Podcaster and author Matt Stocks was kind enough to share some thoughts about his podcasts and life in general as well as his latest book, Life In The Stocks: Veracious Conversations with Musicians & Creatives, which is reviewed here on RAMzine.
We know from your book of your job crises and podcasts but, apart from getting rat arsed at 10 years old, who is Matt Stocks?
Well, I’ve certainly come to know myself a lot better during the last twelve months, with fewer distractions and nowhere to run during lockdown. I’d like to think I’ve learned, despite my many flaws, that I’m a kind, caring, good-natured, passionate, loyal, curious, intelligent, sensitive, creative, determined human being. That’s who I think I am. There are plenty of people out there who might disagree with that, though. But it’s a profoundly important question, and one we should all ask ourselves on a regular basis: who are we.
Inevitably the damnable Covid crisis must rear its head, apart from finishing the book, how are you coping?
I’m coping a lot better this year, now that I’m sober. I’m not sure if I’ll stay sober forever—it’s unlikely. But I’ve definitely found detoxing, exercising, eating healthily, and keeping busy has worked wonders for my mental health, which is fragile at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic where the industries and communities that I love (music, live events, hospitality) have been ground to a halt. That’s been heartbreaking to witness. But without being too flippant, life must go on. So I’ve made a conscious effort over the last few months to stop grieving for the life that I once led and get on with living in the present and enjoying the moment, and right now I’m in the best place I’ve ever been in my life.
Your devotion to Punk is also documented in your introductions; what other music has a place in your heart? I only ask as your hero is Little Richard which, I guess, may surprise some.
Little Richard is the original punk rocker. He was a black, gay, cross-dressing rock ‘n’ roll star in the racist, Bible Belt, Deep South of America, singing ‘Tutti Frutti’ during the socially conservative 1950s. It doesn’t get more punk rock than that. 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, and the mod, British beat, and garage rock of the 1960s formed the foundation of punk rock anyway—musically speaking, punk isn’t a million miles away from those sounds, it’s just played faster and with less efficiency.
Ultimately, it all comes down to what you’re saying, and how you’re saying it. I love all music, as long as it’s played with sincerity, integrity, and authenticity, whether it’s jazz, soul, disco, hip-hop, doo wop, reggae, funk, punk, rock, metal, indie, pop—you name it. Is it real? Is it good? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then I’m in. Genre is bullshit in my opinion.
Which prompts my favourite question, which is usually the most revealing… you can only keep one album from your personal collection, which one do you choose?
Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde. It’s a double album, so you get twice as much bang for your buck, and it also happens to be the best album ever made. As Jack Black says in High Fidelity: “Don’t tell anybody you don’t own fucking Blonde on Blonde.”
Now we know a bit more about you, tell us about the Life In The Stocks podcasts?
As I write in the podcast bio section, which you’ll read if you search for the show on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts: “Life In The Stocks features unedited, in-depth, candid conversations with musicians, actors, comedians & creatives.” And that’s it in a nutshell. I talk to artists from a variety of creative lanes about their personal life and professional journey, and I try to learn as much about them as I can.
I try to approach each podcast as a regular conversation, as opposed to a Q&A interview, whilst still probing the guests to reveal intimate details about themselves and their work—in a courteous and respectful manner. I’ve been doing the show for over four years now, and I’ve published over 200 episodes. I also have a book out, based on conversations from the podcast, and that’s also called Life In The Stocks. I’m immensely proud of it, and if you’re fan of alternative music and comedy then you should definitely check it out.
How do you encourage such honest and forthright conversations with such a wide variety of people?
I talk about this in the book, in the introduction to the “Life & Death” chapter, but for me, we’re all just people and I approach my guests as exactly that. It doesn’t matter if they’re a huge star, or they’re in a band that I’ve idolised since as a kid; they’re just a human being at the end of the day. They’re also creative, so they think about life in a certain way, and they have their own unique perspective of the world. I want to know what that is.
I always do my homework too, so I enter every interview scenario knowing as much as is humanly possible about the person—without meeting them in person. Once you do meet them, you have the chance to ask them questions and respond to what they have to say. It all goes back to what I was saying earlier about honesty, integrity, authenticity and sincerity.
There isn’t really any science to it: we’re all just human beings at the end of the day, so let’s all just be real with each other. You’d be amazed at the types of conversations that just being honest and respectful opens up. Like right now, you’ve asked me well-thought-out, upfront, interesting questions. So I’m just trying to answer them as truthfully as possible, whilst at the same time trying to make my answers engaging for the reader. A little bit of self-awareness goes a long way, too.
The book is American-centric and Volume two looks set to be the same (with different guests) yet you have interviewed dozens of British and European luminaries too… when do we get to share those insights?
I’m writing Life In The Stocks: Volume Two at the moment, which, as you say, will be another round of conversations with American guests. Book number three will be UK-centric. I won’t be calling that one Life In The Stocks: Volume Three, though. I want that to be its own thing. I’m thinking maybe Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Podcasts… in tribute to the Sex Pistols, as John Lydon will be one of the guests—alongside the likes of Shaun Ryder, Alan McGee, Steve Diggle, Pauline Black, Gail Porter, Matt Pritchard, Dom Joly, Stephen Graham, Thomas Turgoose, Boz Boorer, and many more.
There’s not a whole lot you can do these days aside from writing books, so expect loads more from me in the next few years. Thanks for letting me ramble on about myself and my projects. If you’re reading this and you’ve never heard my podcast before, please do check out Life In The Stocks wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you like what you hear, please buy the book. Stay safe. Stay sane. Stay free.