Pandemic Profile: Matthew Morales (Words of Fire Hardcore Zine/Label)

Well, no one expected 2020 to be the nightmare of a year that it ended up becoming. Hardcore had a lot of energy and you were seeing a new crop of bands starting to really build momentum. Then the pandemic hit.

Everyone's lives were impacted to different degrees and it was a year of many obstacles. These are conversations with strangers, acquaintances, and friends about the pivotal year and moving forward.

Welcome to the Pandemic Profiles.

Introduce yourself to the readers, where you live, and your affiliation to hardcore.

What’s poppin! My name is Matthew and I run Words of Fire—a hardcore fanzine/label. I currently live in the beautiful Northwest, but I’m originally from Southern California. 

Since we both live in Idaho; I’m in Boise, do you find it’s hard enough getting connected to hardcore and what’s it like being involved in hardcore out that way? For anyone who’s unfamiliar with you/Words of Fire, please give them a quick rundown of what brought you to the NW/your backstory.

Well, I moved to Northern Idaho with my family at a young age. Anyone unfamiliar with Northern Idaho, hardcore is basically non-existent out here. I got into it the same way a lot of people my age; I’m 21, did.

La Dispute was my favorite band—which led me to find Defeater—which led me to find Bridge 9 Records—which led me to Have Heart—and the rest is history. 

I owe a great deal of gratitude to the people that put on shows in Spokane, WA when I was in high school. It wasn’t often, but seeing Ingrown in some random house in an area I’ve never been to, Safe and Sound, The Scare... those shows had practically no one there but they really made me appreciate hardcore and want to be involved. Which is why I started WOF, it gives me a way to contribute when I can’t physically be there.

How was your 2020 going prior to the pandemic hitting? Hit any cool shows or anything worth mentioning?

Straight up I couldn’t even tell you what I was doing then it’s all a blur [laughs]. Definitely no shows at all last year, I did go on a couple (safe) road trips which is always dope. Ate some amazing vegan food and hit up a museum with an exhibit dedicated to horror and screen used props in Seattle.

I visited the Twin Peaks town, which was a seriously amazing experience.

Photo: Don Detrick

I remember when cases were first starting to pop up in the US, I don't know if anyone thought it would sweep through as fast as it did, or maybe they did and no one wanted to admit it, either way, do you remember what you're thinking or feeling when everything went into lock down? How was your smaller area of Idaho handling it?

I remember feeling kind of anxious. Not because I was scared of the virus itself, but more so the public panic. I mean walking through the grocery store and everything being gone was surreal. Talks about closing the border to Washington, schools closing down, 24/7 stores closing.

I had never experienced anything like it so I think everyone else’s worries seeped into me. I can’t say things were handled well up here but I always can’t say they were bad.

Nowadays, it seems like there’s a pretty even split with people wearing masks which is frustrating, but I just keep mine on and mind my business. 
It seemed like when folks were on lockdown, there was a huge burst in folks buying physical media with the extra free time and a way to support labels/bands etc they fuck with. Did you find yourself falling into that habit?
Sort of.. I’ve always had that mindset where I want to support stuff I think is cool so that didn’t really change. I did however get into more non-hardcore hobbies like collecting horror figures and soundtracks, so more of the same just a different focus. 

Despite the inability to tour, we still saw a ton of awesome records come out in 2020, what were some of your personal favorites and why?
Although a ton of cool stuff dropped, not much comes to mind which can probably be attributed to me feeling disinterested with a lot last year.

Seed of Pain for reviving hardcore pride, One Scene Unity compilation for showcasing real deal hardcore, Drain for simply being a fun band, Apsara for writing perfect hardcore music, Sunami for not taking themselves seriously, Madhouse for dropping probably my fav demo of the year, and the new Gridiron.

I’d like to see more demos in 2021. I miss demo core!

I know at the beginning of 2020, Words of Fire had an issue come out if I recall? And you had the Polarized tape drop, did the pandemic affect how you handled the zine?

Yep! One issue to be exact, #7.5, which featured Sunami, Gulch, and Ingrown. If anything all it did was slow me down. Not much happened within hardcore to give me the inspiration to make more zines, but it came at a good time because I was feeling maaad burnt out on making them. It gave me a much needed break.

I should really start a new issue huh…

Personally, I used 2020 to rediscover or connect with older releases/bands that either hadn’t clicked for me before, or I just hadn’t had a chance to really sit with. Did you find yourself diving into older music/bands and finding a new appreciation or fondness for it? What band(s) or album(s)?
I know I’m insanely late to the game, but fuckin’ Metallica, man! I grew up with them as background music in the household cause my dad was/is a metalhead (foo has seen Hatebreed like 10 times and randomly put on Division of Mind one time? I was like what the hell!?) but due to that I just never gave them a real listen.

Until one of the aforementioned road trips. I slapped Ride the Lightning on and man did it click. I was drivin 100 mph pretending I was in a movie or some shit.

Some other stuff I got into heavily were Grimlock's Thirst for Immortality, Withstand's Light of a New Day, Deicide's first album, which I already loved but it just got bumped way more, and I spent a lot of time with Roy Orbison. Movie scores were heavily spun as well. 
2020 was a huge year in terms of human rights with the upswing in Black Lives Matter movement, the election year, and the pandemic in general and how it’s highlighted and put more focus on many problems in the United States.

Living in a small town in Northern Idaho which in itself has some really bad history with racism & what not, how was being out that way in 2020? I imagine there was some real morons doing some real stupid uneducated and misguided bullshit. Anything you'd like to share or talk about? Feel free.
It fuckin' sucked to put it simply. It’s exactly what you’re thinking: dudes dressed head to toe in gear, decked out with guns, protecting little downtown from Antifa [laughs]! Anti Mask protests, White Lives/Blue Lives Matter nonsense, just every embarrassing headline personified. 
Being that you’re living in an area that doesn’t really get tours & it’s quite the drive to hit shows, did 2020 personally feel much different than any other year?
Nope this is completely normal to me! I was talking to Garrett from Point of Contact about this a while ago and I was saying this is just how hardcore is for me.

No shows, and when there is one you either have to fly to it, or put hella hours in driving to get there. Which I’m used to at this point—it’s just interesting seeing other people react to it. [Laughs] I made a joke last year and called the pandemic “Idaho Hardcore Simulator.”

I know I found myself watching way more movies and TV in 2020 since I was at home so much like everyone else. I also know you’re a big horror movie fan and I always see the stuff you’re watching on Letterboxd, what horror movies did you watch for the first time in 2020 that made your brain just explode?
Oh man, so many! Eraserhead, Basket Case, The Return of the Living Dead, Night of the Creeps, 99% of slashers, Demons, Blood Rage... the list goes on!

Have you been working at all during the pandemic? Did 2020 find you discovering new hobbies or interests to help stay sane and busy during the year? 
I think In April I started a job at a grocery store directly tied to the pandemic: a god damn sanitation worker [laughs]. Thankfully, that didn’t last too long because it was literally sanitizing freezer handles, carts, baskets, over and over and over all day. It was easy work but doing that for 8 hours was hell.

Last month, I started a new job running a small shipping room, which is insanely badass. I’ve wanted a job like this forever and it finally fell into my hands! As for interests, if you couldn’t tell already, I fell in love with film and a lot of my time/energy has been directed towards watching them! 
Do you think the pandemic has forced hardcore to not take itself for granted? I’ve seen many venues close and I imagine more will follow suit, and I can imagine whenever things come back, it’s going to be harder to get shows booked from a lack of venues as well as the uncertainty of turnouts and the ability to successfully route a tour.

Is this something that you think is going to force the community to become more collaborative than it already was? To go more DIY and put pressure on folks to support bands/shows/creative outlets, etc.?
I can’t speak for others, but for me personally, I’ve always tried not to take hardcore for granted because of how scarce the experience is for me. If I’m remembering correctly the last shows I went to (Ecostrike, Magnitude, and Envision) were in August of 2019 in Seattle and Portland.

But I can’t speak much because I don’t have firsthand experience with it, but I think it’s already such a collaborative effort that there’s nothing more to do except try and help each other even more. Whatever that means, I guess we’ll see.

It seems like shows in 2021 are pretty unlikely; maybe I’m wrong, but at least not at a national level, maybe in some pockets regionally it could happen, but with the vax rollout and just in general how everything’s being handled, what do you see hardcore doing in 2021?
It seemed like a lot of bands/labels slowed down last year to wait it out, but since there’s no end in sight I hope to see everyone coming out and dropping shit in full force. If hardcore has to be digital for the time being then we have to make it work that way. I personally don’t think I’d attend a show this year

Magnitude (Photo: Matt)

I know you sing in Stalemate and y’all released a tape in late 2019. Tell readers more about the band and did y’all have any plans for 2020 that got squashed? Any plans for 2021? 
Stalemate is me on vocals and my boy Triston handling everything else! He’s a monster, foo eats guitar strings for breakfast. That band started up because we both love the classic Northwest sound (Undertow, Strain) as well as stuff like Turning Point, we love that vibe and wanted to see a band like it here, so we made it happen ourselves. 

We just tossed ideas back and forth and when we finally had it all ready to go me and my girlfriend drove down to Boise (7+ hours with stops) and I recorded vocals with our friend Charlie who also helped with bass on the demo.

It was a great experience, I wish we took more time with recording vocals because you can definitely hear my nerves but overall I’m happy with it. We have a good chunk of an LP written but it’ll probably be a minute until that sees the light of day.

Triston just started student teaching so he’s busy a lot, but I put mad respect on it. Expect it to be heavier and harder. 

Shifting focus back to Words of Fire, so far in 2021, you put up for pre-order a vinyl pressing of all of the Apsara material, and it sold out. That kicks ass. You also picked up the new By All Meanz and Colossus demo. Those are both on tape right? Want to explain how all of those came about? That is honestly really cool!
Yes! I’m thrilled with how much stuff I’m getting to do already and it’s only February. The Apsara record was originally going to be a lathe 10 inch but it got scrapped due to a bunch of shit that snowballed.

However, I couldn’t be more glad because it’s a real record now and pressing a record has been on my bucket list since 8th or 9th grade. 

I’ve wanted to put out a Northwest band since I started the label and so By All Meanz was a no brainer when I heard it. I saw them cover Inside Out at a skatepark in the middle of nowhere once, and it was so sick. 

The Colossus demo came to happen in a strange way. I was half asleep listening to it and was like, "yo, this shit rocks!," so I messaged Mike and offered to put it on tape if they were down.

I woke up to a message saying that they were, which is just fuckin' funny as I hardly remember sending the message!

I’m so grateful for anyone that lets me be a part of their music.

Whenever things go back to “normal” or whatever sense of normalcy that it may be, what are some of the first things you plan on doing?
I just want to hit up the movies and an arcade. I had to cancel plans last year to go to Disneyland so I want that to happen. Fortunately, there’s a discount theater still open here that puts together a small drive-in theater which rocks!

They’ve played classic '80s horror inside and out too which was an unforgettable time.
Very sick, that rocks. We have a couple drive in’s within an hour of here but they usually play movies I don’t give a crap about. Alright, ima fire off a few quick things to end it:
Top 5 coolest things about Idaho?

  • Clean air/water 
  • Nature/Scenery 
  • Silverwood theme park 
  • We get 4 seasons 
  • I dunno, man, it’s pretty sick we have Del Taco here 

Fav New Age Records bands?

Strain, Spawn, Turning Point, Unbroken, Chorus, Outspoken, Resurrection, Trial.

Favorite decade of hardcore?

The '90s.
Favorite style of potato?

Fries cause there’s so many variations.
Favorite hardcore show you’ve ever attended?

Ecostrike, Magnitude, Envision, Rejection Pact in Seattle. If a fest count, Sound and Fury ‘18 and ‘19. I miss flying to Boise and then driving like 14 hours straight to LA.

Fuck Marry Kill Slasher series edition: Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street

If we’re looking at entire franchises: Fuck: Halloween, Marry: Friday the 13th, Kill: A Nightmare on Elm Street. If we’re looking at the first installment, Fuck: A Nightmare on Elm Street, Marry: Halloween, Kill: Friday the 13th
Top 5 all-time horror flicks?

This is constantly changing but for now I’ll say Scream, Evil Dead 2, The Shining, Halloween, and Hereditary. It’s hard not to give obvious answers for that question but I gotta put respect on their names. 
Top 3 final girls?

Again, I’ll go with the classics: Sidney from Scream, Nancy from A Nightmare on Elm Street, Laurie from Halloween.

Shoutout outs to Kirsty from Hellraiser, Ginny from Friday the 13th: Part 2, Sally from the The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Kathrine from From Beyond

If you could live in any teen movie, which one and why?

Detroit Rock City. Watch that movie and you tell me.

Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me, Matt, I really appreciate it. Any parting thoughts, shout outs, words of wisdom, anything worth mentioning?

Thank you for having me, it’s been sick! Shoutout to anyone that took the time to read this and to anyone that supports Words of Fire. We have a new Field of Flames tape dropping soon so be on the lookout for that. Go vegan and stay vegan.

Listen to the Ingrown LP when it comes out. Shout out to those with hardcore pride. Death to false hardcore!


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Tagged: pandemic profile