We chat to Smokey Bastard’s lead guitarist Matt Ness about the influences and ideas that inspire the sonic force behind the band’s folk-punk madness.
S] Can you talk us through some of your main influences and how they come across in your music?
M] “We’d like to try to embody the musical variance purveyed by The Pogues and The Dreadnoughts, and as such our influences are pretty wide ranging. There’s everything from Bruce Springsteen to Streetlight Manifesto to Mr. Bungle in there somewhere.”
S] What about the video for ‘Yuppie Dracula’ – how did that come about?
M] “Primarily, we wanted to dress Mike up like an idiot, but it became more than that. We got an awesome crew together who made a horror film called ‘Meat’ and it grew into this surreal ‘Nosferatu’ pastiche. The song isn’t in reference to vampires at all so we just wanted the video to be about an awful creep who just happened to be a vampire.”
S] Is there a song that you are working on right now that you feel perfectly defines the current state of the band?
M] “Not really. We started working on a new song that’s of a slightly different feel to a lot of the stuff on the album, but we try to keep things stylistically fluid. It’s more about what we fancy writing at any particular moment than an emotional reflection through music.”
S] What are your plans for the rest of the year and into 2012?
M] “Well, we’re on a UK tour at the moment. In December we’re going on a mini-tour with Crazy Arm and Great Cynics which should be awesome and are going to try and knock up a little something in the way of recording at Christmas. Next year we’re hoping to hit Europe in a big way so we’ll see how that goes. It’s all pretty exciting.”
S] Is there a song from ‘Tales From The Wasteland’ that you feel like defines the mood of the band right now, and why?
SB] “Not really. It’s pretty sunny and we all slept well. I don’t think that’s an issue we’ve tackled in song. We’ll get on it if it carries on like this.”
S] What have you learned from making this record that you will take on for the next one to improve?
M] “We were far better prepared this time, and that always helps. Recording the last one was chaos. We’ll try and keep that curve going. It still took us too long so I guess we can try and sort that. I think the idea is to just try and be more awesome each time. I think that’s a good philosophy to work by.”
S] What about some of the best experiences in making it?
M] “I don’t know really. It’s mostly about dealing with cabin fever. I mean, I mainly played ‘Plants vs. Zombies’ and you can’t go far wrong with that so I’m probably not the best person to ask. I guess the highlight was when Nick ate that raw onion. It was Buttons’ lunch. He was livid.
S] How do you guys write – would you say it’s based on experience? Can you be out on the street for example and find an idea for the song, or is it a more calculated process?
SB] Hmm…I don’t think so really. I think it’s more of a process. Most of our songs take a fairly narrative style and are about things we obviously haven’t experienced – We just thought they’d make a good story. We don’t spend a lot of time on ships ourselves. We’re not even sure Mike can swim. He only learned to ride a bike when he was eighteen.
S] How do you enjoy playing live in contrast to working in the studio?
SB] Live shows are our natural habitat. It’s far easier to get the energy into a live show than it is to get it into a recording. It’s more invigorating and less repetitive than studio time. The fun of recording comes with the final product whereas the live shows are far more enjoyable themselves.
S] What keeps you driven and motivated to create music as Smokey Bastard?
SB] The experience of writing ‘Tales from the Wasteland’ was very satisfying – things just seemed to come together really well. It’s a cliche I know but things just seemed to gel, so until that process becomes stagnant and frustrating motivation isn’t really an issue.
S] What do you think peoples’ biggest misconception about the folk-punk genre is?
SB] That The Mahones are good. The biggest problem with the folk-punk scene is that it is, for the most part, exclusively based on Irish folk music, and the most tedious, boring Irish folk music available. There’s nothing wrong with Irish music, but there’s so much more to it and so much great folk music from cultures all over the world. Too many bands are content to just replicate the few Irish standards they’ve heard instead of digging and finding the good stuff. The Pogues didn’t limit themselves to Irish music, but people these days seem to define things as Irish as soon as they see a fiddle. Too many people are content to replicate Flogging Molly instead of finding the base influences and experiencing them for themselves. It stunts the evolution of the genre horribly – It’s basically musical incest.
S] Is there anything you guys would like to add?
SB] Please, PLEASE buy our shit. I cannot stress that enough.