A CANDID INTERVIEW WITH A PERFECT CIRCLE’S MATT MCJUNKINS ON HOW HE GOT THE GIG AND TIPS ON HOW YOU CAN GET ONE TOO!
Well hello again!
I hope you’ve been enjoying everything I’ve been posting here today on Metalsucks.net. This next interview is really something I was beyond thrilled to be able to do!
A Perfect Circle is without a doubt one of my all-time favorite bands and are also a huge inspiration on myself as well as my own band, Vestascension. So, when Matt McJunkins agreed to do an interview with lil’ ol me, well, I basically soiled myself. Matt is a really awesome dude and everyone out there should give this a good read even if you’re not into any of the bands he’s involved with. He provides some very interesting insight into what it takes to land an audition and what to do and what not to do if you actually land one. Of course he also talks about his work in A Perfect Circle, Ashes Divide, Puscifer, 30 Seconds To Mars, and even gives a few details about his new project with Jeff Friedl.
Check it out below and if you’d like to know more about Matt click here to visit his official website.
You’ve had quite a spectacular rise in the industry over the last few years. You’re in I think 3 or 4 bands officially-you were in Ashes Divide, which evolved into being brought into Puscifer which evolved yet again into your slot in A Perfect Circle. As if that wasn’t enough you’ve been touring as the bassist in 30 Second To Mars AND you’ve recently announced that you’re doing a new music project with your APC/AD/Puscifer brother in arms Jeff Friedl. How the hell did all of this come about and how do you keep your brain together on a daily basis?
Matt: *laughs* It’s pretty much like you said. Ashes lead to Puscifer, Puscifer lead to A Perfect Circle and then into 30 Seconds To Mars earlier this year. Basically, I came out to L.A. to go to M.I. [Musicians Institute] and after I finished there I just started playing in bands. Through my projects I was in as a member and also as a session musician I was just picking up side-work and playing any style with whoever I could, really just trying to kind of spread my wings so-to-speak. I kind of dove head first into everything and I tried to take the biggest bite I could out of whatever I could get my hands on. I did that for a few years and played with a bunch of bands and then I got the call for Ashes from a guy at M.I. who basically puts together bands. People will just call him up and say “hey, Nine Inch Nails needs a new keyboard player” for example and yeah, he’s the guy that people call outside of their circle of friends if you want to call a guy that knows people and has a huge roster of musicians for whatever style you’re going for he’s the guy to call. Lucky for me I was on his list of people and yeah, I got the call for Ashes and went in and played with Billy [Howerdel] and Jeff and things were working out and yeah, it just kind of went from there.
That’s awesome! I’d like to know some more about your background. To most people who are just normal fans of a band that don’t really delve into the who’s what’s and when’s of a band that a nerd like I does, Ashes Divide, or maybe even A Perfect Circle, may have been the first time they’ve heard of you. However, you were doing a lot of stuff with bands prior to Ashes Divide-can you tell me some more about that?
Matt: Sure! I was playing more recently, before Ashes Divide, in a band called A.G.E.S.. You can check them out-unfortunately they’re not a band anymore, everyone just kind of disbanded but that was the last thing I’d been doing full-time prior to Ashes. I was also in a band called People before that, or during the same time, and also…….um…….honestly I just forget. It’s funny, I’ll run into people still and-I guess it’s something that happens a lot to people in L.A. that play music-but you’ll run into them and be like “oh yeah, we did this thing 5 years ago” and it was just like a one-off show or something.
That’s when you have to be like “oh hey….yoouuuu”.
Matt: *laughs* Yeah! There was a band called 6am Eternal which was this industrial thing I was involved with with a guy named David Nahmani who’s now a sought after Logic Pro teacher/writer. He’s like the Logic guru now so I’m lucky that I got to work with him because now when I have a stupid question with Logic I get to call him up and ask him. *laughs*
For someone out there reading this who wants to take a shot at joining a high profile project or someone that’s interested in becoming a session player what advice do you have for them in regards to the process it takes and to be taken seriously/have a shot at an audition?
Matt: I guess first-things-first be prepared more than anything. There’s nothing worse you can do than to show up for a show, a rehearsal, an audition, or anything and just not know your shit. That’s become a huge pet peeve of mine. In my experience it seems that if you come and you’re unprepared then you most likely won’t get the gig or even if you do get the gig you won’t be invited to do it the next time. That’s the main thing I think, just being prepared and researching who you’re going to play with. Find music that you really like and that you enjoy playing and it’ll show if you’re trying to play with those people. If you’re somebody that wants to play with say, a country band, and you go for a metal audition you’ll stick out and it’s probably pretty obvious that you don’t want to be there and if you don’t want to be there than they probably don’t want you to be there. *laughs* I know that’s obvious but I’ve seen it a ton of times. People just go into these things and you just know right away that it’s just not going to work out before they play a single note. I guess the other thing would be confidence, just being sure of yourself and knowing that you’re there to present yourself as best as you can-especially if it’s people who’ve never met you before who are seeing you for the first time and hearing you play for the first time. So yeah, make sure you sound good, you’re sure of yourself, your tones are all dialed in-but really that just goes under the same heading as being prepared.
So first impressions definitely are everything.
You mentioned something very interesting there about how you can tell the moment someone walks into the room if they’re going to workout or not. I’ve been playing in bands for well over 10 years now and I totally get that and it’s something that really interests me-a bands chemistry. For instance, Maynard [James Keenan] and Jared [Leto] are people that, and I’m trying to think of how to say this correctly, seem to have very strong personalities and personal identities. I’ve seen you play 9 shows with A Perfect Circle since you joined and one thing I’ve noticed is that the chemistry you have with Maynard, and actually with the entire band, seems to be very genuine and real. There’s not a coldness towards you like how it seems to be with a lot of bands that bring in the “new guy”-like a Jason Newsted thing. Since you’ve been going from band to band in that circle of musicians and just kind of jumping from one into the other you’re obviously highly praised and recommended. What I’d like to know is do you approach something like joining a band as huge as A Perfect Circle or jumping in for live shows with a band like 30 Seconds To Mars from a “I’m going to be quiet, play great, and know my place” perspective or do you just dive right in and just be yourself and these guys just end up loving you cause you’re really just that fucking awesome of a dude?
Matt: *laughs* Definitely not the latter *laughs*. No, that’s actually a good point. People don’t think about that a lot of times and that’s a big part of it, having chemistry and getting along. Even if you’re a great player that can aesthetically fit into the band and sound great but you don’t get along or maybe all the guys in the band are into one thing-it could be a drug issue or an alcohol issue or whatever-that’s always a big thing. Nobody ever wants to deal with anybody that has a problem that inhibits them from performing and doing their job. That aside I guess you have to be yourself. If you’re gonna be around people for months at a time you want to be comfortable and make sure you’re not getting into a situation that you’re going to find yourself not liking down the road. I’ve been very fortunate with both of those bands that yeah, we do get along. I think everybody kind of has a similar sensibility, everyone’s really cool around each other. There’s no drama or any of that typical bullshit you hear about happening with bands. Maybe it’s because everyone’s kind of been doing it for a while and they’ve seen what’s happened to other bands that have sort of self-imploded. You just kind of know what to do. You keep your space when it’s necessary but you’re always friends and yeah, I think that’s a big part of it. Playing with A Perfect Circle I’d already played with Ashes Divide for awhile and Puscifer so I already knew Billy and Maynard then later I met Josh [Freese] a couple times and James [Iha] before we started getting together. So yeah, that was actually a pretty comfortable fit for me since I kind of knew everybody already and a lot of the crew is the same too for Puscifer and A Perfect Circle, they kind of share some of the same key people that help out and go out on the road with us so it wasn’t a fish out of water feeling at all-I felt right at home. Plus I’ve been listening to that band for 10 years or so so I was already pretty familiar with all the material. *laughs*
You know, I think a lot of times things get really hyped up on the internet with these forums and whatnot where all these rumors spread. Everyone seems to think they know someone and they just form these opinions based off of something they’ve read somewhere else or something they’ve heard someone say without there being any kind of facts to back any of it up-it’s pure hearsay. Axl Rose is a good example, you know? You read all these wild stories and rumors online about how he’s a dick and he’s crazy, etc. but then I read interview after interview with people that actually are close to him and that work with him on a daily basis and they always say the same thing-that he’s really a great guy and that for them he’s always been easy to work with. Maynard and Jared are both the same kind of thing in the sense that all these random people online seem to be certain they know all this personal shit about them and will say “oh he’s this way” or “oh he did this” or “my brothers girlfriends second cousin met them and this happened” or whatever. The result from that is so many people read this shit and just believe it and all of a sudden it’s become accepted as a truth when in reality it could be the furtherest thing from it. Do you find that a lot of that shit just does get so overhyped and then once you end up meeting some of these people or going in to work with them they end up just being really genuine and down to earth?
Matt: Yes, and it’s unfortunate that that happens and you see it happen a lot. WIth anybody, a musician or anyone that’s in the eye of the public what-so-ever anything they do is completely scrutinized which I think is a sad waste of time honestly. Say someone like, I don’t know, Brad Pitt. One day someone asks for his autograph and he’s like “oh man I’m so sorry, I’m in a huge rush to get home” or whatever then the next day there’s an article about him being an asshole. I definitely see that kind of thing, these crazy extremes that people make up and they just kind of go off on these tangents and other people read it and they take it to heart. I think that’s kind of how those things happen. You have all these publications out there that are devoted to those things, almost solely, which is such a waste I think. It think it’s kind of just part of our nature, people always want to know what someone’s “really like” and often if they read something about them they just assume that it’s true. Either they want to believe it or they choose not to, you know-it goes either way-you can take it or leave it. I don’t know if that answers your question or not *laughs*.
Yeah, it definitely does. It’s like you said, you know, that one day he’s in a rush and who knows what’s going on in his personal life, he could have just go into a fight with his wife, his kid could be really sick, whatever-people just don’t know. I think a lot of it is also in the way you approach someone. Trent Reznor is another one that always has this crazy hype online “oh man he’s angry, he’s a dick” or “he won’t even talk to you” and I actually have been fortunate enough to meet him and talk with him in person a couple times which was crazy as he’s one of my absolute heros and I also have met Maynard before and chatted with him briefly and they both really couldn’t have been any nicer. Maybe I just met them on a great day but they both were just so kind. I mean, Trent talked for a while and was very nice, really soft spoken, and even seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say and like I said, Maynard was really nice too. I approached them though being really calm and collected but I see all these other people-most people in fact-that are just like “OHHH OMG IT’S TRENT-AHHHHHH OMG OMG OMG!!” and their arms are like flaying around their head as they scream and run in circles around them and I can just see how that wouldn’t go over well.
Matt: *laughs* Yeah, I mean come on, I think that would freak anybody out.
Yeah, without a doubt. You know, one thing you’d mentioned a while back here that kind of leads into my next question. It’s something you’d actually said to me when we met in San Francisco last year and it kind of stuck with me. You know, you’d said that you were such a fan of A Perfect Circle prior to even meeting any of the guys. For myself, being a musician, I just cannot imagine what it’d be like to join one of my favorite bands-which A Perfect Circle absolutely is-and I’m sure tons of the readers of this site couldn’t imagine it either so I’d like to know-as a fan of the band how did it feel first when you were asked and/or when you knew you had a chance to be in the band/audition for A Perfect Circle or whatever and then how did it feel once you knew you actually had the spot? Did you do anything to celebrate?
Matt: Um *laughs* not really. It was really kind of a gradual thing, it wasn’t like an audition process where it was like a “come in and play with the band and we’ll see how it goes” kind of thing. In the fall of 2010 the band got back together to do that short two and a half week run-you know the 5 city thing where they were doing 3 nights in each city playing one album in full each night. Prior to that they were trying to figure out how to do that, the set up, who’s gonna be involved, etc. and I think pretty much everyone was invited back that had been in that camp before and I think it just happened that for the bass position I was the only one that was available as it turned out. I think Billy had me in mind to be involved anyway, even if everyone else was going to do it I think I was going to do a small part of it but it just kind of became this gradual thing. It was like “hey man, Paz [Lenchantin] isn’t available soooo we want you to do ‘Mer De Noms’ night” and I was like “ok”. *laughs* Then after I got working on that stuff and the “eMotive” stuff it was like “hey uhhhhh, I just talked to Jeordie [White], he’s not gonna be able to do it so why don’t you just do the whole thing” and it was like “ok”. *laughs* That was pretty much it more or less, it wasn’t a super crazy audition process. So yeah, that’s how I found out and I was definitely excited! Honestly, I don’t remember, I don’t really think I did anything to celebrate. I think actually Billy joked-we’d been hanging out and we’d gone to see a show-it was Carina Round [also sings with Puscifer] actually-and we’re hanging out at Billy’s place later that night and he was like “yeah, I just told Matt he’s gonna be doing all this stuff and he just totally sat there and was like ‘whatever'”. *laughs* The guys just didn’t know how to react, it was just like ok, well…you know, I was a huge fan and I’d been playing with those guys and it kind of made sense. I was kind of hoping that it would sort of happen in the back of my mind, I was like “ok, just be patient and maybe this will somehow work out in your favor” and it ended up that yeah, it did! So I just kind of went like “ok, well that worked out and now I’ve got to learn a shit-load of music and get ready for this tour” because there wasn’t a whole lot of time, and well, that was it.
Awesome man, that’s just awesome. Ok, moving on here, you’ve announced this other project you’re going to be doing with Jeff Friedl but not a lot has been said about it. Can you give a few details on it? Is it just going to be you two or are you going to be bringing in some guest musicians? What’s it going to sound like, do you have any idea yet?
Matt: Yeah, well, I don’t want to give too many details because honestly we’re still trying to figure it out. It’s been a slow process in that we weren’t really sure what we wanted it to be at first. It just kind of started when Jeff and I, you know, we’d been playing together in Ashes Divide and then we had to get together when Puscifer first went out in 2009 and actually before that we did 3 shows in Vegas in February and then a couple shows in L.A. in April of 2009, and we had to get together and find a way to reinterpret most of the Puscifer catalog at that point and, you know, figure out how we were going to bring those songs to life. Maynard had a bunch of ideas and kind of loose directions at that point and just kind of said “yeah, try some stuff and just see what happens” so Jeff and I sort of took on this task of doing that. We just started getting in a room together and working on stuff-just bass and drums-and so we started doing that and giving ideas to Maynard and he’d either like them or not, for whatever reason, and the ones that didn’t work we were just like “what are we going to do with those, cause we like them”. Jeff and I just kind of had an immediate chemistry together as far as working on music and just had a similar direction and similar taste in what we thought was cool or not. So we just kept doing it and worked out all the Puscifer stuff for tour and then later on we just kind of slowly started to take those ideas that we had and we weren’t really sure, we thought “well maybe these can be future Puscifer ideas” so we started working on them then we’d think “well, maybe they can be Ashes ideas, who knows?!”. We were just doing it and then after awhile we kind of realized that this stuff we had been working on wouldn’t really fit either band so we just decided why not give it a go ourselves so now we’re just getting pretty close to finalizing some things but we’re still in sort of, infant stages with things. We’ll definitely keep people posted as more develops. Hopefully by the end of this year or early next year we’ll actually be releasing some stuff. It’s not a full band like you guessed, it’s just me and Jeff. He and I are writing things but we’ll also have guests come in and sing or play guitar or whatever, some different productions, producers, some different situations, different styles. We’re just trying to keep it open at this point. I think for now we’re just trying to focus on a group of songs and actually finish them so we have an initial thing to put out and as that goes we’ll kind of just see what happens and continue from there. I’m actually really excited about it, there’s something cool about just letting loose on your own ideas and just being like “oh I always wanted to play this song in a band…oh wait…why don’t we have our own band and we’ll just play whatever we want”. *laughs* It seemed kind of obvious.
Well I’m totally looking forward to hearing that! Thank you so much Matt for taking the time to do this interview!
Matt: Of course!
Is there anything you’d like to say before we go?
Matt: Congrats on winning the contest man, that sounds like a lot of fun!
Thanks man, I appreciate that.
Matt: Yeah man, of course!