Matt Wieder's discography is as diverse as it is deep. Throughout his musical career, the guitarist (and sometimes vocalist) has played hardcore (Mouthpiece, Miracle Drug), melodic rock (Automatic), moody post-hardcore (Frontier(s)), punk (The Enkindels), and experimental, Dischord-ish bands (Guilt). As of late, Matt has been focusing his energy on Miracle Drug, a band that also includes musicians who have been in such bands as By the Grace of God and Supertouch.
With Miracle Drug's debut EP, How Much Is Enough, arriving in stores this month, I figured it was about time I chatted with Matt about his life and years playing music.
Tell me a bit about your upbringing.
I moved a lot as a kid. My elementary/junio high school years we're spent in the Washington D.C. area. I lived in both Northern Virginia and Maryland. When I was 12 we moved to Orange County, NY which is roughly 70 miles north of NYC. We moved a handful of times in my teenage years, so I ended up going to three different high schools in the area. That actually ended up being kinda cool because I pretty much knew everyone my age in the entire county. My mom married a couple of different times during my childhood, so I grew up with a couple of different step dads. I had a lot of freedom growing up, which was cool because it allowed me to experience a lot of different things and travel around for shows, skating and snowboarding, etc.
When did music begin to matter to you? Did that happen at a young age, or was it during your teen years?
Music had had a pretty heavy impact on me very early on. There was a lot of rock music being played in my house and some of my earliest memories are listing to things like Zeppelin, Sabbath, the Stones, etc. I used to really dig In-A-Gadda-da-Vida by Iron Butterfly. I remember having my step dad put it on a blank tape for me so I could listen to it on my crappy little handheld tape recorder. The first records I remember asking my mom to buy me were Joan Jett's I Love Rock-N-Roll and Joe Jackson's Night and Day. This was probably 1982, so I was around 8.
What was your introduction to hardcore and punk music? Did you have a mentor showing you the ropes, or did you discover that world on your own?
My early exposure to punk rock was from some older kids that lived in my neighborhood in Herndon, VA. All the kids hung around together, regardless of age. It was sort of like that Matt Dillion movie, Over the Edge. Kids hun out riding BMX bikes, skateboarding, etc. There was one older kid named Chris who road a moped and always wore a Cramps shirt. I remember hanging out in his basement and he played us The Let Them Eat Jellybeans comp. I was probably around 10 or 11 at this point. At that same time I was super into metal. Stuff like Dio, Iron Madien, Judas Priest. WASP, and KISS. There was a 7-Eleven near my house and I would go up there and buy metal magazines. I don't remember exactly which magazine it was, but one of them had an SST ad in it. So the next time my mom took me to the record store I was flipping through the metal records and I stumbled upon Black Flag. I ended up getting my mom to buy me Slip It In, which is pretty ridiculous in retrospect. I just assumed Black Flag was a regular metal band, but when I played that record my mind was blown. Of course the title track appealed to my adolescent mind, but I totally remember flipping out over the guitar playing. I had never heard anything like that and I was hooked.
What were some of the early shows you went to?
So even though I was pretty heavily into music from an early age, I didn't really start seeing live bands until much later. Once my friends we're driving age we really just drove around skateboarding. I don't think there was much happening in Orange County, NY show wise and it never really occurred to us that we could go to the city to skate or see bands. Looking back it seems stupid, but that's how it was. I first started going to hardcore shows when I met this guy Jay Horton. His girlfriend went to my High School and I think she told him there was a kid at her school who liked Gorilla Biscuits and ALL, or something. Anyway, he ended up coming over to my house one day, looking through the stuff that I had and then bringing me records to listen to. He started taking me with him to record stores like Trash American Style in Danbury, CT. The first show he took me to was 7 Seconds and Quicksand at The Moon in New Haven. After that we started going to shows all the time, mostly in Connecticut and New Jersey. I saw Bad Religion, Eye for an Eye, Another Wall, The Icemen, No Escape all in CT. We would also go to Middlesex and City Gardens in NJ where I saw Ressurection, Mouthpiece, Vision, Flagman, Endpoint, Samiam, 4 Walls Falling, UpFront, Supertouch, Sick of it All, Lifetime and a ton more all within that first year or so of going to shows.
When and how did you meet Tim McMahon and the rest of the guys that formed Mouthpiece?
So after I graduated High School, I moved to NYC. I was trying to start a band and I had put up a flyer in Reconstruction Records. [Fountainhead/Texas Is the Reason bassist] Scott Winegard ended up calling me. I think because I listed Turning Point as an influence on the flyer or something. This was after Fountainhead had broken up and before Texas is the Reason. Scott was trying to form a band with the guys from Another Wall and Brian from Another Wall's roommate was this girl Mel Gooch. Mel and I started dating and she was pretty good friends with Tim and his now wife, Traci. I'm not sure how I found out they needed a guitar player, but somehow I ended up trying out. I took the train down to Trenton and jammed with them. I remember after we were done they all went into the other room and then the drummer came back in and said: "Get an amp and you're in."
You played on Mouthpiece’s Face Tomorrow EP that New Age Records released in 1995. Did you do any touring with the band?
Yeah, we did a full East Coast tour and then a shorter West Coast tour. Back at that time it seemed like we were playing shows every single weekend. I'm pretty sure the line up that played on the Face Tomorrow 7" is the line up that played the most Mouthpiece shows together. When they first starting doing reunions they asked me to be a part but at that time I wasn't really able to take the time off work. Since then, though, things have changed and I've played all the shows we've done for the last 6-7 years.
In 1996 you moved to Louisville, KY and then joined The Enkindels. What brought on the move and how long did it take for you to feel truly settled there?
Well, I didn't really move out here to join The Enkindels. I was growing tired of living in NYC and Mouthpiece had just come back from California. Things were a little strained in Mouthpiece at the time with our other guitar player, Chris [Schuster], so Tim and I had been talking with our roadie, Ed McKirdy, about starting band with him after the tour was over. After we got back home, I just decided that I wanted to get away from the East Coast. Initially, I wanted to move to California, but I quickly figured out I didn't have the money to do that. I had been to Louisville before to hang out with the Endpoint guys and I really liked the city, so I decided to just move there. I arranged to move into Endpoint's manager/roadie Andy Tinsley's basement. A couple of days after, I talked to Andy about moving out there. Duncan Barlow called me and asked if I wanted to join Guilt. I was like " uh… of course I do." I sent the next few weeks in NYC learning the Guilt songs on my own and then when I got to Louisville we practiced a couple times and turned right back around and played Syracuse and New Jersey.
I love Guilt, especially the Further EP.
I helped write the songs on Further. We were actually writing a full-length record. That summer after moving down here, Guilt and Enkindel did a tour together. There was a pretty stark contrast in the personalities of the two bands. We we're all friends but the EK guys were a lot more happy-go-lucky, while the Guilt camp was way more serious and coming from a much darker place. I was kinda naturally drawn to the EK side of things. I like Duncan and we are totally cool now, but we butted heads more than once on that tour and it became pretty clear that it was going to be difficult for us to play in that band together.
I don't have many regrets in life but honestly, not figuring out how to get throughout that and stay in Guilt is one of them. I think we were on the path to making a pretty incredible record and it would have been cool to see that through. I like Further but it's really just kind of a shell of what it could have been had the band stayed together, gone to a better studio and really given the songs and ideas the time, money and effort they deserved.
How would you describe The Enkindels? I never saw the band live, but from the sound of the records, I would think it was a ton of fun to play in that band.
I always describe EK as a traveling circus more than a band. Even though I like the music we made, it was almost secondary to just driving around and having as much fun as possible. One thing I didn't really count on was how many people hate fun. We had this whole gimmick at the time where we would present ourselves as being a huge rock band even though we were playing basements and VFW halls. I thought it was so over the top that it would be obvious, but a lot of people took us seriously. We were literally doing stuff that Morris Day and the Time did in Purple Rain: Bringing a mirror out on stage for Brickey to comb his hair in, choreographed stage moves, etc. It was just totally goofy shit. I think we thought of ourselves as entertainers more than a band. All that being said it was definitely some of the most fun I ever had in music.
Around the same time you played in Automatic along with Evan and Ryan Patterson, and someone you’ve collaborated with many times throughout the years, Thommy Browne.
When I first moved to Louisville, I had been friends with Thommy Browne for a while already. At that time everybody called him "Thommy Edge." Louisville was a pretty insular place at that time and Thommy was one of the few people in town that was into a lot of the hardcore that was happening outside of Louisville. It didn't take long for him and I to start a band together. Automatic started with just me and him. I've always been a rocker at heart and I really loved melodic hardcore like Dag Nasty. We recorded that first 7" with just the two of us and we asked Ryan Patterson to join later on because he was into the same kind of stuff. When I asked him if he knew anyone to play bass, he suggested his younger brother, Evan. We put their names on the record before we had even practiced with them. It was actually pretty funny because when we drove down to Ryan's parent's house to practice with them for the first time it was right after the record came out and I remember showing them the 7" with their names on it before we had ever played a note of music with them. Ryan ended up staying in the band from that point on. I can only remember Evan playing one show with us, the first Krazy Fest. He might have played more than that, but my memory is fuzzy.
Did you have any reservations fronting Automatic? Singing can be such a vulnerable thing.
Not really. I had sang for other bands before. Nothing that had released anything, but I was pretty comfortable with the mic in my hand. I'm still not really sure what to do when I'm not singing though.
Something that I have to ask you about here is your time working at Initial Records. I remember getting the catalog and picking up so many records back in the ‘90s. What did you do there, and for how long?
Working at Initial was pretty awesome. I mean what is better than being in your early 20s, playing in a band and working at a hardcore record label. I was the person that packed all the mail orders and I also did some of the college radio stuff for a while. If your order was big enough, you may have a party polaroid with me in the photo and if you order was messed up… I was probably out sick that day [laughs].
Frontier(s) is a more recent band you play in with Chris Higdon (Falling Forward, Elliott). I think of the stuff you’ve released to date, the White Lights EP is my favorite. It must be really satisfying to perform melodic music like that again.
Frontier(s) is one of my favorite bands that I've been in. I was a big Falling Forward fan back in the day, so it's awesome to get to play music with Chris. I love making melodic music and Higdon is one of the best one comes to that. I'm really proud of the stuff we've put out and even though we aren't really active right now, hopefully we'll be able to do more records in the future.
That brings us to Miracle Drug, another band you currently play in which features musicians who have been in such bands as Supertouch, C.R., and By the Grace of God.
I've always loved playing hardcore. I recently told someone, "I love a lot of different kinds of music, but I don't love any of them the way I love hardcore." Thommy and I have actually tried to start a new hardcore band a few different times over the last 10 years, but we could never manage to put a full line up together. When we found out our friend Jeremy, who plays bass in Supertouch was moving back to Louisville, the idea to try and start another band came back to the forefront. One of the main sticking points about doing a new band for me was that I wasn't interested in being a "reunion" type band. I didn't want be that "old guy" band that plays bar-core. If we were going to do it, I wanted to be a part of the current scene. I didn't even care if they didn't like us, I just wanted to play shows for people that were living it everyday. I wanted to feel the energy in the room, even if that energy had nothing to do with us. When we found out that Bricks from C.R. was living in Louisville, Thommy brought him up as a possible singer.
At first I was hoping to have a younger guy front the band. I wanted a frontman that would bring energy and fire. I had played shows with C.R. back in the day, but I didn't really have good memory of Bricks as a frontman. I ended up watching a video of a C.R. reunion show in 2009 and when Bricks hit the stage it was like a bomb went off. I remember thinking, "Ok… maybe we don't need a young guy." We brought Bricks in to jam with us and it was pretty much perfect from jump. We had sent him a practice tape of one song that we had. He walked in and didn't really say much. He opened up like a Trapper Keeper or something, put a bunch of paper on the floor and then said something like, "Is it cool if I just start singing right at the beginning of the song?" I said "sure." Thommy counted it off and he proceeded to just rip into exactly what you hear vocally on the song "Frozen" from our first record. Pretty much from that point forward we've been full steam ahead. The shows we've played have been great, the response has been great, we've already done more that I ever thought we would and there are no signs of slowing down.
Miracle Drug will release its debut EP, How Much Is Enough, with WAR Records, a label owned by Strife guitarist Andrew Kline.
I've known Andrew for a long time. Mouthpiece and Strife played together a lot back in the day. We we're all pretty stoked when he offered to put out our new record. It's cool to work with someone that you already know has an idea of where you are coming from. The EP is coming out on July 21 and we're totally excited to finally get these new songs out there. It's cool because the EP is coming out and then the next weekend we are playing This is Hardcore and one of the after shows with Kill Your Idols. It's going to be a pretty cool couple of weeks for the band.
Outside of music, what else is keeping you busy these days? I know you’re a fellow family man.
Yeah, we have a blended family, so there are four kids in the house and the definitely keeps me busy.
If you had to pick one band (genre doesn’t matter) that you feel is criminally underrated, who would it be and why?
When it comes to hardcore, I would say Forced Down is probably the most underrated band. Pretty much everything they ever did rips but for some reason they don't have the same legacy that a lot of contemporaries do.
Outside of hardcore I think Superdrag is insanely underrated. John Davis is one of the best power pop songwriters of all time. All of their records are great and his new band, The Lees of Memory, is awesome, too.
Miracle Drug's How Much Is Enough EP will be out on July 21 via WAR Records and can be pre-ordered here.