- I’m Matt Roth (aka. Major Matt Mason USA). I’ve been making music and curating art for over 20 years, mostly with my band Schwervon! and various solo projects as well as through an organization called Olive Juice Music. I’ve met a lot of interesting people along the way. I’ve decided to compile a series of conversations with some of the artists who have moved and inspired me the most. Some are better known than others. All of them are remarkable. –
It was the 2001 album: This Is For John Word that first brought Toby Goodshank to my attention. I believe he gave it to me after watching him perform at The Sidewalk Cafe circa 2003. It sounded like it was recorded in a bathroom with a hand held tape recorder. There was a spoken word segment on that album, which I would later learn was performed by mutual friend and film maker Nathan Gulick, of a very pornographic rant done in the voice actor Jimmy Stewart . It was was one of the most disturbing and hilarious things I’d ever heard.
Toby and I soon became better acquainted when I recorded his album: Put The Devil Where You Hang Your Hat. Little did I know this would result in a recording relationship what would span the next seven years giving birth to roughly nine more albums and countless one off recordings. All of these sessions took place at my former home studio Olive Juice Music, located on the Lower East Side of New York City. Since that first meeting, as if nine albums weren’t enough, Toby has gone on to create several more albums, numerous side projects (see: Double Deuce, The Tri Lambs, L.A. Boobs, The Christian Pirate Puppets, Kurt Cobained) a stint as the rhythm guitar player for The Moldy Peaches, and countless pieces of visual art singularly and as a member of the 3MB Art Collective which also includes fellow Moldy Peach: Adam Green and actor Macaulay Culkin (yes that Macaulay Culkin).
Toby Goodshank is one of the most prolific and endearing artists I know and I’m grateful that he took the time to speak with me.
MMM: You often use very graphic and/or what would typically be considered pornographic imagery in your artwork. Where do you think that comes from?
TG: The imagery that I have often used in my lyrics comes from living life! I feel as though I’ve been inundated with with images and ideas of graphic sexuality and porn from an early age in all forms of media. It seemed inescapable. But I’m mostly into it. I think the more disturbing moments that I have written about, such as genital mutilation, come from self-hatred and guilt instilled by my Catholic upbringing, and also a strong disdain for the macho side of masculinity.
MMM: I recently watched Harmony Korine’s latest film. Spring Breakers. It was better than a lot crap out there. And I understand the point he was making about sex and excess and a sort of abandonment of morals in a specific generational group. But I feel like even the commentary on that is getting a little exhausted. Do you feel like we’re reaching a post morality era? I heard somewhere that wherever you find the cutting edge of technology you’ll find pornography. Could you speculate on what the porn industry will be like in the year 2040 or 2060?
TG: I really enjoyed Spring Breakers! I feel so out of touch with the current young generation that I don’t feel qualified to say whether or not they’ve grown past morality. If they are anything like me, they walk a path fraught with confusion and contradiction. I think of myself as a person with a relatively strong moral foundation, yet I am aware that I’ve bent my own rules on a whim before to suit my own needs, and that I am likely to do it again. I think it’s a human thang, no shame in it. I try to be a good man most times. I think my Catholic upbringing is a source of both my morals and my confusion. As for pornography, I love it some of it, and it does not enter into a realm of good versus bad morals for me. Sometimes I just want to look at the classic open-pussy Hustler shot and mentally do The Pizza Man (blowing a kiss in the style of the chef on a pizza box). I primarily enjoy printed pornography for use in collage work. I prefer back issues of Club magazine because it was published near my hometown of Newtown, Connecticut. No speculations on the future of porn really, although I hope and pray some of the styles of 70’s porn come back in vogue (I know in my heart that they won’t).
MMM: You know I’m kind of the same way when it comes to porn. Sometimes, I really miss hair and ass pimples. Seems like it’s all so fetishistic these days. But maybe it’s just reflective of the culture now. The thing I like about your work is how it reflects you as a person. You are one of the sweetest people I know but you are also willing to explore the edges of things. You seem to handle that line quite easily. I think that’s really interesting. Can you talk a little bit about your fascination with the band: The Frogs?
TG: Oh man, thanks for saying so! I’m trying to grow… The Frogs! When I was sixteen and in high school, all of my favourite bands sang their praises in interviews; Nirvana got them added to the second stage at Lollapalooza, Billy Corgan performed on stage with them, Eddie Vedder described them as a “no-bullshit” band, the list goes on. This was of course pre-Internet (more or less), so I had to jump through major hoops to acquire their album “It’s Only Right and Natural”, and was shocked to find that they A) were not a “grunge” rock band, but instead played really lo-fi off-the-cuff folk-sounding tunes B) sang songs with subject matter that Johnny McGovern might describe as “Dirty Gay Stuff”. It blew my mind. It made me uncomfortable. I realized then that I was a bit uncomfortable with homosexuality. I kept listening. I realized that I was uncomfortable with my own sexuality. Through their humor, vulgarity and breaking of lyrical taboos, I slowly began to form the belief that sexuality is not something concrete, but that it is a path that one should explore throughout their lifetime, at one’s own pace. I know that may seem like preaching to the choir at this point in time, but when I was having these thoughts I was young and I feel as though that music schooled me. The schooling continued with their album “My Daughter the Broad.” The fact that some of my musical heroes sang The Frogs’ praises led me to feel even more strongly about the importance of their place in musical history. The Frogs became a new source of inspiration to me. They damned themselves to a career in the shadows because of their subject matter. I wanted also to take a similar path, it seemed that it might be the most emotionally rewarding.
MMM: It’s interesting how some times something initially shocking or disturbing can eventually bring us to a place of peace and understanding. You just got back from spending a year in Berlin. Was there any thing about that experience that you found to be shocking, culturally, or otherwise that you think might have an influence on you now?
TG: My Berlin experience blew my mind. Having only passed through town on tour prior to my move there, I was shocked at how idiotic and humiliated I felt when I first arrived and was unable to communicate with the locals on account of I don’t speak German. Speaking fragmented German doesn’t fly when you find yourself there for an extended time period. It was a feeling akin to being humiliated by one’s peers in school. A month or so after my arrival I resigned myself to not learning German, and I learned what it felt like to operate inside a bubble, something that has carried over to my current situation where i feel a bit isolated and out of the loop. Just had trouble adjusting to life there, and also having a lot of difficulty now that I’m back. I still had fun there, and had friends there that I love, and I have that in the US as well. I think it’s just some lifelong feelings of being an outsider coming to the forefront because of stress due to new surroundings, and my choice to opt out of a lotta social situations. Using art and music-making as escapist activities. I’ve also upped my comic book reading tenfold in the past year.
MMM: Can you tell me a little bit about your involvement with The Pizza Underground?
TG: I was present when The Pizza Underground was conceived. I was on tour with Phoebe Kreutz, Matt Colbourn and Deenah Vollmer in Catalunya (The Roamin’ Tourgy, February 2012). ‘Twas their brainchild! Austin Kilham joined when we returned from tour and Macaulay Culkin joined fairly recently. I am mostly involved as a fan of the band. The band allowed me to make a fifteen minute video of their Union Pool performance which premiered on Rolling Stone’s website. I then helped Mack film a video in which he pays tribute to an old Warhol film. The Pizza Underground have chosen me as the support act for their North American tour in March.
MMM: Can you explain to me where the name LA Boobs came from and what exactly that project is?
TG: Deenah (Vollmer/Toby’s bandmate and significant other) and I use the word “boob” as a term of endearment for one another. L.A. Boobs is our musical project. Lately we’ve been working together to make instrumental backing tracks for our live performances. Deenah has been taking the lead vocal and writing a bulk of the lyrics. Our friend Jon referred to our newer work as “song-essays”. I’ve been playing guitar and adding a second vocal whenever we feel it’s needed. It’s fun! We’re seeking a label to release a 7″ vinyl of our next EP.
MMM: You’ve been touring with Adam Green in Europe. Can you talk to me about how that is going/went? Anything especially notable you feel like sharing? How was it to be back in Germany under these circumstances as opposed to when you were living in Berlin for a year?
TG: The tour with Adam is one of my top five dream jobs. We’re beginning the final week of our month long acoustic tour, during which I am accompanying him on acoustic guitar. He’s one o my bestest friends, and we have a wonderful man named Ben who’s tour managing us. We listen to 80’s Iggy Pop and 70’s Rolling Stones (post-Exile) in the car. Aerosmith’s Permanent Vacation has also been in heavy rotation. Today we go visit Mack, were fucking pumped! The shows have been mostly sold out and super fun. I love playing Adam’s songs, it’s been a great experience to learn em all! Our time in Berlin was too short, so many friends that I would like to spend quality time with!
Toby is presently on tour in the UK with The Pizza Undergound.
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