Interview: Matt Stocks – ‘Life In The Stocks’

Matt Stocks, host of the Life in the Stocks podcast, and former presenter at Kerrang! Radio and Scuzz TV, and writer for Metal Hammer and Classic Rock, is releasing his first book, Life in the Stocks: Veracious Conversations with Musicians & Creatives in December of 2020 with Rare Bird. The book features an introduction by Jesse Malin.

Inspired by the iTunes chart-topping podcast, the Life in the Stocks book features interviews with alternative, punk, rock ‘n’ roll musicians, comedians, actors, and filmmakers such as Andrew W.K. (Solo Artist), B-Real (Cypress Hill), CJ Ramone (Ramones), Clem Burke (Blondie), Doug Stanhope (comedian), Frank Iero (My Chemical Romance), Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!), Nick Oliveri (Queens of the Stone Age/Kyuss), Robb Flynn (Machine Head), Steven Van Zandt (Bruce Springsteen/The Sopranos), Tom Green (comedian) and many, many more.

We spoke with Matt about the book, and the podcast, and how although it’s a very difficult time to be involved with the live events industry, this book was always going to happen.

It’s a horrible time to be in the music industry, especially being a DJ and someone who relies on live events, how are things going?

Yes, it’s been a very tough year for me, financially. Being a totally self-employed freelance writer/DJ/presenter, most of, if not all of, my work is centred around the live events industry. The podcast is something that I’ve obviously continued to do throughout the year and that generates a little bit of money from sponsorship and advertisements, and I also have a Patreon page where listeners can donate a little bit each month and support the show that way. The bulk of my income does come from DJ’ing, from touring with bands and DJ’ing out on the road, and from hosting and promoting live Q&A shows, so obviously with none of that taking place from March, aside from the book advance, I haven’t had a paid gig since March. So it’s been tough, really really tough. I’m the poorest that I’ve ever been, I was better off when I was 14 washing dishes probably! But, I’m happy, and I’m content because I’m fulfilled. I absolutely love what I do, I get to talk to people that I love to talk to, it inspires me. You have to take the rough with the smooth, and the rough is taking a hit in the financial department.

Definitely, Now with the world going to shit for the entertainment industry, you begin your book by saying “I believe in fate, that everything happens for a reason”, so with that in mind, your podcast, and now your book, was always going to happen…

I think so, yes. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, I studied English literature at University, so it was always a dream of mine to be published. I fell into presenting, and everything that I’ve been doing for the last ten years, by accident. That’s how life works isn’t it, you get a bit of success in a certain field, you end up shimmying across in that direction, and before you know it ten years have gone by and you think…what was that English degree in aid of!

So this year, it’s come full circle. That intention, for me, was always there, and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune, perfect moment. It was the perfect chance to use lockdown productively and it was a crazy scenario how the book deal came about. I had gotten an email from the publisher, someone I hadn’t met, or knew, and he said that he had been introduced to my podcast by one of his writers who was a guest on the podcast, Keith Buckley from Every Time I Die. Keith had switched the publisher on to his episode, and the publisher said that he listened to about 50 episodes before reaching out to me, he became a legitimate fan of the show, and he happened to be in London the week before we went into lockdown. He is from LA and was in London for a convention which got cancelled because of COVID, so he reached out to people that he knew here, to use the time wisely and set up meetings. He messaged me saying that he had published quite a few books by people that had been on my show, and would I like to meet. I met him thinking that it would just be a standard industry meeting, where you just go along to say hello, put a face to the name, but within minutes of sitting down, he said…how would you like to do a book with us? And it was on my birthday as well!

Excellent!

Yes, it was like the greatest birthday present ever! So I said, yes, of course, I’d like to write a book with you, so the next week we went into lockdown, and straight away I started on the book. I spent the peak, three-month Summer lockdown writing this book. Talk about fate! It couldn’t have happened in a more crazier, seamless, profound way than that! It’s my birthday – I get a book deal – we go into lockdown so I start writing it – I finish it, and we come out of lockdown – and now we seem to be going back into lockdown! So I’ve started working on the second book already!

It’s been an absolute life-saver for me, this project, it’s saved my sanity no end.

It must have been fairly therapeutic for you writing the book?

It was therapeutic, yes. Therapy can be difficult, as well as rewarding, and it was just that. It reminded me of not just the conversations, but where I was in my life at those points because if you listen back to something that maybe you haven’t heard in three years, it takes you back to that exact point.

The interviews in the book are from the first year of my podcast, and during the first six months of the show, I was dealing with a break-up, and other issues and demons let’s say. I was battling with a few things, so listening back to the podcast, a lot of those difficult memories were coming back, and I was forced to face them again, and process them in a way which perhaps I hadn’t done at the time. So it was incredibly therapeutic and challenging, and rewarding and revealing. It was brutal! Unflinchingly brutal! But ultimately, a positive and meaningful experience.

Brutal is a great word to describe some of the conversations in the book. It’s a very honest book, I mean, for instance, the chats with Steve-O where he talks about his demons and you bring up your own, that’s quite brutal. But on the flip side, there are lighter moments where you talk about your first introduction to alcohol aged 10, via alcho-pop Hooch, has your Mum forgiven you about the Hooch incident?!

(Laughs) Haha! Yes, that was the first of many more incidents that followed. As I say in the introduction, it’s a life-long love, and indeed hate, affair, that I have with alcohol. It’s certainly got me into some of the best, and worst, situations of my life! I’ve really relished the opportunity to talk with all of the guests that I’ve had on the show over the years about their own experiences with things like addictions, mental health. I find doing the interviews therapeutic, and a lot of the time the guests tell me that they do as well. I really hope that when people pick up the book, and they see these stories isolated, that they have a ripple effect and live on. We’re not alone in these things that we go through.

When it comes down to it, people have more in common than they would care to admit. Reading some of the conversations in the book, you come across as very natural, and people seem to have no problems opening up to you? They don’t have their guards up?

That’s something that I hear all the time. It would be arrogant, and egotistical of me to say “yeah, I’m really good at putting people at ease”, but, it is something that does come naturally to me. I’ve always been a sociable person, I have a lot of empathy and understanding for others because I’ve been through my fair share of turmoil. And I’m not phased by anyone. There was a time when I was starting out, where if I was interviewing a huge celebrity then I might be nervous and intimidated. But, the more you do these interviews, the more relaxed that you become as a host. Most people, I’m just eager and excited to talk to and learn about, so I just approach each conversation the same, regardless if it’s a more underground artist or an international icon. I approach everyone in the same way; with respect, and passion, and eagerness to learn but also a willingness to sit back and listen, and not talk over them. If you come at someone with this in mind, they should be fine and warm to you, unless they are an arsehole.

Who has been the prickliest person that you have interviewed?

Brian Fallon (Gaslight Anthem) was pretty spikey with me, and his interview is in the book. He is one of the few people that I wrote to, asking for their blessing to be in the book, and never heard back from. So I went ahead and used them anyway. With Brian it was weird, we had met at Reading Festival, had a great interview, then met up about six months later. We got off to an incredible start, the conversation was flowing, and because my show goes into the full extent of someone’s career in the allocated time, I was trying to get into the old Gaslight Anthem stories. He clearly didn’t want to go down that road, which was fine, but that’s such a big part of his life so it seemed strange to leave all of that out. I hadn’t been privy to the fact that he didn’t like talking about Gaslight Anthem, and maybe he hadn’t been prepped that my show is more of a life overview, so he just shut down to me. So I flipped it around and started talking about identity politics and it took him by surprise, he asked why we were talking about this, and I responded “well you clearly don’t want to talk about music, so I thought that we’d talk about something else”. And I think that he then realised that he was being spikey. I left this all in, I didn’t edit anything out, and that’s still one of the most listened to episodes.

He’s a great songwriter, I love all his music whether it’s Gaslight Anthem or his solo material. About two years after that interview Gaslight Anthem got back together again for an anniversary tour! And he is on record during the podcast as saying that he didn’t give a shit about Gaslight Anthem!

Excellent! Now, one of my favourite chapters in the book is ‘Hero’s heroes’, it’s a cliched question; but which chapter gave you the most pleasure when you read the book back?

They’re all very different, and I’ve been getting into individual chapters with different guests from the book. For instance, this week on Instagram I’ve been doing live chats as part of a virtual book tour, so I’ve been looking at individual chapters and there is a lot of difference between them. There are a lot of different tones and textures going on, which I’m really pleased with.

But my favourite, hands-down, is the ‘Life and death in the stocks chapter’ because I think that’s what showcases what is special, and unique about my show. We get into a lot in that chapter; addiction, feminism, the Me Too movement, surviving cancer. Really interesting, heavy-duty, but ultimately life-affirming and inspiring stuff. For me, this chapter is where you really uncover who these people are. When I read that chapter back I couldn’t believe that some of that stuff was in there.

That chapter is very raw, I’ve just finished reading Clem Burke talking about loss. But it’s also quite heart-warming in a strange way…

Yes, because it’s letting you know that you are not alone in the things that you are going through. It’s a fact of life, we all go through these things, and it defines who we are. The great surprise for me was the chat with Tom Green. Here’s this guy who is traditionally thought of as this wacky, shocking, silly comedian, but the stories that he talks about, in regards to his battles with cancer, are just incredible.

That part was quite difficult to read, likewise as is some of the chat with Jesse Leach from Killswitch Engage. Jesse plays quite an important role in the book, by offering up quotes about you for the press release. You’ve actually got two Jesse’s involved as Jess Malin provides the introduction to the book. It must be a great feeling when you have respected artists like these giving you such glowing references?

Yes, well the great joy and what I truly love about doing what I do, is very often the interviews that I do lead on to real-life, meaningful, long-lasting, true friendships. And both of the aforementioned Jesse’s I consider to be very dear friends and are people that I speak to regularly outside of work and music-related business. And that’s really cool. I never chased that or sought that, sometimes it just naturally evolves and these people become, fans of my work, which is mind-blowing to me, and listen to my show and are constantly messaging me saying that they heard the recent episode and they loved it. Those two, in particular, have been such great champions of the podcast and I feel very lucky to have them as close friends.

Another highlight of the book, for me personally, is the thread of conversations with one of my heroes – Steven Van Zandt.

Yes, he’s a walking encyclopedia of music history, isn’t he!

Yep! No matter how much you think you know about music, it all pales into insignificance compared to Steven Van Zandt. You just need to look at the music he put together for both The Sopranos and Lillyhammer TV shows…

Two great shows, we didn’t actually have time to go into his acting on the podcast, because we spent the entire hour talking about music, and his work with Springsteen. He’s someone that I’d love to interview again, there is a picture of me with Steven in the book, he’s exactly as you would hope and expect him to be. Totally down-to-earth, totally cool, and totally at ease with his fame. Really cool, and warm, and friendly. A great guy.

A true icon of music for sure, now lastly, one particular story in the book especially jumps out, quite a startling story, the one that Nick Oliveri repeats. You know the one that I mean don’t you…

I certainly do! It’s my favourite little story in the whole book. It’s so out there!

Exactly! I had to re-read it a few times just to make sure that I read it correctly. He was quoting Ginger Baker obviously, but it’s such an insane story…

I tried to make that story a little viral news bite so many times, but none of the websites would touch it. I guess that they were afraid because it involved Jimi Hendrix. With someone like Nick, I don’t know him well, but we spent an entire evening together over a bottle of Jack Daniels. Someone like Nick doesn’t need to lie or make up stories to get in the press, and I believe that story wholeheartedly. I think it’s a fucking wild story! Maybe the wildest story that I’ve ever been told, and you would think that Ginger Baker is capable of what is outlined in the story, especially if you have seen his documentary!

That story was the one-story, where I wrote to Nick to get his blessing for it to be in the book, and I thought that he would ask me to take it out. Obviously, this was a story that Ginger Baker told Chris Goss, and Chris told Nick, and I didn’t want to land Chris in the shit, but Nick was like; “…yeah dude, go ahead!”. So it went in, and I’m thrilled that you picked that one out because that one for me is the absolute nugget in the whole pile. I’ve googled that story, and can’t find it anywhere else, so that story is exclusive to my book!

 

If you want to find out what the story is that Nick Oliveri told, well you’re just going to have to buy the book! The perfect present for anyone remotely interested in the music business, or for that matter, anyone who likes a great read. Pre-order ‘Life In The Stocks: Veracious Conversations with Musicians & Creatives’ via Amazon here, or if you prefer a signed copy, then order it here.

Follow Matt on social media, here.

Interview – Dave

Matt Stocks photo – Dave Kai Piper

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