Everyone has that moment in their life when they have an epiphany. It may happen while you’re alone and contemplating what life really means. Or, it may spring forth from a traumatic, near-death experience.
Whatever the circumstance under which you reach this epiphany, at that very moment you feel that everything now makes perfect sense.
That moment for me happened early one morning, five days previously. As I cracked open one eyelid and peered sideways, I fully expected my liver to be sitting on the nightstand next to the bed, holding a cigarette and giving me the stink-eye.
As the memory of the previous night permeated my cranial cavity and the beginning of a wry smile started to form, I realized that I had been saved.
You see, one does not just go to watch or listen to the Cadaver Dogs.
No, not at all. When every fiber of your being is tightly in-tune with the Cadaver Dogs at one of their shows, you move beyond merely watching or listening to them. At that precise moment, it becomes an experience.
“I want people, when they see us, to say that I’ve never seen anything like that in my entire life and I hope I never do again,” said Mathew Franklin (guitar/vocals), confirming that it was an experience I’ll forever look back upon with fondness.
Chiming in, Lex Vegas (drums) added, “I’m either like, ‘you know, it’s a two-piece and we’re from Ohio. So, it’s like if The Black Keys did a ton of cocaine, I guess.”
Knowing they left their mark on me, I had to know if others were having the same reaction I was after experiencing their recent show at the Rumba Café. Were they consciously leaving their mark on others around the country?
“What else would dogs do,” asked Mathew. “They leave hair on your couch and clog up your sink drains. But, I think a lot of people read whatever free (music) paper is in every city and get the impression that it’s going to be either scary or sexy, so they come out.”
Passed down through the ages, it’s been said that many believe that sex is scary anyway.
“The kind that we like, yes,” Lex said, smiling. Without missing a beat, Mathew opined, “The good stuff is… the kind that’s worth having.”
At this point, the three of us were enjoying a few cold beverages as we talked about the band. It was Dogs’ choice, so of course they were tall boy PBR’s.
Beyond their musical ability, which is very good, the fact that they get such a deep and rich sound from being just a two-piece band was amazing.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” Mathew said. “I’m running my guitar through a full bass rig and guitar stack at the same time. It’s really fun switching through signals, so there’s a little more pedal play.
“By ‘more pedal play’, I mean I added one to my two-chain pedal, making three. But, what it opened up is… Lex and I have been playing together since we were like little tiny fetal pigs.”
“It hurts to think about how many years, but it’s been a lot,” added Lex.
“But now,” continued Mathew, “it’s something organic that happens. It’s just our noise that we make and we can just change things on the fly. It means we can take as long as we want to do weird shit, and then bring it all back together.
“Sometimes, it seems incredibly planned. And then we’re like, ‘I can’t believe we just did that. I don’t know how it happened.’ But, it doesn’t matter, because there’s no one else dependent on us. Because of that, we can do whatever we want.”
“We can go on tour and play 50 shows in 50 days all around the country,” said Lex, “and every one of them will be different in some way. With two people, you can really get weird. I mean, we’re louder now!”
This elicited laughter all around the table we were crouched around on the back patio. The stars were shining brightly, the weather that evening was warm and the drinks were cold. What was there not to like about the situation?
I continued our conversation, asking how the chemistry of the band was affected when their bass player left the band and the decision was made to carry on as a two-piece. Did it have an impact on the Dogs’ sound?
“Oh yeah, absolutely!” Mathew said. “It always had this loose, blues-base to it before, and it still does. But, it became only about riffs… like, purely about guitar-riffage. That became the third player in the band.
“So, there’s this moving element with dancing vocals on top of that. And then, there’s Lex thrashing as hard as f*cking possible the whole time. It’s like we almost invented this other person in the band.”
Lex looked thoughtful before saying, “It’s like this omnipresent… ghost.”
“It’s the Dog Overlord,” Mathew concluded.
For all the spectacle that surrounds a Cadaver Dogs show, that blues-base Mathew mentioned is easily recognizable on their albums. But when they play live, each song takes on a life of its own, morphing into something much greater than its separate parts.
You can hear the many bands that have played an influence on Lex and Mathew in their songs, spanning different eras of music.
“I was listening to the New York Dolls while I was getting dressed tonight,” Lex said when asked what he’s currently listening to. My first thought upon hearing this was that Mr. Vegas has exquisite taste in music.
In a game of one-upping each other, Mathew chimed in with, “I like to get drunk and scream that CCR (Creedence Clearwater Revival) is the greatest American rock and roll band, and then fight people.”
This is a totally believable statement coming from either of the two guys. Although they have smiles on their faces constantly and are genuinely happy to meet and greet fans, there’s an undercurrent of “don’t mess with us” about them.
But, I digress. Now, where were we? Oh yes, the one-up game…
“Whereas,” Lex said, “I think that Danzig is clearly the greatest American rock and roll band.”
Matthew sat back, looked thoughtful for a moment, and said, “I do love me some Glenn Danzig…”
At this point, the conversation got sidetracked into a discussion of the “Gainesville sound” and the band Mudcrutch (the precursor band to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers).
“We’re both going to see Tom Petty when he comes to Columbus this summer,” said Lex, “because we’re big Petty-heads.”
This led to a fun-filled discussion of what is the greatest album of all-time. Although it shouldn’t have, Mathew’s answer surprised me.
“Ram is my favorite album,” he said, naming Paul McCartney’s 1971 album. “That album is awesome! I say Ram, because there was something really special that happened on that album.”
“I think that Queens of the Stone Age have put out some of my favorite albums,” added Lex.
Mathew agreed, saying “Every day, I’m listening to something that Josh Homme (QotSA, Eagles of Death Metal, Them Crooked Vultures) has touched.
“I mean, everything he touches,” he stressed. “The other day I found myself listening to The Desert Sessions.”
Listen to almost any Dogs’ song and you’ll hear the influence Josh Homme had on Mathew’s guitar riffs. The guitar becomes an extension of Franklin’s soul, with the blues riffs he coaxes out of it churning an emotive response from within you.
They have some new music they recorded at Relay Recording in Columbus, Lex told me there’s a new song coming out in April.
“I’ll let you know that the song’s about beatin’ up the devil,” Mathew said with a wink in his eye.
Lex laughed loudly and said, “Of course it is!”
They played a fraction of the number of shows last year when compared to what they played (on average) over the three previous years. But, there’s a good reason for this.
“Until 2016,” said Lex, “we were doing at least 150 shows a year, or more, for the last three years. But last year, we did like 40 or 50 Dogs’ shows, because we’re in a new five-piece band (Skulx) that just started (in addition to playing as Cadaver Dogs). It was still over 100 shows, but it was split between the two bands.
“This year, it’s going to be the same, because we’re working on new stuff for both bands.”
With myriad fans waiting to hang out with the guys, our conversation finally circled around to their reputation of never turning down a chance to party. With nary a trace of irony, they told me that many of the interviews they do are about the party, more so than about their music.
But, you knew I was going to at least scratch the surface of their reputation for outrageousness.
“When you’re in a band, and all you do is read The Dirt over and over,” said Mathew, trailing off with a wicked smile plastered on his face.
“I remember reading the Mötley Crüe book (The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band) and thinking… okay, so this is what we’ve got to do now,” Lex said knowingly.
“We’ve always made ourselves maybe too accessible,” offered Mathew, with a wink.
“We’d show up and people buy us shots,” Lex said, “then we’re naked and covered in random sticky substances, and we’re being thrown out of places.”
For anyone who knows the guys, this comes as neither a shock or surprise. But, what it really comes down to is having fun. That includes their fans having fun, too.
“We try to make sure that everybody’s ‘in’ on the party and having a good time,” concluded Mathew.
With that, my exclusive time with Mathew and Lex was over. They had fans that had driven four hundred miles to party with the Dogs, and I could tell the guys were revved to see their friends.
The remainder of the evening was filled with great music, a bit of debauchery and no complaints. Which explains what I said earlier about the Cadaver Dogs‘ music saving me. Now, where the hell is my liver?