A Conversation with Jonah Matranga
Published: Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 6, 2012 14:04
As your humble Arts & Entertainment Editor, it is my duty to write and print the entertainment news I feel the student body of our fine University would most enjoy and find most interesting. So it is with some degree of apology that I admit that this week, I acted out a little selfishly. Coming into the last few weeks of my Senior year, I just want to interview who I want to interview, so I made a list of my dream subjects and I plan to go right down that list until I have that coveted diploma in hand. That being said, so far I’m 1-1, and you should be happy for me.
The first name on that aforementioned list is that of Jonah Matranga, a longtime favorite of mine. Matranga cut his teeth as the singer for 90’s alt-rockers Far and has subsequently gone on to sing for New End Original and Gratitude, as well as releasing solo material both under the moniker Onelinedrawing and with his own name. I have endless memories of walking around my childhood hometown of Colebrook, New Hampshire with Jonah’s voice pumping through my discman, and this interview is honestly my favorite thing I have ever gotten to do as a member of this paper.
In order to get Jonah on the phone, you don’t have to email four different managers, submit examples of your previous work, or pull political strings by publishing a glowing review of his material prior to your request. You just email him. And he emails you back. The fact that it was that simple to talk to one of my all time favorite musicians is not just really cool, but the ease of contact itself displays a piece of a much larger picture where Matranga is concerned. He is just genuinely a top of the line, fantastic human being who cares about the people who enjoy his music. It was an absolute joy and a privilege to chat with him, and after you read this conversation about politics, baseball and fatherhood, you should all really go to jonahmatranga.com and give him a listen. Thanks Jonah!
BK: I have to start off by thanking you because my first kiss was to a Gratitude song.
JM: That is so awesome! Which song?
Oh, that rules. I love that.
I’ll jump right in now. You seem to be creating and recording almost constantly these days, and recently you made that song about Trayvon Martin that a lot of people have been talking about. What was it about that case that struck a chord with you?
You know, I think the main thing about that case was that I just remember reading about it, and I literally just couldn’t understand how someone could kill someone else, and admit to the police that showed up that he had killed him, and just have the police not investigate and just walk away because the guy said it was self defense. It was the most bizarre thing I had ever heard about, and of course I had read about the Sanford Police Department’s history of racial profiling, but honestly it was just the idea that a human being could kill someone and not be that thoroughly questioned by the police, and just be taken at their word it was self defense and not arrested. I actually didn’t really understand that could happen. It just seems like if someone was dead, you’d really investigate it before you let the guy go free.
Honestly, I felt kind of uneasy about the whole thing. I started out just going “Wow, how could this have happened?” and as the story unfolded, honestly it just got stranger and stranger. There were the 911 calls, and then Zimmerman’s call to the police. It all just got creepy, and honestly it keeps getting creepier. It’s been over a month since Trayvon was killed, and he still hasn’t been arrested. It’s just a little bit eerie.
Did you sign that petition?
Oh yeah, of course, yeah. And honestly, I think the police department and whoever else essentially conspired to not have George Zimmerman questioned. I think a lot of people are getting a really quick education in social networking. I think if this crime had happened 10 years ago, it would have gone right under the radar. I really do. I think they would have gotten away with it. And now that a billion people at once can hear the 911 call and see the video and find the petition, things happen a lot quicker and so I think it’s harder to sweep things like that under the rug. The thing is, people get shot every day, and that’s a problem. I mean, gun violence is insane off the charts, and that’s an ongoing problem. Disproportionately, young black men get shot, and that’s another problem. The fact is, all of that stuff we already know about. What especially inflames me about this one is, you’ve got the guy standing there going “Yup, I killed him” and they just kind of give him a little questioning and a pat on the back and let him go. That’s the thing that really sets this apart. The only good thing about this is it’s putting more attention on these insane laws, like that Stand Your Ground Law and gun control laws in general, and who is allowed to have them.
It’s admirable that you’re willing to take this stand for him too.
It’s funny, the one bad thing about social networking is that people can be so cynical about it. I’ve seen some comments saying I’m just jumping on the bandwagon and others totally misunderstanding my point, and saying Zimmerman isn’t racist because he’s latino, which is just a completely silly argument. But, it’s not about that. I don’t actually care that much about Zimmerman. I care about the Sanford Police Department, I care about the Florida justice system, I care about gun control laws and I care about any situation where a murder isn’t investigated thoroughly. To me, that’s the whole point, and everyone wants to make it all these other things. But I don’t want to get off topic, so that’s the main reason I think a lot of people are speaking up, but I think a lot of people are being kind of unreasonable and I think it’s good to keep a light shining on this.