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Q&A: Drumming Fiend, Podcast King, Josh Mathews

By August Edwards

Sometimes we're lucky enough to come across someone who's similar to us in spirit (community-oriented) and drive (towards music). This ABQGR writer found these qualities in Josh Mathews, drummer for California band Cel Damage and host of the podcast Drive Safe, Text When Home.

Josh began his podcast in the spirit of interviewing his friends involved in the music scene just like him. He seems to be stoked on everything, and he definitely knows how to be a fan. What I've learned from Josh is that it is never wasted time when you totally dedicate yourself to your passions and those who surround you.

Josh releases an episode every Monday at 8am, and you can find his show on Spotify. We hope you'll check out this brief Q&A, where, compared to his podcast, he's on the opposite side of the interview!

Between your band Cel Damage and your podcast Drive Safe, Text When Home, you seem to have a huge focus on music in your life. What is the best part about having a devotion to music?

Oh man, damn. It’s such a—once I started playing music and playing in bands, it literally just took hold. I was like, ‘Oh man, I need to do this.’ There are people that will be here for a little bit, and there are people that are lifers. That’s me! I’m here and I’m gonna be 80 still playing drums and being stupid. I’m stoked. I love that.

Your brother is in Cel Damage with you, right?

Yep, he’s the vocalist.

It sounds like family is also very important to you—playing with your brother, having a son. Has your family dynamic impacted your creative process in any way?

No, actually. Danny [twin brother] and I have basically the same brain. It’s ironic because we probably did at one point, and then we split apart. Danny usually he doesn’t come to practices ‘cause he does vocals and lyrics later, but he’s the producer. When Riley [Tews, guitarist] and I are writing, we get it finished and we’re about to record, but then Danny’s like, ‘Let’s move this here, let’s extend this, let’s do this.’

But with the family dynamic, I feel like Riley is my brother, too, because he’s been with me for seven years at this point. If I can talk shit on Danny, I can talk shit on Riley. I don’t feel like he’s my friend anymore, I feel like he’s my best friend and brother. Having the family dynamic helps, because I get to hang out with my twin and do exactly what I’d be doing, doing it anywhere. It’s sick, I love it so much.

Is having close relationships with those around you really important to creating the music you wanna make?

Definitely. It adds to it for sure. Without it, I don’t know, it would—I’ve created music with good friends and all that, and it’s fun, but when you have that connection—if, in other bands, if you don’t have that connection, it’s like, ‘I’m just gonna let him have that part cause he likes it.’ But in this band, it’s like, ‘Dude, that part fuckin’ sucks.’ And he’s like, ‘You’re right.’ Having that close-knit thing makes everyone be able to say what they want and create the music they actually want because they can come together on that one term.

What made you decide to start your podcast?

I was listening to podcasts like crazy, and I loved it. I’ve heard other podcasters say ‘I just want the listener to be the fly on the wall, just hang out and hear everything.’ Right when COVID hit, Danny was like, ‘Hey, you’re not doing anything right now, why not just interview our friends and talk.’ A week or two went by, and I didn’t do it, and then he was like, ‘Seriously, fuckin’ do it!’ He was straight up mad. I was like, ‘Fine.’ And ever since then, I’ve been talking to people. And I’ve been talking to people that never in a million years I thought I’d be able to talk to. It’s mind-blowing to think about. So, Danny’s the one who pushed me to do it, and I’ve gotten such a good response.

I started interviewing my friends, but when you’re at a show, you usually say, ‘Hey, what’s up! Good show!’ Then that’s it. You don’t really know those people. But with my podcast, I get to know my friends for the first time. I love that. Then I get to branch out and talk to people that I don’t even know.

Is there anything that you’ve heard someone say when you’re interviewing them that has really stuck with you, that you’ve carried with you throughout day-to-day?

Yeah—the podcast that I did with the band Thrill Touch, I can’t remember what member said it, but he was like, ‘Your voice is very disarming, but makes me feel comforted.’ I was like, that’s weird, ‘cause that’s my normal voice! Even on the podcast with you [August Edwards from Albuquerque Green Room], you were like, ‘You have a radio voice.’ I was like, what the fuck! This is just me speaking! So yeah, I hold that with me because I never thought I’d ever hear that about something, and that’s just me, that’s just my vocal chords. That’s dope.

It sounds like your podcast and your music, they have a similar affect on you—which is, they’re both practices in understanding yourself and building yourself. Is that right?

I’ve never thought about it that way, but yes. Woah, that’s cool! I never thought about that. Yes, that is me trying to understand myself and be able to express myself in two different fashions, where one is just me talking to people, and one is me being a fucking idiot on stage or on the floor. That's sick, yeah, thank you, that’s cool.

Of course, I’m just trying to connect the dots, I guess. So, you’ve mentioned a couple times that you just act stupid on stage. Do you have any sort of personal philosophy when it comes to performing music?

I feel like the philosophy would be the band The Chariot. Everything always goes back to them. I worship at the alter of The Chariot. They were the greatest band. The vocalist said, ‘We’re humans playing human music.’ If you wanna hear a perfect record, listen to the record. But you’re here to see the live record, and you’re here for the experience. I guess that would be my philosophy—know that I wanna give these people that are watching us, be it one or 100, it is, in a way, I don’t think of it as a job, but I would love to give that to someone. When I go to a show, that’s what I expect. To see something fucked up, or crazy. I love that experience. For the long winded answer, I have a philosophy and I guess that’s it.

When it comes to touring—because you’ve been on a few tours—would you encourage new bands to go on tours? What’s the value of touring?

Yeah! We’ve only done a couple, and they’re awesome, no matter what. I don’t care if they say a weekender doesn’t count. Fuck yes it counts! You went somewhere and you did something multiple days in a row, sleeping on the floor in your van, whatever. You could be gone for a day, and kind of you’re on tour. For younger bands, hell yeah. I still count us as a younger band, because we should have pushed harder. We could have been smarter and had good PR. But if your bands starting out, we were like, we’re writing five songs and immediately playing shows. And that’s what we did! Riley went on a five to six day tour playing bar chords.

You can do anything! It doesn’t matter how good you are. Just do it. It’s so fucking worth it. You will have the most fun ever. Write five songs, go on tour. Plus you’ll get exposure. Say, in California, you have two people that like you. If you go to Arizona, you might get a huge crowd and they end up liking you. It’s always a positive. Tour forever.

Back to Drive Safe, Text When Home—what advice would you give to someone who’s looking to start a podcast?

The same thing I’d tell someone who wants to start a band. Just do it. You’re the only thing stopping yourself. It doesn’t matter how good a mic you have—you can use your phone. That’s what I do with a lot of my interviews. It still sounds solid. If people are engaged and like the conversation, they won’t care as much about the sound quality. If you can start doing it pretty well, sure, get a mic. So, I would say just do it.

Try and make it unique. Mine's not unique. I wanna know about people, I wanna know about my friends. If other people are enjoying what I’m enjoying, then sick. That’s all that matters. Do what you wanna do.

What’s something that you’ve learned in the past year, because of COVID?

My son’s six—I feel like I’ve been more engaged with him, and it’s the best feeling ever. It’s so cool, ‘cause he’s such a fun dude to hang out with. I don’t even feel like he’s my son, he’s my best friend. I think this year brought that out of me. I already knew he was sick and I loved hanging out with him, but I can just hang out with him and not be bored! I’m excited to hang out with him.

I feel like every parent will be like, that sounds fucked up but it makes sense! I just love hanging out with him. That’s the only thing I’ve figured out. That he’s one of the most super cool dudes and I wanna hang out with him all the time. I don’t know if I learned anything else—like origami or anything. I just learned to be a cooler dad.

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