Matt Hock (The Explosion) Talks New Project Space Cadet, Punk Influences and More (INTERVIEW)

From the late ‘90s to the early ‘00s, Matt Hock and Dave Walsh played a brilliantly catchy and efficient style of punk rock with their band The Explosion that managed to channel the ferocity and political consciousness of bands like Bad Religion and The Clash without coming off sounding like they were simply re-treading well worn paths. The band eventually dissolved in 2007 and Walsh went on to join the likeminded band The Loved Ones. 

So, when the two decided to put together a new band, you’d be forgiven for thinking they would stick to the comfortable punk rock route. But forming Space Cadet, the duo dug deeper into their record crates for inspiration, and the results can be heard all over their debut, Lion On A Leash. The result is a satisfying mix of post-punk and Brit pop.

Summing up what her hears, Hock admits, “The record sounds like two guys who love reverb and chorus pedals, The Stone Roses, Cock Sparrer and The Rolling Stones.” And, surprisingly, it does. 

Hock recently spoke to us about making the record as the world shut down, finding their sound organically and the importance of finding a real bass player rather than figuring it out on your own.

Obviously the first thing that comes to mind listening to this record is that it doesn’t sound like The Explosion. Was that a conscious decision or did your sound evolve as you were playing together more?

I think it was a subconscious thing that became a conscious decision. We had both been playing around with different effects and guitar tones for fun and that kind of sent us down a path. “Forever For A While” was actually a direct result of that experimentation. I played that song for Dave and he was like, “We gotta do a band with more songs like this.” He happened to have “Bad Luck” written, so those two songs really helped inform what the band might sound like.

How long have you been working on this band and this record in particular?

Space Cadet started early in January of 2020 when we were blissfully ignorant of what the year had in store. We were going pretty heavy with the writing and had a handful of songs by the time the world shut down. I had been spending all my time in my makeshift home studio anyway, so when quarantine started, my life didn’t really change that much. We had five or six songs by April 2020 and that’s when we thought about doing the LP. 

Were there specific bands or records that had a strong influence on how this record sounded?

Yes. No. I don’t know. It’s a tough question to answer because so much of that is in the subconscious, I think. Our influences are pretty broad, we still love listening to The Clash, The Jam, Stiff Little Fingers – all those great punk bands. But we also love Oasis, Pulp and other bands from that special era of British music. I had been listening to a particularly strange mix of newer music at the time: Justin Townes Earle, Power Trip and Idles were in heavy rotation on my stereo. Trying to answer the question directly, I’d say the record sounds like two guys who love reverb and chorus pedals, The Stone Roses, Cock Sparrer and The Rolling Stones. 

Besides you and Dave, did anyone else play on this record?

Indeed. Even though the band is just me and Dave, we obviously wanted a full band for the record. We initially planned to play the bass parts ourselves and just bring in a drummer to fill out the rhythm section, but quickly realized that wasn’t the best idea. I think we could’ve done it, but not sure we could have done it well or efficiently. If a record is going to sound good, the rhythm section needs to be great and that “I play guitar, so I can pull off the bass” thinking is almost always wrong. Mike Sneeringer, who played in The Loved Ones with Dave, was our first call. He’s an incredible drummer and we knew from the beginning we wanted him on the record. Matt Olsson played bass on everything except for “Bad Luck” (Chris Gonzalez sat in for that). We’d met him through Dave Hause and he’s an awesome guy. He’s also an awesome bassist. He’s also an awesome drummer, but we had one of those already. Brian Baker joined us in the studio to play an awesome solo on “Start Running Away,” as well. We were definitely in good company.

So how did the pandemic and the shutdown affect the recording of this one or upended any specific plans you had for the release?

In a way, it actually helped. When we had that first handful of songs, we were planning to record just a 7” with Pete (Steinkopf, producer). That was in the early, particularly uncertain part of the pandemic and it didn’t seem like there was a safe way to do it. Pushing that back opened up time to continue writing and allowed us to keep momentum going. Being in the studio is the best and it turns out that the more songs you have, the longer you get to be in the studio. It’s hard to find any gratitude in a shut-down world, but I’m grateful for that.

You mentioned Pete. He’s obviously worked on a slew of great punk records over the past decade or so. Had you worked with him before?

Pete is the best and we’ve known him for years from playing shows with the Souls. Dave had done some Loved Ones stuff with him in the past, but I had never recorded with him. He brought a lot of great ideas to the table and was stoked about the album. We ended up recording in July 2020 after a lot careful planning. It was a strange experience because I hadn’t really seen anyone, but it was super fun and we made something we’re all proud of.

How did you connect with Wiretap?

Dave and I were so out of the loop with the music business. Things have changed so much, and we had no idea how to get a record out now. No idea. We knew we didn’t want to reach out to anyone until we had an album tracked, mixed and mastered, but didn’t know what to do from there. Fortunately, our friend Alex Fang agreed to be our manager and really helped us figure things out. He knew about Wiretap and sent the record to Rob (Castellon), who happens to be a fan of The Explosion. He was on board almost immediately and it’s been awesome working with the label. 

Aside from the recording the album, what else have you been up to during the pandemic this past year?

Gaining weight and writing the next record. 

Makes sense. So, what are your plans to promote the album once it comes out? Will you be touring eventually or doing any streamed shows in the meantime?

Things definitely feel more hopeful, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty so it’s really hard to say. Our lives are complicated with jobs and such, but we’ll play as many shows as we can once it’s possible. I love the idea of doing some streamed shows, they’ve been a lifesaver during the pandemic. We just need to find someone to work the technology, so we don’t fuck it up. 

Those are all the questions I had. Anything else you want to cover?

Just want to give a huge thanks to Rob at Wiretap for helping us get the record out, Alex Fang for caring about the band and Joanna Bovay for making amazing videos.

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