Liberteer | Interview with Matt Widener

While The County Medical Examiners is laying dormant and Cretin is waiting for frontwoman Marissa Martinez to fully attain her womanhood (Marissa was actually born Dan, but that’s a different story) in order to complete the writing of their new album, Matt Widener spent the last two years piecing together some new songs that were meant to be featured in his new solo adventure called Liberteer.
“Better to Day on Your Feet than Die on Your Knees” sees Widener merging the relentless and maniacal grind that both The County Medical Examiners and Cretin are renowned for with some weird ass experimentalisms that includes wind instruments, banjos and epic melodies.
We had the chance to ask Widener the inspirations and drive behind Liberteer and why he’s doing this. Read the answers below.


What was it that made you decide to venture off on your own and release a solo project, rather than once again teaming up with another group?

“I tend to like to work alone. Not for every project, but for many of them. Liberteer is very political and rather than find bandmates with identical views, I thought it easier to charge ahead on my own.”

Did you find it easier to be able to work within your own parameters and schedule, as opposed to work with a group of guys?

“It was much easier on my own. Schedule is most of it. When I work on my own I can utilize a spare hour to make progress on a song. Sometimes my recording opportunities hinge on other people leaving the house, my neighbours, time of day, and so on. If it was a full band with a full band's input, that would become another force in my life, another obligation that would crowd my schedule and weigh me down. It is much more enjoyable to keep this project pure and my own, something I can think about and be excited about, a nice change from my responsibilities. I am in a band called Cretin that has two other members, and I've been in bands before, like Exhumed, so I know what it takes to keep a bunch of guys in playing shape. And if I'm to have multiple bands, I simply don't have the energy or time to juggle them all in that way.”

Some of the songs featured on “Better to Die…” are not exactly what you would find on a Cretin or Citizen record, or any grindcore album for that matter. You offer an intriguing range of musical sounds combined with some straight up and rabid grind, an enthralling mixture that Decibel’s editor Albert Mudrian describes as "Part Vincent DiCola. Part David Vincent". What inspired you to explore new realms of music?

“For twenty years now I've toed the party line when it comes to grind. When you form a band, you are in constant dialogue with the current scene and all that has come before, whether you like it or not. And when I was younger I was impressionable, I wanted to sound a certain way in order to emulate the bands I liked most and the bands the scene considered most influential. So when it came to writing I tended never to stray from the grindcore paradigm. I guess you could have called me conformist. I am also in bands that were so dedicated to established styles that I was cloning them whole cloth, like in my bands Cretin and especially The County Medical Examiners. But as I got older I grew more tired of doing that and started to care less what anyone thought of my music. Eventually I began writing music, with Liberteer, that I had always heard in my head but was intimidated to record. I am at the point where I just want to make music that I really like and in so doing can't worry too much about how it will be received by listeners, though I am happy to hear so many people like the Liberteer album. So I think it's age.”

Are the songs on this album recent creations or have some of them been hanging around in one form or another for years now waiting to be recorded?

“I wrote the album largely in order as it appears, starting with the instrumental track "The Falcon Cannot Hear The Falconer," then used that melody to begin writing the first riff on the album. That was written and recorded back in 2009. When inspiration would strike I would revisit the project and add to it. These themes appeared. I wove them through the album across logical breaks that made songs. Occasionally I would write a new theme for a song then go back to previous songs and find ways to insert that new theme in some small way, to foreshadow its later coming. I recorded the final song at the beginning of 2011. There were parts on the album, however, that I knew I wanted in some project going back ten years or so. I always wanted an album that broke down midway and had a training montage. And for a few years before I started Liberteer I imagined the most jubilant and triumphant sound a metal album could have would be to have a celebration parade. I included both those on the album.”

Did you have any help in the studio when recording this album? Or did you in fact played all the instruments by yourself?
“My friend Andrew played some solos and little guitar parts one night. I thought it would be nice if he appeared on an album. Other than that I took care of everything myself. I don't like going into studios to record. It's expensive. I like finding ways to do it all myself. My early albums were awful to listen to but I'm slowly getting better at recording and mixing everything. All you need these days is a laptop and a few decent microphones. The most important thing is understanding how to set a microphone up in a space. Once you understand that, you understand 90% of recording. All the fancy plugins and tricks and specialized gear are not nearly as important as understanding the acoustics of your room and how to position the microphone. That's hard though, and it takes years of experience, which is why my albums are still very flawed. But I find the process a lot of fun.”

From the song titles, it seems that some of these tracks are pointing at messages focused around the theme of power and the degradation of modern societies. Are there any principle ideas or even lessons that “Better to Die…” is trying to convey?


The other day I saw this documentary made by a member of Car Bomb about the hardships of a touring metal band, I’m not sure if you have seen it, but he asks and wonders why metal bands do this, considering there’s no pay and sometimes there’s hardly anyone noticing what you’re doing. And now I feel tempted to ask you the same question. Why do you do this?

“It sounds like Car Bomb are measuring their enjoyment in recognition and things they have no real control over. Artists have to love the process. Otherwise you set yourself up for disappointment. Being a "working band" and sustaining yourself financially through your music and garnering critical attention are nice goals to have but you can work very hard and never attain that, so it doesn't make sense to marry your happiness to those concepts. I figured this out a long time ago. I don't like performing very much so I'll never make money. And I don't like collaborating with other artists so I won't get a lot of critical success. But I enjoy the process. I love humming a riff all day until I get home and find it on the fretboard, I love recording and hearing it all come together. And as long as I have no expectations beyond those simple joys, I will never be disappointed. That's the key to happiness, do what you love. Just don't fall in love with the notion of success because you can't reliably get that. Love the process.”

What can we expect from you in the future in terms of new music or other plans? I understand there’s a new Cretin album in the making.

“We have about 75% of the new Cretin album written and just need to rehearse it. Col is busy with his new band, Mortuous, who are godly and play old school death metal, and I'm recording a new doom project, so we're still plenty busy, but hopefully we can record the Cretin album starting in the summer. I've been working on some classical music. I play contrabass and cello and viola. In several months I'll begin writing and recording the new Liberteer album as well. So there's lots of music going on.”

David Alexandre