After months of speculation and internal strife, one of Canada's most popular and controversial rock outfits has called it quits.
"It was just one of those things that ran its course," Matthew Good explained this week, in his first interview since Universal Music Canada confirmed the breakup of the Vancouver-based Matthew Good Band.
"There's been a lot of pointing of fingers and misinformation," added the 30-year-old singer-songwriter, who says he's been "vilified" in the press for his outspoken criticisms of the Canadian music industry and accused of igniting the split with his hot temper.
"It was a conscious effort on everybody's part," he said. "Look, we're a band. We made music. We like what we did. Nobody died." Good said he will continue a solo career and has already written a new album, which he expects to record in June.
This won't be the first time Good has reinvented himself, though it will be decidedly more difficult now that he has offended almost everyone in the Canadian music industry with his outbursts and antics, including Universal executives, whom he has repeatedly dissed.
The songwriter, raised in Coquitlam, B.C., began his career as an acoustic guitar-strumming folkie when he suddenly decided to drop his folk band and switch to rock during a 1995 national tour. With his new band, Good released The Last of the Ghetto Astronauts in 1995. One of Canada's most successful indie releases ever, it sold more than 22,000 copies.
With its enthusiastic stage presence, crushing guitars and insightful lyrics, the band soon garnered a fanatical following in its hometown and was named a "one to watch" by Billboard magazine. Two years later, the band was signed by A&M (now Universal).
The group's first major label release, Underdogs, went platinum. The subsequent album, 1999's Beautiful Midnight, went double platinum and garnered the band three Top 5 rock/alternative Canadian hits. With three 2000 Juno nominations and steady radio rotation, the band was suddenly touted as the next big thing.
Enter the real Matt Good. He was roundly criticized after lashing out at the Toronto rock group Our Lady Peace, calling it a manufactured "studio creation" and setting off a feud that continues to this day. Then he failed to show up to collect the two awards his band won at the 2000 Junos, explaining that the merit of his "art" needn't be subjected to arbitrary judgment.
To the delight of Canadian music journalists, always on the lookout for a glib quote or angry rant, the quick-witted Good has never failed to speak his mind on the sad state of the industry or whatever else irks him. Most recently, he has sparked a feud with fellow Vancouverites, Nickelback, calling one of Canada's most successful acts a "derivative breadrock band."
"Matt adds great theatre to the music business in Canada," says Larry Leblanc, the Canadian editor of Billboard magazine, who calls Good "a terrific artist" whose career is "by no means over."
While Good acknowledges that his rants helped boost him from a relatively unknown into a national figure, he says it has also turned him, unfairly, into a figure of ridicule and hatred in some quarters. He doesn't understand what the big deal is all about.
"People get very upset when you don't play by the rules, or when people just have their own convictions and stand by them. It's really funny, considering it's music. What happened to the days when people drove cars into swimming pools?"
His big mouth, Good adds, had nothing to do with the breakup. More troubling for the band, perhaps, was the increasingly bleak prospect of ever breaking into the United States. When Beautiful Midnight was finally released there last March, the first single made a promising showing on the charts, then fizzled. The band, which had just come off a two-year Canadian tour, only performed a few dates in the U.S. The album went nowhere.
"That had to be pivotal to the breakup," LeBlanc says. "Touring in Canada is an endurance test. The light in the tunnel is some hope for movement in the U.S. When that gets dimmer and dimmer, I'd say there would be some discontent. Particularly if they had problems in the studio."
There were plenty of problems with the recording of the band's latest album, The Audio of Being, released in October; it plummeted to 76 on the Canadian charts five weeks later. Guitarist Dave Genn left the band in August, returned a few days later, only to leave for good in November.
Rumours of the band's breakup continued to circulate when the album was released with no tour dates planned. More morose and inaccessible than their previous two albums, the CD received mixed reviews. Even Good said he wasn't thrilled with the end result.
Good, who has suffered from anxiety attacks since he was a child and last year was diagnosed with a chronic lung condition called sarcoidosis, says it was a tense year for the entire band, but the real story is a lot less convoluted in reality.
"It was just four guys who weren't talking very much when the record got released. That's all. And you know what, that happens in everybody's life and in relationships all the time. For us, it just happened at the worst possible time that it could happen."
He says he wishes the rest of the band well and adds that he wouldn't rule out the possibility of playing with drummer Ian Browne or bassist Richard Priske again (but probably not Genn).
"All I have to say is, to the people who like our music, thank you for liking it. It was really fun."