319 Creates: The Quarantine Sessions with Matt Larson

It has been a few weeks since I announced that the show would be returning and since then a lot has happened. The coronavirus pandemic has put a hold on most things around the world and here in America we are doing our best to observe social distancing.

For the time being, I’ve decided to alter the format of the show. For the foreseeable future, 319 Creates will be focusing on how the pandemic is affecting artists and creators in Eastern Iowa. These episodes will be much shorter and will focus on how social distancing and isolation are affecting people’s lives. In this first episode, we check in with Matt Larson of Iowa city metal band, Dead Emperors

You can listen below or find 319 Creates on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. You can also follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Podcast Transcription

Mike Weber: Welcome back to 319 Creates. I’m your host, Mike Weber. It has been a few weeks since I announced that the show would be returning and since then a lot has happened. The coronavirus pandemic has put a hold on most things around the world and here in America we are doing our best to observe social distancing.

With that, the ability to do in person interviews has all but disappeared. Over the last week, I’ve thought about the best way for me to move forward with this project. For the time being, I’ve decided to alter the format of the show. For the foreseeable future, 319 Creates will be focusing on how the pandemic is affecting artists and creators in Eastern Iowa.

These episodes will be much shorter and will focus on how social distancing and isolation are affecting people’s lives. In this first episode, we check in with Matt Larson of Iowa city metal band, Dead Emperors

Matt Larson, welcome to 319 Creates.

Matt Larson: Well, thanks for having me here. 

Mike Weber: So with all of us locked up with the coronavirus, how have you been coping?

Matt Larson: Oh, being in isolation isn’t too much of an issue for me personally. Coping as far as just being a person in isolation. I’ve got a lot of different options at home that have sort of built up over the years. Obviously I’m still stressed out just because of the state of things and the prospects of a future employment and all that stuff.

But as far as keeping myself busy, you know, I try to hit as many different sort of things as possible. Claire and I decided that the first thing was going to be just to start ourselves off with sort of a routine schedule and make sure that we were getting up and not just sort of lazily lounging around all day in bed.

So that helped make sure we get a workout in every day, taking no off days anymore. And making sure we put a specific amount of time to writing is really pretty key. You know, writing and/or art. 

With Claire doing all of her visual arts stuff, it’s good for her to have some time to do some sketching and work on all different manner of projects to sort of get her own store up and running. Designs, making sure she’s digitizing them and getting them put out for t-shirts or stickers or pins and stuff. 

Me personally, I’m working on solo material or duo material depending on how that turns out. Sort of just trying to put together tracks and learn how to use a synthesizer and different things to fill out the arrangement that I’m not as familiar with. Trying to stay away from drums, just because recording and mixing drums is always a little bit of an extra hassle. But still trying to add in percussion and stuff with that. So that’s been kind of an interesting and fun challenge as well. 

Also just making sure I’m writing material for Dead Emperors and keeping up on the heavy stuff since we’ve got recording dates in July right now. So wanting to make sure that we have some fresh material and things that we can work on and refine for a few months ahead of time, and there’s really no better time than now to get a lot of that stuff taken care of. 

Otherwise. Hell, I mean, it’s a good time to get into cooking, right? You’re sitting at home, you got all your supplies, you got an extra hour. You don’t have to worry about prepping for the whole week. So, we’ve kicked things off with fermentation projects that are starting to come to fruition now. Homemade hot sauces and sauerkrauts and things like that. I just keep, you know, looking deeper into the books and trying to find out what other projects I’ve been meaning to do and putting off for too long. And what I feel comfortable with and have access to the materials for.

So that’s been a tasty way to get through the first week of isolation at least. So that’s been brutal. And the hot sauce turned out deliciously sour, pretty damn spicy. Very happy with that. Definitely looking to hopefully find some other peppers and do some other variations on that in the near future.

I’m lucky enough to have an extensive collection of books that I never got around to reading. So this is also a good chance to start digging into those. Besides that, you know, board games, video games, and plenty of movies to rewatch or movies that I have not got around to watching in the first place – besides hanging out with the dog and taking him for extra walks and stuff that we wouldn’t have time to do as well.

So that’s kinda like the beginning. That’s been the initial week. I plan to get some deep listening on these vinyls. Dig out some of these records I haven’t listened to in awhile. Go from front to back. Just lay down, close my eyes and listen to the mix and just sort of see… especially with my own duo and solo project stuff here, I’m looking for more of a classic rock approach, so I’m really digging into the old Floyd stuff. The middle stage Floyd stuff there. Just to see how those sounds are balanced and to see how many layers I can pick out and what I might want to add to my own take on that.

Mike Weber: So, focusing in on the music stuff that you’ve been doing, the writing in particular, do you feel like this extra time has given you an opportunity that you’ve maybe not had recently? You mentioned that you started working on your solo material, and I believe you’ve told me in the past that that’s something that you’ve wanted to do, but never seemed like you’ve had quite the time to work on it. So do you feel like this has given you an opportunity you didn’t have?

Matt Larson: Oh, most definitely. I mean, I had kinda penciled it in for myself when the summer hit and when the school year ended and I had some extra time. But now that I’ve got time now, you know, I’m just trying to make the most of it. You know, while you got it. And you never know… If things go well, if I can figure out what I’m actually wanting to do with it, if I get the material done now, then I could actually get out and do some house shows or do some small shows with Claire and perform the stuff.

It’s been fun. I haven’t given myself too much of a chance to do a sort of classic psychedelic, you know, classic rock, sort of a music project before. So this has been a great time to just sort of mess around with pedals that have been gathering dust, see how many different sound effects and layers and classic vibes I can produce that I wouldn’t normally have a chance to explore because I’m putting in all that time for the main project for Dead Emperors.

Mike Weber: Yeah and it’s a good opportunity. You were saying about going back and listening to some old vinyl… Have you felt like you’ve come across anything recently that you’re like, “You know, listening to this again, I can see how this style could be useful in my personal project.” – either for Dead Emperors or for the solo work?

Matt Larson: Well, I mean with Emps, it’s always helpful for me to dig out the more contemporary stuff and just give it another listen through. Just really digging in to the, you know, Uncle Acid, digging into Whores, digging into Red Fang are always kind of the go tos. High On Fire – though I’m not prone to get as heavy as all that, but it’s always sort of inspirational to hear just how far one can take it. 

With the solo stuff, you know I went through a huge phase a few months back with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, and listened to the first maybe six albums that group put out. Just listening to and internalizing those synthesizer sounds and seeing how that sort of mixes with some nice guitar playing. Like I said before, Floyd has always been a good go-to for that nice combination of really silky synth tones that have that sort of dark sci-fi vibe to them as well as that nice classic blues-adjacent guitar feel. So definitely, for me as far as mix and stuff goes – The Wall is not my favorite album as far as the music itself, but I feel like just the overall production, it’s kind of verging on that disco era where you get a lot of that kick, snare, and bass out front. And I really like that vibe. A couple of albums before that, clearly “Wish You Were Here” and “Dark Side”, have such a good take on layering and ambient sounds that I love to just go back and close my eyes and listen to the whole surrounding soundscape that gets developed on those tracks.

That stuff is constantly a big inspiration. But I’m just digging stuff back from that time period. You got some things that you just never quite get into or think about that much. Mott the Hoople is a random one. They’ve got like a Stones-adjacent vibe listening to recordings from A Humble Pie, which is something that Frampton did before he did his solo stuff.

There’s a lot of interesting like verging on folk and blues, but still hitting that sort of barroom rock vibe, sort of recordings from that time period. They’re not like my main jam as far as going back to really dig into the tracks themselves. But getting a vibe off of them, just putting them on in the background and feeling like you’re in a different time period. There’s a lot of good stuff that stays a little bit more buried in my collection that I’ve been digging out for sure. 

Mike Weber: So, going back around to – we were talking about having more time to do food projects and cooks of the sort. Anything in  particular that you’ve done that you’ve been kind of putting off or wanting to do that you just haven’t had the time to?

Matt Larson: Oh, no. I mean, I really wish there were some more like full on cooking stuff that I was getting into. For me personally, I like to sit back and watch stuff happen, which is why I think fermentation has been such a big part of my culinary experience. There’s definitely stuff I’d like to get back into. And now that we have a hot sauce, we’ll probably have to look at some sort of slow cooked meats, and make some sort of tacos. Things like that would really play into the fermented toppings that we’ve made. you know with the kraut, I’m also looking for some kind of meat… I mean, sausage is always traditional with that kind of thing to cook, but really any nice fatty piece of meat that I can cook to sort of balance out the bit of sourness and sweetness from the kraut. That’s what I’m looking to do here. Yeah, that’s basically – whatever the grocery store has that’s cheap, that’s kind of how my fermentation craft works out because it’s just so good. It keeps forever. It gives it a nice sort of unique flavor that it wouldn’t have on its own. And that’s why we made a bunch of kraut. It was Saint Patty’s Day and there was a shit ton of cheap cabbage. So we just said, let’s go for it. Throw a little bit of carrots and sweet onions in there to give it a hair of sweetness. A little bit of that to balance out the sourness. And then also we kept it to about a week so it wouldn’t get overly sour. So it’s more steeping in all those sort of vegetable flavors and not really pushing it so far into the acidic realm. Just enough to be sour, but still sort of very versatile. 

Mike Weber: Very, very cool. So with us being caught up in being isolated for probably at least in another week or two. Probably much longer than that. Do you have any other projects that you’re hoping to have time to tackle? Or just trying to hunker down and survive? 

Matt Larson: Oh, I mean, personally, I want to just figure out other ways to connect with my friends and other musicians. It’s hard. I haven’t found a good way to be isolated and play music with other people.

My band mates, my family and my dad and my sister want to jam, but there’s a certain amount of lag that’s really hard to get over. It’s easy to show each other things, but it’s hard to really sync up things and play at the same time. And with friends, even jamming aside, I’d love to find some more games – board game options, card games – and things that would be fun to collaborate on that we could do via video.

Otherwise, really, like I said, I’m trying to keep myself getting a good few hours of writing and recording. I kind of tend to geek out when I do solo recordings of things. And so when I do one of these tracks that maybe I have a demo of from last summer when I was working on duo stuff. Or I just wrote a new one last week and just followed it to its logical conclusion – at least three quarters logical conclusion.

I probably still have another 20 layers I want to add, but I can put a good week in on a track with that. The time flies by pretty quickly and that definitely keeps me engaged in these end days, as it were. 

Mike Weber: Very, very cool. Well Matt Larson, try and take care of yourself.

Stay active, keep your brain engaged.

Matt Larson: I will, You too, man. You too. 

Mike Weber: And we’ll catch you on the other side. 

Matt Larson: Very cool brother. Have a good one. Peace. 

Mike Weber: You can follow Matt Larson and Dead Emperors on Facebook and Instagram. You can find more information in the show notes.

You can subscribe to the podcast on most platforms, including Apple Podcasts and Google Play. Thanks for listening and we will catch you next time on 319 Creates.