120 Minutes of Matt Pinfield…
Back in the mid 1990s, MTV was beginning its ascent to the top of the Nielsen ratings with ridiculous shows like The Real World, Singled Out, and Total Request Live. Music videos were aired less and less until eventually they were almost eliminated altogether. It was around this time that I was really getting into the independent underground music scene. I was especially drawn to the forbidden, outcast world of underground punk rock, but I was (and still am) a huge fan of independent, non-mainstream music of all types. Most of my discoveries of new indie bands came from going to shows (and actually watching the opening bands) or reading through the liner notes of “thank yous” on any given record. There was, however, one show on MTV that effectively brought the world of underground rock music right into my living room. It was called 120 Minutes and it was hosted by an iconic musical savant named Matt Pinfield.
My friends and I would jokingly refer to him as “Pinhead,” but the truth is that he is a musical genius. His wealth of knowledge regarding anything music related is unparalleled. Without blinking an eye, he can easily give you a concise, accurate history of almost any band, even naming individual band members and going through brief histories of THEIR musical backgrounds. His stories and anecdotes on the music scene were fascinating, and his raspy voice and striking resemblance to the cartoonish Mr. Clean only added to his iconic allure. 120 Minutes aired on Sundays from 11pm to 1am and I would always stay up to watch, not only for the videos but also for the vast knowledge of music that Matt would invariably endow to the viewers. It was on this show, courtesy of Matt, that I was first introduced to bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, Bad Religion, Dinosaur Jr., and The Offspring. MTV eventually sacked the show but not before Matt had left an indelible impression on me.
Fast forward to around 2004. Allister had just headlined a Warped Tour sponsored show at The Key Club in Hollywood, CA. Following the show, a few of us had walked next door to the infamous Rainbow Room to enjoy a few drinks and to soak in the universally weird Hollywood vibe. We headed back to the van around 2:30am and I remember thinking that we had a good forty minute drive to get back to our friend’s house. As I got closer I noticed that the van’s sliding side door was open and the dome light was on. I could see two people sitting on the inside step chatting away like long lost friends. One was our guitar tech, Magoo, and the other, instantly recognizable by his short, stocky frame and cigarette-choked raspy voice, was none other than Matt Pinfield.
I was certainly taken aback seeing him sitting in our van. I walked up and shook his hand, introducing myself and mumbling something about how I loved 120 Minutes and how I was disappointed when it went off the air. True to form, he began rattling off facts about our band like he was recapping the night’s dinner menu. He knew where we were from, what record label we were on, what other bands were on our label, and THEIR history as well. It was very surreal. There was something not quite right about him, though. Once he started talking, he didn’t stop. He rambled on and on and on and started talking faster and faster. His one-sided conversation was like a runaway freight train. He kept talking and talking and glancing nervously around while wiping away the tiny beads of sweat that were collecting on his bald head. It quickly became clear that he had, at some point very recently, inhaled a suitcase full of cocaine. It was an interesting sight, to be sure, so we talked for a while, sharing cigarettes and reminiscing about old tour stories.
Eventually it was time for us leave. Matt, however, was perfectly content to sit and chat with us all night. We repeatedly told him that we had to go but he just wouldn’t leave. As we were all piling into the van, I heard Matt asking if we could drive him to his hotel. “Hey guys if it’s not too much trouble could you just drive me to my hotel it’s right down the street and it’s kinda far but I just need to get back to my hotel and if you could drop me off that’d be great it’s only down the road a few miles or so….” he rambled. We agreed so he hopped into the back as well.
I pulled out of The Key Club parking lot, turned onto Sunset Blvd., and literally drove no more than fifty yards before I heard Matt yelling from the back seat, “Whoa! Stop! This is it right here this is my hotel it’s right here could you stop this is where I’m staying thanks for the ride you guys are great.” I thought to myself, you could’ve walked here in less than 3 minutes! I glanced in the mirror expecting to see him making his way towards the door but he simply sat there, talking and talking as if we were all paying attention.
We sat in front of his hotel for at least another 20 minutes while he yammered away in back. What had started out as a fun, somewhat whimsical conversation, had now become quite an annoyance. We dropped every hint we could to get him to leave but he just wasn’t biting. Finally, mercifully, Magoo looked at him and said, “Matt! Nobody gives a shit now get the fuck out of our van!” So he climbed out and we pulled away, watching him trundle up the sidewalk to the front steps of his hotel. None of us could believe how strange the entire conversation had been.
I still have the utmost respect for Matt and his plethora of musical knowledge. We actually ran into him again about a year later while idling in the parking lot at Reading Festival in England. A mammoth tour bus drove up and parked next to our van and the first person to step off of it was Matt. He instantly recognized us as Allister and engaged us in conversation. Nothing was mentioned of that night in Hollywood, but he remembered us and was once again able to rattle off various facts about our dumb little band from Chicago. It still amazes me.