Matthew Sweet: 'I think all religions are bad, but Jesus is just all right.'
Who are you?
I am a nobody just like you.
Who are you wearing?
Imaginary Foundation. This is my t-shirt with Darwin growing flowers out of a spray can.
Who is your favorite Scooby-Doo monster?
Oh god. That is hard. I dont know really know the monsters' names. Is there a really famous one from back in the day? I watched it a lot when I was a kid but I don't remember any of the monsters. I did do the theme music for a new one a couple years ago.
Well then, what monster would you be if you were a Scooby-Doo monster?
I like ghosts. Ghosts are the only thing that seems scary even though it is clear that they don't exist really. Scary movies about ghosts - I really like them. Like The Woman in Black, starring Harry Potter, and The Others, with Nicole Kidman. I lke real ghost horror stories.
You've never played in a haunted venue?
We played in a place that they said was haunted, but not so much for gigs. I lived in the house that has to be the most haunted place, if it was really haunted. Actually, it was around the time I was making Girlfriend, out in Princeton, New Jersey. The house we rented to record in was built in 1780. That place had some weirdness. But I must say again, I don't believe in ghosts. But I had a lot of weird feelings in that house. It was right next to a huge state park named Princeton Battlefield State Park where hundreds, if not thousands of soldiers were killed in a big battle - so theoretically, there would be a lot of haunting there. In our house there was a back lot thing where they cured meat and I used as a little studio and sometimes I would be up there and stop the music and I would hear music downstairs, just like vague piano, just weird. And then I would go down, thinking that the TV was on but nothing was on. That was kind of creepy. And then a couple of times, while I was working on music, sitting in front of the console, I would feel my chair lift up and down [Ed. note : At this point in the interview, Matthew Sweet got up and lifted Anna's chair up and down]. And the first couple of times I thought it was a cat because I had a cat but there was never anything there. And then, upstairs, I had the feeling there was a woman standing in the stairwell. I never saw anything, just had a feeling. That would creep me out when I had to go to the bathroom in the night. And then later on we ended up going up in the attic and we found all these old newspapers and Princeton class stuff. There was a women who lived there all of her life. She was a professor in bovine study at Princeton University, so that was kind of creepy, because after thinking there was a woman standing there, there was a women who that lived in the house. And there was a guy who lived in the house juste before us who froze to death in the backyard. The last incident we had there, I was sitting with my then girlfriend, who is now my wife, the girlfriend from Girlfriend, and it was late at night, probably 2 or 3 AM, and we were chatting and smoking a joint. And I had the joint in one hand and a match in the other hand. And while we were talking, the match lit. And that was by far the craziest thing. But who knows, maybe I hit it a certain way. I just can't really believe it. But I like the idea. Maybe there is some kind of psychic energy that lasts. I am a very godless person so I kind of think that after death, this it it, you know?
Do you have any good R.E.M. and B-52's trivia?
Very early on, when I moved down to Athens, I was friends with the guys with R.E.M. Although Micheal was a vegetarian, his sister told me that he quite occasionnaly secretly ate hamburgers. I'm sure he wouldn't have done that later on. That was when he was still not huge.
For the B-52's, I lived in this boarding house in Athens, and the lady who ran it was good friends with them, so I would often see them when they'd visit. Ricky, the guitar player, who died very young, not long after that time, once gave me one of his guitars. I don't have it anymore but it was a Mosrite. It was a cool guitar but it was kind of a weird guitar, kind of hard to play. He made that really twangy sound. I don't think he strummed it normally. All those Athens bands had weird tuning and missing strings. A lot of the time they wouldn't have the bottom E string, like Keith Richards.
Favorite band from the 60's? It's forbidden to say the Stones or the Beatles.
Well then, Beach Boys. We just went to see the Beach Boys. We know a lot of the guys who play in the band. It was unbelievable. Since we know a lot of people in the band, we got our picture taken with the remaining Beach Boys.
Have you ever covered one of their songs?
I did a cover of ''I Just Wasn't Made For These Times'' way back, when I lived in Athens, before I had a record deal. I recorded it as a demo. We did ''Warmth of the Sun'' with Susanna Hoffs on our 60's cover record.
Free association. The Bangles?
My friends. I recorded a bunch of records with them, at my house, and not only have I known Susanna for many years but I've gotten to know all of them and I've gotten to know Vicky's husband, John Cowsill, who plays for the Beach Boys now. He looks like Animal, playing the drums. So yeah, I would say friends.
It was very special the time I was there. I was very lucky to be there when I was there. It was after the B-52's. And there were some groups doing orignal music like Pylon, Oh-ok, that I did a record with later, and Love Tractor, this instrumental band. It was a special era where everybody was still friends and everybody was going to the same party. It was before R.E.M. got so big. I got tagged with being part of that but I think I was a lot earlier than the biggest part of it. So I got the chance to be a part of the quirky community. Everybody was super nice to me.
The Specs was a band I joined when I was 12 or 13. I was kind of accomplished as a bass player because I learned to play bass listening to YES records. So it was incredible ear training. I could play bass and I ended up playing in this band, The Specs. They were all in college and I was 12 or 13 so we played all these college parties. It was pretty fun. And we were like a new wave cover group, some 60's songs and current things of the time: Costello, Generation X, The Buzzcocks, The Police. I wasn't the singer, just the bass player, but my big song in the set was ''My Generation'' by the Who, which I was singing. So that was my special thing. We once had an article in the Lincoln newspaper, the town where I grew up, with a picture of me singing a song. But I was very not cool. I tried to hang out with people who were older and cooler than me. My brother is five years older, my sister two years older. So I pretty much hung out with people older than me because I was ahead of my age group at that time.
I think of excitement, the mystique of it. I first came up here when I had my first deal with Columbia Records which was sort of a developpement deal. They said, ''We'' ll have you move to New York, and give you money to get more recording gear and make demos, and then at the end of six months, we'll make a record with you.'' It was still kind of a deal that was contingent of being picked up at the end of the six months, which they did. I came to New York, and became friends with Jules Shear, a songwriter. He wrote a couple of big songs on the Cindy Lauper album. And the guys who signed me at Columbia, one of the senior guys, they were at the height of Cindy Lauper being huge. So I thought that when they made their offer to me, they wanted me to write songs for Cindy Lauper. They said, "We think you should be a solo artist." So I kinda had to figure out a different approach to not hiding. I dreaded being a solo artist with a guitar on the cover. But New York then was just mysterious and fun, kind of scary. Now it just seems crazy and busy. We love visiting.
Canada has so many great comedians. My wife is working for Mike Myers in New York. When I think of Canada, I think of Kids in the Hall, Mike Myers. I think of comedy with Canada.
It's an awesome place. It's the kind of place that has really been the kind of the place that all the artists of my generation and older than me can come to play. People here are great. I played here with Susanna a couple of times. I think tonight is the 7th time I've played here. The food is really cool. I'm olive crazy and the olives here are great.
What's your favorite wine?
I don't really drink. But if I did, I would drink just a little wine. I drank in the 90's when I was playing shows like crazy. My average thing was five shots of tequila and a couple of beers before I hit the stage. I didn't really drink after. But that is not what you asked me. As wine, it would be a Cabernet. I like a lot of California wine. Here, they have the Girlfriend wine.
Who is your favorite carpenter?
I don't know any carpenters but Jesus so I guess it would be Jesus. He is just all right. I'm not religious, but I sometime feel like I follow Jesus's teachings more than religious people. I am open and inclusive with everyone. I think religions are bad but Jesus is just all right.
What makes the perfect girlfriend?
Wow. Maybe being in love with her. It is so driven by the way you feel.
How many girlfriends is too many girlfriends?
I suppose two.
Why is the sky blue?
The sky is blue because of the light reflection, refraction, or moisture. I should say, it is not blue. It's so cool that it's an illusion, and that we're really looking out at black space.
What is your message for the youth?
Don't forget to speak to someone and stop looking at your phone.
Watch Matthew Sweet here:
Matthew Sweet on Facebook
Matthew Sweet on the Internet