Monday, February 12, 2007

Matt from The Bronx

[a Kerrang! featurette on Bronx frontman Matt Caughtran]

“My buddies got beaten up by the LAPD, maaan,” yells the dude with a ‘punk-rock’-emblazoned razor blade tattooed upon his neck. “Fuck the cops, maaan! PUNK ROCK!”

He then dissolves into a fit of chuckles. Frontman for whipcrack thrash-punk godheads The Bronx, Matt Caughtran isn’t blowing off righteous punk-rock steam, but running through his monologue from What We Do Is Secret, the forthcoming Hollywood biopic of LA pioneers The Germs, featuring The Bronx doubling as hardcore titans Black Flag. “I had a great time, I learned a lot,” he grins, “Like, I never wanna be an actor, man. That shit sucks.”

No, Matt’s true path in life – as a raucous, righteous punk-rock singer – was set early.

“The first CD I ever bought was ‘Dr Feelgood’ by Motley Crue, man,” he laughs, between mouthfuls of Mexican food at a Sunset Strip eaterie. Surrounded by his Bronx bandmates, wearing a faded Steppenwolf tee with a Black Flag badge pinned to his chest, several days’ worth of face-fuzz furring his chops, he’s a bundle of wickedly good-natured punk-rock fun, like he just rolled in from an all-night squat party. This being Sunset Strip, he looks no more outrageous than our waiter.

“I’d love to say it was some great record or something,” he continues, blushing perhaps under the beard, “But no, it was ‘Dr Feelgood’. My sister was a crazy Sunset Strip-obsessed rock chick, she got me into all that stuff – to this day, I have songs by The Scorpions, Tesla, Iron Maiden stuck in my head.”

Matt grew up on the outskirts of East LA, a mostly-poor, mostly Mexican neighbourhood. “I was brought up to believe great friends and close family were the most important things in the world,” he smiles. “All of us in the Bronx grew up in great homes – we didn’t have money, but we had family. And family is everything. I useta sneak out of the house all of the time, but my mom knew. She knew I’d be out doing ‘terrible’ stuff,” he smiles, “But she was watching over me: making sure I was okay, but letting me cut loose and experience life. That must’ve been scary for her, as a parent; you’d wanna tell your kid about the evil in the world, so they don’t have to experience it themselves. But that’s the only way you learn about shit.”

Those experiences included a packed-to-bulging CV of no-hoper jobs, the last of which he was only recently able to give up. “I’ve worked in construction, I’ve gutted chickens, I’ve sold frozen yoghurt, I’ve sold live ammunition to minors. Accidentally. That wasn’t a good day,” he laughs. “I was working at a sporting goods store; the boss was wild, real lazy, but awesome. One day he and I spent hours assembling a twenty-man tent in the centre of the store, for display purposes, and once we were done he zipped himself in there and slept for the rest of the day. School sucked for me, but work was cool – you could go to work stoned, and nobody would hassle you.”

Actor. Chicken-gutter. Arms dealer. But now Matt is living out his dream, recording and touring with the only punk-rock group worth a shit in this crazy world, The Bronx – their forthcoming, self-titled second album being proof. Their debut plied a hard-nosed, hook-heavy hardcore that tapped into the bullshit-free exhilaration of Black Flag and Minor Threat; ‘The Bronx’ focuses that fury brilliantly, amplifying and honing their noise into a devastating, pop-savvy attack. The sort of band whose logo you’ll want tattooed on your body in the very near future.

“When you realise how short life is, you wanna spend those few years doing what you want to do,” he explains. “Living life on your own terms is hard – you’re not gonna get rich, you know, playing the music you wanna play, making your statement. But fuck it – when you die, you’ll have to face yourself and ask, did I live the life I wanted to? And that was what drew me to punk-rock, because that was the spirit behind bands like Black Flag: letting it all hang out, screaming ‘Fuck it!’ over music that was outta-control, heavy and fast. It’s the only life I wanna live, man. And it feels fuckin’ awesome.”

(c) Stevie Chick 2006

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