The Provocateur

He obfuscates the present. He fabricates the past. His record label has released 180 albums in the past three years. Agitating for a new aural order with Matthew St-Germain.

The Universe doesn't exist, but it is still here.

 

Perhaps St-Germain also perceives the world in such a gnostic way. Or maybe if you don't understand his logic, you become his punch line.

"With Matthew, it sometimes takes you a long time to get used to the joke," observes Kurt Sorem, who has known St-Germain for a year and helped him design Freedom From's Web site. "I definitely feel like he's fucking with me all the time. He's kind of like that with everyone. There was this show that Matthew organized last Saturday night. It was scheduled to take place somewhere else, but Matthew brought it back to his house. No one was collecting money outside, so like 50 people went inside to see the show.

"As soon as they got inside, Matthew shut the door and started collecting money. Noise crowds don't like to pay for anything, so no one really offered any money. So Matthew and his friend Andy just started really yelling at the audience. He was pushing them around really hard and causing all of these fights. It was all supposed to be in good fun, but like I said, some people just didn't get the joke."

Sorem sighs. "Matthew can be borderline abusive sometimes, but he's also my good friend. That makes things hard. But once you really listen to him, you start to understand him. And a lot of times you realize that what he's saying is right. His car is the perfect metaphor for Matthew and his music. It's incredibly dirty--like this big moving garbage can. The back window's been busted for over a year. And the car's all broken inside, so these fumes come out of the back of the car and right through the busted window. You ride in it with Matthew, who's driving all fast and reckless, and you have to hold your shirt over your face in order to breathe. To the outside observer, it's dangerous and it's an unorganized mess. But Matthew somehow makes it work."

 

The idea of me (w/ Beck!) releasing a cassette entitledKill Any/All Spin Personnel seems like commercial suicide and I'm sure Beck's management at the time (Gold Mountain Management) and his management now (Silver Phalynx Mgt.) would never let a release like this exist...All I know is the Minneapolis brigade of noise has an infamous history of prankdom which I suggest you be wary of.

--e-mail from Thurston Moore
discussing Freedom From's Kill Any/AllSpin Personnel release; Tuesday,
November 13, 4:54 p.m.

 

Matthew St-Germain lies back on his ripped couch, flipping through a battered issue of Signal to Noise, a journal of improvised and experimental music. The issue, published last summer, includes an interview with St-Germain.

"The most popular pastime for people who purchase underground music is rarely listening to it," he notes in the article. "We [at Freedom From] just like music. We wanted to say to the guy who only buys a record because it is an edition of 200 and none of his friends know how he found it, 'You asshole, why didn't you listen to it?' And the best part is, he can't, because we didn't send it to him. People think we kept all the orders they never got. No, we sent them out, just maybe not to the person who made the order, but instead to a random name picked out of the phonebook. People call us liars and thieves; I say we're musical Robin Hoods."

Looking over this quote, St-Germain laughs. "I don't really do that," he says. "I just told them I did. That part's not true."

"He's really calculating and almost Machiavellian at times," says Andrew Morrow, who plays in the band No Doctors. Morrow reports that after meeting St-Germain in 1999, he started providing moral and financial support for Freedom From, working for the label at one point, and reluctantly allowing St-Germain to move in with him. "He'll just constantly provoke you in as many ways as he can," Morrow continues. "I think he thinks that through provocation, he'll lower your inhibitions and have a more intense relationship with you.

"I have one memory that totally explains Matthew St-Germain," Morrow laughs. "We were on tour with No Doctors and we ended up in Rochester, New York, at some house party after a show. Matt was in the kitchen with this group of people and he was getting really antagonistic. He kept trying to figure out how he could annoy everyone. He was demanding that this one girl kick him in the ass. She was really reluctant about it, but he kept insisting that she do it. Finally some other girl said, 'I'll do it!' and then all of these people were taking turns kicking him in the ass as hard as they could. There were like 40 or 50 people doing it, and some of them seemed like they were kind of upset about it. But maybe that's why they were doing it. For Matt, it's a type of performance. I don't know if he's testing them or something, it's just that he loves confrontation."

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