Mjaor Matt Masonj
play with Windows Media
Play Crud Radio - 1 hour of great music mixed exclusively for Crud

Most Convincing Northerner
John Simm
Liam Gallagher
Peter Kay
Max Beesley
Vernon Kay

View Weekly Poll Results


Major Matt Mason: Anti-folk . Anti hero.

Major Matt Mason: Me, Me, Me: Looking up "Major Matt Mason" on the web I was quite disturbed to find a hundred and one pages dedicated to the other Major Matt Mason: the unpredictably popular and retro Mattel action figure from the 1950's. However, after listening to the debut album by the toys namesake, Major Matt Mason USA, this appears to be the kind of tangential mental leap that Mason would love his audience to make.

Major Matt Mason - Me Me Me

Make no mistake about it, Mason is already a prominent figure in New York's contrary Anti-Folk scene. The scene belies all that traditional folk held dear. Thus, folk music's traditionally earnest lyrical themes are espoused for quirkier, everyday ones. If Joan Baez sung about the plight of the oppressed American Indians, new folk anarchists, Moldy Peaches sing about Lucky Charms (the "magically delicious" breakfast cereal that contain enough additives to make all small children who eat it turn into Damien from The Omen. Allegedly).

The first generation of Anti-Folksters came and went, and counted Beck amongst their number. As the unofficial posterboy of the scene Beck's post-modern flirtation with all musical genres, and unabashedly intelligent (albeit humorous) take on love, life and the world is endemic of the scene. If the media savvy Brits seem wary about the reality of an actual "scene" Mason insists it's a very real thing:

" It makes me laugh to hear you say that someone might think it's a media creation because I can't imagine why the media would want to have anything to do with the scene here." Mason assures us, " I didn't know anything about Anti-folk before I moved here. I sort of found it and it found me It's full of creative, talented, spontaneous, real human beings and I find that sort of rare these days in the media. Well, as far as the "Anti-Folk/Urban -Folk Scene" in the East Village goes....it's not always perfect and it's not always pretty but it's definitely real. And I feel lucky to be a part of it."

The star of Mason's debut are his lyrics. Unsurprisingly from an album called "ME ME ME" listening to the CD is like hearing a particularly amusing diary being read out loud. Mason was obviously a few notes when he was studying creative writing at University. The Freudian nightmare of "Budapest"("You are my mum and I am your father") and the esoteric lyrical tricks of "Black Hole" stand out, as does the obligatory song about ice-cream ("Mr. Softie"). Not unlike his anti-folk peers Lach and Michelle Shocked his lyrics have the kind of depth, scope and quality of novel-esque proportions, begging the question, do literary influences rate figure in his musical cornucopia?

Major matt Mason"I'm a big fan of Raymond Carver" Mason says". I really get off on the idea of saying the most by actually saying as little as possible. The first time I read Carver I didn't get it. But then I keep reading his stories over and over and they just kept getting deeper and deeper I've conclude that I'm a pretty big fan of "minimalism" in art and literature, though Carver hated that term. There was a Rothko retrospective at the Whitney here a few years ago and it's just blew me away. I'm very much into artists that have the strength to be economical and be focused in their choices (regardless of how crazy they seem), to be able to find those simple triggers that explode in people's brains, maybe not even on the first listen or viewing. To me that takes true guts and discipline. I like things that you can read or listen to over and over and it changes and I guess since I'm pretty into process, I guess. I hope I don't sound to artys fartsy. Did answer the question? "He asks .Yes,but could Mason describe his writing in less than ten words, say?

"I like to write about relationships. " He says, rather satisfyingly, rather succulently. If the abstract minimalism of Rothko and the subtleties of Carver influenced his lyrical style, it was his turbulent move to New York from Kansas ("we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto") that was the shake up he needed to focus his own artistic vision.

" I was a minority in my own neighbourhood for the first time in my life" he says." This is changing but just 8 years ago, when I moved here the Lower East Side was mostly Puerto Rican and Dominican. There was a real community here though I wasn't really a part of it. I was also closer to poverty than I had ever been in my life when I moved here, personally and around me. I also just broke up with a girlfriend. I was pretty scared and desperate feeling."

Of his metamorphosis into acoustic guitar player , Mason explains:

" I had always just played electric guitar in punk bands in college and high school. I was living on a 5th floor walk up so it was a pain in the ass to haul my amp up and down the stairs. I couldn't afford a place to practice and I was so stressed out and working all the time that I had a hard time getting together with people to jam so I just started writing my own little songs in my apartment on acoustic guitar. I started playing in the park and stuff. This is going to sound kind of cheesy but there is an incredible sense of freedom and inspiration that coincides with real poverty and disorientation. Looking back I'm glad that I experienced it and I'm glad that it's over. "

Mason lists The Velvet Underground, New York's coolest band as, his biggest influence. along with Black Flag and Hank Williams. However "Me Me Me"'s most obvious touch point is Daniel Johnson:

"An old Girlfriend sent me a Daniel Johnston tape right before I moved here" he explains "he's been a really big influence on me ever since, musically, production wise, and even from a sort of DIY marketing standpoint. I actually got to open up for him for a show just a few months ago and that was like a dream come true."

"Me Me Me" shares much in common with Johnsons' work .Musically Mason does not take many risks, sticking almost stubbornly to the basic acoustic guitar and vocal that conjures up visions of cardigans and coffee houses. To extend the diary theme of the lyrics, musically "Me Me Me" feels more like an intimate gig with Mason rather than his full length debut (there were a few EP's before hand). It's an obvious comparison to make but the great thing about The Moldy Peaches album was that musically they successfully utilised instruments and sounds other than their guitar and vocals While the humour and the homespun true-isms of his lyrics are spot on,it can only carry the music so far. While both bands are labelled, amongst other things, "Lo-Fi", The Peaches seem able to envision their musical development out growing lo-fi (they are quotes as saying "we want to win a Grammy some day!") Mason doesn't seem so sure:

"I think it's really cool how like analogue tape hiss has become associated with being an integral part of a good recording for some people, I feel like the lo-fi aspects of making music will always be a part of me. There is a beautiful lesson behind it all having to do with happy accidents and spontaneity and being real. This isn't to say that I wouldn't be above writing a techno song or a heavy metal song but yes they would all probably have some lofi aspect to them and come to think of , if you look at it a certain way, I think all good music does. It's become an important aspect of the process for me. "

When listening to "Me Me Me".one is reminded of the pioneers of lo-fi, Sebadoh The early albums made by Lou Barlow and friends were disappointing, consisting as they did of montage like acoustic songs. By all accounts only reached their full glory when playing as a full band and their songs were "fleshed out". It seems to be a similar story with Mason.You feel the tunes are missing the dynamics of being played in a group situation or at lease having a producer on hand to bounce ideas off on. Indeed, It's only on the loopy but brilliant extra tracks "Diner" and "Thankful" that we get respite from the singer/songwriter mode and a glimpse into the array of other musical possibilities. These two tracks, recorded with Schweron provided much needed extra colour to "Me Me Me"'s palette. Mason explains:

"Schweron is a collaboration with my girlfriend Nan. It's just the two of us. It sort of started out as couples therapy experiment. It's very collaborative which is cool and it gives me a chance to rock out a little."

While lyrically ahead of the pack,as a whole one can't but help get the feeling "Me Me Me" is only the first stage of Mason's metamorphosis. The first step on a the musical journey of a very exciting new talent.


2-4-7-MUSIC.COM 2006

STILL refusing to dumb it down.

Crud Magazine is set up and maintained in accordance with permissions and conditions agreed by all parties.