Matt is 13 years old.
Paul is Matt's dad. He saw the AA logo on my polo when I climbed into the van and introduced himself. He's a self-proclaimed lurker on many of the Asylum's boards but posts every once in a while and feels like it's a good community of people to learn from "once you figure out who's who in terms of being helpful vs. having an agenda."
We all have an impromptu lunch together the next day. Centralian and proprietor of Essential Audio, Brian Walsh, is at the next table so I ask if he wants to join us. After determining it's cool to record our conversation, I turn on the DVR.
Stephæn H: So, Dad's taken you to the Denver audio show. Whaddya think about that?
Matt: I think it's a great experience. I'm really into audio and vinyl and just the music.
SH: Oh? How did you get into vinyl? I thought your generation had moved into the digital age.
Matt: Supposedly, yes.
SH: New music?
Matt: Yeah, stuff that's like, just electronics - the reason I like the British bands -- the Who, The Beatles -- is because they didn't have someone telling them you can't do this, but you can do this ... so it was all real! And I'm influenced by that.
SH: Favorite Who album?
Matt: It's gonna have to be Tommy.
SH: And I heard you have the blue-box Beatles collection.
Matt: BC-13. Yup! Got it!
Paul: Part of it, keep in mind, is that Dad is down in the family room with this obsessive hobby, wires laying all over. Thank God I've got a wife that tolerates that. So I'm down there obsessing over the obsession. But this has allowed Matt to experience -- and I -- because we have both found that even though we listen to both formats, when we are in that environment and really want to sit and listen -- as he's saying -- that clearly the vinyl has more of a ... hmmmm, pleasing effect... more of a ....
Paul: Yeah, but it's not perfect. It's imperfect in a lot of ways... in a sense, because both formats have appealing aspects and flaws, we're beginning to see some traits peculiar to each medium. So the other day Matt says to me that there are a lot of striking common traits in the newer acts. They are beginning -- by the day -- to seem to be designing everything more and more digital and more and more iPod-ish. All of this pushes him -- and his friends who also wear Led Zeppelin T-shirts -- to be more interested in classic rock and roll.
Matt: Yeah, within my group of friends, two of them really want, for Christmas or their birthdays, a record set. So they'll need turntables and their dads are gonna ask my dad how to get one.
How's that for a variation on the my dad, your dad thing?
Matt: So, it's gonna be great. The new music tools are good if you are going on a plane and you need something portable but the quality, it's not as good as the vinyl. The vinyl brings out bottom, the mids and the treble. It's great because when you sit there and you listen to something that you really like, you sit there and you are frozen.
SH: (feigning disbelief) Frozen?
Matt: It's just so good, you can't move. And part of why it's so good is that it's not perfect. You can hear mistakes (that haven't been processed out).
After citing numerous examples of production flaws and performance flubs on the Stones Let it Bleed, Matt reaffirms that he likes the older music because it's not perfect and because that's what makes it real.
SH: So, are you into your dad's Thin Lizzy stuff?
Matt: Uhm - not so much.
The conversation moves on to products seen at the show and Paul's appreciation of the relationships he's formed over the years as he developed his system. His take is that the majority of equipment out there is good and even if you don't own the very best, it's more important to deal with vendors who have a love of music, who you can call, talk about your latest vinyl find with or generally shoot the breeze with about your mutual love of the hobby.
Paul: It's not the person with the most or best toys that wins. It's the person with the best friends.
Matt: I just know one thing. We're coming back next year for sure. We've already made up our minds because it's so much fun.
SH: Really? Let's see, you've been here less than 24 hours and you've already made up your mind. What's been the most fun?
Matt: I don't know. Probably listening to the music. They played some of my music in the CAR/Atma-Sphere room. They cranked it up for me and that was neat.
SH: And you brought what to listen to?
Matt: Led Zeppelin IV. It wasn't the best recording but I got to hear it on really big speakers and it was really loud. That works for me.
Paul: Definitely a "reach out and touch the performers" kind of experience.
SH: What's the weirdest or most interesting thing you've seen?
Matt (Besides some of the people) some speakers that looked like a curvy spine. They were in the big room with the antler chandelier.
I think he was referring to the Hansen King but I can't be certain. Judge for yourself from the pic below.
Paul: The neat thing, I think, for Matt, is that he's had very little exposure to all this stuff. He's going in as a blank slate, not knowing for example what a crossover is, much less the reputation of the companies and their wares. He'd go into a room, plop himself into a reasonable position and come out a minute or so later with his proclamation, which was usually couched in a "it sounds natural" or "it doesn't" sort of frame. In one room, twenty seconds into a demo of Pink Floyd's DSOTM, he asked if the vendor was using an iPod.
Matt: It just didn't sound natural.
The kid's got bat ears.
SH: Why do you want to come back next year?
Matt: Because it's cool. I'd be at home listening to music anyway. I just have a little system - Marantz receiver and Pioneer turntable. It's kinda fun to see these people with $42,000 speakers and these huge amps and it's cool coz you learn stuff. Like, you know what? I'm not gonna waste money on it coz I can almost make something as good as that.
A budding DIYer.
SH: Matt, what do you hate about you Dad's music?
Matt: Nothing. I like every bit of it - except the classical. It's okay, but without drums and guitars, it's just not my style of listening.
SH: Paul, what has Matt introduced you to that surprised you?
Paul: The Who. I was never a fan but Matt prompted me to dig deeper into their discography.
SH: Favorite Who album?
SH: I'm partial to Quadrophenia.
Matt: That's next on my list. I'm going to sit with Tommy for a while longer though.
Paul launches into a brief soliloquy about the 4th side of Quadrophenia, touching on the overture and the variations on the "Love Reign O'er Me" theme. As Paul talks, I catch myself taking note of his language here .. it is clearly - uh-oh, classically oriented. A moment later, I recall that Pete Townsend would tell concert audiences that Quadrophenia was "... all about growing up. At the end of the album, the hero is in grave danger of maturing..."
I can't remember if he said that before or after he clobbered Daltrey -- who wasn't thrilled about the album -- with his axe. I do remember that in return, Daltrey slugged him so hard he had to be hospitalized for a concussion. Perhaps we'll move the conversation onward.
SH: If you could only listen to five albums, Matt, what would they be?
Matt: Sgt Pepper's, Tommy, a compilation of all the Beatles' singles - uh, Atom Heart Mother.
SH: Really? Why'd you pick that?
Matt: Well. My favorite Pink Floyd song is on that - "Fat Old Sun". I have a band and we played it in a band show.
Paul: Matt plays a lot of instruments, guitar, bass, drums. I made all the kids start on piano at about age five.
Matt: If you want to have a band, sometimes you gotta teach your friends to play. That's how we got our bass player.
Paul: Okay Matt, that was four. You get one more album.
After considerable thought, Matt picks Let It Bleed.
Matt: My favorite... of all-time, every song on there
SH: Best room at the show so far?
Matt: Atma-Sphere/CAR. They played Kraftwerk last night. I don't even know that music but the sound was so amazing.
Paul: I have to agree!
SH: Okay Matt, you get the final word: what advice do you have for all the audio idiots out there?