Matt Toka Interview

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Photograph by Erin Trigg

It seems Matt Toka’s green hair has become his identifier. It’s usually the conversation starter, his hair. His music or dedication to his fans tends to come second to this. And this shouldn’t be the case. I’m not really helping by starting off about his hair either; but as with all things in life, to move on you must acknowledge the problem, accept it, and move on to the bigger story at hand.

Matt Toka has green hair. Okay.

The real conversation starter should be the dedication Matt has in everything he does. Whether it’s connecting with his fans online, in person or forcing himself to write new songs every day, dedication always rings true when Matt Toka is being discussed. There’s a lot more to Matt than his green hair. Sure, a person’s exterior is our only initial reception to a person but let’s try to change that starting right now because underneath it all, Matt is not a natural green head.

I would imagine for the Warped Tour veterans, being on the tour is easier for them because they already have a large following and are familiar with the tour. Is being on Warped harder for you because you’re a newcomer?
Matt: Yeah, I’m not used to being pampered. It’s been a grind for me. A couple years ago I was playing street corners in L.A. so to be able to do this tour, it’s a dream. I’m not afraid of hard work. I feel like I’m working towards my career and what I love. I enjoy the whole process of it all.

You’ve said that you don’t party as much as others on the tour and are instead working on fan interaction and editing videos. Can you go more into that?
Matt: I hang out at merch for about four and a half hours a day. I spend about two hours, maybe a little bit more, on Facebook hitting everyone up and on Twitter. And then at the end of the day, I edit videos for my YouTube channel. So my schedule is pretty full. Doing it all fucked up, the content would suffer and people pay money to come see me so I feel I should do it.

At the Uniondale date last Saturday, I had spoken to a couple of bands, like Stepdad calling you their “best friend” and June Divided who said you were really nice. Mark and Nathan of Stepdad told some stories about bike racing in Wal-Mart and about a train that you started. Can you share those stories?
Matt: Yeah, I love those guys of Stepdad. We were parked in a Wal-Mart parking lot. And actually, I just want to say that Wal-Mart’s a piece of shit. We share a bus with Skinny Lister and they wouldn’t serve them alcohol. It was because they were from another country that I guess they couldn’t serve them or let them buy alcohol. It was this whole ordeal. So my bus tried to buy them alcohol then it was more of an ordeal because now they said we were trying to buy alcohol for people out of the country. But we were in Wal-Mart and I saw Mark and Nathan in there; and we were really bored so we decided to take the bikes and ride them around for a little bit. He fucked his hand up, poor guy. We were having so much fun and then he crushed his hand. We barbequed in the parking lot at Wal-Mart and had a couple of beers.

A lot of fans have been saying how they love how involved you are with fans. Do you feel it’s important to work to keep that connection with fans?
Matt: Yes absolutely. At times it feels overwhelming but at the end of the day, I could work a 9 to 5 job and I get to do what I love. So many people support me, allowing me to do what I love. It’s important to engage with them and show them my appreciation and I want to get to know the people that support me for what I’m doing.

Can you talk about your creative process a little? What motivates you to pick up your guitar and write new music?
Matt: I get a lot of anxiety and writing is like therapy, it’s kind of my release so I try to write as much as I can. It’s a lot harder on tour trying to find time to pick up the guitar. I just write whatever I’m feeling. It’s more so for me and it’s also about my life. Since I’m a sarcastic motherfucker, sometimes I like to have fun and sometimes I like to be serious so I embody all those things. After I write a decent amount of songs, the ones that cover the focus of that will move forward to an album.

“Doing it all fucked up, the content would suffer”

Are your lyrics more confessional or abstract?
Matt: I think my lyrics are pretty literal. I don’t really get the abstract thing. I like how you can create a direct story. If you hear the chorus, you can kind of understand what I’m talking about. There isn’t more to the art of writing songs than getting deep. It’s more of a connection for me.

What were some of the major factors and circumstances of your childhood that led to you becoming a musician?
Matt: Music was really big in my house. My parents are music junkies and they’re also really, really dysfunctional so I would just lose myself in music. I was too young to get into drugs and drugs are expensive so music was therapeutic. It just kind of helped me fucking forget about my family for fucking hours for as long as I wanted to get away from that bullshit going on in my house.

What are your plans after tour?
Matt: I have a couple of gigs with Falling in Reverse on the west coast so I’m very excited.

When will you be releasing your full length debut album?
Matt: Um, I don’t know. I hope soon. I’m really proud of it. It’s one of the best albums of all time.

Is there a difference in your debut album musically from your EP that we can anticipate?
Matt: Yeah, you know what, the album’s amazing. It is my life told in song. I’m really, really proud of it. Some of the songs on my EP are on the full length album; it’s called Straight to Hell. And I did that because I didn’t want to take away from how proud I am of this full length album. It’s meant to be heard. It’s a full length. You know, since we’re on the Warped Tour I wanted to give some music out to people, that was important. And also, those songs I was proud of so I wanted to use them.

Connect:
http://matttoka.com
http://facebook.com/matttoka/
https://twitter.com/MattToka
http://say10.com/

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Nancy Hoang created Hopeless Thunder in 2007. She conducts the interviews, writes the articles, photographs the concerts, and handles the site's coding & design. (Basically, she's a control freak.) Her work can also be seen on music publication, CMJ. Contact Nancy for image licensing, assignments, or just to say hi.