From various windows in the complex come shouts and cheers of victory, of joy. But the loudest of all is coming from inside condo number 101. I step inside and Matt Morginsky of Orange County's Supertones is sitting on his couch, yelling into his cell phone. "Dude, did you see that? Did you see that?" He hangs up and greets me. He's obviously shaken up...and sweating. I sit
down with him and proceed, for the next ten minutes, to be punched, squeezed,
pushed and otherwise abused like a life-sized squeezy stress toy by the 6'1 singer...until finally the buzzer sounds and the Lakers win. Then his cell phone rings again.
"AGGUUHHUGHHHHHHHHH!!!!! WHHOOO HOOOOO HOOOOOHAAAA HAAA! Byrne, I love you, dude! HHOOOO HAAAA HAA HAAAAA! Tony! No, I love YOU man!"
Matt is competitive by nature, so when I joined him at the Village
Studio in Santa Monica a few weeks earlier I wasn't surprised to lose
miserably to him at pool...three times in a row. And then he starts in on
the video games...
Matt: Mortal Kombat 2. (To the game)OOHHH! You like that?
Melissa: So...how does kicking my butt at pool make you feel? 'Cause I'm feeling pretty crummy.
Matt: Well, the 8 ball did all the work. I really didn't play that well, you
just scratched on the 8 ball three times in a row.
Melissa: And you hexing the corner pocket on my last shot there had nothing
to do with it, right?
Matt: Well, it's a risky strategy, yes. But I've found I have quite a bit of
success using it...against you anyway. Ha ha. OOH. Down...forward...back..."
C"...YEEEESSS! FATALITY! Ha.
Melissa: Let's talk about why you're in here. Let's talk about your upcoming
Matt: Okay. As far as the writing process goes it's pretty much the same as
the last record. I wrote all the lyrics and the melodies and all that stuff.
I come up with about half of the chord progressions; Tony comes up with the
other half. And you know it's not like I just write it and that's that. Me
and Tony listen to each other's stuff and work on it and arrange it. And
Tony writes all of his own bass parts. Me and Tony wrote most of the horn
lines although Dan is comin' up on that...he's doing some of those. Let's
see...Dan wrote the chorus to a song called "Forward to the Future". He kind
of had the genesis of that song, as it were. Right now the title of the album
is going to be "Episode IV, A New Hope". You know, the first Star Wars movie,
at the beginning, the real name of it is "Episode IV, A New Hope". So the
album's called "A New Hope" but it's going to say Episode IV on the spine. (To
the game, again) OH! YOU'RE GOING DOWN!
Melissa: The Supertones are generally known as a ska band. Ska, as a genre,
is on its way out of the mainstream market...so how are the Supertones
getting around that?
Matt: Well I wouldn't classify this record as ska. The last one wasn't
either. I guess we would classify ourselves as...I don't know. It's
(At this point he gives up on the game) Okay, I'll stop playing MK2 now.
Anyway, we've never been just a straight ska band. It was always just kind
of part of the music. Except for the first record.
Melissa: Well what about the name?
Matt: The Supertones?
Melissa: Yeah. That makes me think checkers.
Matt: Well, what about the Deftones?
Melissa: Ah, okay...
Matt: But I mean there's not a whole lot we can do about the name, and I
like it anyway. If people are really into labels and categories
and stuff like that, well there's nothing I can do about that. I just kind
of make the music that I make and it's from the heart. And hopefully
people don't like or dislike our music because it has the label "ska" on it, but
because they actually like or dislike the music itself. And it kind of goes
for this record too. It's less ska, I guess, just because when we wrote the
first and second records, that's what I was listening to. Operation Ivy, The
Specials, stuff like that. And right now, Elvis Costello is in my record
player. But also, back then...well Public Enemy is one of my all time
favorite groups. So you can hear influences from that on the first record. And now
some of the other guys' influences are showing up a lot. There's quite a bit
of reggae on this record. But I mean everything we do is just sort of how
we think we should do it. We don't sit around and go, "Let's make a reggae
song" or "Let's make a pop song or a hip-hop song..."
Melissa: Landers (Aaron Landers, The Dingees) was telling me the other day
that they have some stuff that sounds like Elvis Costello, some stuff that
sounds like a little more of The Clash...but they don't do it on purpose,
the songs just sort of go that way.
Matt: Exactly. You write a song, you like it, we put it on tape. And come up
with the best "feel" for it. A lot of punk rock records...I used to have
this NOFX record and every song was four chords, a fast tempo, and catchy
Melissa: But that's punk!
Matt: Yeah...but it was like that the whole way through! I mean, that's
fine. Some people really like it. But for me personally, I like a little more
variety on a record. You know, if you listen to a Led Zeppelin record, one
song is reggae, another song is real slow, another song has a real heavy
feel to it.
Melissa: And I have a friend that says Jimmy Page is the best riff writer
Matt: Terrific riff writer. So I mean, people think that if you're labeled
as this style, then you've gotta play that style EVERY single song on ANY of
your records. But I don't think that. I'm very happy with the record. I'm
happy with the lyrics. There're no lyrics that I'm like, "Oh, that's kind of
wacky" or whatever.
Melissa: I know the Supertones is your job. But what do you do with
yourself; with the free time it affords you?
Matt: Well when we're not on tour, when I'm not writing, I read a lot. Play
with my dogs. Hang out with Byrne (Ryan Byrne, Matt's best friend who's been
playing pool across the room) and watch Laker games. And I've been jogging a
bit. And a bunch of us get together on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and
go down to the basketball courts and play some games. It's fun.
Melissa: Being a Christian, and the Supertones being labeled as a Christian
band...how has that affected you as a person? Do kids recognize you a lot?
Matt: Well, sometimes. Sometimes at home, sometimes in other cities...I
guess it's tough when I'm having a bad day, when I'm not too chipper, you know?
And I kind of feel that because kids know I'm a Christian I kind of feel
more pressure to be nice to people, but I mean I should be anyway. And that' s the test of character. To do something when you don't really feel like doing it. If you only work hard when you feel like working hard, then that' s...it's like Christ said, even the pagans love their friends. The true test is to love your enemies. Or in this case love people, I don't know. To do
things when you don't feel like doing them. To be nice when you're feeling
like...like you're having a bad day. Or when you're short tempered. So I
think it helps your character somewhat in that it puts you in situations you
wouldn't normally be in. You can't get too comfortable. And that's what
keeps you accountable. Because I guess you're kind of a role model. And that's kind of a big responsibility that I take pretty seriously.
Melissa: What encourages you?
Matt: Well, a lot of letters that we get I really enjoy. That's encouraging
both in my faith as well as in the work that we're doing. Because I mean,
you go into a town, you play, or put out a record and people buy it...you
write the lyrics with the intent to speak to people...you play a show with
the intent to reach people somehow. And so when you hear about it affecting
people, it's very encouraging. Some of the stories we get are pretty
amazing. Tons of letters about people being converted by a song, or repented
because of a song or a show...so it's really cool.
As far as being encouraged myself...there's a guy named Pastor Robert Wagner
who's come out and been a road pastor for us. We had a road manager named
Big Dave Wagner and Robert is his dad. And the guy is just the most wise and
Godly and brilliant and encouraging person I've ever met. He comes out on
tour with us, does Bible studies and stuff. I email him and he emails or
calls me back sometimes and it's just awesome. Oh and when the Lakers win I
get pretty encouraged too. Me and Byrne.
Melissa: So you're obviously playing Cornerstone. What day?
Matt: I don't...um I don't know. We're playing the night after P.O.D.
Melissa: Alright...we'll look for you. Thanks, yo.
The Supertones have since decided against "A New Hope" and in favor of calling
their new album "Loud and Clear". It will be available in record stores September
2000. I've heard it and I can say this much: whether you're a Laker fan or
not, you're gonna love it.
In the Studio (by Melissa)