Matt Jordan is a force of nature. We had the good fortune good of attending a Reverend Horton Heat show on a chilly Ottawa night. We were
drawn to the tour bus trailer by some incredible New Orleans ragtime/barrelhouse piano playing and had a chance meeting with Matt (hear the humorous details in the following interview). First impression, great player. Second impression, unbelievably nice guy. Then the show! Matt complemented the power psychobilly trio as a phenomenal pianist who knows when to step up and when to blend. His infectious grin and positivity won over the crowd, and he was obviously in the zone. Follow Matt on social media and you will get a daily dose of someone who loves life. As part of the Reverend Horton Heat or with his own band, Matt’s Blues, he is not to be missed.
Listen to the video below to hear about how Matt came to join Reverend Horton Heat, his beginnings as a piano player, the ‘asshole’ that kicked the bus in Ottawa, fast cars and how to make a perfect 4th and an octave by pounding your sternum.
(As a bonus feature, listen to Matt talk about the bus kicking incident here.)
On joining Reverend Horton Heat
“Well, it’s pretty cool. For quite a number of years, I’d been wanting to play a bigger gig than just my own solo shows or the local bands, so I would go to shows and try to meet people if I could, hang out after the show. I had CDs and business cards I was armed with and I’d give those out to people and it was kind of “If you need a piano player, check out what I do.” And of course, most people just…trash. “Yeah, thanks for the CD.” And then as soon as I’m gone, right, trash compactor. But (Reverend Horton Heat’s) Jim Heath actually listened to my CD and the time that I met him, he also was looking for a piano player at that time. So, it was kind of serendipitous, I guess. I was in the right place at the right time. But I suppose anther way to look at it is, experience lots of rejection until I found somebody who wanted me. It’s kind of like, if you don’t make any calls, you don’t make any sales. So, I spent a long time practicing and trying to be good enough for a gig like this and then when I met Jim, it worked out kind of magically. It was pretty cool.”
On the difference between a piano and a keyboard
“I’ve made the comparison before when I get into arguments with people about piano vs. keyboards. Maybe it’s not the best thing for my career to be arguing with anybody but, a lot of people have strong opinions about this and that. The way I compare it is that a piano is to a keyboard the way a guitar is to a Guitar Hero controller. You’re talking about an instrument that has wood and high tension strings that resonate acoustically, which would be a piano or guitar vs something that’s plastic, that has buttons that fire off digitally sampled sounds or a Midi controller. Any guitar player in the world that you think would be happy with having his Les Paul taken away and being given a plastic controller with buttons hooked up to a really, really fancy Midi module with ProTools…If you can find one of those, I’ll give you a piano player that’s happy with a keyboard substituted for his real felt hammers and copper wound steel bass strings and his perfectly crowned soundboard.
“I finally decided that keyboards…that I’d be OK with it is that in a Rock and Roll band, it’s a lot different from classical music, where the piano is the main instrument….For the purpose of the band, my job is to support the band and the band leader and make everybody else sound as good as possible. I’m more of a support role, so in the end, with all the other instruments involved, a keyboard, in that situation will probably do as good a job as a real piano and it’ll be a lot less hassle. But when it comes down to the art of music, there’s nothing like a real piano. Even a kind of crappy, out of tune upright piano, to me, beats the best keyboard in the world by a thousand miles. It’s real. It’s there. It moves you. You hit the note and you feel your ribcage resonating with that vibration. There’s no substitute.”
On his incredibly positive attitude
“I’d have to say it’s my relationship with Christ. I have hope. I’m happy to be alive…You know, I didn’t ask to be born. I was born against my will. I just came splashing out into the universe and like here I am. Boom, I exist all of a sudden. It’s cool. It’s a blessing. It’s like something I didn’t ask for but it was given to me anyway.
“We have free choice in our lives and we can choose to do one thing or another, but a lot of things are kind of a like it or not situation, where you just kind of have to deal with it. So, learning to accept things and take them in stride and be thankful for them has just kind of been something that life has taught me to do. It’s great. Every day is a new day. I don’t always have good days, but I somehow manage to get through even the toughest days with a usually pretty cool head. (laughs) And I try not to take myself too seriously, too because, who am I? You know, there’s all kinds of crazy stuff going on in the world and I’m just this guy that plays piano and loves fast cars and airplanes and trains.”
On how to get a perfect 4th and octave by slamming your sternum
“My buddy who builds instruments, Jason Leininger of Pittsburgh, he told
me this. He said, I forget where he heard this, but if you tap on your sternum, that bone right in the middle of your breast, if you tap on your sternum and you tap on your chin, and if you listen to the sound, if you listen to the frequency, that makes a fourth interval, like a C to an F. So if you go “Clonk, clonk, clonk” on your sternum, you got to tap so hard that it hurts, you know, but you can hear it go “dunk, dunk, dunk, donk, donk, donk”. So your sternum to your chin is a fourth and then if you go up and you tap on your cheekbone from your sternum, it’s an octave. So the way that the musical scale is set up, with the 12 note scale, which is kind of a human invention, but it also resonates with the way that we’re made physically, like the mechanical structure of our bodies. Our biological form resonates with that. So when you’re playing music, you’re not just making sounds that are free-associated with your brain, you’re actually doing something physically to the human body and that’s why it feels good and that’s why people have different ideas as to what’s good and what’s bad with music. It’s because it’s a very real thing.”
On the ‘asshole’ who kicked the bus in Ottawa
“That night when the guy kicked the bus…so the guy kicked the bus and (Reverend Horton Heat bassist) Jimbo came down and was like, “Did you just kick the bus?” And the guy was like (Sheepishly) “Yeah.” And then he (Jimbo) was like, “Why would you do that?” And the guy came up, and he had his tail between his legs and his chin tucked into his chest and he was like, “Because I’m an asshole. That’s why.” (Matt laughs)
“It was funny the way the guy just totally capitulated. You know, 30 seconds ago, he was a badass. He was like, “I’m gonna kick this fucking bus,” and then next thing you know he was like, “Why did I do it? Because I’m an asshole.” Dude, you just totally surrendered. (Laughs)
Reverend Horton Heat