For those who get a kick out of obscure or interesting minutiae of the music they love, Matt Pinfield's "Rock Stories" — a series of animated stories Pinfield tells about the rock stars he's hung out with or interviewed — are hillbilly heroin.
Each story, featuring musicians such as Matt Bellamy of Muse or U2's Bono, provide a brief glimpse into the world of rock journalism in the ’90s, during the heyday of MTV and the dying glory days of major labels.
It's the perfect encapsulation of Pinfield's career. In the ’90s, Pinfield was the host of 120 Minutes on MTV, one of the network's geekier, more serious takes on music programming. He was a music nerd's VJ, a guy whose affability made his encyclopedic knowledge of music both accessible and alluring.
Talking to him today, with his MTV days far behind him, the same sort of enthusiasm shines through. Pinfield will give the keynote address tonight at the Mesa Music Festival, which will bring 250 bands from all over the country to downtown Mesa in a South by Southwest-style citywide musical takeover. The address starts at 8:15 p.m. at the Phoenix Marriott Mesa, 200 North Centennial Way.
"It's a great way for bands to get together as a community — and it's free, which I love," says Pinfield of the festival. "Look, one of the best things today is the Internet and the communication between bands . . . On the other hand, because [entertainment] is so readily available, people might not go out as much anymore. Of course, that happens in Brookyln or certain major cities where there's a music scene. But I think [Mesa Music Festival] gives young artists an opportunity to come out and not only play for other artists and see other artists but to communicate and share those ideas."
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The festival is the baby of Joseph “Indian” Antao, a promoter and old friend of Pinfield's (Pinfield is the godfather for two of Antao's actual babies). Pinfield will give advice to the bands in attendance about how to survive in the current climate of the music industry.
"One of the things I do want to talk about for young artists is how to promote their music and also things to watch out for," he says. "There are so many artists now because of the Internet, and major labels are only working with people that already are at point B or C . . . I want to give artists the opportunity to ask my questions about things they've thought about, or offers they've gotten. I want to let let know what's real and what's not. I want to guide and warn with positive reinforcement but if they have a question about it, I want to be realistic. I'm talking about the changes that have happened over the years in the writing industry itself. But why there are reasons to still be excited and happy."
Even after decades in the music industry, Pinfield still listens to new music and hasn't yet stopped looking for the next big thing, saying as an example that he thought Royal Blood's 2014 self-titled album was one of the best rock albums in recent memory. That's something about him that will never change, he says.
"I'll be fucking 80 — boring people, when nobody remembers me — I pray I live that long," he says. "But I'll be that guy at the bar sitting there at the old man's club going, 'You gotta hear this new record I just heard!"