Dave Matthews: Dear Superstar
October 1st, 2003
By David Keeps - Blender, October 2003
Is he a good hugger? Can he recommend a decent bottle of red, and how often does he “shoe the mule” — or masturbate, for that matter? The 36-year-old South Africa native was good enough to answer all your questions — even the ones about spanking!
If you think Dave Matthews’s concerts are generous in length, just try interviewing him. After an hour spent sitting on the balcony of his room in the superswank Peninsula Hotel in Los Angeles, Matthews has made it through only half of his Dear Superstar debut. Currently out on the road bringing home the bacon for his twin daughters and wife, Matthews has to finish the interview from his tour bus between gigs a week later.
“I’m on a cellphone, watching trucks go by,” says the 36-year-old native of Johannesburg, South Africa, who, when not touring, now calls Seattle home.
Not content to make hit albums, play sold-out stadiums and rake in millions of dollars — “I keep trying to get rid of it, but it keeps finding its way back to me” — Matthews is taking the bold step this month of releasing a dark solo effort, Some Devil, his first CD without his fabled band. It’s an apt title for a record by Matthews, a self-effacing, surprisingly sharp-witted guy who refers to himself during our afternoon together as a “sad bastard” and a “painful little prick.”
Matthews does not limit his barbs to himself, either. “What a fucking moronic question,” he cheerfully responds to one reader’s query. Hey, he said it, not us…
Who is the best hugger in the band?MONTYHALL66, SUNRISE, FLORIDA
I’m sure this is a clever reference to a video we did of people walking around New York City hugging each other shortly after a recognizable date in September. Other than that video, there isn’t a rigorous competition as to who can most effectively satisfy somebody in need of a hug. On a good day, I am a reluctant hugger, but I would describe my hugs as hug-like.
You were a bartender. Did it make you a good listener?UNDERTHETABLEANDDREAMING, MAUMEE, OHIO
If you work at night, as I mostly did, you make a lot of money, but you tend not to be given a great deal of time to listen to people. When I did work in the day, I think I learned a lot. You can imagine someone who comes into a bar fairly regularly in the afternoon may have a story of how he or she got to be there. I don’t know if it made me a really good listener as much as it made me a sort of unpunishable plagiarist.
Did you acquire any good pickup lines while bartending?BENNYHANA, SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO
I remember an old regular — he must have been well into his early seventies — asked the waitress if he could eat her pussy. And it required some restraint on her part to laugh instead of decking him. But I thought that was a pretty bold line.
If you had a drink named after you, what would the recipe be?LOLO_1977, RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA
Hmmm. I guess the name for that has already been taken: Scotch on the rocks. I’d prefer no drink be named after me. You could name a sandwich after me. A butter-and-avocado sandwich — that’s pretty edgy, isn’t it?
You used to be quite a drinker. How’d you know when you’d had enough?DAVEFANATIC, WAUKEGAN, ILLINOIS
That’s the problem. I think if you could look at yourself soberly while you’re getting plastered — the heavy eyelids, the eventual collapse of the whole face — it’s probably a lot earlier than most of us think. Someone once told me that I was very good-looking and quite eloquent after a couple of drinks, but then I just sort of became pathetic and sad. I was with [comic TV actor] Dabney Coleman, enjoying quite frequent evenings of drinking together, and he would count all the drunken mistakes I made. I’d fall off a chair, and he’d say, “That was 15!” Get into the wrong car: “Twenty-four!”
I have $100 to spend on a bottle of red wine. Any recommendations?VINOVERITAS, HUNTINGTON, NEW YORK
I don’t care. I might have favorites that are Italian, such as those from Brunello di Montalcino, but in our present social climate it should probably be French. I’m not by any means an expert. In fact, I’d like to change my answer to 10 bottles of Mad Dog 20/20.
What do you spend your money on? Do you have a secret rock-star indulgence?COWBOYS-N-INDIANS, ANGLETON, TEXAS
I don’t have an extravagant jewelry collection or a 55-car garage. I think I’m small potatoes — that’s my problem. I think I should want to become a land baron. I want to own enormous tracts that I could mine or just move dirt around. I could pretend to be an environmentalist, and then one day I’ll start farming tar — I’ll just pave a bunch of shit.
You have a role in the upcoming film Where the Red Fern Grows. How good an actor are you?BILBAO_81, OBERLIN, OHIO
I don’t think I’m an actor, but I can pretend OK. The director said, “In this scene, you’ve just come around back from shoeing the mule,” and I thought that was fucking hysterical, like spanking the monkey or choking the chicken. But he meant I literally was shoeing a mule.
You’ve confessed to being a committed monkey spanker, have you not?DIGGITY_D, OGDEN, UTAH
I’m still in the depths of that. I mean, I’m not standing on the street corner frozen with need, frozen with the urge to spill it right there. I like to think I’m a recovering onanist. You could become sleepy and bleary-eyed if you overdid it. I mean, not as a 15-year-old. Then there’s never enough time alone: “Why do I go to school? I could be home masturbating!”
What is the secret to singing like a woman?MAXINRELAXIN, HOUSTON
Is that from someone who doesn’t like me? Do I sound like a woman, is that what he’s suggesting? I just try to sing pretty and drag my way up there. If I could go higher, I would. I’m aiming for munchkin-dom, but so far I’ve managed only to sing like a woman.
Have you ever seen any of the DMB tribute bands?DMBHEAD03, SAYRE, PENNSYLVANIA
Never. There’s one called Tripping Billies, and the most originally named one, The Dave Matthews Band Cover Band. I’ve heard a tape or two. And let me tell you, that’s just strange.
How much money would they have to offer you to appear as a judge on American Idol?SURFERGRRRL, WELLS BEACH, MAINE
We used to say to my mom, “Mom, would you eat dog shit for a hundred dollars?” No. “Would you eat dog shit for a thousand, a million dollars?” She said, “I won’t do anything stupid for money.” That would be my response as to whether or not to be on American Idol. I wouldn’t eat shit for any amount of money. I might like to be on Fear Factor, though, because I think I could eat anything.
In your opinion, was George W. Bush lying about the reason the United States went to war in Iraq?CITIZENCAINE, VINELAND, NEW JERSEY
Yes — what isn’t he lying about?
If you were to endorse a candidate for 2004, who would it be?ALOHADAVE, KAILUNA-KONA, HAWAII
Anyone but the guy we have right now, so that leaves it wide open. I often like what I read about Howard Dean, but I wouldn’t mind him getting a little more confidence. I’m still looking. I haven’t found a candidate who truly embraces my position of peace. They’re all out there pretending not to be soft on terrorism, so they want to be stupid about it. Nobody has the spine to start a debate on the effectiveness of the war on terror, which from its name to its implementation is so full of irony.
I’m going on vacation to South Africa. What must I see and do?HOTSTUF, SPRINGFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS
Go to the places people tell you not to go. But don’t go there stupidly. If you’re going to Johannesburg, the Bassline is a great club. Go to Soweto and Cape Town. There are also some incredible natural wonders and parks in South Africa that’ll make you hate every zoo you’ve ever been to.
Did you ever have a mullet?POPSTARZZZ, PINE BLUFF, ARKANSAS
I’ve had some terrible long hair and terrible short hair, but I never went with the ’80s thing. I never had the courage to sculpt my hair.
You went to an English-style school in South Africa. Which was worse, the rugby or the canings?JOHNNYDEE, EASTCHESTER, NEW YORK
Well, I enjoyed the rugby, although it instilled a certain amount of fear. Caning just taught me to get away with shit and not get caught. I’m not as opposed to it as I think a lot of people would be having experienced it — detention just seemed like such a waste of time, and caning was the precise punishment for what you had done. Plus it was always amusing afterward showing each other your bruises, the phenomenal colors that come up on your ass. The spectrum of bruising is just amazing.
What’s the longest you’ve ever gone without showering?BOINGBOING18, ELLENSBURG, WASHINGTON
Not recently, but I’ll say a week. You go any longer than that and people start thinking you’re fucking crazy.
What’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done on mushrooms?PELLMELL1999, TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA
Not many stupid things, actually. Other hallucinogens have caused me to do stupid things — bad decisions while one’s mind is warped by LSD, like jumping from high places and throwing myself off unnecessarily tall precipices. Or walking for very long periods of time clad scantily, if at all, in the beating African sun.
Why do you wear a copper wedding ring?MOODYMANNY, CRANSTON, RHODE ISLAND
That’s an idea my wife and I had. We found three pennies from the year she was born and three from the year I was born — which is a more difficult task than you might imagine — and had them melted down and turned into a band. It turns my finger green, and the ring itself changes color. I’ll get out of the tub and it’ll be almost black, and then I’ll be walking down the street playing with it and I’ll look at it and go, “Oh, my goodness, it’s like a brand-new penny!” It’s very satisfying.
What’s the strangest gift you ever got from a fan?HUMANBEAN_06, FRANKENMUTH, MICHIGAN
A set of pots and pans, used. It would be nice if it was just humorous, but I think it was maybe a crazy person. And no, I didn’t keep them; I have my standards when it comes to my kitchenware.
Do you recycle your trash?HELLYUN_61, WINSTON-SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA
Somewhat obsessively. On the road it becomes difficult, but we try. But at home it’s much more easily controlled. I live in Seattle, and social obligation is alive and well in Seattle.
You were raised a Quaker. What tenets did you learn that you’d like to pass on to your daughters?WHEELZDEALZ, DOVER, DELAWARE
That peace is the most important thing. And in that, I think love is included. Above all things, it’s the most righteous. Not war for peace, not guns or bombs for peace. Peace itself, a natural state.
Why have you made a solo record? What can you do solo that you can’t do with the band?BIFFUS, LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY
The drive was not so much to do something without the band as it was just to do something on my own. A lot of the record is just me and my guitar. It was fun to go into a room and just make up some music and not think about anything but what was on my mind. The process is really different, but I think it’s only going to make my love of working with the band even stronger.
Have you ever asked a woman to “hike up your skirt a little more and show the world to me”?CRASHTEST, ELKO, NEVADA
That’s probably the worst line that I’ve ever written. I’ve had to answer for that line more than anything. We were recording “Crash Into Me,” and then it got to the end. I’m always rambling on, so to amuse myself and [producer] Steve Lillywhite, I sang, “Hike up your skirt a little more and show the world to me.” I guess it stuck in people’s minds.
Why is the guitar strap you use always so short?AMPEDUP, INDEPENDENCE, MISSOURI
Because I learned to play the guitar sitting down, so it’s just not comfortable anywhere else. I really wish I wore my guitar down by the waist like Jimmy Page did, but then I can’t reach the guitar. If I had a longer strap, I’d have to get a chair.
Do you have any recurring dreams, and if so, what do you think they mean?FLUTTERBY, MODESTO, CALIFORNIA
Being caught with my pants down. I take that to mean performance anxiety. I also used to have a recurring dream when I was waiting tables that I couldn’t get the food and drinks to the table. That’s performance anxiety, too. I guess I’m just not good enough.