[av_heading heading=’A Happy Convention Intervention’ tag=’h3′ style=’blockquote modern-quote’ size=” subheading_active=’subheading_below’ subheading_size=’15’ padding=’10’ color=” custom_font=”]
Written by: Matthew McGuire
Carbondale, Illinois has a rich and soulful music history that brings the best and worst out of people in the nearby area. Matt Decker is an acoustic guitar player that has been entertaining and performing in Carbondale for over five years. From the acoustic jam sessions at the Farmer’s Market, to the wild late nights on the town.
After a series of side projects, Matt Decker / Miracle Boy is now performing as a solo acoustic guitar player. He is traveling across the country right now supporting the album and spoke with us about the process on the road and in the studio.
CV: Thanks for taking the time out to go over some questions about your latest album, Happy Convention.
MD: Thank YOU for listening and giving me the time! I am pretty stoked to be amongst the artists you have interviewed for Crescent Vale.
CV: Which musicians did you have help on this album? Can you describe the band, and backing vocals used on this project?
MD: Well, the songs on this album were recorded off and on over the course of about 6 months with Jim Foerster at Mole Hole Studios in Carbondale (Illinois, not Colorado). From there it all gets a little confusing as there really wasn’t a solid ‘band’ set for this album, but more like a revolving cast of derelicts and weirdos! Ha! Seriously though, here is a rundown of who’s and what’s – Marion Illinois’ favorite ladies men, Max and Ryan, (The Fabulous Martini Brothers) played drums and bass on about half the tracks. My favorite DJ in the world, The Vinyl Vixen (host of ‘the Independant Wormhole’ radio program on WDBX 91.1FM) provided percussion, backing vocals, and even some literal bells and whistles on a few songs. My good friend Dave X tore paper, dropped sticks, and hit antique fire alarms & railroad ties in a serious musical fashion! Stig Santiago played trumpet on a song, while my old partner in crime Jonnie Skizzank played Didgeridoo and LG Murphy & Casey Fuson sang backing vocals on a few.
Given that no two tracks have the exact same line-up and there was hardly any notice given before people came to the studio, I think recordings took off in spontaneous directions that even I wasn’t expecting. My tactic was pretty much just call my friends the day before or sometimes the day of the session, and ask if they wanted to come record with me, which meant that none of the songs were really rehearsed in any traditional sense of the word.
Usually people would turn up about a half hour later than the agreed upon time, I would show them a song, we would run through the changes a time or two, then we would record it. Almost everyone inevitably asked some form of the question ‘what do you want me to do on this song’ and my general response was ‘whatever you want’. Hopefully this would allow more room for the differences in the way we heard things and maybe we would all have more fun that way. The name of the album is ‘Happy Convention’ after all! Some did better with the initial lack of instruction than others, but they all passed the secret test with flying colors!
I realize this may not be the most efficient way to go about recording an album, but I really dislike over-rehearsing things to the point of memorization and I think this less rigid method made for some really cool intuitive moments. Like the background vocals on the leadoff track ‘Wayward’ for example, those were not my idea at all. I asked my friend Casey (Fuson) from the band Gypo-Cash to come play ukulele on the track. She asked if she could sing on it and those doo-wop backups are what she came up with right there on the spot. There were all sorts of things like that on this record that I could ramble on about for hours, but I will spare you the arduous task of reading that!
CV: I considered your sound to be acoustic alternative folk music. What category would you find your album at the record store?
MD: A couple of people have told me that they think Happy Convention is basically a sort of weird pop album and I suppose it is in some regard, but really I try not to concern myself too much with what to call the style of music I play and mostly focus on whether I am performing it to the best of my abilities. I try not to be too limiting with whatever I am doing musically, and very rarely have I set out to write a certain kind of song but more just to guide whatever I am writing in a direction that I can live with.
Besides all that, it is difficult to give an objective opinion about one’s own art and how it should be categorized. However, I CAN say that there are a lot of different sounds on this record and I hope it makes for an interesting listen. I dont know that this answers your question, but maybe it will give readers a bit of an idea of how I feel about this thing I have chosen to do with my life. Who knows, maybe the next one will be a foray into Klezmer?
CV: Your indie and raw production reminds me of Daniel Johnston, and Roy Orbison. How do you view them as singer/songwriters? What do you find in common with them, and how do you see yourself being different?
MD: I certainly am a big fan of them both and have more than a few of their albums floating around in my record collection back home (in fact I have a Daniel Johnston cd in the car with me right now…ha!) but I would be a bit narcissistic to hold myself in as high a regard as I do those two. I have covered a few Daniel Johnston songs in the past and still might in the future, so I guess his music seems a bit more open to interpretation for me (either that or it is just easier to learn!) As for Roy Orbison, that guy’s shadow looms so large over most of popular music from the mid-20th century on, I figure it is sort of ridiculous to say he has not been an influence at least in some larger scale sense, but I have never covered one of his songs or anything. Although, now that you have brought it up, I might give it a shot! Haaaaa!
Honestly though, it is difficult to make music without having some influences become apparent. I just hope I have enough of a distinct musical personality that people will react to what I do in some way, whether it is pleasure or disgust. Of course I prefer that people enjoy it, but I would rather someone actively hate what I do than be indifferent towards it. At least that way you know you have been effective somehow. Really though, that’s all relative. It is up to the artist/performer to make it interesting or provoking in whatever manner.
As for comparisons to other artists, those are probably inevitable as well, but best left for listeners as opposed to artists themselves. I do have great respect for both of the folks you mentioned and I am flattered that you hear echoes of them within my songs. As a side note, I find it interesting you picked two Texans!
CV: Recently you toured across the a large section of the country. Can you describe what it was like on your first multi-state tour?
MD: Actually, the last stop on the tour as far as shows I had booked was last night in Midland, Texas. My friend Sherrill hooked me up with a show at a place called the Blue Max with a few other bands (Everymen, In the Whale, and the Continental) and then we hit up this cool gallery downtown called Kamiposi. Today we are in Dallas to see a Melt Banana show so that will be a badass way to sort of put a cap on what has turned out to be pretty surreal experience. As for where I’ve gone – Kansas City was a nice jumping off point and a fun place to wander around. I ended up buying a guitar there too so that made it even better! From there I hit Fayetteville (Arkansas) had a blast, met some cool folks, and ended up hopping on a bill the next night in Oklahoma City with one of the other bands from the Fayetteville show — The Do-Nuthin’s from Huntsville, Alabama. Glad to call ’em new friends. Check ’em out!
Next was Austin (Texas, not Nevada). Just left there today where I spent the first day busking on 6th street pretty much all day, the second day driving around for a matter of hours in search of King Coffey (drummer for the Butthole Surfers’) house…I finally found it actually and rang his doorbell. So….I ended up hanging out in his house for about a half hour while he ripped my cd onto his computer and his dogs licked my face. HA! The Butthole Surfers are one of my like top 5 favorite bands so that seriously was one of the most surreal experiences of my life.
Then the next night I played at the Carousel Lounge with Sam Arnold and the Secret Keepers — all nice, down to earth folks, and badass musicians! Sam’s other band, Opposite Day is coming to Carbondale next month to play a show too, so I am pretty stoked about that. Seeing as this trip is not quite over I feel like I can no give a full assessment of the impact it will have on me coming away from it. There have been ups and downs but overall it has been a rewarding (sometimes strange) experience and I am surprised and excited at the positive response I have gotten from my shows at the connections made at every stop. Yeah, there are things I will different next time, but that is the nature of it. You either live and learn or you get what you get. Funny, I feel like I just wrote a ‘How I Spent my Summer Vacation’ back to school essay.
CV: Is there a song on Happy Convention that you pulled off in one take? When that happens, do you go ahead and record the song again just to hear an alternative take?
MD: Actually there was one, but I didn’t end up putting it on the album. Ha! It will probably end up on a future release but I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it. I did record a second take to have something to compare to, but it had lost something at that point and we kept the first take. Even if a recording doesn’t turn out exactly the way I was hoping, I think it’s usually best to go with the initial energy of something than to worry about perfection. That’s no fun at all!
CV: What drives you to continue performing live music?
MD: Put simply, the love of doing so and the feeling of purpose. Live performances give me a chance to let go and float out there in the ether. Or it could be greed, egotism, and the desperate need to impress others. Haaaaa!
CV: Thank you so much for your time.
MD: You bet!
Miracle Boy / Matt Decker on Bandcamp
Miracle Boy / Matt Decker on Rock with the Ox
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