What The Nineties Taught Me

Matt Reaction on rediscovering his muse after a 14-year break, the importance of life experience and local music community saviours.

2005 was the year I voluntarily took myself out of the local music scene. I’d played in a few local bands – The Replacements (10-piece covers band), The Babysitters (awesome, quirky guitar pop fronted by the lovely Sam Inglis), Nice Guy Dave (whose R*E*P*E*A*T review encouraged the living daylights out of us for a while) and Go! Cartel.

R*E*P*E*A*T Review
(Looks like my work - Ed)

A few years before, I’d been asked by Greg McDonald if I wanted to join The Dawn Parade. I couldn’t commit to the list of dates he’d given me and it ended before it even began. I’d tried to be a gig promoter for The Boat Race and The Man On The Moon in Cambridge, found it incredibly tough and gave up after a few months. These experiences gave me a new respect for touring musicians and promoters.

When Go! Cartel split in 2004, I got inspired and wrote a whole solo album with an amazing sound engineer called Gareth Patch (isn’t that the best name for a sound engineer EVER?). Listening back to it now I’m proud of some songs, but others just make me want to crawl away and hide. The humour was lacking and they had minimal sarcasm.


I withdrew from most of my friends. Started a family and gave up songwriting completely. Still followed music constantly, just had no inspiration to write new stuff. Our old drummer had put me onto Mclusky and, when they split, the gloriously incredible Future Of The Left was born. I identified intensely with the playful sarcasm, clever wordplay and snarling vitriol of lead singer Andrew Falkous. When my uncle, a well-known and much-loved supporter of the Bury music scene, passed away, I was allowed to look through his vast record collection and take anything I wanted. I’d only heard a few Sparks songs, but something inside told me I’d identify with them. I took all I could find of theirs, about 16 albums in all, and discovered gem after gem of tongue-in-cheek humour and beautifully-crafted songs.

Year after year passed and my muse and I were getting ever further apart. To be fair, I thought she’d pissed off entirely.

Then in February 2019, a chance glance on Facebook had me salivating. Bury held an annual competition for songwriters. How the hell had I not known about this before? My muse started chuntering away at me and, before long, I gave in and wrote two songs. Google Venetian Snares was a self-referential effort with the same three chords on repeat and with lyrics intended to make the judges laugh. They did. The other, What The Nineties Taught Me, was a self-deprecating, flippant look at how I hadn’t made it but Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber had. Again, with lyrics intended to make the judges laugh. They did. They were both catchy. They were both funny. I thought ‘this is the new me….’

And Matt Reaction was born (he came third by the way).

Since then I’ve been banging out songs like there’s no tomorrow and I’m intensely proud of every single one. I’ve always got Falco or the Sparks brothers in my head, editing every word with me, saying ‘That’s not funny enough!’ or ‘Find a catchier hook!’. I’ve developed what Hemingway said all good writers must have – a built-in, shockproof, shit-detector. Life experience has taught me how to use it wisely, and often.


And I’m taking inspiration from the local music scene for many of my songs. ‘Gaffa Tape Sandy, You Stole My Heart’ is a love song to my favourite local band. ‘Living On, John’ makes references to The Long Blondes, The Khe Sanh Approach, Jacob’s Mouse, The Hoo Ha Record Club and my aforementioned Uncle John. ‘Leaving Me Cold’ and ‘#littlebluepill’ were both inspired by things Iain Watson, one of the judges the songwriters competition and now a good friend, has said to me. And ‘Global Warming Is Fake’ is a pretty scathing attack on Donald Trump. Just because he damn well deserves it.

If I hadn’t have seen the Facebook flyer for the Bury Songwriters Competition 2019, I might never have got back into songwriting after 14 years off and might’ve died an artistically unfilfilled, reclusive, miserable bastard.

The guy who posted it is called Neil Rayson. Neil, you're a legend and I owe you one.



Catch Matt Reaction in Thurston on Saturday 29th June along with other R*E*P*E*A*T faves including Gabby, Thy Last Drop and The Catch at Benni's Chill, a fund raising gig in memory of 13 year old skater Ben Wragge. Info here