2016 Artist Survey: Matthew Iwanusa of Caveman
Iwanusa on Trump, How Bowie Helped His Friend, First Kisses, Practical Jokes, and the Zombie Apocalypse
Feb 14, 2017
Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern (for Under the Radar) Issue # 59 - 15th Anniversary
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For Under the Radar's 14th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2016. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2016 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions. Here are some answers from Matthew Iwanusa of Caveman. The New York band released a new album, Otero War, in 2016 via Cinematic Music Group.
For our annual Artist Surveys we emailed the same set of questions to musicians about Trump and the election, 2016's deaths, self-driving cars, Stranger Things, first kisses, scary movies they shouldn't have seen as a child, which Friends character they are most like, and much more.
Pick up or download Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue for Artist Survey interviews with Amber Arcades, Austra, Faris Badwan of Cat's Eyes and The Horrors, Boxed In, Caveman, The Charlatans, Cursive, Lucy Dacus, The Dears, C Duncan, Sadie Dupuis of Sad13 and Speedy Ortiz, Dutch Uncles, Ezra Furman, Robyn Hitchcock, The Invisible, Justin Lockey of Editors and Minor Victories, Lost Under Heaven (LUH), Lush, Midlake, Phantogram, The Range, Springtime Carnivore, Sunflower Bean, Surfer Blood, TEEN, The Thermals, Nick Valensi of CRX and The Strokes, Jenn Wasner of Flock of Dimes and Wye Oak, and Yuck.
A shorter version of Caveman's survey appeared in the print version of Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue, this is the full unedited version.
Top 10 Albums of 2016
I honestly haven't listened to any new albums this year. I think the only one is the DIIV record. I love that band. I'm sure a lot of great stuff came out but while accessing music has become easier with Internet and everything I think I've distanced myself for some reason. I will say that I saw Marijuana Death Squad the last two nights open for Bon Iver and both those bands were amazing. Oh, and also Otero War by Caveman is amazing.
2016 was regarded by many as a fairly tough and negative year. Was it also a hard year for you personally? If so, how? And also what were the high points for you?
I mean things can get tough. Sure, I met a girl. We stopped hanging. Liked her a lot, but it's done. Having said that, I met a girl, liked her a lot and had a great time. Put out a record. Lots of people can't say they did all that in one year. There are also lots of things I can't say I did.
What are your thoughts on how the U.S. presidential election played out?
Um well...I guess we'll see how it goes. I don't really like to talk about politics because when Obama got elected for the first time I was super excited and was expressing that. I guess nothing is more annoying to a person who doesn't agree with you than a young kid who is overly excited about something that that someone doesn't agree with, so long story short I got physically thrown out of the bar I was in.
Let's discuss Donald Trump. What does the rise of Trump tell you about America in 2016? What concerns you most about a Trump presidency? How do you think his presidency might personally change your life? What message do you have for those who voted for Trump? What actions will you take over the course of the next four years to either protest a Trump presidency or support it?
I think that the people who voted for him will be more affected by his decisions than me. What I'm going to do is continue to live my life and be the best person I can be whether that means I go out and say something or just be nice to someone on the street.
What reality TV star would you have rather been elected president?
If you were president, what would you try to accomplish in your first 100 days in office?
I imagine I'd be pretty excited to check out my new place (The White House). That's funny. My phone auto corrected White House to be uppercased. Anyway, I think I'd probably legalize marijuana even though I quit smoking and probably do something along the lines of taking care of educators. Lots of other things matter, obviously, but those things seem like things you could hopefully figure out in 100 days. If that's not the case then we have a lot more to worry about. I'd also probably name a street after me and promote Caveman as much as possible.
What are your thoughts on Brexit and the future of the European Union? To what extent do you think the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump were motivated by the same factors?
To me I guess it just means I need to make sure I go to one of those currency exchange places at the airport. Not that I take situations like this lightly but I'd rather just have a positive attitude rather than sitting around and letting it ruin my day like a lot of my friends do.
We lost three highly influential music icons in 2016. What are your thoughts on the passing of David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen? And what are your favorite albums by each artist?
Out of all of them my favorite one and one of my favorite musicians ever was David Bowie. All of them are amazing artists. I can't believe all the musicians who died this year. Bowie is incredible. My friend even has an amazing story about Bowie stopping him on the street. My friend was probably 20 at the time and was very drunk. Bowie pulled him aside to make sure he was okay. Said it changed his life. Obviously, the story doesn't sound that amazing because I'm not going into detail. His last record was actually one of my favorites recently. Did that come out in 2016? If so, put that on the list for [my favorite albums of 2016]. But seriously, all amazing musicians. Very sad!
What do you think Prince and Bowie's afterlife project sounds like?
I mean... Probably pretty good but there's no chance those two still don't have egos, so they probably won't do anything together. Wherever they are, they're champions. They're probably looking back and being like, "I totally forgot I wrote that song. I should have put that out!"
Which Friends character are you most like?
None of them. That show sucks. But if you want to talk Seinfeld I could go all night.
What scary movie did you see way too young as a child, how'd you end up seeing it, and does it still scare you now?
My mom showed my sister and I Psycho as kids. She didn't find it scary so she thought we wouldn't. She was 30 or something at the time, so pretty young for a mom. She would take the futon cushion and put it on the floor so we could basically fall asleep watching a movie. We didn't sleep that night. I knew something was up when my sister also got scared. She was always tough when it came to stuff like that.
Are you ready for self-driving cars and a more automated future?
I've been in a Tesla before. It self-parked. Did all the fancy tricks. But when we got out we were in a parking lot with low ceilings and the doors hit the ceilings. I instantly questioned how safe I would be if I let the thing drive on its own.
Tell us about the most memorable fan encounter you had this year.
Um, I don't think it's appropriate.
Tell us about your first kiss.
It was a girl named Kelly Harts, I think. She kissed me. I was excited, then she fell or something and her tooth fell out. I remember how grossed out I was about the blood, that I never wanted to kiss her again. Older version of me would have been sympathetic. Young me was grossed out. Her new tooth eventually grew in.
Under the Radar has been around for 15 years now, since December 2001. How do you feel the music industry has most changed in that time, both for the better and the worst?
I guess it's changed in the fact that you have to actively go out and find music these days. Yes, there are easy ways to do it but not many people are putting in the time to promote. You guys doing it for 15 years is great. The industry has turned into something that seems less about the people making the music. If a song doesn't hit someone tells you to write a new record. But I think people have realized this and are starting to get creative again. I think some good stuff will happen.
Which Stranger Things character do you most relate with? Why?
I forget their names but I liked the kid who had a crush on 11. He was so nice. I recently learned to like kids after all my cousins started having them. That character was great. I hope he isn't an asshole in real life. I also liked the cop.
After Donald Trump won the election which band (or song or album) did you first turn to for solace and motivation?
"Without You" by Harry Nilsson. No real reason why, I just felt it.
What deli menu item could you buy with your 2016 Spotify earnings?
I guess my deli guy knows me well enough I could just ask if I could pay him later.
What would be the worst punishment the devil could devise for you in hell, if he exists?
Anything that involves bugs, snakes, spiders.
Would you survive a zombie apocalypse? Explain.
Absolutely! If I knew my family was okay I'd love a zombie apocalypse. My best friends from elementary school and I have planned for it for 20 years. No joke! We have routes out of the city. All different types of stuff. Main thing though, no guns. Only swords. Can't make any noise.
What rock 'n' roll lifestyle cliché is truest?
Drinks. Some people do drugs and people think you have a ton of money.
In which ways are you most like your parents and in which ways are you least like them?
My nose is just like my dad's. We all play music. I'm a little crazy like my mom and everyone loves her. We both think it's a good crazy. So yeah those are the similarities. I guess the differences are that I don't play jazz.
What's the best practical joke you've ever played on someone?
I had a friend who would always hit his friends in the lower area. We all would get mad. He would work out all the time. So one day he hit three of us in a row and ran off flexing his muscles. I called him back and said, "Hey, your muscles look great!" He said, "Really?" So I said, "Yeah flex again!" So he did and let's just say he felt the same pain all three of us felt combined.
What's your favorite year for music and what were your favorite albums from that year?
Whatever year Songs From the Big Chair by Tears For Fears and So by Peter Gabriel came out. If it's different years, then [those are] my favorite years.
What song would you like to be performed at your funeral and who would you like to sing it?
Well, I won't know if they do it because I'll be dead but I'd say "All Night Long (All Night)" by Lionel Richie and maybe have Ke$ha sing it.
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