their head. The feeling you get by helping someone in need you can’t put a price tag on that. In past years at my shows and fest’s I’ve raised food for the Vancouver Food Bank, raised money for The Covenant House, and I got an event coming up that will raise money for Music Heals.
JM: I feel like if you wanna make a difference in your community, you gotta start from the ground up and really help those that need it the most. Music saved my life and continues to. For that I feel I’m in debt to music and now I want it to help others in return.
Svb: Speaking of festivals, you created a Vancouver centered award show called “The Whammys” How did that come about?
JM: The Whammys was actually thought up by my good friend Rob Stewart of Suna Studios.
JM: Rob wanted to do an event that was a play off the Grammy’s but local and actually was voted on by the public rather then rich big wigs in the music scene. We bounced ideas back and forth and created the event together. There are so many walls and cliches in the music scene and one of our goals with this event is to break those barriers down. Bringing people together from all different musical backgrounds as well as celebrating the people behind the scenes that make it happen.
Svb: From conversations that I’ve had with you, I’ve learned that WEEDEATER, TODAY IS THE DAY, and AUTHOR & PUNISHER are among your favorite bands. Coincidentally, your band BOG is playing a show with all three bands on the same bill, what was going through your mind when you found out you were playing this show?
JM: Yes I’m very excited for the event at the Rickshaw March 28th.
JM: I’ve been a fan of TODAY IS THE DAY since I was a teenager so yeah a good 15 years. WEEDEATER, well what’s not too like? Dixie Dave is a legend. His former band BUZZOVEN has always been a big influence in my musical approach over the years. AUTHOR & PUNISHER I’m just amazed and inspired by that man and his machines. I gotta say though, I’ve met all these artists on previous times they’ve played here and they are some of the nicest individuals.
Svb: With the amount of festivals you’ve put on, not to mention the shows where you’ve performed, I would wager you have a good feel for the current state of the Vancouver music scene. What are your thoughts on the scene?
JM: There is a lot of excellent fresh talent in this city currently from all types of genres. It’s really thriving and exciting to see. And it’s only gonna get better I do believe. If I had one wish it would be for the “too cool for school” artist, bands and promoters to drop some of the shitty attitudes/egos and open their minds a bit/work together more. I find it funny how some “artists” can be some of the most closed minded individuals you’ll ever meet. I feel like these kind of negative traits is what prevents new people from coming out to shows and appreciating some of the local talent we have in our city.
Svb: You mentioned to me some time ago that you saw legendary hardcore band GAZA play in a warehouse in Seattle. Would this rank up there with one of the best sets you’ve seen? If not, who comes to mind?
JM: Oh yeah seen them before. That show was cool. Ended up playing with their new band CULT LEADER years later.
Best show, that’s a tough one. I’ve seen and played so many shows over the years. There is one show I’ll never forget and it is probably the best show I’ve ever witnessed. Seeing NEUROSIS for their Times of Grace tour back in 1999 in Vancouver. They haven’t played here since. The experience was so intense it burned a hole in my memory and has shaped me not only as an artist but the man I am today. Still the most powerful and heaviest performance I have ever seen. These words by no means even come close to doing the show justice. It was unreal.
Be sure to check out Johnny’s production company:
After you’re done checking out BOG and APOCALYPSE SUNRISE PRODUCTIONS, go have an earful of one of Johnny’s other projects: ELEVATOR COMPACTOR