Interview: Matt Stewart

Updated: Mar 16, 2020

It’s not often that an Australian podcast goes on tour to the other side of the globe, but that’s exactly what Do Go On did, first in 2018 and again in 2019. As I booked my ticket for the 2nd tour, I remembered that one of its co-hosts, Matt Stewart, also co-hosts a music podcast. I fleetingly pondered on whether I could get an unlikely interview. “Nah”, I thought. Wishful thinking. That was until I realised his Twitter DMs were open. Well, you never know until you try, so I slid into those DMs, and after getting an enthusiastic reply which took me completely by surprise, discussions started. These discussions led to Skype being opened at 9am GMT on New Year’s Day this year, and I fought the fanboy in me to maintain my professionalism as I interviewed Matt Stewart to find out more about Listen Now and his love for music.

Hi Matt, firstly - how are you, are you good?

I am good, yes, I am pretty good. Slightly hungover and tired from New Year’s Eve drinks, but as far as everything goes, pretty good. I’m away from the fires, it’s pretty hectic out there, a lot of the towns are just getting swept up which is horrible.

It is, and we send our best wishes to you and your country.

Thank you.

You’re a comedian by trade, but you can tell through things like Listen Now and your Do Go On episode about Pantera that you’re a big music lover. How did your love affair with music begin?

It’s just been there my whole life, listening to music as a kid in the car and at home. I’m not musical myself, a very average bass player, like, very very ordinary, but some of my uncles and grandparents are very musical, so at family events they’d pull out the guitars and the piano and stuff to have fun little jam sessions, with everyone singing along. In terms of liking Rock and Metal, I guess that was the influence of my school mates, I reckon it was just a gradual evolution of musical taste. One band would lead me to another, my friends would recommend another. I enjoy live music a lot, I’ve been seeing bands for 20 years now, or more even!

What was the inspiration for Listen Now, how did it come about?

Well, talking of family, I co-host it with my cousin Sam. The initial idea was hers but she’d never done a podcast before so was keen for me to be involved! I have done a few, and we both love music and talk about it a lot. She was looking for a podcast that was about Australian music to listen to, like classic Australian rock and stuff, but she couldn’t find one which she found annoying, but that was what led her to talk to me about starting one. Initially the idea was that we were going to talk about classic Australian albums, but right at the same time as we were discussing it, I was getting stuck into the back catalogue of Cold Chisel. They were a band I’d always enjoyed, but only in a shallow way - like their 10-15 big hits, but I’d never heard any full albums or album tracks, only their greatest hits. So I suggested that we go through the back catalogue of Cold Chisel to start with, and about a week after that conversation, the band announced a 2020 tour, and I was like “that’s a sign” because they hadn’t toured for quite a few years. We recorded the first episode that week after talking about it for maybe 12 months or something. It’s been fun, we really enjoying making it.

Of course, the lead singer Jimmy Barnes became famous for the screaming man meme, so you can use that to your advantage in marketing it.

Yeah, well it’s funny, I don't really remember it being that big, but apparently it was huge. It’s funny to think about that, because in Australia he’s a household name, but most people internationally only know him as a weird guy screaming over the top of hills! (laughs)

You’ve pretty much answered this already, but I was going to ask about why Cold Chisel were chosen. Was it just because you were just getting into them anyway and wanted to look deeper into their career?

Yeah, I think that’s exactly what it was, and it was just a timing thing. It’s a band I’ve always kind of liked, but never obsessed over. Sam wanted to do Australian music and they are like the pinnacle, the icons of Australian Rock, with AC/DC of course. They’d be the two most people think of in Australia. Internationally, AC/DC are obviously much better known, but in Australia, Cold Chisel and AC/DC are probably the two that most people would think about, I’d say. The Angels and Rose Tattoo are right up there as well, and I guess you could probably put Midnight Oil up there as well. They’re all slightly different but they all came out of the pub rock scene in some way or another.

That Australian pub rock scene is still producing, of course, with the likes of Airbourne being a more recent addition to the list. It’s clear they were influenced by the likes of AC/DC and probably Cold Chisel as well.

Yeah, they’re a funny one, they’re actually better known internationally than they are here in Australia, they’re not too well-known down here. I have seen them play a couple of times, but I think they’ve got a big following especially in Europe. Yeah, I reckon they definitely would have been influenced by those bands.

Matt co-hosts a music podcast called Listen Now with his cousin Sam.

After Cold Chisel, will future seasons of Listen Now always feature bands that you are less familiar with and would like to delve deeper into, or are bands that you already know well also on the table?

Well, I think it’s up in the air somewhat, but I think we’re maybe talking about doing a few in-between episodes where we bring in some guests to talk about their favourite albums, whatever they might be, and do a different band each episode. And in future seasons, I’m thinking the next band we do, we might put it up for the listeners to vote on. My idea would be that Sam and I would each pitch a band for an episode and then put them on a poll and let the listeners decide. I’m actually thinking the next band may even be an international band – though Midnight Oil is definitely one that we both want to do. They’re a similar band to Chisel, formed perhaps a bit later, but again I only really know their greatest hits and perhaps one album of material, their last one before they broke up. But yeah, it’d be nice to do a band that listeners from other parts of the world might be more familiar with and interested in. We might even do an artist that’s bigger, I’d love to do a season on the Beatles, they’d be interesting, with 13 studio albums in like 10 years and their sound developed and evolved so quickly. It’d be cool to do them, and also artists with shorter lifespans, like Nirvana with 3 albums. Nothing is locked down yet though.

Again, you’re answering questions before I’ve even asked them, the next one I had written down was regarding whether the bands will always be Australian. Clearly not.

No, well, I don’t think so. I don’t want to restrict it too much, but also we are keen to keep a fair focus on Australia as well, so like, if we did do an international band, the season after we’d come back to an Australian band. Again, this would all be discussed with Sam, we haven’t made any hard and fast rules about it, but I think, from the discussions we’ve already had, that that would be the way we were going.

Away from Listen Now then, who are your favourite music artists, both traditionally and currently?

Ah, that’s a hard question! Traditionally, I’d say my favourite bands are TISM, The Beatles and Pantera. There’d be so many different ones as well. Recently I did this thing with my friends that we do most years on Boxing Day, where one of us will count down our favourite 100 songs of all time. I first did it on a community radio station ten years ago, so I redid it on Boxing Day this year (2019) and it was very different to how it was the first time! It’s one song per band, so 100 different acts, and it’s tough – but a very fun project as well. So yeah, I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to old favourites lately, but more recently, I listened to Sharon Van Etten’s newest album a lot, which came out last year. Devin Townsend with Empath, I played that a fair bit as well. More Aussie-based, Julia Jacklin, really loved her album, pretty chilled out. Baroness’ Gold and Grey was good, and Amyl and the Sniffers was one of my favourite albums this year. The Irish band Fontaines DC also released a great album. Yeah, every year has great music, but it feels like 2019 was another great year for music.

I mean, it’s funny, there’s so much music out there now but sometimes you’ll hear people say “oh music’s no good anymore”. You can’t possibly know that, ‘cause there’s a million albums released every year, it would blow my mind if your new favourite band wasn't out there and you just haven't heard them yet, there’s something for everyone. Rose-coloured glasses and nostalgia’s making people think that, but if they wanted to, people would find new bands that they love every day, but not everyone wants to do that. It’s easier just to say new music sucks.

In addition to Listen Now, Matt also performs stand-up, co-runs the comedy house Stupid Old Studios and features on the podcasts Prime Mates and Do Go On, the latter with fellow comedians Dave Warneke and Jess Perkins.

Do you get to many gigs?

It’s up and down. Every year I go to the Meredith Music Festival, but it depends on who’s touring and how busy I am. If I’m busy working, as a comedian it can often clash with a band I want to see. I did see Frenzal Rhomb, a veteran punk band from Sydney and also one of my all-time favourites, they’re another band I’d love to do a season of Listen Now on. I also saw Mossy, Ian Moss, the guitarist from Cold Chisel play a solo show in November. I haven’t seen a whole lot of gigs lately because I’m doing other stuff, but yeah.

Are you a fan of when people bring these two loves of yours, comedy and music together? For example, you’ve got people like Tim Minchin and Bill Bailey combining comedy with music.

Yes, I think they’re both great! There’s also a big Aussie trio called Tripod who I was a big fan of growing up, and TISM, they’re not a comedy band, but their lyrics can be very funny, same with Frenzal Rhomb. So yeah, I like it when comedy and music get together.

You said that you’re a very ordinary bassist. Do you play any other instruments?

(Laughs) No, it would even be hard to say I play the bass. I own a bass, and it would be very dusty if I pulled it out now! But I used to have a little jam with my uncle every couple of weeks for a while, but that’s fallen away, life’s gotten in the way a bit, so we don’t do that much anymore. It’s a shame, it was a very fun thing to do. It was always very basic songs, I tried to learn a few Beatles tracks with Paul McCartney bass lines and I’d end up just throwing the bass into the wall because of the difficulty I had with them! But old punk songs were fun to play.

Of course, on Do Go On you’re the man of 1000 noises.

Oh yeah, no doubt! Talking is relatively easy, I don’t have to practice it so much!

Finally, what are the future plans for Listen Now, where are you hoping to take it, at least in the short-term?

Well, this season is coming to an end, we’re on the home stretch building up to Cold Chisel's newly released album, Blood Moon. We’re also both seeing them on their tour very soon, and that’ll be the season wrapped up. We’ll then have a little break and discuss what to do next, but nothing’s set in stone yet.

Excellent. Well, I’m out of questions so that’s it! Thank you so much for your time, Matt.

We did it! You’re welcome, mate.

Matt Stewart is a comedian based in Melbourne, Australia. His award-winning work includes stand-up comedy, as well as a range of podcasts including Do Go On, Prime Mates and Listen Now. He also co-runs Stupid Old Studios, an all-in-one comedy production house that produces fine, hand-crafted videos with a focus on comedy. More information can be found at