I have too much respect for Matthew Caron to label him with a cheesy term like “man of vision”. The guy who goes under the name Yr Friend Matthew (and its different variations) is a man of many visions (and visuals), and he exercises those visions in different mediums: As a guy who throws one of the most original parties in New York (Pogo in Togo), a DJ on East Village Radio, a writer on various websites, a filmmaker, and as he's most well-known for, the man doing live visuals at some of the best events in New York on an almost nightly basis. In review of my first sentence, I actually should call Caron a man of vision, but I'm not going to.
But he is. That's why we bothered him this week.
Am I crazy to think that most people who go to film school don't end up doing anything with it afterward?
Film programs have popped up all over the place, and the original programs like NYU and USC have expanded the capacity of their undergraduate programs to include hundreds of students. There simply aren’t hundreds of new jobs in the industry waiting for these people when they graduate. Under the best circumstances, it’s a difficult path. That said, even if you’re serving coffee to pay the rent, you can still make time to write or make videos. You set your own agenda and deadlines, or you drift away and fall out of practice.
I guess what I mean is, in the past, live visuals seemed like an important aspect to a live show. The Velvet Underground had live visuals, the Fillmore, etc. Do you feel like you are helping to bring that aspect back to live/underground shows?
I don't feel like I'm bringing anything back because I don't have a sense of nostalgia for that era. The mixer, the video projector, and the visuals I compose on my computer are all of the present. That said, I'm very much a student of Throbbing Gristle, who also used video in performances from time to time. Genesis P-Orridge suggested that there is a need to create spaces in which possibilities exist. My hope is that the visuals can help create an emotional space that's bigger than just some room in Brooklyn or whatever.
Is VJing a lost art?
I think it's an art that hasn't really happened yet. It's just getting started. I didn’t have any familiarity with VJing before I started doing it myself. I was a punk kid and I never went to big arena concerts or dance clubs, which is historically where VJing took place. You’re going to see more live video performance as time goes on and the tools become less expensive. There’s a huge window of opportunity right now in New York because the music scene exists in bars and D.I.Y. spaces that usually don’t have lighting. It’s cheaper to get a projector and do something interesting with it. There are more opportunities to perform, and the demand for live visuals is growing.
Your monthly party called POGO IN TOGO, and a radio show on EVR called Bim Bam Boom. How do you go about picking these names?
Pogo In Togo is taken from a song by the German New Wave group United Balls. It’s a nonsensical song about chaos in Laos, drums in the slums, bongos in the Congo, tubas in Cuba and so forth. Pogo In Togo started out as an international music DJ party and evolved into more of an avant pop and experimental music thing. Bim Bam Boom is the same thing except that it’s a radio show. I play a combination of new and local things that excite me along with my international finds, and my guests are usually musicians who have played at the party, or else people with a passion for something I find interesting. I am especially proud of the Moondog episode of Bim Bam Boom co-hosted by Moondog’s biographer, Robert Scotto. The name Bim Bam Boom is taken from a song in the film Forbidden Zone.
You write for Vice from time to time, and you once mentioned to me that you seem to get called up when somebody dies to write something. Why do you think that is?
I think it's because the first thing I attempted to write for Vice was a piece about Forrest J. Ackerman. Forry was a ninety-something year old guy who used to publish Famous Monsters Of Filmland Magazine and started the world's first science fiction fan club. He was the original fanboy and would pester the movie studios for props and posters before anyone else realized these things had value. His house was full of priceless Hollywood artifacts like Bela Lugosi's cape from Dracula and Willis O'Brien's stop-motion models from the 1933 King Kong. The Ackerman piece was initially accepted by Vice for The Tidbits Issue, then passed on in the final round of edits. Two years later, Ackerman died and my article was resurrected as a blog entry on their website. It was well received and I was soon called on to eulogize Luxx Interior and cult filmmaker Ray Dennis Steckler when they kicked the bucket. I initially protested writing about Luxx Interior because I was never into The Cramps but they encouraged me to do it anyway.
Are there any current films you would like to rail against if given the proper platform. Example: This interview as a platform.
I try to focus on the films that I like and wish more people would see. My favorite films for the year so far are Roy Andersson’s You The Living, Pablo Larrain’s Tony Manero and Anders Ostergaard’s Burma VJ. The “VJ” in Burma VJ stands for “video journal” and documents the 2007 standoff between the Myanmar government and Buddhist monks that resulted in violent confrontation on the streets of the capital. It’s pieced together using footage from concealed camcorders and cell phones. Aside from its virtues as a humanitarian statement, it’s astonishing that a film so fluent and dramatic was made from such disparate and humble materials. It’s an incredible feat of editing.
If you were to release a film today, would the soundtrack play a big part?
Absolutely. Although I couldn't tell you the form it would take. I don't know if it would be a great big two-disc affair like the Forrest Gump Soundtrack, or just one song as a coda. Like the way UK '82 by The Exploited is the only song in Alan Clarke's film Made In Britain. Just that one song tells you a whole lot about Tim Roth's skinhead character.
What director makes the best use of soundtracks?
Lynne Ramsey is fantastic. I recommend Morvern Callar to anyone who hasn't seen it. The soundtrack takes on the presence of a character in form of a dead man's mixtape heard through his girlfriend's headphones as the story unfolds. It's a great doorway into a character's headspace. I should also mention Wong Kar-Wai, who is the master of the gracefully employed pop song. I wonder whether Chungking Express started out as a daydream while listening to California Dreamin'. Everything can be learned from watching Wong Kar-Wai.
You hang around with that Nick Gazin guy we talked to a few months ago. Do you think this is a good thing or a bad thing?
It’s good. I’ve known Nick since high school and lived with him for a number of years. My life would probably be very different if we’d never met. I think the fact that our dads are both named Glenn is significant. We collaborate on a web TV show for Mishka NYC called The Creepy Touch, where Nick interviews people and I do everything else. I’m credited as The Vidiot because I got depression and was feeling Dostoyevskian at the time. Nick is credited as Toilet Cobra because once upon a time someone asked me what animal I was most afraid of. This was before Snakes On A Plane.
Alright, enough about other peoples shit. What are you currently working on? Parties, films, etc.
Right now I'm making music videos for These Are Powers and Dinowalrus. I'm still curating the Pogo In Togo party at Cake Shop, which is nearly two years old, and working on a new weekend party that'll happen somewhere Brooklyn starting in the fall. I'm performing live visuals constantly. A few weeks ago I performed visuals for These Are Powers at a show curated by Less Artists More Condos that happened underneath the Highline Tracks in Manhattan. I think it realized what Genesis said about creating spaces. You had music, live visuals and murals being created in a weird alley that is normally a place to dump wrecked cars, beneath a park that used to be an elevated train track. It was completely out of the ordinary.