PirateMTL’s Daniela decided to interview Matt Conti, former lead guitarist of “Dissension”, a melodic black metal band from Montreal. Matt has been pursuing his dream of becoming a great musician ever since he was a young teenager. Considering that music is a major and important aspect in my life, I’ve chosen this area of media to explore.
- When did you first think: “Music is my life!”- and what triggered that thought?
The first time I ever had that thought, I was about nine and my brother and I were just chilling in his room, listening to his stereo. He put on a Metallica record called “And Justice for All” and that was the first time I’ve ever heard anything so extreme. Just the distortion, the aggressiveness; it sounded kind of like an angry video game, like when you’re fighting the boss. It was cool and it made me feel cool listening to it. Ever since then, I knew that music was my thing.
- What were some of the bands that inspired you to form your own?
Well there’s Children of Bodom, Nirvana, Metallica, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth.
- What was the biggest issue in forming a band?
The biggest issue would have to be agreeing on a music style, like a concept we’d want to follow. Also, since we were five busy guys, time management was really difficult. It was hard to get everyone to meet up for band practice, but that’s when you see who’s really committed or not.
- How did you come up with the band’s name “Dissension”?
At first, I pitched in the idea of “Set to kill”, based on the name of one of our very first songs. But then we heard of a band called “Eyes Set to Kill” and they were really Emo, not our style at all and we didn’t want our name to be associated with that. “Dissension” is, funny enough, the name of yet another song of ours that our singer, Nathan A, wrote. It basically means chaos, disorder and rebellion, so we went with it.
- For those who haven’t heard of “Dissension” before, how would you describe the style?
It mixes various elements of sub-genres of metal like thrash, melodic death metal, and black metal. Throw all of that together and it gives you a pretty, yet dark, fast, yet slow kind of sound. We really had our own sound and although a lot of bands say that, no one meant it as much as “Dissension”.
- Did you guys ever win any competitions?
We won our high school’s (Saint-Thomas) ‘battle of the bands’, Beaconsfield’s as well. We also came third at the Landmark events festival. Basically a lot of bands play at Club-Soda and then the public votes. We were like the youngest guys on there. We also got second place at a big show called “Can Your School Rock” (Global TV), which is pretty cool, considering we were the only metal band participating.
- How do you manage to balance music and your other obligations, such as family, job, school, etc.?
It’s pretty tough, but I try my best to make music my life. For example, I’m a guitar teacher, so at least that way when I have to go to “work”, it’s not a pain for me because I actually really enjoy it. It doesn’t even feel like work. As for my family and friends, I try to make as much time for them as I can, I don’t let music get in the way, family is for sure a priority.
- What does your family think of your life and career choice? Are they supportive?
They love that I’m a musician and that I’m passionate, but they hate the style of music I play. They’re like: “Why don’t you start a wedding band? Or write some pop, mainstream songs? You’re talented and it pays better.” And as cliché as it sounds, I don’t do it for the money. First off, I write music mainly for myself and if there are people out there that like it, if I get an audience that enjoys it as much as I do, then great, that makes me even happier.
- Speaking of audiences, what do you like to see in them when you’re on stage?
I like seeing a reaction, any reaction really; head banging, moshing, booing or singing along. What I hate seeing are people just staring right at you, not showing any sign of life, because then I feel like we’re not connecting. As long as I see that my music makes people react, I’m good.
- Do you prefer to play in large venues or smaller ones and why?
I prefer large venues, simply because I’ve played in small ones since forever. I prefer bigger venues because, even though it’s harder to connect with the crowd, the band has space. I mean, we are 5 guys. Try cramming us on a 10 foot long stage. Not fun. And it’s so exiting to play on a big stage; it’s a better sound, which provides a better show. And there are more people listening to you.
- Did you ever get a formal education for guitar?
I would like to say that I’m completely self-taught, but I did take classes for one year when I was sixteen, but that was simply to learn the advanced techniques. Otherwise, I’m self-taught.
- What’s your favorite guitar company and shape?
I’d have to say that my favorite brand is ESP; all of my guitars are ESP. And my favorite shape is the ‘flying V’, simply because I like tilting the neck upwards, it’s more comfortable for me that way.
- What was your favorite moment with “Dissension”? (Tour, CDs?)
My favorite moment would have to be playing at Heavy Montreal in 2011. I opened up for some of my favorite childhood bands like Disturbed and Godsmack. And in simply being a part of that festival, you felt like a rock star; catering, backstage, free drinks, talking to the other bands, golf cart transportation, managers, security and playing in front of thousands of people: it was just surreal.
- I heard that your ex-manager screwed you guys over, money wise. How did it affect your band?
It was extremely difficult to cope with that. I mean, to try and release our first album finally, and not seeing the product or the money back, it was a big slap to the face. All the band members invested and it really set us back, pushed us off our momentum. We were so pessimistic, I mean if we wanted to keep going we had to keep investing and that wasn’t possible after losing such a huge chunk. So that kind of led to us separating not long ago. It was too much to handle.
- After your band broke up, you decided to take action and not give up. How is your progress going with your new bands, Commercial Radio and Dizastra?
It’s going great. I play drums in a punk band (CR) and it’s really fun but it isn’t like my passion. I love punk music but it’s really for the fun of it. As for the other band, ‘Dizastra’, it’s going great. Slowly we’re creating something new. I hope it goes well, I can’t wait to play shows again.
- What would you describe your new band Dizastra to be like?
Dizastra is, in the simplest sense, a hybrid of thrash and black metal styles coming together for a combination of fast, heavy, and dark. Everyone in the band comes from different bands that were really popular in Montreal. Most of the guys come from a thrash metal background, while I’m mainly influence by black metal. The combination is unique and isn’t done very often.
- You’re the one who writes all the musical partitions for your songs. Whats inspires you?
What inspires me is Humanity. Mankind and everything it does, how it feels. For example, dark riffs in my songs are a reflection about things I don’t like about myself, about others; the corruption, the greed. Human nature cannot be pure good, it’s far from perfect. On the other hand, the pretty, melodic parts are about the beauty, the good we’ve done, and the kindness we have hidden in us. We’re very ”yin and yang” and my music shows that. Also, everything I write reflects who I am; stories I read, games I play, lessons I’ve learned, people I know. Sound wise, Children of Bodom inspired me a lot along with a list of mostly Scandinavian bands.
- Have you ever cried because of a song? Which one and why?
Everywhere by Billy Bragg, Dust in the Wind and Con te Partiro, an Italian song that played at my Grandfathers funeral, and it is just absolutely beautiful.
- If you could be something other than a musician, what would you be?
I’ve always dreamed of being a sports announcer, like for wrestling, or have a radio show. Also I’ve always wanted to be a pilot; passenger plane, rockets, whatever. And well…a wrestler, or a trainer.
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully married with a kid, owning my own property, a career in music education, like a high school or private lessons. I mean, being a rock star sounds fun, but it isn’t too realistic.
As the interview has shown, being a musician, a successful one at that, is not all fun and games; it rarely looks like a rock star movie. Any area in the entertainment industry is very competitive and overwhelming. But despite the risks, Matt Conti has allowed his passion to take over him, thus becoming the amazingly talented young man he is today. “If you truly love something in life, it’s far better to pursue it and fail than to give up and look back on what you missed out on.” (Matt Conti)