April 10th, 1998
Allstar Magazine -
Dave Matthews taps into his more political -- and at the same time, darker -- side on the band's forthcoming album, Before These Crowded Streets, due April 28 on RCA.
Some of the most compelling tracks on the album, which was produced by Steve Lillywhite, who also produced 1996's Crash and 1994's Under the Table and Dreaming, are the ones that veer off from the group's usual happy, infectious songs. (Not that there's anything wrong with upbeat tunes, of course.) "The Last Stop," the first single "Don't Drink the Water," and the revamped "Halloween" are among the songs that capture Matthews' more manic vocal presentation, in which on the former two he's practically screaming at the end.
"Halloween" was the song originally slated for the Scream II soundtrack, but as Matthews tells it, "it ended up being a crap soundtrack, and we liked it too much so we didn't give them that, we gave them 'Help Myself' instead." A different version of "Halloween" appeared on the group's Recently EP, but was re-recorded with the Kronos String Quartet for Before These Crowded Streets.
"Like the opera voice?" Matthews shyly asks about "Halloween." "It was a last- minute thing, a joke. There's this little Vincent Price voice in there that I was doing, that was one take, really. We were sitting around mixing it up in New York a couple of months later and I was jokingly doing my little strained tenor and Steve [Lillywhite] is like [puts on a heavy British accent], 'That's brilliant.' So we kept it."
As for the political songs, "The Last Stop" finds one wondering who Matthews is yelling at as he shouts, "You're always so righteous." "I am yelling, aren't I? It's really not at myself, but maybe it should be. I find it a little frustrating that maybe because it's been so long since there's been a really devastating war that we are all so headstrong, and it just scares me.
"I know growing up in South Africa how quickly hatred can turn to blind violence on all levels," continues Matthews, "but the way the media all over the world -- I don't want to just indict the powers that be in America, because certainly they're not alone in stupid behavior, so I'm not at all saying that Saddam Hussein is not bananafish, but I mean, hey, we put him there, but I'm getting off track -- but I find the eagerness to go to... the willingness of the media, or at the least the popular voice, the prevailing voice, the louded voice, the willingness to want to go to war. I just don't think it always ends up as you want it to.... It's frightening to me when people say, 'We're not gonna stand for it.' I don't like strong language when there's guns to back it up."