Alternative Press interview with Matt Sharp - September 2006
LOOKING BACK WITH FORMER WEEZER BASSIST MATT SHARP
How do you feel about this album being labeled as influential?
I can’t be anything but flattered. If people are listening to anything I’m doing and feeling similar feelings I felt about other artists, I just take it as flattering and feel very lucky.
What was the feeling in the band when you made Pinkerton?
It’s interesting, because the memory is very selective, and I tend to focus on the really positive aspects of any collaborative experience I was involved in. But I can’t remember, when thinking about the beginning of recording, if we had any sort of outside voice that was guiding us or giving us advice that we could lean on. Or if we were getting that advice, I don’t know if we were listening to it. Because we started straight after touring for about two years off the first album. We just got to that point where we had toured so much off the Blue Album just to get it on its feet, and when the record started to have some success, that became our starting point. We just kept going and going and going. We went straight from relentless touring into the studio. And I’m not sure if we had the proper guidance around us to say, “Y’know, this is probably not a good idea. You should all take a moment for yourselves and just breathe.” We went straight into it, and it was far too soon. The beginnings of recording that album had that sense. There was a tragic element to it. I don’t think we collectively took the proper amount of time to decide where we wanted to go. We just jumped into the ocean, and from what I remember, there was quite a bit of tension, and we weren’t in the right mindset. Collectively, we didn’t have a real good sense of what we were getting ourselves into.
We started at the same studio we recorded the Blue Album in, in New York. I remember doing one version of “Tired Of Sex” and a few other things, and we quickly found out, “Oh, we need to take a break.” Those things are never points of regret for me; that’s just how you learn. We didn’t have anybody—well, it’s possible people were telling us to take a break, but it’s possible we were at the point where we just couldn’t hear them anymore. Because we just marched straight into it and found out for ourselves.
Are you surprised at the record’s longevity?
I don’t mean to be misleading, because that record was the first of many records for me where the actual experience of making the record had an arc and a life of its own. We went through a much bigger arc making that record as growing together and learning and going through the trials of learning about life and getting life lessons. There’s no way to do that without having some hardship. But there was also some really beautiful moments making that record that have carried on with us throughout all of our lives. Some of my most positive experiences of making records were in that process—it was just a little bit down the line, after we re-approached the album and what we wanted to do. In many ways, it was the most collaborative experience we had together. It’s something we took on as a real group; it was the first time Brian really had a chance to have a legitimate voice in the group, and for me, it was the first time I had some confidence in my abilities to play in a style that came naturally to me with how we approached the bass. Out of all the albums we’ve ever done, that one was by far the most enjoyable as far as doing the bass lines. I really felt very invested in that process. There was some great moments with that album that showed “Oh, you can start a record and jump into it and not having put enough thought into it and go through all those different struggles and parts of the process of what hurdles you have to get over and you learn together collectively and ultimately really benefit from it.” We definitely did it with that album, for better or for worse. I always sympathize with people who are in similar positions. We didn’t really have any, because of the success of the first album, no one was going to say, “You can’t do this.” Everyone who surrounded us was probably just too inebriated by the success of the Blue Album to give us any sort of real criticism that we would take as valid. We really just went about doing it the best way we knew how to do it, and people just sort of let us go. I think that aspect of the record is very liberating.
How involved were you in the writing process of the songs?
Theres’s no denying that Rivers is, has been and always will be the creative center of what we were. But with that record, I really feel it was a very collaborative experience. Everybody involved—Pat and Brian and Rivers and some of the people who were close to us—had quite an influence on the overall outcome of how the album sounds, and how the album was arranged, and why it has that emotional resonance with people.
For me, I hadn’t listened to the album in quite some time, and when I went home for Christmas last year, someone gave me an iPod, and one of the first things put on there was [Pinkerton], and I hadn’t heard it in nearly 10 years. The feeling I took from it was a sense of liberation. I feel that the reins were not being pulled in on us, and that is part of the benefit of jumping into something without thinking about it too much. The ambitiousness of the playing really struck me as how loose it is. It sounds not progressive in the big sense, but relatively for us. Like, “Wow, that bass is moving around a lot!” [Laughs.] Especially compared to what we started from. “There seems to be a bass solo in every song!” [Laughs.] “How did we even get to that place to where we thought that’s where we should be going?”
Do you think the record failed?
Well, I don’t look at things in those terms too often. Yesterday, I had a brief moment to speak with Rivers’ mother just as I was leaving his wedding, and she seems to be such a pure soul. And we talked about the impact we’ve had on each others’ lives. Those things you carry into your everyday life, those are just life lessons that stay with you that you learn from and grow from. And the making of Pinkerton certainly has been something that I’ve learned from, that I definitely feel has affected the next step, which has affected the next step… So those things to me can be nothing but—failures and successes are all sort of equal to me. The difficult times of making that album are the challenges that helped you grow and make you a stronger person.
Without the Blue Album’s success, we wouldn’t have taken the next step to making the reactive record that Pinkerton was and taken off more than we could chew and learn how to produce a record, and if we hadn’t done that, I probably wouldn’t have gone onto produce the next Rentals record.
Do you have a favorite song on Pinkerton?
Well, when I think of that record, the one song I always think about is the one song I didn’t play on—that I didn’t have anything to do with—which was the last song on the album. I just remember we were all staying at a hotel while recording, and Rivers brought a recording he had done with Karl [Koch, band companion] playing this floor tom for “Butterfly.” He came to me to get my take on it, and to ask if we should include it on the album, even though, Pat, Brian and I weren’t on the recording. As soon as I heard that song, it spoke to me as the song that summed up the overall emotions of the whole album, even though most of us weren’t a part of it. I remember expressing to Rivers as directly as I could that that song was essential to be on the record. There’s times where I really try to convey to him the real respect and admiration for what he does and what, to me, resonates with me the deepest, and that song has that emotional weight. With anybody that does something really well, I always think that even it’s something that’s very far from what you do—like if it’s Eddie Izzard dressing up in drag and telling a historical joke in some way that it’s just mind-blowing to David Lee Roth doing the splits off the drum riser. Those things may not be things you do well, but it’s still something I can recognize.
Were you kicked out of Weezer, or did you leave of your own accord?
Well, again, the memory is selective, but I seem to recall the other three guys coming up to me and telling me I was fired.
What was your last show?
We played a benefit concert for those girls [Weezer fan club presidents Mykel, Carli and Trista Allen, who died en route to a Weezer concert —ed], and that was the end of the band, in that incarnation. [That show] really closed the book on that era.
Pinkerton eventually went gold in 2001; where do you have your gold record hanging?
[Laughs.] I have a Canadian gold record for Pinkerton hanging in my guest room right now… I think my U.S. gold record is in storage somewhere in my sister’s house in Virginia, along with my [MTV] Moon Man.
- Heisel, Scott. "LOOKING BACK WITH FORMER WEEZER BASSIST MATT SHARP". Alternative Press, September 2006. p. 115
- Heisel, Scott. "I’m ready, let’s do it baby." Alternative Press. 21 August 2010. https://www.altpress.com/contributors/im_ready_lets_do_it_baby/