Matt Singleton - Bigfastcar

December 12, 2003

Tell me a little about yourself.

We have just been putting this together for about a year now. I've been in Virginia for about three years. Moved here from San Francisco. I was in San Francisco for 10 years. Originally from the Ann Arbor-Detroit area.

You're originally from Detroit?

I grew up in Ann Arbor and spent about 10 years in the Detroit area music scene way back with a band called Dog Soldier. It was funny. I was looking at your website and I noticed that you'd seen The Exploited not too long ago. I didn't even know those guys were still around. That's very cool.

Yeah, that was radical. They have a new CD out.

Really? That's such a trip. I've probably lost touch with that whole scene really. When I was in high school, it was all about the hardcore thing. I played with Discharge back in the day. I played with Minor Threat once. We did the D.C. thing a little bit and that was back in the day. It was interesting to see that name again.

The Discharge guys did an interview for me. They were over here.

Really? Are they still doing stuff too? Is that the original lineup with Bones and everybody?

It isn't all the original guys. Something about someone not wanting to do it so they have someone else.

They were one of my favorite bands back in the day.

I also interviewed the Total Chaos guys because they were touring with The Exploited. I didn't get to interview The Exploited but I got to talk with Wattie. He was pissed off at his record label so he didn't want to do any interviews.

Yeah, I saw that little quote. Yeah, he was not in a real good mood was he? It's a cool website you guys got going on there. We've got a new album coming out too. We've got a full length that we just finished up.

When are we going to be seeing that?

You should be seeing that pretty soon. It's going off as planned. I'm going to have a master in my hand on Monday. We literally just finished mixing on it this week and it'll be going out probably in January. You'll be seeing one of those pretty soon as well.

You founded the Blue Room Studios in San Francisco.

Yeah, it was basically an upper level project studio that we put together in the Mission District. This is funny because whenever I talk with studio people about this, we always get a good laugh because we're like "yeah, we started this studio originally so we could just record whenever we wanted for free." What ends up happening is actually you never work on your own material because you're so busy just trying to keep the doors open and make ends meet. You're always working on somebody else's. I think maybe in the five years that I owned the studio, I recorded two things. Yeah, I was getting a laugh out of that one with other studio owners. It's like "remember when you thought that? That's pretty funny." But it was a great period of my life. It was fun. We were there for about five years. We worked with a lot of people. A lot of different acts. I did a couple of early demos for Train and did some compilation stuff with them. I worked with a lot of different people out there. Met a lot of people. Just a lot of different kinds of music. We did everything. We had a whole streak there where we got hooked up with this producer who did a lot of Latin music. He brought in a bunch of these heavy weight Cuban guys and watching some of these guys do their thing was pretty intense. It was a great period. We had a lot of fun and I learned a lot.

They put out some interesting music.

It was real hot. There was that whole thing. A movie came out a few years back and it was kind of based around traditional Cuban salsa music like that. It was real popular for a while there. It still is. Actually the Latin market is one of the fastest growing segments in the music industry right now. That was some really cool stuff going on in there for a while. We met a lot of really cool people and recorded a lot of great music so it was a lot of fun.

You released an album with Fifty Lashes.

Yeah, those guys are good friends of mine. I played with them for a couple of years as well. It was weird how it happened. They were one of the first people I met when I moved to San Francisco and they're all old friends. I actually just talked to those guys on the phone a few days ago. They were doing some stuff in the studio and they had a falling out with their guitar player. They had a show with D.R.I. coming up and it was two weeks away and the guitar player bailed. They were like "man, you gotta do the show." I had been recording all their music so I knew everything backwards and forwards. It was very easy for me to just pick up my guitar and go into rehearsal and pretty much learn the songs in a couple of rehearsals because I had recorded it all. We ended up doing the show with D.R.I. and then after that I just ended up sticking around and two years later we finally went our own ways again but I did a record with them called Power Hitter that I produced and played on and that did pretty well. We did a tour. We went from San Francisco to Detroit and back for that one.

That music made it into a movie.

Yeah, a little independent flick. A manager hooked that up. It was called The Real Thing. Rod Steiger was in it quite a bit. Gary Buesy made a couple of little cameo appearances. It was pretty cool. We got paid a pretty decent little amount for that. I'm still getting little royalty checks from that for 17 bucks. Every quarter I get a check for 17 bucks for my little royalty on that. It's still playing on Spanish cable. Like Swedish pay-per-view.

In between the porn.

Exactly. It's pretty wild though. It's cool though.

It's 17 bucks more than you had.

Yeah, I never turn down a check no matter how small it is. I just got a refund check for 30 cents from Citibank. It's part of some class action suit that I didn't even know I was a part of. It came in this huge envelope that probably cost them $1.50 to send. I got my 30 cents though. It cost them two bucks. That envelope cost more than the refund.

Tell me about Bigfastcar.

When I moved back here to Virginia, which I mainly did because my wife has family out here, I was taking a little break from the whole music thing for a little bit. Spent a couple of years just getting things squared away out here and then got the itch to get back into it. I just started casting around for people and actually took out an ad in the local little weekly paper. That never works by the way. After I weeded through the 20 basically idiots who answered my ad and put a couple of things together that didn't work, I ended up just meeting people just from getting back out into the scene and just getting around. I met Dustin through a non-profit group that we were both involved in. It was called The Music Resource Center which was a cool little group. It still is. It's a group that takes kids from junior high up through high school and gives them a free place to go after school. They have a bunch of studios set up and they have recording equipment and a couple of little rehearsal rooms. They have all the instruments and recording equipment and whatnot. These kids come in and they have a free place to go and hang out and learn about recording and work on music. They put on shows. It's really cool because it keeps them off the streets. It's all free. They have to be actively enrolled in school to participate. They have to be going to school. They can't be skipping school and coming there. It's a really cool organization and I was doing some workshops down there on production and recording. Dustin was the program director there. He's the drummer and that's how we met really. One thing led to another and we ended up playing together, working on some stuff, and actually the album that you're listening to right now was really just me and Dustin. I actually played all the bass on that as well. Brian the bass player and Dustin have known each other since they were three. They grew up in the same town. Since they were little kids they've known each other. They've played in bands together forever and they're like a little two-headed monster. I think they know what each other is thinking. I think they're actually the same person, just in two different bodies. They had been in a project called Wisher before I met Dustin and they ended up breaking up for the usual reasons. Brian was playing with another group and we slowly infiltrated with him a little bit and got him playing with us. Dustin and Brian pretty much are like wherever one goes the other eventually follows. It's just a symbiotic relationship that they got going on but it works out great. They're a phenomenal rhythm section. They're really good. When you hear the new record with Brian playing on it and both of them playing, because Brian wasn't with us when we did that first one and I played bass on that. The new one in my opinion rhythmically is head and shoulders above the Drive EP. That's how it came to be. We've been together since about February of last year so we've pretty much had the accelerator down since then.

The EP is cool. Very melodic and not angry. No "I want to kill the world" kind of shit. Sounds like people who want to have fun and drive cars.

That's it man. We're just rockers. We're trying to bring back the old school rock. None of us are all pissed off and we're not angst-ridden. We didn't have horrible childhoods. It's just rock. I grew up listening to all the old classic rock. Hendrix, Zeppelin, The Who. All the '70s big guitar stuff. The Detroit thing. The Stooges and MC5. That's what we're trying to get back to really. Our roots in the thing. We're trying to keep a modern edge to it as well. We're pretty much tired of what I call the relationship rock or the whiney rock where people are just all bummed out and pissed off and screaming too. I'm so over the whole screaming thing for the most part. I want to hear people sing, come on. I want to be able to understand a little bit of what you're saying at least. If you're trying to make a point, nobody is going to know what the hell your point is if they can't understand what the hell you're saying. There's a place for that and one of my favorite local bands here in town is a heavy band. There's some screaming but the guy does it in a way where it's effective and he does it in a way where he intersperses it with stuff that you can understand as well. They have more of an old school, real Sabbathy slow grunge thing going on and the music is cool too. We've been to a lot of these conferences. We've been to three of them this year and we've got applications in a ton more. We're hoping to play some more because they're always a lot of fun but when you go to these conference things, there is so much mediocre stuff out there. I don't want to sound like a jaded ass but it's amazing to go to these conferences and you'll go see 30 or 40 rock bands in one weekend and 25 of them you could barely tell one from the other. It's just really amazing. When you do get the good ones it's like "oh, yeah!" It's really cool but the good news is that the last couple we've been to, there's been a lot of that kind of stuff going on. There's been a lot of the just rock coming on so it's been cool.

You can only go so far with music and then it has to recycle itself.

You're absolutely right. What Beethoven said back in the day was that the bars and musical staff are like prison bars. There are only so many notes and only so many ways you can put them together. I think what counts is what's in between the notes. I guess it's the message and the feeling that you put into it. It's not the math, it's the emotion. The magic I guess that makes a band special. Yeah, it's pretty much all been done especially when you're talking about popular music. I don't have any kind of illusions that I'm reinventing the wheel. I'm not trying to do that. I'm just trying to make a good rock record. It's so funny when you see all these bands and go to their websites and they're like "totally original. We don't sound like anybody." Yeah, you do.

Can you even be totally original anymore?

You can't. Absolutely not. So many bands don't get that when people say "what kind of band are you?" They're like "well, I hate to pigeonhole myself." How many times have you heard that? My God, please freaking pigeonhole yourself because people want to know. People want to know what the hell you do. I'm over that. We're just a rock band period. We're just a hard rock band. We play old school hard rock. There, I pigeonholed myself. I feel much better now. In fact, I think to be successful you have to do that. You have to define yourself especially in today's market. There are eight bazillion bands. You have to decide where you fit in. You have to pick a niche and you have to say this is it. This is what we do and this is what we're trying to sell. Otherwise nobody is ever going to buy it. That's just the way it goes. People get hung up on being the tortured artist. I'm just trying to sell some records. I've been doing this for long enough I would like to get paid period. Yeah, I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and I am not trying to sacrifice my integrity but I'm trying to get paid.

Money is always a good thing.

Absolutely. It's either that or get a job. None of us really want to do that.

Tell me about the Drive EP.

That was the first effort. That actually started out as a full length record. We did that entirely ourselves. I still have a pretty halfway decent little home recording rig, some stuff which I kept from the studio. Mainly my mic collection and some other stuff that I've added since and the Drive EP was done in it's entirety on my laptop from start to finish. Just the fact that you can even do that is pretty amazing.

Technology rules.

It's absolutely unreal that you can make a record on your laptop. Not to mention that the little video that's on there, I made that on my laptop too. The whole thing. I should be in an Apple commercial or something because I'm the digital lifestyle man. I have my digital camera, my digital video camera, and my laptop and my recording gear. We made the entire thing including all the artwork, all the photos, the video, and all the music was done and finished on my laptop which is just amazing that you can do that. You couldn't even do that five years ago. When I had the studio you couldn't do that. I owned a studio from 1994 to about 1999 and you couldn't even do that then. They were just figuring that stuff out. When we had the studio, I think it was in early 1999, we were just starting to get into digital music. It had been around for a little while but it was still in it's early stages and now you can make a record on your laptop. The advances are unbelievable. It's essential at this point. It's almost scary to think of what's going to be next. We made the whole thing here at my house on the laptop and we threw it out there. We had a group involved, a company called the Planetary Group, that do radio promotions. They took the CD and did the college radio push with it. We did six weeks at college radio with it and did pretty well. We got added to quite a few stations and got into fairly regular rotation on quite a few. We pretty much just pounded the pavement most of the summer. We did a bunch of gigs in and around our local region here. We've played a few conferences. We just hit the road and pounded the pavement a bit. Tried to get in and play wherever we were getting some airplay. We did pretty well with it for really only having been a full unit since last February and putting this thing out. It got a pretty good response from those people. We got some positive reviews out of it and always get a good response at the live shows. I think the idea was to use the EP as laying some groundwork for the full length. We wanted to get our name out there a little bit and then hit them right away with the full length. Literally, when we put the Drive EP out, we were already in the studio working on the full length.

Are the songs on the Drive EP going to be on the full length?

No, just the one. "Black GTO" gets a reprise on the full length. The rest of it is all new stuff.

People need to get their hands on the EP.

Yeah, you need to get your hands on the EP and check it out. It's available on our website for a measly five bucks. That's only a buck a song. Hell, at this point if someone wrote me an email and asked really nicely I'd probably just send them one because we're trying to get the new one out and I'm trying to clear out the old one. We're just pretty much giving them away at shows now. There's a certain point where like back where I said I want to get paid, that's true. I do want to get paid but there's a certain point and I think the idea with the EP was to lay some groundwork and get the name out there. We were never really overly concerned about making money with the EP. I think the idea was just to get them out there more than anything.

Let people know you're here.

Right, then make them pay. Make them pay dearly for the full length. Nah, it'll be reasonably priced.

Tell me about the songs on the EP.

"Liberty's Lament" is basically my rant against religious fanaticism in all it's varied forms and yes I'm including the guys like Jerry Falwell and all that in with the Islam and all that.

I think fanaticism in any religion whether it be Judaism, Islam, or Christianity is dangerous. When people go over the edge like that, they are extremely dangerous.

Here, here. I agree wholeheartedly. That's exactly what that's song is about. That's exactly what the line is. "Someone's coming down the road carrying a gun with the holy book beneath his arm. Think we better run." Exactly. I'm not specifying which holy book it is. That's the whole point. These people who think they're right beyond belief, any reasonable doubt, and everybody else is wrong and they should all die for it. It's pretty much leading the world into some form of Armageddon at some point. They all predict Armageddon and they're the ones who are fucking bringing it down on us.

I think a lot of politics are mixed in that as well. I see a very dangerous mixture of hardcore right wing politics and religious fanaticism and it's scary.

Absolutely. It's terrifying and it's on all sides like you said. Christian, Jewish, and Islam. It's all there.

Those are the three main players.

Those are the three monotheistic religions. The three major monotheistic religions of the world. Yeah, it's pretty scary stuff. Like you said, there's a lot of politics involved and if you dig hard enough really, you pretty much can find a big pile of money at the bottom of all that.

Religion, politics, and corporate greed.

Absolutely. We live in scary times my friend. That's what that song is about. How scary everything is.

And then we get to have some fun.

And then "Innocent" lightens it up a little bit. "Innocent" is basically about your basic barhopping party girls and boys. You know the type I'm sure. Those are the people of the young party set.

And not so young.

Yeah, the young and not so young party set who drag themselves off their bar stools and scrape themselves into a pile and head into work. That's basically all that's about. I'm not saying I wasn't one of them or still occasionally tend to attempt to do it. I don't recover as well as I used to. The hangovers last a hell of a lot longer than the fun does at this point. I think that's the turning point. When the hangovers start lasting longer than the fun, that's when you know it's time to start slowing down. A direct link to the ratio there. "Road Song" is pretty much your standard rock and roll on the road thing. About leaving home and coming back and how both in their way are exquisite and painful at the same time. I love both. There's nothing I like more than being out on the road. It's where I feel like I'm in my place. Then I start missing my kids and my wife and my bed. It's nice to come home too. That's a little about that song and a little bit about the duality of the whole thing. It's not meant to be super serious. That's really just about being on the road, rocking out, meeting new people, and having fun. "Black GTO" is a real easy one. I was coming down the road one day here in Charlottesville and I was stopped at a light. I look up and this dude rolls by in this beat up but still pretty sweet black GTO. He was all low riding. I could barely see his head above the window. He's all slumped down and he had this cigarette. It was a summer day and he had his arm out the window and he was just pimping. It popped into my head. "He's riding in a black GTO. Check him out. This dude has got it going on." It was rough around the edges. It wasn't all showroom style like spit shine black GTO. It was rough but he was still pimping. That's just this dude I saw and it just struck me. It was one of those characters. I'm a people watcher and when I see somebody who strikes me like that, I just write something down.

I find people very fascinating.

Absolutely. People are wonderful. It's just a variety of a different kind of people. I just love people for the most part except those right wing guys we were talking about earlier.

I can handle right wing people but not fanatical, psychotic freaks.

They all need to take a ride in a black GTO.

And some Prozac.

"Calliope" is just a little muse about the muse. Calliope was one of the seven muses of Greek mythology. "Calliope" is basically about the fickle nature of the muse. Sometimes she's around and sometimes she ain't. There's nothing you can do about it. It's frustrating sometimes but you just have to deal with it when it's there.

You guys did a video for "Liberty's Lament".

We did the video for "Liberty's Lament" in our little 15' X 25' cinderblock hole in the wall that they call rehearsal spaces out here. That have no heat and no bathrooms and no air conditioning. It's primal. We hung black curtains all around and got some strobe lights and my handy dandy trusty fog machine. We just whipped out the digital camera and fired away. We did about 85 takes much to the chagrin of the band who was trying to practice next door. We came out and they're like "what is that song you guys are trying to play?" They didn't know what we were doing and we had it just blasting while we were faking playing to it. Of course it was these little off time drum hits to this song that's crushing through the PA just shaking the whole building. They were like "what the fuck are you guys doing in there?" We're shooting a video, dude. Right on. We had a really good time doing it. We just did a shitload of takes like I said so we'd have enough raw material to get decent footage and I just threw it into the laptop and spliced it all together.

You have to do a shitload of stuff so you wind up with something to work with.

With video you have to shoot enough of an obscene amount of raw footage to get anything good and that's what I did. I had so many takes and I do not envy video makers at all. That shit is laborious. It just takes hours to sift through all the raw footage and find the cool shots and line it up with the music and then cut it all away. God, it takes hours and then of course I had the brilliant idea like "oh, I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to get a bunch of still images of religious icons and fanatic weaponry and people with guns and I'm going to splice an image in between every flicker of the strobe light." Oh yeah, that's a good idea Matt. Why don't you do something that takes 8,000 hours instead. I was like what am I a doing? This is insane. At first it was in between every flicker of the strobe light. Then it gradually moved out from there to putting 15 or 20 of them in there. I'm not going to sit here and just drive myself insane doing this. That shit is tedious. I thought making music in the studio could be a tedious process but we got nothing on the video guys. You have to be a patient dude and I pretty much just gave up on it after a minute. This is just done. I can't do this anymore. I was going to keep going but I was like "It's finished. It's done. I'm not doing anymore of this." I thought it turned out pretty good. It looks halfway decent.

What the hell, it's your first video.

It was fun. We had a lot of fun putting it all together and doing it ourselves. I think I would much prefer at this point that somebody else does it next time but it's always good to get inside a process like that and do it yourself. Then when you come out the other side and next time you do it, even if somebody else does it for you, you're much more comfortable with the process. You're not so much focused on the end result. You're focused on properly observing the process which is real important I think in music or anything really.

You have more control. Are you guys doing any gigs around the country or just basically in Virginia?

Right now we're pretty much sticking to this side of the country. We've all been doing it for a long time. None of us really have it in us to drive seven hours to play in front of 20 people in the local dive. We just can't really do that anymore. What we're trying to work on right now with this new record is putting it out there. We've got some good people on board. We've got some people like our publicist Paula on board with it. We've got some people in radio promotion on board and we're going to take a pretty big push at this record and do some heavy advertising and try to really get some airplay going. Then the idea is that it's all leading up to some showcase stuff in February or March. Probably most likely in New York City. We also are concentrating on the conferences. We've already done some of those and we've got applications in at a lot more of them. We've got an application in SXSW that we still haven't got rejected. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for that one. I think the idea at this point is to really focus an intense spotlight on this release and a couple of really high profile shows that we're putting together up in New York. The idea being to get industry people there, see what's available, see what we have to offer, and see if we can't get some kind of deal going. We're all in a position at this point where we need to get paid to do this. We've done the dive bar tours, we've done the back of the vans tours, and that's not what we're trying to do anymore. That's the idea behind it. If someone's willing to get behind it and take a finished product and put it out there then like I said I love being on the road. If we can get good shows and put it together in a way that is affordable and that people can do it, then we will certainly go wherever we need to go.

Any other thoughts or comments?

We covered a lot. You need to write a thesis on this one. It's only rock and roll and I like it.

Religious fanatics beware. We're going to take the world by storm with rock and roll.

Better get ready to get your rock on.

Bigfastcar