Hello, thank you.

I am Matthew Bates. Somewhere along the way, many years ago, my nom de guerre became Mat Diablo. Silly, I know. I am professionally interested in the creation, discovery and consumption of music and radio content. I am personally interested in classic motorcycles, anything snow-related, family, and churros.

I AM GETTING MY TWITTER ON.
Friday
Nov092012

The Best of 2012

Apparently I only use this space to post year-end "best-of" lists now. So it goes. If you're so inclined, you can hear me as the host and curator of the "Top 50 Breakout Artists of 2012" countdown on Slacker Radio- here. But that list was dictated by Slacker Radio listeners throughout North America, in aggregate. This is my personal list. I post it here as much for me to remember this stuff as I do for you to peruse. Please enjoy.

 

ScHoolboy Q- Hands On The Wheel

And so Kid Cudi begat Lissie, and Lissie begat ScHoolboy Q, and A$AP Rocky was there the whole time just smoking tons of weed. The Black Hippy crew had a great year.

 

Toys That Kill- The Nervous Rocks

Because Punk Rock. Because Pedro. Because fuck Pro Tools.

 

John K Samson- When I Write My Master's Thesis

One of the best live shows I saw in 2012. And even if this weren't a solid record, I would still include John K. Samson on this list, because he helped me discover two of the best books I've ever read via his participation in Canada Reads.

 

Earl Sweatshirt- Chum

Earl came back from Samoa an adult, it seems. And that's probably tough for a super famous 18 year old dude to deal with all at once. "Tryin’ to figure out how and when the fuck I missed moderate".

 

CHVRCHES- The Mother We Share

 

Elephant Rifle- Slow Learner

Yes, this is my brother's band. And I'm super proud of him. But more importantly, Elephant Rifle is contributing towards making Rock and Roll dangerous again- and that's why I love them. 

 

Stars- The Theory of Relativity

I feel like Stars makes Indie Rock For Old People. And I am increasingly an Old Person, I guess.

 

Solange- Losing You

Beyonce's sister. Way better producers. Way different.

 

Best Coast- The Only Place

Whatever the regional version of nationalism is- that's what this song makes me feel.

 

Yellowcard- Here I Am Alive

Because I refuse to disavow my roots. And because Yellowcard has unfairly received some of the rawest deals in this business of music. But mostly because this is a really, really good pop song. Not ashamed.

 

Pacific Air- Float

These dudes are from San Diego, and every time I see them live, they have a new name. It was White Apple Tree, then KO KO, and now Pacific Air. That makes for a metadata nightmare. And maybe that's why this song isn't a huge hit yet. Because it should be. These guys- and this song specifically- is one great sync away from ubiquity.

 

Shout Out Louds- Blue Ice

I have not had a personal best-of list that Shout Out Louds or their members did not appear on since 2009. I guess that makes them one of my favorite bands.

 

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down- Holy Roller

This is another one of those songs that is one strong sync away from exploding all over your radio. And it couldn't have happened to a nicer, harder working artist. Is this the "Float On" of 2013? Either way, she will have a big year.

 

Still Flyin'- Spirits

I included the SoundCloud link to this song because the video IS SO BAD. If you only saw the video without listening to the song first, you'd be like "fuck these clowns". But instead, you can listen to the song on its own merits and be like "this is a pretty faithful interpretation of 'Tenderness". And that's totally OK.

 

The Burning Of Rome- Ballad Of An Onion Sprout

When you are friends with dudes that make music, you always hope that you truly like their music so that you don't have to be inauthentic when you're all "you guys made a great record!". Even if I weren't so fond of the individuals in this band, it would have been one of my favorite records of 2012. When you start with a cocktail of Mr. Bungle, The Residents, and Zappa- and you add an uncanny knack for writing incredible melodies and hooks, you end up with the most accessible avant-weirdness produced in recent memory. The fact that their live show is among the best I've seen is just a bonus. If anyone can bring esotericism to the masses, this band can.

 

Twin Shadow- Five Seconds

Twin Shadow made #1 on my list in 2010. And this year he released a Cafe Racer themed album. That's like- two of my favorite things. I don't know why this song isn't #1 my list this year. It's just not.

 

Wild Nothing- Nocturne

Because I will always, always be a sucker for dreamy/hazy/shoegazy stuff like this. Por vida.

 

Bob Mould- The Descent

This is what I said when I first heard this record. 

 

Ice Choir- Two Rings

This is what happens to kids that spent their pre-teen years listening to Prefab Sprout and The Essence and Tears For Fears and Scritti Politti instead of Dr. Dre. I was one of those kids.  

 

THE BRONX- Ribcage

I love El Bronx, but I am so, so happy that BRONX is back. Even if this song was terrible, I would have included it on this list. But it's not terrible, it's the opposite of terrible.

 

WALK THE MOON- Tightrope

A bunch of fuckin' nerds making their approximation of a Wes Anderson film. SO CATCHY. 

 

Delta Spirit- California

The only reason this is not my #1 song of the year is that I burnt myself out on it by listening to it over and over and over and over again. They did a rad performance of this song during their showcase for us folks at Slacker Radio as well.

 

Pinback- Proceed to Memory

Did Pinback write a love song? Have they been writing love songs this good all along and I've just been oblivious? So many questions.

 

Gold Fields- Treehouse

Leading the Australian Invasion of 2013. Mark my words. One of the best live shows I saw in 2012.

Bonus- they do an incredible cover of "Born Slippy" during their live sets:

Gold Fields - Born Slippy (Underworld cover) from Kevin Ooi on Vimeo.

 

 

School of Seven Bells- The Night

Because I wish the Cocteau Twins were still making records as good as "Heaven or Las Vegas". Or making records at all.

 

Night Marchers- All Hits

Story of my life- ALL HITS. This fulfills the "Whiskey and Fist Fights" portion of my yearly list. With the Hot Snakes reunion coming to a close and the RFTC reunion gearing up, I hope the new Night Marchers album doesn't get lost in the mix in 2013. Because it fucking SHREDS.

 

 

Com Truise- Open

Every year a new artist comes along and fills the gaping hole in my soul that would otherwise be occupied by a new Boards Of Canada record. That's not to say this is totally derivative- it just does the same thing to me. Everything I do is a balloon.

 

Theme Park- Two Hours/Jamaica 

My favorite new discovery of 2012. High hopes for these lads. Frequently remixed. Couldn't pick just one song.

 

Death Grips- Hustle Bones

Worthy of the hype. Absolutely. The first time I heard Death Grips, it was like the first time I heard N.W.A. or Dead Kennedys- it felt dangerous, and bad(good), and maybe illegal. Their live show delivers, and they appear to be 100% committed to whatever it is they are creating. What more can you ask from an artist? Besides, it's about damn time Zack Hill got an international audience for his brand of avant-insanity.

 

Menomena- Pique

I think this is about a relationship with somebody's mother...but it's applicable to all relationships. Simple and devastating. I'm glad I don't live here anymore, but it's good to revisit once in a while for perspective.

 

HAIM- Forever

A friend of mine recently asked me if I had "drank the HAIM kool-aid". ABSO-FUCKIN-LUTELY I have. My favorite song of the year for no other reason than it's a really, really, really good song. No reason I can see that these ladies aren't ruling the world this time next year.

 

Saturday
Dec312011

The best of 2011- this is a list.

Click through to read my highly subjective list of the Top 25 Songs of 2011.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Sep112011

RIP KRZQ.

So- this is considerably sadder than I thought it would be. And it's ironic. On the day that KRZQ is to be laid to rest, I am attending a conference in San Francisco where one of the primary topics of discussion is the rapid migration of listeners from old radio- stations like KRZQ- to new radio- personalized radio services like the company that I currently work for. In that sense, it's not surprising that the crazy circus known as KRZQ has run it's course- but it is still tremendously sad.

I've been working on this post since last Thursday, hoping to do justice to what KRZQ actually meant. My good friend Stephen Kallao wrote a piece about the recent demise of Chicago's long-standing Alternative radio station, Q101. You can read it here. If you read it, you will see the profound effect that one radio station, and one group of individuals can have on the lives of their listeners. KRZQ was my Q101.

At noon today, KRZQ-FM in Reno, NV will cease to broadcast it's "Alternative" format in favor of a "CHR" "Hot AC" radio format.

I worked at KRZQ from 1998-1999ish and again from 2002ish-2006. During that time, I held a variety of positions- starting as overnight DJ and ending as Program Director. I've been lucky- I've had a tremendously rewarding career in this business of music, and it is all due to KRZQ. I mean that in the holistic sense- if not for it's mere existence, I wouldn't have connected with and identified the culture and music that has informed my life up until this point. If I hadn't worked at KRZQ, there's nowhere else that I could have received the experience, education, and perspective that allowed me to proceed and succeed in this business of music. And if it weren't for the people- the family of KRZQ, I wouldn't be the person I am today. I would just be an awkward, unhappy, music-obsessed kid from Gardnerville, NV. I would have never found my calling and my community. I owe everything that I have today to KRZQ. 

And that's what's so goddamn sad about this whole thing- the idea that kids that really need it- as I did- will not be given the opportunities that were presented to me just by virtue of KRZQ's existence.. Whether it's the culture that they are exposed to as a listener, or the guidance that they would be given as a part of the family- it's gone. 

KRZQ really should have never existed in Reno. But the fact that it did had a tremendous impact on the entire culture of the Reno/Tahoe area. It signed on in March of 1992 and announced itself by playing "High" by The Cure. At the time, there were only a handful of radio stations in the entire country doing what they did. It was, at it's inception, an Alternative station in the the truest sense of the word. Not Disturbed, but The Smiths. Not Linkin Park, but Catherine Wheel. Not Godsmack, but The Cranberries. And like I said- there was no indication that Reno was the kind of city that needed or would accept this sort of progressive contemporary cultural outlet. But KRZQ changed all that. It fundamentally changed the entire make-up of Reno and the surrounding area for the better. By bringing concerts that otherwise would have never stopped in that sleepy town, by identifying emerging movements like the snow/skate culture and providing a place for those fans to congregate around. By showing awkward kids that it was OK to be different. Those kids are all adults now, and I shudder to think where they would be without KRZQ's influence and legacy. It's impossible that the mere existence of KRZQ did not have a profound effect on the entire cultural make up of the Reno-Tahoe area.

My personal story is a familiar one- I was raised in a rural area, devoid of the kind of culture and activity that would appeal to a music and literature obsessed 12 year old kid. I was profoundly unhappy, but I had no idea what to do about it. KRZQ represented a beacon of sorts- a connection to a world of culture, music, and art that I desperately wanted to be a part of. More accurately, it represented a community of like-minded people. Prior to the advent of KRZQ, there was no such cultural aggregator in the area- no hub from which that community could rally around.

The best thing about it all- I get the sense that the folks involved didn't really know what they were building or what a profound effect it was having on the entire community. Most of these people have since become friends, and I suspect that they were just working really hard to build...something, and they were having the times of their lives doing it. KRZQ had that intangible "it". It's impossible to articulate, but it was clearly reflected in the product. 

If you were part of the KRZQ family, there was no concept of "leaving your work at the office". No concept of the "9-5" job. We lived together, slept with each other, fought over stupid shit like siblings, and bled for...a radio station. We fought and bled for the cause that this radio station represented. Great music, a place where it was OK to be a freak, and a way out of an otherwise mundane and alienated existence. And what an incredible work ethic we all developed as a result?

We were allowed to fail- in some cases fail spectacularly. That made us all better.

Life will go on- the ignorant knuckledraggers over at the buttrock radio station will continue to perpetuate and reinforce an unfair stereotype of the Reno-Tahoe area, only now they will do it unchallenged by the people that think that the Biggest Little City can be more, and is more.

It's clear to me that music-based terrestrial radio is in the middle of a long decline, with plenty of important questions being raised about it's relevance and long-term viability. Music discovery and content via traditional radio is quickly being supplanted by a myriad of web-based options, including the company that I work for. And that presents people like me with an exciting challenge- how do we recreate that vibe, that sense of community, that music discovery, on a new platform, for a new generation?

Because I don't know what replaces KRZQ for the next round of unhappy and disenfranchised 12 year old kids.

I couldn't possibly call out and thank everyone that was involved with the magic that was KRZQ from my personal perspective. But I do want to thank a few people-

Jayn Said, Ollie, Big Leo (and Vic "The Brick" Brickhouse), Strange Advance Lance, etc.- Thanks for giving me something to aspire to and for being the window in to a cooler world than the one I knew. Most importantly, thanks for facilitating my earliest music discovery. Thanks for playing Adorable, thanks for interviewing Frank Black at a record store, thanks for bringing the Mighty Mighty Bosstones to Reno 500 times. Bonus points go to Leo for later on breaking my heart by revealing himself to be a Neo-Con.

Smiling Marty taught me what it was to be an entertainer.

Marc Young taught me how to be disciplined in a chaotic environment.

Rip taught me to be a great radio programmer and tolerated my considerable shortcomings.

Heather- we all wanted to be you.

Valerie- you made this insane idea financially viable by believing in it.

Homie- the visionary.

Jeremy- became a brother and made me smarter.

Mel- tolerated more crap than anyone reasonably should have to in a professional setting- most of it from me. She took her accumulated experience and became the best human being that many of us will ever know.

El Muchacho, Johnny Karate, Sims- the best partners in crime any PD could ask for.

Blaze- Even though he is more commonly known as Rob Brooks these days, I can't call him anything but "Blaze" any more than I can call my father anything but "Dad". He is responsible for everything that KRZQ is and was more so than anyone else. He's the one that built the thing, stuck it out, went down with the ship multiple times, and fell on his sword for all of us, multiple times. And he is the only one that should be putting KRZQ down, as miserable as that must be for him. He is still one of my closest friends and greatest mentor- and that transcends the existence of any radio station.

Last night, Blaze sent out a text message at 10p or so that made me get into the shower and cry. And c'mon- that's a hilarious image, right? Feel free to make fun of that in a few weeks. After all- one of the greatest lessons that I learned at KRZQ still holds true: Time plus Tragedy equals Comedy.

After KRZQ goes away today, I'm still left with more questions than answers. Like- does anyone know where that fucking blimp is? And what ever happened to Strange Advance Lance? And what will become of the dudes from Barbequed Salad that hosted the original "It Hurts When I Pee"? And where will the Joey Vegas Band go now?

I love you, KRZQ. Thanks for giving me an opportunity that literally changed my life.

Monday
Mar212011

SXSW 2011 Wrap up

My trip to SXSW 2011- with my place of employ, Slacker Radio- is a wrap, and the music portion was not without it's share of incidents, accidents, and legitimate questions about it's size and purpose. That said, I had a blast, and more importantly, we did some great business and got a ton of work done. I am pretty sure that is the ostensible purpose for members of the "music business" to attend...right? This was my 8th year at SXSW, my 3rd with Scott Riggs and the Slacker Radio crew, and I must say- I found it exponentially more fulfilling to actually create content rather than stumble around from place to place for 4 days.

My primary objective at SXSW this year was creating content for the Austin 2011 radio station that we have curated and programmed in conjunction with FILTER mag and many other fine companies/products. We had an awesome broadcast setup at the Cedar Street Courtyard. Over the course of 4 days, we interviewed ~50 bands there, and that content is making it's way on to this radio station as fast as I can produce and load it.

So- if you didn't make it to SXSW music this year, or you just want to relive the experience, check it out here:

 

 

New content is being added daily- please enjoy! And while you have this station and it's free music as a soundtrack, I've put together a brief "best-of" SXSW music 2011 list...

Best planning:

Catching the earliest flight possible out on Sunday morning. In doing so, we dodged the usual hangover-brigade amateur hour, and a bunch of weather-related delays. Easiest post-SXSW flight out yet, highly recommended.

 

Best sightings:

I happened to be walking by 4th and Colorado when I stumbled upon Jack White playing White Stripes songs acoustic in a parking lot in front of his Third Man mobile record store. After twitter was alerted and that crowd reached critical mass, I went to meet a friend around the corner, where I found him having coffee with Talib Kweli. Also, it seemed like Tyler from Odd Future was everywhere on his skateboard. Only at SXSW.

 

Best bands:

This is so subjective, I'd be stupid to make a definitive statement here. I really enjoyed Ted Leo solo at the Brooklyn Vegan party. Maps and Atlases and Little Dragon both did several incredible sets as well.

 

Best San Diego-related encounters:

Far and away, Lesands. They are already gaining a great deal of national admirers, and because they are sequestered in North County, they are blissfully unaware of SD local music politics and happenings. They will break nationally before most of SD even realizes what these gents are up to.

Also, Dynamite Walls. These guys did it right, playing like 30 shows in 3 days at every possible spot, and looked as sharp as ever throughout. SD music dude (and sometime-Slacker Radio contributor) Andrew Rowley was on the road with these guys documenting the entire experience and putting up daily video recaps. Very, very cool, and very, very smart.

The Burning Of Rome came through with Sammi Skolmoski- my former co-host on the 91-ex Morning Show. They had a high-profile showcase at Maggie Mae's, but they did everything DIY style, going so far as to set up a generator-powered street set before the police shut them down.

Finally, Cults. They played the day show for FILTER mag, and even though they are based in Brooklyn now, they come from Hillcrest and La Costa, respectively. Good catching up there.

Honorable mention goes to O-official San Diego ambassador and all around good-dude, who hooked us up with J Mascis, and Tim Pyles, who looked like a 10 year old on Christmas morning every time I saw him. And of course- Fran and the dudes from Spy Optic.

 

Best food:

Forget the tourist trip to Salt Lick or any other obligitory BBQ-related excursion- Ranch 616 has become an official Slacker Radio tradition. Best food, best desserts, and craft cocktails on par with the best of the Austin mixologist scene. Dude, fried pie? Insane. I watched our SVP eat a huge rib-eye with a fried egg on top and two cheese enchiladas underneath LIKE A BOSS.

 

Best discovery (non-music)

We found the elusive spot where all the empty cabs queue up, even during the peak of 6th street insanity. If you ask nicely, I'll share this magical spot with you. You'll never be stuck waiting for a cab again...it was like finding a mythical beast in the wild.

 

Best bait and switch

I interviewed the guys from The Knux on Friday. They were awesome, and I am a fan of what they do. After the interview, they said something to the effect of "that was awesome, do you want a T-shirt, dude?" to which I replied "sure!". Shortly after, one of the dudes from their crew came up and handed me a shirt, to which I said "thanks!". He looked at me funny and said "yeah...for you, 10 bucks. Normally 20 at the show". I had no intention of buying any t-shirts at SXSW, but I ended up with one...

 

Best "dodged a bullet" moment

When I was 16, I had 300$ and an idea for a tattoo. I went to a tattoo shop and fed them a line about how I had just moved to Tahoe and didn't have my ID yet, but assured them that I was 18 and ready to get a tattoo. They believed me at first- going so far as to set up the machine and stencil out the tattoo. Just before we got started, the dude got cold feet and told me to come back when I got my ID- he even offered to knock 50$ off when I came back for the inconvenience.

Of course, I didn't go back, because I was 16, not 18. If I had received the tattoo that day, it would have looked like this, on my forearm:

Given what happened at the Screeching Weasel show this year, I probably wouldn't have been very popular for a few days. Little did I know how fortuitous that day was.

Special thanks to the peeps at FILTER mag,  Asics/Onitsuka Tiger and Blue Microphones for the good times.

So, see you in Austin next year?

Questions/Comments? Holler at me @matdiablo.

Wednesday
Dec082010

The best of 2010- this is a list.

Click through to read/hear my favorite songs of 2010. Thank you for your enthusiasm.

Click to read more ...