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.

This type of trial seems to most excite St-Germain, who is the Andy Kaufman of noise rock. "My cousin and I went to play at the U of Madison's beer gardens and there were like 400 people there," St-Germain remembers. "We started off playing this drone, it was just a short-wave organ. I'd play one note and it would sound like whooooo and ten minutes would pass and it was still nothing but whooooo. This one woman brought her family backstage and she said, 'Could you please stop? My children are crying.' But I kept playing. People were throwing things onstage, lots of change, and someone hit me with a cup. So finally I just got so mad that I mooned the crowd. It was an extended moon. I just stood there and held my butt open in front of the crowd.

"They gave me this huge round of applause, and I thought it was because they understood what I was doing. But then I saw that it was because the security people showed up. And they put me in handcuffs."

St-Germain got out of the mess by reporting that his dad was a famous lawyer who would not be afraid to sue the university.

St-Germain's father is, in point of fact, a schoolteacher.

 

Is he a 'saint'? Is what he does 'germain'? The clever arcanity of this outfit is so super-postmodern I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

--Thurston Moore discussing Matthew St-Germain's identity; Friday, November 16, 1:48 p.m.

 

The liner notes to Kill Any/AllSpin Personnel list complaints about Freedom From that are posted to a Sonic Youth newsgroup. "Did anyone actually go to this show or even know of its existence?" one user wants to know.

The search for an answer to that question led to an e-mail exchange with Thurston Moore. It is Matthew St-Germain who provides Moore's e-mail address. Upon being reached at that address, Moore immediately denies knowledge of who St-Germain is.

St-Germain says that Moore personally gave him the tape of the Cooler performance. He says that Moore recently e-mailed St-Germain his own personal reviews of dozens of Freedom From albums. But when these reviews are e-mailed to Moore, he seems perplexed.

"Migod I wish I had the time to actually spend listening to such a bounty of Americana," he writes. "But alas, as a dad, a musician w/the hectic, always hectic, and constant traveling, recording, writing (everything: music, poetics etc.), the idea of sitting down, listening to homemade noise cassettes and actually pontificating on such, as utopian as that would truly to be [sic] for me, is, I assure you: 'impossible.'"

A seemingly clear answer, there. But a smirk lurks in the margins. Why, for instance, does Moore put the word "impossible" in quotation marks? Could this all be some sort of elaborate joke? And if it is, who's in on it? Perhaps St-Germain has provided a fake e-mail address for Moore, and the questions meant for the New York guitarist are actually being answered by a certain Freedom From representative in North Minneapolis.

And so a call goes out to Moore's publicity company, Nasty Little Man. A representative there confirms that the e-mail address in question belongs to Thurston Moore.

Now if St-Germain knew that Thurston Moore would deny having ever met him, why would he even consider forwarding his e-mail address to begin with? Another message goes out to Thurston Moore: Is he positive that he has never met St-Germain?

"Well if I have met him it certainly didn't stick with me. Is he a businessman type? If so, chances are I would've shut him out. Is he a punk? If so, chances are he was not allowed near us, as we have been threatened by punk violence...maybe [drummer] Tom Surgal is releasing music as Matthew St-Germain--something to investigate."

If Moore knows St-Germain, then why does he feign ignorance? Did Moore record this album and hand it off to St-Germain, disavowing any association with it because he feared that his label would protest? This seems unlikely, since Moore has released any number of albums on smaller labels like Father Yod and Lo Recordings. Is this some sort of prank to get back at City Pages for trying to expose an underground label to the masses instead of leaving it to thrive among the hip and the elect? Also unlikely, since Moore and partner Kim Gordon happily did an interview with the hardly underground women's mag Jane this past year. Did St-Germain put Moore up to this for no reason at all?

Or could it be that Thurston Moore genuinely does not know--has never met, has never corresponded with, has never even heard of--Matthew St-Germain?

 

I really do believe there is no ONE person named Matt St-Germain.

--e-mail from Thurston Moore;
Tuesday, November 13, 1:40 PM

 

Whether for reasons of economics or aesthetics, the vast majority of Freedom From's recordings are exclusively available on tape. The cassette tape is a lost medium of art. Now we have CDs. CD-Rs. MP3s. MIDI cables. MiniDiscs. When you play a CD repeatedly over the years, the music still sounds the same. After years of playing the same old cassette tape, the melodies start to warp. You won't hear the instruments or voices play the same way twice. They sound deeper, slower in sections. But the music doesn't necessarily fall apart.

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