While they may not be as mainstream as Coldplay, The Matadors are the most popular band of their genre. Since forming fourteen years ago in London, Ontario, The Matadors have invented and popularized HORRORBILLY, a fusion of punk rock and rockabilly styles of music. The band remains the most popular of its genre even though they get little to no recognition for their great work by their peers. Despite the lack of recognition, The Matadors have become extremely popular for a group that receives almost no respect. Their tours consistently sell out and over the years, the band has managed to release five studio albums, the latest being 2008’s Sweet Revenge. Recently we got the chance to speak to The Matadors’ lead singer, lead guitarist and overall mastermind Joel “Hooch” Parkins about the band, his influences and his feelings on the HORRORBILLY genre. In all of the artists we’ve ever interviewed, Hooch has to be by far the most entertaining of them all.
The Matadors have been around now for just about fourteen years! Did you ever think way back you’d still be doing this in 2009?
Hooch: I did yes. I am obligated to continue this band in some fashion until at the very least December 21, 2012. The main purpose of The Matadors is to collect souls for Lucifer; this soul collection is intended to save the universe from total destruction. You see, it works like this: the universe has been created and destroyed an infinite amount of times. God creates the universe and then inevitably shit goes bad… then he decides to start over and blows it up and starts over. If The Lucifarian Brotherhood (our benefactors) get enough souls before this can happen again then it will overthrow god from his seat as supreme being and then Lucifer can take over. The world would be a lot more fun after that I can tell you…
The band is famous for creating its own genre of rock and roll, something called HORRORBILLY. Have any other HORRORBILLY bands followed in your footsteps or are The Matadors still a one of a kind band?
Hooch: Actually we are most famous for being the greatest band of all time, for being an incredible live act, for having the most entertaining, charismatic, most handsome, well-endowed, inhumanly talented front man and being nice guys all around… not to mention being so humble in the face of all this obvious greatness. There are no other Horrorbilly bands in Canada. There are a few overseas however.
There are a couple of bands over here that ‘claim’ to be Horrorbilly but these bands are composed of pussy-posers that could not possibly put on an entertaining show if you set them on fire. Horrorbilly is raw, sweaty, intense, entertaining and it picks you up by the collar and screams in your face “fuck you, get up and dance before I pull your eyes out and point them at you so you can see what fool you are”. Horrorbilly is not a genre for the weak to enter in to. I think the one or two bands that are calling themselves Horrorbilly over here are just trying to cash in on The Matadors greatness… I can’t say I blame them but it pisses me off a little. In fact I find it downright embarrassing that they would include themselves in this thing I’ve created. These bands do stupid and make shitty records… I would not do these things. My concern is that people will see them and say “ewwww…is THIS what Horrorbilly is? A bunch of obviously fake pussy hair-dressers putting on a boring-ass show?… Then I do not want any…” But, you know I have no control over what people do…
How did you first come up with this whole HORRORBILLY sound and vibe? What were your major influences on its development?
Hooch: I invented Horrorbilly because I didn’t have a way to describe what The Matadors were and I wasn’t keen on people calling us psychobilly… Tiger Army was this first psychobilly band we played with and after seeing them I thought “holy fuck… this is awful. This guy is a prime candidate for gender reassignment… is THIS what kids think we are?… I MUST put a stop to this NOW”. Also, REAL psychobilly bands like The Meteors and Demented Are Go are bands that evolved out of the Teddy-boy culture of the ‘70s in Europe as far as I can tell… This is not where I am coming from AT ALL… To allow myself to be called psychobilly I think would be a great disrespect to these great bands.
My influences are like: Howlin Wolf, Hank Williams Sr., Conway Twitty, Buck Owens, Bill Monroe, Roscoe Holcomb, Muddy Waters, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Artie Shaw… Ted Nugent, ZZ Top, Speed Dealer… fuck I don’t know lots of shit. My upbringing musically consisted of very traditional folk, blues and country music and it wasn’t until later on in life that I discovered Chuck Berry… then my life really changed.
The band is known for its crazy live show with lots of amazing visuals for the audience to see. What’s the most shocking thing the band has ever done in a live setting?
Hooch: We played at this shit hole in northern Ontario and some girl was just wasted beyond, the beyond… She had been hitting on me earlier that night but I wasn’t into it. I had been sick all week and playing in northern Ontario always depresses the hell out of me. Sorry northerners but it does. Anyhow, this girl was gorgeous I mean really fine looking but you could tell that she had not seen an attractive man in her entire life and wasn’t quite sure how to process this in her mind.
After being thwarted by me… (I mean I wasn’t a dick about it I was actually pretty nice for once in my life) she disappeared. Anyway, we are in the middle of the song “Burning Desire” which is quiet number and I’m closing my eyes and concentrating on singing when I hear the room gasp. I opened my eyes to see her butt-ass naked laying flat on her back on the table smack in front of me, in front of the stage and fucking herself with a beer bottle… It was awesome. She certainly got my attention with that I can tell you. They escorted her out and I never saw that girl again. In fact, if she is reading this she should probably contact me right now…
Although the band has been around for a long time now, your first Canadian tour didn’t come until 2005. Why did it take about ten years for all of Canada to see The Matadors?
Hooch: We were working as a traditional rockabilly band for a lot of that time. It was not until we made our “crossroads” deal with the Devil that it made sense for us to travel. Here’s an interesting fact for you: that 2005 tour for The Devils Music… was SOLD OUT. The entire 4 weeks, not bad for our first tour, eh?
Your latest record is called Sweet Revenge which came out in 2008. How do you feel about Sweet Revenge in comparison to your past releases?
Hooch: I think it’s the best one yet. I sure like it. There were a number of incredibly shitty records in this genre that came out this past year so right out of the gate I was way ahead of the game so I feel pretty good about that. This new record has a lot of country and blues influence and the idea behind this was this: I’ve seen over the last few years a lot of people in this country claiming to be influenced by country or even rockabilly but they clearly have no concept of what this music is they reportedly love. Kids are/were buying it and not knowing any better so I took it upon myself to show these kids some REAL sounds. My hope is that they will listen close to what I’ve put down and trace it back and figure out where I am getting these sounds from. Ultimately, I am hoping that kids will find this music that has influenced me and pick it up for themselves then maybe in the future you won’t have so much fucking tripe on the radio.
Sweet Revenge has been out now since October. Are you happy with the public reaction it’s received so far?
Hooch: It’s selling like crazy they tell me. People are digging it and most importantly: Matadors fans are digging it. This record doesn’t have any stories about zombies or anything for a reason… I wanted to take a break from all that. I think that threw some people off a little. I also think kids are confused by someone that can actually play the guitar well these days… if that is the case then kids will be extremely confused by this record because as usual… I play like a motherfucker.
What are The Matadors touring plans like for 2009? Do you have any special shows in the works that you can let us in on?
Hooch: Check our MySpace and Facebook and all that shit… there will be shows posted. I no longer get in a van and spend 5 weeks at a time driving from shithole to shithole instead; if I feel like playing in your town then I fly there. It’s pretty easy that way and on that note do not expect me in Winnipeg, anywhere in northern Ontario or Hamilton.
On your MySpace page it says the band sounds like “what rock and roll would have evolved into naturally if The Beatles didn’t come over and fuck everything up.” I guess there are no Beatles fans in the group?
What else do The Matadors have planned for 2009?
Hooch: Same as every year: kicking ass for The Devil, getting wasted, being amazing, same old same old. Our live show is as awesome as it ever has been and in 2009 I would like to issue a challenge to all “billy” bands in Canada: Are one of you chumps going to learn how to play the guitar this year and put on a reasonable show?… Are you going to stop dressing like a sanitation crew on stage? Are you going be able to string two words together and not sound like retards this year?…. Well??!!? Are you? Because the pressure on The Matadors is incredible these days with everyone else around here sucking so bad. Could you please step it up a little and take some of the heat off? Thanks. [ END ]