When one thinks of accomplished music journalists of the past two decades, chances are Matt Pinfield comes to mind. Always having a deep, passionate love for music, Pinfield began his journey at a young age as a disc jockey and working at radio stations. Recognizing his talents, MTV came calling in the 1990s and enlisted Pinfield as one of their key faces on programming, including the unforgettable series 120 Minutes. Having interviewed everyone from Paul McCartney to the Rolling Stones to Nirvana to Marilyn Manson to Jay-z and everyone in between, one would be hard-pressed to find another in the industry with such as vast knowledge of music. Continuing his successful run, Pinfield became Vice President of A & R and Artist Development for Columbia Records back in the early 2000’s, and, as a result, was responsible for the signing of such acts as Coheed and Cambria. Now over three decades since his career began, Pinfield has his own show on Sirius XM Lithium, is a partner in new record label Whiskey Vinyl Records, and recently produced new band January Jane. Take a closer look into Pinfield’s world of music within our in-depth conversation with him discussing his beginnings, discovering artists, working with January Jane, and more.
CrypticRock.com – You have remained extremely active in music following your MTV days, including a show on Sirius XM’s Lithium, as well as have worked in A&R for Columbia Records. Now you recently became involved in production with NYC-based band January Jane for your label Whiskey Vinyl Records. How did you become involved with this band?
Matt Pinfield – It is a pretty amazing story. I started Whiskey Vinyl Records with two of my friends, Richard Macary and Peter Scialla. I met Rich through another friend of mine which used to write for this very famous magazine called Rock Scene Magazine in New York City. Now, Rock Scene Magazine; along with Cream, Hit Parader, Circus, and Rolling Stone, was the thing when I was a kid growing up, before the Internet. It was all these magazines that you would buy where you could find out about your favorite bands, see what the journalists were into, and see what was going on; it was the most access to the artists that you had back in the day. Now, Rich had a friend who was very good friends with one of the women at the Rock Scene clothing line, and he introduced us. We had this conversation about how much Rock needed to take a front seat again, no matter what the hybrid was, because things change and there is always something new. We just hit it off and decided to do something fun together.
Rich was friends with a band that he really liked called January Jane and said, “Why don’t you check these guys out and if you have any interest at all in working with them, we will build something out of it.” It was almost like I was not meant to see the band that day, because it was a Sunday and I had been involved in a Foo Fighter’s Blackberry tour through the NYC radio station 101.9 FM. I had this Blackberry in my hand and I was going to meet Rich and see the band do a showcase and they were playing in this little, old Porn or Horror movie theater that used to be in Times Square. There were a bunch of rooms in there converted for places for bands to play. The point was getting there and you depend on your phone on letting you know exactly where you need to go. So I am coming from New Jersey, I get in the fast train, I get to the other side, I pull out my phone, and it is 110 degrees and burning my hand. I look at it and it is completely sizzled. Here I am thinking, I promised this band I would go to this show, how am I going to find this? You have to be resourceful and old school and I ended up walking up to an Australian guy who was taking a stroller out of his car to bring his kids into his house on West Broadway. I said to him, “Look I am not a crazy guy, can I use your phone?” He ended up giving me the phone, I found out where the band was, and I met them outside on 8th Avenue. I loved what I saw and I knew there was a lot of potential. From there, we just started working together.
CrypticRock.com – Wow, that is a pretty crazy story, but it is cool how it happened like that!
Matt Pinfield – It is! I had no idea how I was going to find those people or see the show, and here we are – releasing the debut single! It was a long time in the making; we went out to California and did tracks with Jay Baumgardner, who has worked with everybody from Papa Roach, to Bush, to Alien Ant Farm. His studio is where we started working on the record, and everyone has recorded there from Linkin Park to Prince; a legendary studio. Then we came back to also work with John Bender who has worked with every artist from Paramore to Breaking Benjamin. Pat Via of January Jane came in with a demo called “Take The Lions.” We ended up working on it and it is a pretty incredible song. Then another partner label, a guy named Miguel Balbi came into the label, who is a friend of Pat’s.
When we finally finished the song, when it came time for the video, we thought we needed a great lyric video. Rather than just be a boring lyric video, because there are some good ones, some average ones, some old public access TV things (laughs), but sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. Miguel and Pat came up with a great concept for the lyric video through working his face into the video. In my perspective, I think the video just gives you a really great first taste of the band. The thing about January Jane is they are a very diverse band to begin with. I have seen them do stuff that is straight-out Hard Rock. This track, has elements of Rock and EDM together, which makes it very modern. Mot importantly is the song and the message itself. I love the track and proud to have been a part of it.
CrypticRock.com – It is a very crisp recording and is has a very catchy sound as well. With that said, what can listeners expect from the rest of the record set for release this Fall?
Matt Pinfield – People can expect a diverse album. It is a five-piece band – they all find their common ground about what they love about the history of Rock, but they each bring out something a little different. Andre Jevnik, the drummer, took lessons from Carmine Appice. Peter Scialla joined up with them in 2014, he is the keyboardist and he can play everything. Then, the guitarist, Mitchell C., grew up loving everyone from Eddie Van Halen to James Hetfield. Their bassist, Cody Darbe, looks like he could be in New Politics and listens to everything. Everybody in the band is so different. It makes for a special sound. There is a common thread throughout the entire record, but there are different personalities in the band.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like a diverse bunch of musicians and it will be exciting how people receive their music.
Matt Pinfield – I do really hope the people give this single a chance. I was recently on the radio, Opie & Jim Norton for SiriusXM, and Jimmy was saying how he ran into us at a showcase in Santos Party House. He even said on the show how great he thought the band was live. I love that fact that Jimmy endorsed the band for us. I am excited about it and I really want people to give it a listen. I think this band has great potential. I also love that there is so much to choose from when the record comes out later this Fall.
CrypticRock.com – With the record coming out from January Jane, will there be a national tour?
Matt Pinfield – Oh yeah, we are working out those details right now, but there will be individual shows all over the Tri-State area. Right now, it is kind of all over the place, but we are definitely looking for the right tour to be a part of and we hope to have some information soon.
CrypticRock.com – It will be excellent to see where it goes. A band like January Jane certainly has a great sound, but it seems the industry is more difficult than ever for an act to get the proper attention they deserve with everything so fragmented. What advice do you give to up-and-coming bands such as them?
Matt Pinfield – I think you have to stay true to who you are musically. Try and hone in your sound if you can. There has got to be something identifiable, even if you like to straggle the lines of a few different genres. Really get your music out there, whether it is through websites, fan to fan share, and figure out what people love and react to the most. Although, do not let what is going on in the industry let you make a decision. When I was doing A&R with Columbia records, I signed Coheed and Cambria, Crossfaith, Acceptance, etc. I realized that if you are trying to fit in right this moment, you never know by the time you finish your record if you have a place for it to be heard, unless you have an incredible pipeline working behind it. You need a place to put it for it to be heard. Remember, do not worry about what is happening right at this moment, just find something great. Stay true to yourselves.
CrypticRock.com – That is great advice. There are a lot of talented acts out there. Seeing that you have experienced so much music over the years, what are some of the key aspects that attract you to a band that may stimulate you to think they have potential?
Matt Pinfield – No matter what, it has to get down to the songs from the end to the beginning. Look at a band like Coheed and Cambria – people will buy into the, I do not mean that just as a consumer, but also the idea of the complete experience of the music, and make it part of their lives. At the end of the day, it has to be about songs, songwriting, and good performance. You do not want a one and done – which means you only have one song and then you cannot find a way to follow it up. You never know what is going to happen with that, but it is very important to find an “it factor.” Then if you can build an incredible live performance around that, that is what it is about. Once those two things meet, you can find a fanbase who loves you, who connects to the song, then digs deeper. That is what any artist can hope for.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, the bottom line is the quality of the music. You have been involved in music for over three decades and have become one of the most distinctive interviewers in that time. Tell us, what has it been like for you to be able to interview the mass amount of artists that you have?
Matt Pinfield – It has been a beautiful thing for me – it is a dream come true. When you think about it, I have interviewed everyone from Paul McCartney to U2 and everyone in between. I was watching the movie Straight Outta Compton recently and you think about working with Dr. Dre on Farmclub Show, and interviewing Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube and everybody there. Then thinking about The Rolling Stones, and everybody from Metallica to Kings of Leon. I consider myself very grateful and very blessed to be able to pursue a career that I love from a fan’s perspective and take home the knowledge I have from working with so many different sides of it. Whether it was early days working alongside bands in New Jersey, DJing in Rock clubs, doing radio in Asbury Park, helping program MTV, etc., the idea was that the common thread for me has always been a deep love of music and wanting to be involved in it from every aspect and every direction I can do.
For me, I always want to approach an interview from the perspective that I am doing this for the fan. There are three different aspects of a fan. There is somebody who kind of likes an artist, there is that person who likes the artist, and there is that person who absolutely loves the artist. Those are the ones who feel like they have never been addressed in an interview with something different that is not just being drawn to them from something on card. That is what it is all about. I love what I do. It has been a dream come true having worked with the biggest record companies in the world, now working with my friends at Whiskey Vinyl Records, while still doing radio, writing, and TV. The important thing for me is never not look at it as a gift. Be grateful and work hard.
CrypticRock.com – Very true. My last question is pertaining to movies. We cover all kind of music and Horror films as well. If you are a fan, what are some of your favorite Horror films?
Matt Pinfield – Oh, I have a bunch! I am so proud of all the stuff Rob Zombie has worked on: House of 1,000 Corpses (2003) and The Devil’s Rejects (2005). One of my all time favorite movies is Scanners (1981). I loved that film – I met Steven Lack in a magazine store on Hudson Street and I could not figure out how I knew him!
There are a lot of Horror films that I like – I can go back to some of the early films from growing up and watching Horror movies as a kid such as The Haunting (1963) and Horror Hotel (1960). I always grew up with Scanners because it was so intelligently done; metaphorically it was a brilliant film!
CrypticRock.com – Yes, that is a great film. There have been some newer films in the Horror genre which are getting some buzz including It Follows. That film is also highlighted by an excellent soundtrack. A lot of the times a soundtrack makes a film, especially a Horror film.
Matt Pinfield – Absolutely, you think about the way Rob Zombie put a soundtrack together and puts in Lynyrd Skynyrd (laughs). Any kind of time piece, or anything that is timeless, such as The Hills Have Eyes (1977), a soundtrack is essential. Especially when you try and remake a movie, you better be doing the best job you can. The old fan of any classic movie are going to be looking for those things that make it unique, but does not take it too far away from the original screenplay. Unless of course you can improve on the original.