The indie label that's home to such respected rock artists as Guided By Voices, Pavement, Railroad Jerk and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion has gone the route of the Juiceman and the Thighmaster.
That's right, Matador Records has filmed an infomercial a la Suzanne Summers, and it's set to begin airing on late-night TV in New York and elsewhere by late October.
Dubbed What's Up Matador, the educational (and of course, archly ironic) short features satellite-dish-hawker Bill Boggs teaching a room full of elementary school students lessons such as how to start a band and make a record. Along for the ride in hilarious cameos are Liz Phair, Jon Spencer, Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan and Railroad Jerk's Marcellus Hall and Dave Varenka.
While it would not necessarily be beyond Matador's sense of humor to make
an infomercial without a product to sell, the spot actually (but not necessarily coincidentally) coincides with a new music release from the label, also called What's Up Matador. Priced at $9.99, the recently released set features one 24-track "best of" CD that covers the label's history, as well as another 20-song disc of unreleased material by some of the label's best-known artists as well as such burgeoning groups as Bardo Pond, Silkworm, Spoon and Run On.
Among the unreleased tracks on the What's Up Matador album are
Pavement's "Killing Moon," a concert staple that was originally recorded
for a BBC program called The Late Shift; the Blues
Explosion's "Dig My Shit," which stems from a recording session a year ago
dedicated to B-sides; Guided By Voices' "My Thoughts Are a Gas," once
intended as a single for Matador; and Liz Phair's "Stuck On A Island,"
which hails from the sessions that also yielded her next album, due out in
Like the album, the What's Up Matador infomercial video will also
sell for a reduced price. Interspersed with Boggs' lessons on indie rock
are more than a dozen videos for songs not on the album, such as Pavement's
"Cut Your Hair" and the Blues Explosion's "Flavor."
More enjoyable than the music videos, however, is the infomercial footage
itself, including an interview with Phair on the perils of fame and a
how-to lesson from Spencer on playing the theremin. Produced by Chavez
guitarist and award-winning filmmaker Clay Tarver, the spot is rife with
purposefully awkward details, such as Boggs consistently looking at the
wrong camera, or the words "Love" and "Hate" hastily scribbled in pen
across Marcellus Hall's knuckles.
Hall and Varenka participate in one of the video's most memorable segments
as they read the story of Matador's beginnings to the school children
seated on the floor before them. "At one time, Matador was just a dream,"
reads Varenka innocently, as Hall blows his harp in the background. "Just
a word on the lips of a young man living in New York City, Chris Lombardi.
'I'm gonna have a record company,' Chris would say to his friends. 'Stop
lying,' they'd say. 'Yeah, shut up.'"
Later, Boggs captures the label's simultaneously self-deprecating and
cooler than thou image perfectly when he asks the kids, "Have you ever
found yourself walking home from school and you're just kind of humming a
little tune to yourself? Well all you have to do is put that little tune
to a little music and -- boom! -- you've got what we call indie rock." [Fri., Sept. 26, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]