OK, here it is the interview with Matt "Times" Wechter who played in some of the best bands in hardcore punk: TEAR IT UP, DEAD NATION, THE RITES, CUT THE SHIT, FAST TIMES, GUILT TRIP and a few more bands. This interview was done by me in 2006. and it was originally released in my zine - International Old School Conspiracy # 6 in December 2006. At the time, The Rites were still playing, but I mostly asked Matt about Tear It Up. Even though it is not such a bad interview, I still kick myself now for not asking Matt more about Dead Nation days or playing with Cut The Shit. I guess I didn´t want to bother him too much with zillion questions so I stick to the basic stuff. I love the story about almost dying while driving to mix Nothing To Nothing record and there are some more neat stuff in the interview, so check it out. And thanks again to Matt, not just for the interview but for all the inspiration I´ve got listening to his bands, reading interviews, watching great videos and shit.
INTERVIEW WITH MATT "TIMES" WECHTER
1. OK, please introduce yourself and say few words about The Rites, how, when, why... Who´s in the band and what have you released so far?
M) The Rites How: with class and dignity, When 2002 I think, Why, why the fuck not right? Who, me, dave sausage, greg mullet dunn, and berman.
2. Can you tell me please, in what bands did you play (also in what years you played in particular bands) and what is your favorite band of all bands you´ve played?
M) Wow, ok. I’m just going to start at things people might know as not to embarrass myself further.
1998-1999 Fast Times
1999 Up Front (one tour only)
1998-2000 Dead Nation
2000-2003 Tear It Up
2002-2004 Cut the Shit
2002- Current The Rites
2006 Straight Jacket Minds
3.In your previous bands you were playing drums, but now in The Rites you sing. Which do you like better, drumming or singing and why? Do you play any other instruments?
M) You know what it really is, I have been paying drums sine I was in 4th grade and have done really everything I wanted to as a drummer. Since I started Tear it Up I was writing most of the songs on guitar anyway so I finally retired from drum altogether. I play bass still and I still sing but I won’t tour out in another band as a drummer. I went out on top and I’d like to keep it that way. I still do studio stuff from time to time for other bands though.
I couldn’t say which I like more because I respect both forms for different reasons that you can’t really compare. Let’s just say that for each thing I did I had lots of goals and fulfilled most of em.
4. How do you see The Rites? Do you think that you managed to create your own sound (like I think you´ve succeeded that with Tear It Up) or you don´t care about that & want to play just good music?
M) With my eyes. I don’t think we really created our own sound, I think we just took what I had already been doing and adapted it differently. There’s a lot less of you’re hardcore influence in the Rites, it draws a lot more from punk stuff, and rock and roll that I listen to. I always set to do something different and I’m very uptight about what I play. If I think it sucks it doesn’t get past practice, and that’s it. It’s cost me friends, and a lot of band members over the years but I’d rather lose friends then put out shitty records.
5. You`re teacher, right? Are you planning to retire from hardcore (haha) or you think that 10 years after you´re gonna still kicking ass in some hc/punk combo? How you make a balance between those two (work and hc/punk)?
M) Well I’m very dedicated to my job, and it keeps me off the road for most of the year. I really try to get out and do shows especially on weekends and the summer. That’s the good thing about teaching is the summer time off to go tour. I can’t really say there is a balance between work and h/c because if something is going to get sacrificed it would be h/c. I still go to shows when I can and play when I can. I practice and write songs all the time but I’m responsible for the education of like 30 different 8-10 year old kids, so what it comes down to is I put most of my energy into my job.
6. What do you teach and why do you like teaching? What kind pf teacher are you? A tough & mean one (haha) or understanding & friendly?
M) I teach 3rd and 4th grade elementary school. I love teaching, mainly because I love getting kids to think on their own, getting them prepared for life, and helping them achieve. I like to say that I have the best sense of humor of any teacher in my school but what it comes down to is that I’m all business. If you walk into my room and want to learn I will do anything for you, but if you walk into my room and try to fuck around I will crush you. So I’m called both, mean and friendly.
I think teaching is great for h/c punk kids because to be a good teacher you have to be able to make something out of nothing, and you have to know you’re being set up for failure. And hardcore kids, are pro’s at both.
7. Let`s move to Tear It Up themes, hehe... Even though I like all Tear It Up records, I think that somehow Nothing To Nothing LP kinda stands out. Can you tell me more about that LP, did you write most of the songs on it or other members also wrote some songs? And is that LP conceptual?
M) Yeah it was meant to really stand out. I spent a lot of months refining how I wanted it to sound and a lot of sleepless nights getting it to fit together perfectly. When we went into do the final mix I almost got into a car accident where my car skidded backwards into another lane, and all I could say was shit I’m too busy to die I need to mix today. Most of the songs I did write paul wrote a few and Andy wrote a few but I gave them a direction. Like I need a song that sounds like this or how about we play it like this. Its not really a concept record, it was just a really dark time for me and some of the other guys personally and all the energy was really focused. Jon Collins really got a sense of what I was doing about the writing and sound of the record and went out and made the artwork happen. He did it one his own and id a great job. I think the imagery just fit in so nicely together.
8. Tear It Up was definitively hard touring band, it seems that you were totally into that. So, I`m wondering can you compare Black Flag and Tear It Up concerning touring stuff and were all TIU members 100 % into touring and playing to destroy?
M) Well, I wouldn’t make that comparison personally, but I’ll be glad to take the compliment. Most of the people in the band were used to playing in bands no one cared about, and our deal was we play where we can when we can as often as we can, because we love to do it. If you can make that link to black flag, cool. I mean we were totally inspired by them and who they did what they did, as if you couldn’t tell.
9. Some of your lyrics in TIU were really dark & sometimes depressive but I read in one TIU interview that you`re really happy now. Anyway, I wonder do people for whom you wrote those songs know that you wrote the songs about? Isn`t the revenge through a song the best way to say "Fuck You" to people who piss you off!?!
M) We were happy then too. What people never understand is that we weren’t a bunch of shitty bummed out dudes. If you hung out with us it was fun, but at the end of the day we had problems. Instead of complaining about it we wrote about it, yelled about it, and made records about it. As for knowing songs are about them, I’m sure some do, Im’ sure some never will, because it’s too hard for people to look at themselves in the light I presented.
10. I also wonder since you wrote the most of TIU lyrics, but the way Dave sang them seems that he really meant, like he could really identify with your lyrics... Is that true?
M) Because he felt like I did. Dave and I were very close and went through some similar shit at times. If there was anything he didn’t relate to or didn’t like I changed it. Dave wrote some lyrics too but Dave was the best at presenting what you said and how you really meant it.
11. I read in few TIU interviews how you had to deal with stupid rumors and shits like that all the time. Isn´t it interesting how even when you`re doing something right, there will be amount of people who`ll talk shits & false rumors behind your back? What is your opinion about this?
M) There was a point that we were the biggest band in American doing the kind of music we did, and when you’re so out there and visible people want to take you down. That’s just how it is.
12. Are you in contact with other TIU members? What are they doing now?
M) Yeah actually most of them. I saw Dave, Andy, and Swank one of our roadies yesterday at a show Splitting Headache (dave andy) and Staring Problem (swank andy) were playing. Paul moved to California but I talk to him every month or so. I see Doug every few weeks In jersey City when I go out after practice he’s usually at the bar. John and Ryan I don’t really see but we’re still all cool.
13. Do you remember some shows with any of your bands that stands out? Any cool & funny stories from the gigs?
M) Dude there’s so many but I’ll tell you about the last ever TIU show. We played a Halloween show as black flag, wier huh? So we opened the show as 1981 flag and did a damaged and nervous breakdown kinda set there was about 500 people there. Then 5 bands later we closed the show at 1985 Black Flag and did a Loose Nut kinda set. We cleared the room out leaving like 30 people, and the cops shut our amps off as we were beginning My War. 2 days later we broke up.
14. I also read that Dead Nation did a reunion show once, can we hope for some Tear It Up reunion tour in Europe (and I mean Eastern Europe too:))? That would be great!
M) You never know.
15. What people/bands (past and present) from hc/punk inspire you to do stuff you do and to go on with your life? I must say that for me Tear It Up is one of the most inspiring bands ever!
M) All the old SST workers and Black Flag because they did what they wanted and no one did it for them. They had to work hard all the time. I’d say Iggy Pop as well because he’s like a million and still kicking ass.
16. What was your first hc/punk show, when was that and how do you liked the gig?
M) It was 1993 I think. I saw Vision and some other bands in NJ. I loved it. I was so inspired by the way kids were helping each other when they got knocked down not beating on everyone. I also like seeing a lot of different races of people. I’m jewish, and in the metal scene there were too many nazi racist fuck ups for me to ever feel comfortable. So I felt at home.
17. This is a cliche question but I ask that everyone. Can you tell me what are your favorite 20 bands/records from 80´s (or even 70´s)?
M) 20 ok. Misfits, 7 seconds, black flag, Ramones, Germs, Poison Idea, Big Boys, Stooges, Alice Cooper, Thin Lizzy, The Jam, The Boys, Joy Division, Circle jerks, Adolescents, TSOL, New York Dolls, Dead Boys, Crucifix, Blitz.
18. How`s your local hc/punk scene, any cool bands? I think that NY/NJ scene was great in the 80´s but then in the middle of 90´s it was kind of weird. From late 90´s to now I think that NY/NJ scene is again one of the best. Am I correct?
M) Not really. I mean there’s a few bands around here that are cool, but there’s not a lot going on. Our venues are getting shut down left and right, and its becoming impossible to find places to play. Also kids don’t come out to show like they used to. I blame technology for that, too many shut ins.
19. Do you know anything about the scene in Croatia and other Balkan countries like Serbia, Macedonia, Slovenia...
M) Historically yes, h/c wise not at all.
20. What about Myspace? Good and bad sides of it? Don`t you think that all those Myspace, blogs and internet stuff are killing printed zines? Do you like zines and what do you think of importance of zines for the DIY hc/punk scene?
M) I love good zines and I think they’re totally important. Myspace is a cancer and is killing everything so why should we be immune.
21. Are you in relationship with someone? Is it important for you that your love partner is also into hc/punk or not? Don` t you think that lots of people use the word Love for granted and even don`t know what love is?
M) I have been with my girlfriend for 3 years now. I’ll definitely say it’s easier when your mate is into h/c because they tend to understand why you eat shit and love it. I had a girlfriend for a long time that just didn’t get it you know and it was totally hard to deal. I think the singer of my new band said it best when he said: “I told her that I loved her cause its easier then the truth”. I think that answers the last part of the question.
22. What do you think how much more time we have as a human race? Is apocalypse knocking on our door? I`ve heard that 2012. is "the year", haha! What do you think about that?
M) I mean take a look around. We’re fucked no doubt about it. I just hope I’m long dead before it happens, because I’d be too worried about my students.
23. Quick questions:
a) Why are Descendents the best band on earth ever!?!
M) I wasn’t aware they were.
b) What do you think about circle pit? Are you doing it?
M) Only when its appropriate. You can’t circle pit to a huge cro mags like breakdown but when I can use It I do.
c) For whom is written song: Don´t Call Me Tonight?
M) Who do you think?
d) How was for you that 1999 show with Up Front/Fast Times, in Kutina, Croatia?
M) Dude that shit was awesome. I just wish we hadn’t arrived so late. Everyone was so nice. It was weird that they made me sign autographs, so I made people sign them for me too. Later that night we got stopped at the border and they took me to a tiny room and made me empty my pockets. All I had were the autographs, they laughed at me and sent me back outside.
e) Black Flag is...
M) a way of life
24. Future plans of The Rites? Maybe a European tour :)?
M) We’re thinking about it hopefully we can make it happen.
25. Thanx for your time, any last comments?
M) Yeah man thanks a lot this was a great interview I really enjoyed it.