INDUSTRY REPORT # 13 | 57 MINUTES WITH MATT PINFIELD
THE INDUSTRY REPORT #13
57 MINUTES WITH
November 14, 2023 by Jimmy Alvarez
There are a lot of crazy things going on in the world today, more so than in recent memory. One thing that does not seem to change is how music has the ability to identify who we are as people. Maybe music doesn’t always define a person, but it remains a big part of who we are.
For this segment of the Industry Report, we will go beyond the music to tell a story of how music is life and saves lives. There is no better example of this than Matt Pinfield.
Sure, we know Pinfield from his days as host of MTV’s “120 Minutes,” or from his lifetime of working in the music industry, or even the feature film “D.O.A.,” locally he is the host of “New & Approved” at KLOS.
He’s also been the voice of over 100 documentaries, and he’s a best-selling author. His book is adroitly titled “’All These Things That I’ve Done: My Insane, Improbable Rock Life.”
To really know his story and get it, we have to go back to the beginning; and I do mean the beginning.
In a recent interview with Pinfield, we discussed a wide range of topics that have impacted his life. Some stories we know, some… not so much. Over his lifetime he has made it to the mountain top, so-to-speak, and he has also hit the bottom of that downward spiral leading to a self-made abyss.
The thing about Pinfield and I is that we know a lot of the same people. Luckily for me, I have a behind-the-scenes, backstage pass from friends of what Pinfield is like in real life. Most of us know he was dubbed the walking and talking encyclopedia of music; but he has also chased his demons and almost met his maker.
Like any good story, there is much more to it than that, so let’s press that proverbial button and go back in time.
Pinfield grew up just like most of us. He was very lucky that he had supportive parents; dad was a schoolteacher and mom took care of the household. They raised him right, loved him, and were his biggest fans when it came to his adventures. What people may not know is that he always worked – as a kid he delivered newspapers, mowed lawns, worked fast food – you name it, he did it. Anything a young person could do to earn money, that’s what he did, instilling in him the value of hard work and supporting yourself. He developed his work ethic the same way most of us did. This is a very important aspect in understanding the drive behind the cool stories.
But here is what makes Pinfield’s story a little different than most. His dad supported his love of music, so-much-so that he helped put together a small studio and transmitter at their home where he could broadcast a radio show to the immediate neighborhood. He told me he loved music so much and, “I couldn’t wait to play songs on my show and talk about music for all my friends listening. It was the best time ever.”
As life went on, he evolved from his home broadcasting to becoming a club DJ. Yes, the kind of DJ that gets paid for spinning records at a night club. Ask any DJ worth their salt and they will tell you the best experience anyone can ever get is working in front of a live crowd. This club in particular catered to a crowd that was right up Pinfield’s alley; he played music by The Smiths, The Cure, and Depeche Mode at a time when they were up and comers. Those club days put him on a path to the big break that made him a household name.
We talked about those early days. As you can imagine, being in a club – or being around people in general while playing kick-ass music – you get to see the good in people; and the not so good. It is very hard sometimes to not succumb to the temptations that surround you. Admittedly, for Pinfield, that meant alcohol and drugs. His addictions have been well chronicled as he has never shied away from discussing it. When I asked him why he does that, he simply said, “If I can help someone avoid those landmines, why not talk about it.”
After a few years of the club DJ gig, Pinfield landed a radio DJ slot at Rutgers University (WRSU) before moving on to Modern Rock station WHTG in New Jersey. He spent the next decade there, digging in to learn everything about the music that was happening while developing incredible insight as to what was next. He had such a unique seat; he was able to not only play the music, but he befriended many of the bands that were part of the music landscape.
The hours Pinfield worked were seriously insane, but his efforts led him to be named the Music Director (MD) at the station. In that role, he won The Gavin Award in 1992 and 1993 as MD of the Year for Commercial Alternative Music. Needless to say, this really got him noticed. He said, “I was working so much, I barely had time to breathe, but I loved every single moment of it.”
By this time, Pinfield was known by the MTV staff; they acquired research data from his station. Knowing there was an opening there for a VJ, he put out feelers. Being the persuasive cat that he is, he got himself an audition. He thought he did OK but he had no way to gauge it. Luckily, he caught the eye of former KROQ Program Director, and MTV Vice President, Andy Schuon.
The call back wasn’t immediate, but when Pinfield did get the call, he said he was ecstatic! Here’s the skinny though – Pinfield did not get the position that he auditioned for; it was more of an administrative role, but he was in there.
At the time, the “120 Minutes” gig was hosted by former KROQ MD and DJ, Lewis Largent, who was also a VP at MTV. Originally hosted by the much beloved and late J.J. Jackson, the show had already had a slew of incredibly talented hosts – Alan Hunter, Downtown Julie Brown, Carolyne Heldman, and Kevin Seal.
“120 Minutes” was a successful show, but Largent had his eyes on programming and was a fan of Pinfield, who he highly respected. Largent eventually stepped aside so Pinfield could take the VJ role. Sounds cool right?
L E W I S L A R G E N T | MTV 120 MINUTES
Truth is the sheer volume of work, the travel, and around the clock activity is enough to break any person. Circle back to teenage Pinfield, hard work was part of his DNA, which translated to his ability to navigate those waters.
He became one of the most popular and influential people not just at MTV, but throughout the music industry. It was all a result of his hard work as evidenced by all his other projects (e.g., “Stump Matt,” “MattRock,” “Pinfield Presents,” and “Pinfield Suite”) along with a slew of other specials. His time at MTV turned him into an intergalactic broadcasting rock star.
In looking back over his time there, Pinfield reflected on the surreal moments. He said, “It is hard to narrow things down, it was such a great time, but the time I spent with Bowie stands out, then Paul McCartney, the guys from Jane’s, and the Foo’s always makes me remember just how lucky I am.”
When asked what was one of his favorite memories from back in the day, he pointed to a chance encounter with Jimmy Pop of The Bloodhound Gang. He said he was at a restaurant with Largent and a guy came up to them, introduced himself as Jimmy Pop from BHG, and said he did a great impression of him as Pat Minfield.
Pinfield said he laughed his ass off, and that turned out to be the intro that was used in the video for “Fire, Water, Burn.” That video clip turned out to be an enormous success for the band.
I asked him how he felt about the impression, Pinfield said, “Jimmy, you have to be able to laugh at yourself and have a thick skin. I was a chubby, bald guy on TV. If you can’t laugh from time-to-time, you won’t last long in this industry.” In the end, Pinfield is living proof of that adage: “A bad memory will give you a long career.”
1999 with Chris Cornel | Electric Lady Studios New York
Now, to the areas of his life that have been well documented. In 2018, Pinfield almost died as he was hit by a car while crossing the street near his Hollywood home. His injuries were serious, and it was pretty scary – broken legs and a skull fracture. Luckily, he had a great support system with family, and friends. Despite the challenges, he has recovered from his injuries. Although, anguish from being involved in such a horrific accident like that has never really left his thoughts.
The other challenge is that demon of addiction returned. Being immobilized from the accident and the COVID shutdown led many of us down squirrely paths. The Smiths’ words came to life for Pinfield as “the devil will find work for idle hands to do.” That down time was not a good situation for him, but as the music fates would have it, Pinfield is like a cat with nine lives. This time, his circle confronted him and made him check himself. He said, “Sometimes you need people in your life that are not afraid to get in your face. Having a strong support system is vital to recovery for any type of addiction, and I am beyond grateful I have those people in my life.”
Amazingly, Pinfield took on this challenge as he has every other in his life. That said, it was the intangible that none of us can ever plan for that clung on to him. Being a hard-working guy since he was a kid, asking for help just isn’t something that comes easily, a trait his friends know all too well.
The staggering cost of any kind of treatment is something we all sadly have to deal with. Knowing this, his family, friends, colleagues, bands, artists, and fans alike came to his aid for a GoFundMe campaign that was set up on his behalf. This outpouring of affection demonstrated just how much this icon means to them. He is the guy you turn to when you want music news. He is the guy who has entertained us for decades. But mostly, he is a person we can all relate too and that is what makes him a legend in the eyes of his fans.
No matter who you are, we all have our demons in one form or another. For Pinfield, his support cast and his love of music has come full circle to guide him back to being in a good place.
I asked him what he wants people to know about him, he said, “I’ve always considered myself a music enthusiast, not a music elitist. I am grateful for all the incredible experiences I’ve had interviewing my heroes, and my favorite artists. I never lose the passion that I’ve had for radio and rock ‘n’ roll since I was a kid. I’ve got endless gratitude.”
When asked what matters most to him these days, he said, “To be a good dad, friend, and partner.” Time has granted him many opportunities, but perspective and knowing what matters most to all of us is what Pinfield has gotten right – that is my takeaway from my 57 Minutes chatting with him.
Pinfield being recognized in 2022 as International Rock Icon
with former MTV Vice President Andy Schuon
In the end, that’s what stands out most to me about Matt Pinfield. Not that he is a living legend, but he is a hard-working guy who has had the same challenges that we all have. Yet, he continues to strive to be a better person.
He does what he does because at heart he remains a teenager stoked over music and sharing it with everyone. How can you not root for a guy like that?!
Introducing bands at Aftershock Festival
Just in case you go to a larger-than-life festival anytime soon and the emcee looks a little familiar, it just might be MC – Matt.
You can catch Pinfield Sunday nights on “New & Approved” airing on 95.5 FM, KLOS in Los Angeles. He also hosts “Power Hour,” Thursdays (11 p.m. ET and PT / 10 p.m. CT) on AXS TV, plus check him out in the feature film “D.O.A.” with punk legend John Doe of X.