Matt Stocks is a writer / presenter / DJ. He’s worked for Kerrang! Radio, Metal Hammer, Classic Rock, Team Rock Radio & Scuzz TV over the last ten years. Since 2017, he’s also hosted his own podcast: Life In The Stocks.
He’s now in the book game. Life In The Stocks – Veracious Conversations With Musicians is the result of his 2020. Like an awful lot of people in the music industry, 2020 has hit hard. However, he’s managed, in his words “to hustle a book deal with Rare Bird publishing house,” who will be releasing his first book on 15th December 2020.
The guest list includes Clem Burke (Blondie), Steve Van Zandt, CJ Ramone, Kyle Gass (Tenacious D), Eugene Hutz (Gogol Bordello) and Jesse Leach (Killswitch Engage).
Here’s an extract from Chapter 1, ‘Adolescence’, where the guests talk about their childhood and the experiences that shaped them:
ROBB FLYNN—MACHINE HEAD, PODCAST HOST
MATT: Did you have any brothers or sisters growing up—either from your adopted or your biological family?
ROBB: My parents couldn’t have kids, which is why they adopted me. But my whole extended family was really dysfunctional. My dad has a twin brother who joined a cult when I was really young, so I grew up with cousins always living at our house. If you were having a problem with your crazy uncle or my crazy aunt, you came and stayed with us. For long periods of time, I’d have three brothers, or two sisters and a brother, and then they’d go away. Then they’d come back, or I’d have another set of cousins come and live with us. It was a trippy upbringing; I got used to having lots of other kids around.
MATT: What cult did your uncle run off and join?
ROBB: He’s actually still in it. It’s some crazy religious cult where you tie all your money to the main Jesus guy, and they all work and he doesn’t. He basically just up and left his family and kids. I remember going up there with my parents to try and get him out. I wasn’t really clear on what we were doing at the time, but my dad told me later on why we went up there. It was some crazy hippy commune in the middle of fucking Oregon—everyone was smoking weed. We tried getting him out but it didn’t work, and he’s still there now. They all think this dude is some disciple.
MATT: That’s mental.
ROBB: Right? I’ve always had this disconnect to race and nationality, and a real disconnect to religion after seeing that shit and what it did to my cousins. From a very young age, I was like, “I don’t know about all this stuff.”
KYLE GASS—TENACIOUS D, THE KYLE GASS BAND, SOLO ARTIST
KYLE: My brothers reminded me every day how I wasn’t as smart as them. But one of them is a computer tech guy in Silicon Valley, and the other is a very successful engineer, so they are smarter than me—they were right. That kind of helped me go in a different direction: the class clown. It was always about gaining favor to get our mom’s attention; we were always sort of battling for that.
My mom had a weakness for show business, so actually my whole career is just an attempt to get her approval. She had this brilliant skill—I don’t think she even knew that she had it—where she would slightly withhold her approval, and in doing so she created this achievement machine where it was never enough. Even now, I’ll be like, “Mom, I won a Grammy, and I’m playing in front of two hundred thousand people.” And she’ll say, “That’s very good, dear. But you could do a little bit better.” Basically, I’m extremely unhappy and I need a lot of therapy. But this is helping, so thank you.
JUSTIN: Pittsburgh was a really working-class steel town when I was growing up. Most of the industry left when I was in high school, and then it became a really depressed town; there was tons of unemployment and a lot of alcoholism. Half of our population left in a very short space of time, and Pittsburgh became a ghost town of really young people and really old people. Anybody who needed a job just left.
Our football team are the Pittsburgh Steelers, and in the 1970s they won four championships, so they became the rallying point for everyone in the city. In the 1980s, when everybody left Pittsburgh, so many people left town that there’s now what we call the Steeler Nation, which is people from Pittsburgh who live all over the country but still support the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pittsburgh is probably the most represented football team in America because there’s so many people from Pittsburgh living in other places. In almost every city you go to, there’s a Steelers bar. And what’s amazing about that is it’s a reflection of how devastated the town was when the steel industry shut down. All that labor history, and all that working-class history, means Pittsburgh has always been an incredibly political town.
MATT: What sort of an impact did that economic environment have on your family when you were growing up?
JUSTIN: It was a very Charles Dickens kind of childhood. But that’s okay.
MATT: Do you have any siblings?
JUSTIN: I’m the youngest of nine.
MATT: Nine? That’s the largest family I’ve ever heard of.
JUSTIN: Yeah, my parents were Irish Catholic and they took it very seriously. It was chaos, but it was great. We were like the Weasleys of Pittsburgh—straight out of Harry Potter.
MATT: Is it not difficult maintaining a relationship with nine siblings? I have enough trouble keeping in touch with one.
JUSTIN: I think because I’m the youngest, I have a great relationship with all of them. I don’t think anyone should have nine kids, though. Somebody is always going to get neglected because how can you realistically keep an eye on nine kids? Both my parents worked their assess off; they were dedicated to the family; they worked really hard, and when somebody needed one of them they were always there. But when I look at religion, and the way that religion controls people and pushes them to do things that are not in their best interests—like having nine kids because they think they shouldn’t use birth control, otherwise they’re going to go to hell—then I really think the Catholic church has a lot to answer for.
We were lucky enough to have the chance to indulge in a little Q&A with Matt who very graciously provided some answers for us:
Just looking at your DJ bio, you have a Wayne’s World Cap and Sabbath T shirt – is that where your heart lies?
My heart lies in many musical and artistic areas, most notably punk rock, classic metal, comedy, and cinema. So, that get up is a fairly good representation of what I’m all about, yeah.
Is the DJ string to your bow the main one?
I’d say I’m equal parts DJ, presenter, interviewer, and writer. I release episodes of my podcast (Life In The Stocks) every week, so I’m always interviewing people, and my background is in radio (Kerrang!) and TV (Scuzz) presenting. But the DJing has certainly been my main source of income for the last five years, hence why the “Rona” has hit me so hard in the financial department.
Tell us a bit more about putting the book together.
The book’s based on conversations from my podcast, and the opportunity to write it came about via an LA-based publishing house called Rare Bird, so I decided to base this book on conversations with American and Canadian guests. I basically went back to the first episode of the podcast (Steve-O from Jackass, released on 31/01/2017), transcribed the highlights from that chat, then worked my way through the back catalogue in chronological order, focusing on guests from the US and Canada, until I felt like I had enough for a book—there are 35 guests in total.
You’ve organised into sections such as ‘Adolescence’ (some extract from this chapter are below) – what was the thinking behind this decision?
Once I had all the episodes that I wanted to include transcribed, and all the highlights from each episode in front me, I then went about planning how to present the segments in a way that told a new and engaging story, rather than being just a series of interview transcripts, one after the other. I thought that would be a little lazy and unimaginative—not to mention boring for the reader. So, I divided the chapters into recurring topics that came up the most (Adolescence, Punk Rock, Success, Booze & Drugs, Creative Partnerships, etc) in the podcast. From there, I spliced up and presented the quotes in a way that gave each chapter a cohesive thread and a narrative arc. Then I simply introduced each chapter with some of my own thoughts and experiences in relation to each subject, before jumping in to all the guest’s stories. It was a really fun process, and I’m really pleased with how it came out.
A stock question but your favourite interviewee and why?
I get asked this question a lot, and there is no definitive answer because I’ve loved talking to so many different people for such different reasons. There’ll be 200 episodes of my podcast by the end of this year; that’s 200 conversations totalling over 200 hours. And that’s a lot of talking. There’s no way I could single out one episode as my favourite. But a few of my favourite interviewees that also appear in the book are Tom Green, Doug Stanhope, Nick Oliveri, Laura Jane Grace, and Joe Cardamone.
Is there a follow up planned? Is this the start of a new venture and is there anyone you’d like to hit on?
There are multiple volumes in the works. I plan to start work on Vol. 2 as soon as Christmas is over, and that one will feature another 30-40 American and Canadian guests. Then for the third podcast book, I plan to do a UK spin-off with the likes of John Lydon, Shaun Ryder, Alan McGee, Jaz Coleman, Pauline Black, Gail Porter, Stephen Graham, and all the other British guests that I’ve interviewed over the last four years. After that, I’d like to start looking at a biography of sorts. And an educational textbook on the art of interviewing. And book on a specific band or musical genre. I’m 34 now, and I’d like to have four or five books out by the time I’m 40.
Could you say something about the genuine impact of 2020 for creatives from your personal point of view.
On a personal level, this year took away not just my livelihood but my life. And I know I’m not the only one who’s been affected in that way. On a global level, COVID-19 ground the live events and hospitality industries to a halt, and the long-term economic effects will be devastating—we’ll be feeling them for years to come.
I’d like to try and put a positive spin on things, but it’s hard. All we can do is try to stay productive. Writing and promoting this book has given me something good to focus on, and that’s helped my mental health no end. Rather than waiting for what we miss to come back, now is the time to be working all the projects that we never had time to complete before.
How do you feel the situation has impacted on any colleagues/fellow creatives?
Lots of people I know have already been forced to “retrain” and leave the industries that they love behind, and I’m sure many more will go before this is over. These people are more than just colleagues to me; they’re my community; they’re my family. I miss them all dearly. And the thought of never working with some of them ever again breaks my heart. It’s been such a brutal year for so many of my closest friends. It sucks.
What do you see for 2021? Vaccines and all…..
I really have no idea. I don’t think anyone knows how this will all pan out, or how long it’s going to take before things are back to “normal.” That’s what makes it so hard. I don’t know if things will ever go back to the way they were, to be honest. Even after we get the “VID” sorted, we still have Brexit to contend with, and that’s bound to put the live events and hospitality industries in an even more precarious position. (I include hospitality in the live event and creative industries because these people are the backbone of all our concert and festival experiences, and they’re equally worthy of our support, sympathy, and respect during these difficult times.)
But what I will say is this: wherever there are creative communities of like-minded people seeking an outlet for their artistic expressions, there will always be exciting art and experiences to be enjoyed. I come from a punk background, and the DIY scene will survive all this shit, no problem. We don’t need corporate venues or big businesses to keep the scene alive. All we need is an idea, a space, and an audience. And we’re good to go.
In a year where everything that I loved was taken away, I’ve learnt the true value of art, and the true value of life. I’ve never done it for the money—I’ve never made any money. But if what you create is meaningful, and it has depth and value, then people will support it. I’ve learnt that doing my podcast over the last four years. And I’ve learnt it this year with my book. Real friends and supporters show up for each other. When all this is over, it’s the people who do it for the love of art and sheer sake of creating who’ll be left. The people who are in it for the money and all the wrong reasons will be long gone. And you know what? Good riddance.
I look forward to seeing all you lifers out there at a gig in 2021.
Order Life In The Stocks from Rare Bird Publishing here