Interview: Matthew Friedberger

Whereas his sister and fellow Fiery Furnace Eleanor shaved off almost all the avant edges of her songwriting when she recorded Last Summer, Matthew Friedberger has doubled down on the weirdness in his solo work (of which he has tons; 11 LPs since 2006), particularly his most recent effort Matricidal Sons Of BitchesThe epic length album is broken into four suites — all instrumentas that were composed on a variety of keyboards — that serves as the imaginary soundtrack to a troubling film. Apparently Matthew has expanded this idea into making actual movies, using donated clips and videos from his fans and friends to pad out his live performances. If you live in Portland, you’ll be lucky enough to see this in action tonight at the Doug Fir Lounge. But before you do, please have a gander at this e-mail interview I conducted with a very irascible and playful Matthew Friedberger.

You released quite a lot of music in 2011 and 2012…are you then a very good self-editor and self-critic to be able to know what should be released for mass consumption and what should stay at home with you? Are you constantly working and re-working things to get them as close to perfect as possible?

Well, shouldn’t I say: Yes, I did and Yes I am? And that yes, I am constantly working and re-working things. We’re all obligated to do that, no? But I have what my great uncle called a “dynamic approach”. You know, things never end and therefore perfection is considered a very unmusical notion. There’s always a different way; and the exaggerations are more important than the ‘just balance’. I hope you see what I am getting at…. But what’s this about “mass consumption”? Sounds like a lot of people getting TB. Well, you’re required to work as hard as possible, and then you let the people decide–though they never do, it’s never over and decided–what’s important by whatever they dislike or ignore the most. I mean: like and pay attention to the most.

How did the creation and concept of the Matricidal record come to be?

Well, I wanted to make a movie record. Story music of that sort. So I thought I could make a super-B, a Poverty Row, version of some of the fake soundtrack (or taken out of context actual soundtrack) records I think are great. And that everybody loves. Like the John Zorn Spillane album. I wanted to make a ‘Poverty Rue’ version of that sort of thing. Hence all the readymade bits and so forth. And also, the lack of tension to some degree. Those movies are not about being exciting, as it turned out.

Did you always know when you were writing these songs that they would primarily be instrumentals?

Yes. Singing would…focus them too much.

How did you know which songs fit with each of the four suites on the album?

Well, I wrote it that way. I wrote the four parts as… four parts. I didn’t have a bunch of bits and glue them together. Not that there is anything wrong with doing that–of course. But this was all thought up the way it actually went. There were some surprises, but, not too many.

What about the titles of the songs? Did those come before or after you recorded them?

Some before and some after. “Disappointed Dads” before; “The view from the top” after. For instance.

What does “Dying On The Sixth Side” mean? Is the Sixth Side a place or some kind of metaphysical concept? Or am I missing the point entirely?

Robert, you want me to tell you? What’s the point of that? For me–though not necessarily for you–it might have something to do with the 6th side of a record. Among others things. But that’s no fun, don’t you think–me just telling you what it means?

On this tour – are you playing songs from the Matricidal album live or are you doing other material?

On tour I playing one long thing called “Working in the Graveyard”. Lots of it consists of new arrangements of the Matricidal parts.

If it is the former – how are you going about recreating these songs in a live setting?

You’ll see! or hear, rather.

You recently put out a call for submissions from your fans for material to be used in your tour…what sort of work have you received and how has that affected the live show?

I’ve received lots of very nice smart-phone-taken videos. I think. Yes, what people have said and sent has made me make the live show a real-live-melodrama.

What is next for you? Do you have any future musical endeavors planned?

After the movie record, more ain’t-movies; but next is my opera house record I suppose.

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