Damn you all!
Fighting the Good Fight
Although today's pop climate may not reflect this legacy, music and politics share an intimate history as a joint means to social change.
"For me, music and politics mix naturally," says singer, songwriter, poet and activist Matthew Good. "One doesn't merely influence the other, they are intrinsically connected. While many would consider music 'fun' and political science 'a bore', I find them equally artistic. In fact, at times activism can seem more an art form than music."
In addition to his status as pop icon (and former front man of the Matthew Good Band), Good's passionate views and unusual willingness to express them have earned the Vancouver-based 32-year-old a reputation as one of Canada's most outspoken - and consequently, most controversial - public figures. Like so many artists before him, he writes, sings and speaks his mind about politics, the music industry and the fight for human rights - to the point of inviting Amnesty International to set up booths at his concerts.
"As an activist, I use whatever tools I have at my disposal to attempt to promote public action awareness," Good explains. "many artists tend to not speak their minds for fear of alienating a part of their audience. I think you'll find that most artists tend to become more proactive only after public opinion, or at least 'chic opinion', becomes the norm. In the end, there's just not a lot of money (in having a political agenda), and record companies know it can be the financial kiss of death."
Despite pressure to do otherwise, Good's latest solo offering reflects his direct, proactive and truthful personality. As its name implies, White Light Rock & Roll Review is simple, honest rock 'n roll, recorded for the most part by Good and a basic backup duo. "For me, the imperfections of an artist are what makes them unique," he says. "They are, in my opinion, magical intrusions on what has become a very sterile business. When I wrote this record, I was entirely influenced by performing live, by the simplicity of performance and the limitations of it."
However, company concerns that the record contained no obvious single forced Good to record three additional songs, including Alert Status Red, which ultimately became a hit. Illustrating the irony inherent in the fact that the best music out there isn't necessarily the most popular, he points out that none of the bands he "personally listens to these days" make it on to the radio. And even as a commercially successful artist, Good has been unable to escape the "antiquated format requirements that marketing plans in Canada rely on to promote records."
His opinion? "The whole business needs to be reconstructed from the ground up, primarily so that it can disassemble the relationships it has with radio and music television that have become the new payola."
After 10 years in the business, Good knows of what he speaks. Recently married, he grew up in the Vancouver suburb of Coquitlam, and during the 1980s started playing guitar at open-mic nights. A career artist in the true sense of the term, throughout the decade Good has released three EPs and six full-lengths - most with the now-defunct Matthew Good Band - with 2003's Avalanche standing out as his first solo success.
"It was, ultimately, a situation based on financial positioning masquerading as friendship," Good recalls about the breakup that allowed him to "rebuild my life with a positive mind frame." So the band broke up, the clouds broke; he got married and the light shone through. But as a citizen of the world, Good isn't about to settle in for a happy ending.
"Obviously, there are aspects of my life that are reserved for personal enjoyment. I have three dogs and spend a lot of time rambling through Stanley Park with them. But that's not to say that other things aren't constantly in the back of my mind. I have, on occasion, found myself in the middle of the woods on my cell phone, talking with a friend in Moscow about the day's events, so I suppose it's something that's always with me - no matter how much I'd like to pretend otherwise."
I want a cookie for this. ;)