Each month (ish) for the next year, TEAM members are taking turns interviewing a fellow artist in the company. In this month’s post, Brian Hastert joins Matt Hubbs in the kitchen for an interview about chili, too much bourbon, and devising and designing soundscapes for the TEAM.
BH: So, Matthew Michael Hubbs. Can I call you Matty?
MH: You may.
Does anybody not call you Matty?
A lot of the people outside of the TEAM don’t call me Matty. That is a nickname that was given to me by a stage manager, whose name is Cat Domiano, that was picked up by Darron L. West very recently afterwards. And now everybody in New York calls me Matty. But yes it’s strange the rooms in which I am not known as Matty.
I haven’t ever heard you…not Matty. What does your family call you?
My mom claims that she used to call me Matty but I think she’s retconning the whole event.
Fair enough. So you grew up in –
So… on a scale from 1 to 10 how Kentucky are you?
That’s a very leading question –
I strenuously object.
Louisville, Kentucky operates almost like an independent city-state within the greater Kentucky area. So, after I left Louisville I probably picked up a number of Kentucky affectations – country ham, sweet tea, those sorts of things – that I didn’t really revel in while I was home but once I left I realized I missed, or I missed the idea of home and filled them with these things. I am very fond of bourbon so I guess that counts for something.
So how long have you been the official chef of the TEAM?
Well I think I share that title with Tater now.
One of the two official chefs of the TEAM.
The first company meal I cooked was probably Heartland, Edinburgh. I don’t think I cooked for you guys… that’s not true. Remember when Rachel got the concussion the first Edinburgh?
We were walking towards a brunch that I was making for the TEAM.
Oh yeah! Do you remember what you made?
I know that there were some kind of hash brown… Probably a big egg scramble. What I do remember is everybody then went to take a nap ‘cause we were re-teching… Shocks that morning?
We did something crazy crazy early in the morning.
We walked home, Rachel brained herself…(laughter) We ate breakfast, and then when everybody went and took a nap, I stayed up. And on the kitchen table was a third of a bottle of Scotch and a full french press of coffee and I decided that that was how I was going to spend the next four hours of my life was finishing both of those things. Watching a movie and I can’t remember what movie it was.
Do you remember how many eggs we had to eat during Heartland in Edinburgh? ‘Cause we were blowing six, er, how many eggs for every show? Like a dozen eggs for every –
Uh, we hadn’t pared it back by Edinburgh. So that first Edinburgh I think we were going through eight or nine blown eggs a show.
Our cholesterol must have been sky high.
Yeeeah. But our coats were lustrous.
And here, tonight, you’re making a chili.
Um, yes, we are making a chili as part of our participation in The Mad One’s chili cook-off extravaganza fundraiser.
You wanna talk me through your chili recipe for tonight?
This one’s pretty simple. You start by browning six pounds of mostly wild boar. You deglaze that pot with six beers – and then you add, you know, some home made chili powder, some masa harina, thirty-two ounces of salsa, some chipotle peppers and adobo sauce and chili paste, some cumin. Some salt.
Is it spicy?
It is smoky, with a hint of spice, but I would not say it is a hot chili.
Could I eat it?
I’m hoping so. But I will never again underestimate your sensitivity to capsaicin.
It would be at your peril for sure.
Actually at yours.
Well, you’re the one who’s gonna have to take me to the ER when I break out weeping. In addition to being one of the two official chefs of the TEAM, you’re also our… sound man? I mean, sound ‘designer’ sounds too explicit. I think you’re more than that.
I feel that I get to explore what it means to be a sound designer more in a TEAM room than I get to in any of the other rooms I’m in.
Oh! How do you mean?
Uh, Oh! (laughter) The ability to go through almost every step of my process as a designer while being in a room with you guys – rather than separating, you know having a research component and a dramaturgical component happen at home, and then meeting the text and the performers in the room much, much later down the line. Being able to work while both the text is being created and while the characters are being built, and being able to do my development and story-writing at the same time that you guys are and that we all are collaboratively, allows me to sort of explore all of the possibilities of sound design. Which can be restraint. Which can be any number of things.
Do you have a memory of any particular victories, or like a stroke of inspiration that came from being able to design live in the process that brought you an idea that would have been harder to come by in a more traditional process?
Process-wise I remember, because I was so new to the company still, when we started working on Heartland. I really – I don’t think I’d known you guys a full year ‘cause I came in sort of late on the Thousand Natural Shocks process – but I remember when it came time to score, um, the shooting star scene for instance. That was a moment that had been slowly building probably over a couple of weeks, just as we’d been looking for that moment where Robert connected to you and Libby and… Jill? Who’s in the shooting star scene?
It’s Libby and Jill… I don’t think I’m in that scene.
Yeah. Kristen might be in it. No you and Kristen are asleep. Anyways, that was one of those moments where I was able to pull that – I think that was a David Grubbs track – where I sort of just knew because I had seen the interpersonal building up and structurally knowing where we were at the very end of 4th of July and in this sort of beautiful nighttime scene. So moments like that where I’ve been able to try a lot of things in a particular context and be able to meet that moment. Working with Jake on the ballad of Franklin Delmore MacKinley [for Architecting] was also pretty astounding. I remember Jake came over to the apartment when I lived with Tater, and we had dinner and sat around and just listened to a lot of music… starting in the south in gospel/blues/funk/hip-hop, and tracing American music through the south in that same arc as Reconstruction. And knowing that he was beginning to map out this movement sequence and being able to really dig in to actually do the research with both the person who was going to perform the material, and also choreograph it. Jake was able to build both the movement vocabulary and sort of craft the narrative around it while we were tracing music through the whole thing, starting from, you know, old Alan Lomax recordings from, you know, the early 1900’s maybe even late 1800’s all the way up through hip-hop. And being able to trace that arc with him and sort of tie that narrative all together.
And in addition to working with the TEAM, you are a prolific freelance, uh, sound man.
I get around. That’s true.
And you’re about to go somewhere shortly –
I’m heading off soon for San Diego to work on a production of J.B. Priestley’s Time and the Conways at The Old Globe theater. I don’t believe the play’s ever been done in the United States. I believe it was written in the late ‘30s in Britain, as sort of a direct response of the intervening years between the end of the first world war and the onset of the second world war. Um, it’s kind of a great, well-written play in an old fashioned style that I’m looking forward to working on – I work almost exclusively on new plays. By an amazing stroke of luck in my life that seems to be the work I get to do which is pretty fantastic. So to work on not only an extant play but something that is in its own way a period piece is a very… different process.
It’s almost kind of a new play because it’s not been done in memory.
Yes, but – not being able to – not having both the privilege or the influence of the playwright in the room, and not crafting the piece for the first time just changes the way you look at everything. On an extant play you can cross out all the stage directions when you read it. Whereas on a new play, I believe the job we have as creators is different. It is to try to illustrate what the playwright’s trying to convey on the page. Whereas I feel like with a play that has been done it’s more a step of translation rather than illustration.
I was trying to think of my favorite Matty Hubbs memory. I think it was in our… we were in Edinburgh, I think it was Shocks… No, it was Heartland. I remember the kitchen. You made your famous Bananas –
Ah, the Bananas Foster –
The Bananas Foster dish.
This was – This was the infamous night.
That was that night!
This was Steve Cramer and I.
Yes! And there was… much rejoicing.
If I remember correctly, and let me say that I may not because I believe I was drunk and/or hungover for the next two days, um, there were three different types of pasta. There were two washtubs of salad. We had 20 people over for dinner. And like, when you don’t have bowls enough you wash out the washtubs and that’s what you mix your salad in. But I remember hearing from you guys a week later, as you were eating through the copious amounts of leftovers that I had left you, I believe it was Kristen and Jake Margolin had had some of that Bananas Foster on pound cake for breakfast before a performance, and had possibly been impaired by the amount of bourbon that was still in the Bananas Foster.
It was an incredible experience. And then just to watch you and Jake and Steve Cramer, like, canoodle over Scotch for the whole evening. I didn’t have the stamina to hang, I wish I did. It was one of those moments where I was like “I wish I was, like, a tougher dude. I would hang out with these guys for the rest of my life. But as it is, it’s about 1:30 in the morning and I’m pretty much done.” But I think you guys lasted… the neighbors hated us because you guys were up chatting so late and your voices reverberated off of the courtyard.
Well, the windows were open because it was after 2:00 in the kitchen –
Oh! That was that rule.
There were an amount of smokers and an amount of non-smokers in the company. And it was a third floor? Fourth floor walk up? Of pretty treacherous stone stairs that were very uneven. Um, so after a point the smokers in the company couldn’t be bothered to go all the way downstairs to have a cigarette, especially when you’re hanging out and drinking Scotch with your fine, Australian ex-boxer friend. Um, so after a certain point at night you were allowed to smoke in the kitchen with the window open. But yes, the entire courtyard got to hear us because –
The windows were open.
But that is, perhaps, I mean, that’s my favorite Matty Hubbs memory. And ranks high on the list of favorite all time memories, that’s for sure.
Possibly an even greater Matty Hubbs memory came during our residency in Las Vegas. One morning just after dawn, on our way to the Grand Canyon, we drove the hoover dam. The incredible Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge loomed over our heads. And coming through the speakers was a soundtrack for the journey selected precisely for the occasion by our sound man. It was the Gorillaz album Plastic Beach. Truly an expert choice for such a majestic moment.