Inside Out Interview: Matt Thomas

Matt Thomas, curator of Backalley Jukebox program that screened recently at Inside Out answered a few questions for me via email about the queer music video collection he's put together.

Tell me a little bit about the screening you curated.

Backalley Jukebox is a touring queer music video program featuring sixteen videos from Canada, the UK and the USA all made by queer musicians from a variety of genres including hip hop, rock to electro produced by both commercial and underground artists.

When did you first get the idea? Under what circumstances?

Being a long time fan of a lot of the bands in the screening I realized that as much as everyone loved the bands and followed their music no one was getting a chance to sit down and see their videos which were being banished to small grainy online postings or a few random festival screenings. No one had really taken the time to bring them all together and celebrate their achievement in one strong program.

The music videos were really diverse, musically and visually - how did you get such a collection?

The diversity in the program simply comes from the fact that right now there are a lot of revolutionary queer musicians choosing to breakdown the assumptions of what queer music has to sound like and as I'm into all different kinds of music I made sure that diversity was apparent but even then it's only a small reflection of the content available.

How do you feel about the quality of some of the videos? Some are more professional than others.

They all operate in different aesthetics whether it's the glossy 35mm look of Scissor Sisters "Filthy Gorgeous" directed by John Cameron Mitchell of Hedwig and the Angry Inch fame or the Super 8 silliness of the Lesbians on Ecstacy or the Kids on TV films.

The artists are all making choices either to step away from a glossy look to give that work an extra edge or to embrace a cleaner look in favor of spreading their ideas in more traditional venues.

Either way it's amazing to see the work as it is presented, and success commercially isn't the defining circumstance for the budget of the videos as Antony and the Johnsons "You are My Sister" is a low-tech experimental piece and Le Tigre's "Keep On Livin'" is a video project directed by Queer Youth from NYC. Sometimes you just have to go with what feels the most real and exciting.

Do you have a personal favourite of the videos screened?

It's hard to pin it down to favourites as I love them all equally. Cutting off the submissions and picking what I wanted to was like pulling teeth but the Le Tigre video for "Keep on Livin'" is especially important to me because it really stands as a testament to the community element of the queer music scene and the passion to do things differently. When an established band like Le Tigre gives queer youth an opportunity to direct one of their music videos it makes my heart a little mushy.

Is there an artist/video you would've liked to include but couldn't?

It was a lot of work tracking down all the videos, but what I'm showing is only a fraction of the work that is out there. Everyday I stumble across new artists or videos that I wish I could have had before hand but that's the way it should be. There is so much content out there without a home and I look forward to continuing to run Backalley Jukebox in Volumes and showing the work as long as it's out there.

You mentioned at the screening you're taking Backalley Jukebox on the road - where are you taking it?

The Backalley Jukebox tour is just getting started so the dates are coming in soon. You can always check for updates as they get locked but as of now it will be playing at the Flaming Film Festival in Minneapolis and I'm very excited it will be playing as a part of Homo-A-Go-Go, the world's largest 7 Day queer music and culture festival happening in Olympia, Washington in August.

What other projects do you have on the go? What's next?

There are a lot of things in the future. I hope to continue working with queer music videos through the continuation of Backalley which hopefully will be come a yearly event as well as pushing for shows in mediums like radio and television to showcase queer music and musicians. I'm also planning to shoot a documentary about Homo-A-Go-Go while I'm there visiting and maybe some music videos too.

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