Character Development Exercise – An Interview with Matthew “Huey” Guinness

From an October 1999 interview with Music Science magazine:

Matthew Neal Guinness, better known as Huey, was born on February 8, 1968 in the Arden-Arcade neighborhood of Sacramento, CA.  Huey was the sole product of a one-night stand between his mother, Lucinda Guinness, and an unknown member of the popular rock band, The Turtles.  Even Lucinda could not remember whom it was that she slept with, and her younger brother suggested that it might have been a roadie.  She managed to get backstage after the concert, and got so excited that she had sex with someone from the touring party.  Nine months later, Huey was born.

Lucinda lived with her parents in Sacramento for the first six months of Huey’s life, before marrying an old high school friend who was a recent draftee of the Vietnam War. He shipped out shortly after the wedding.  Nine months after that, Huey’s only brother, Terrance, was born.  Terrance’s father was killed in the war, leaving Lucinda alone to raise her two boys.  She received a decent pension, but lived with her parents for another seven years before marrying again and moving to the Sacramento suburban neighborhood of Orangevale.

Huey got along well enough with his stepfather, Grant, but was rebellious in nature.  Huey would fight with Lucinda and Grant about doing chores around the house, and then go to neighbor’s homes to work odd jobs to earn money for himself.  Later, in his adult life, he was a natural hard worker, and Huey rarely spent any of his time idle.  After a full day at a landscaping or roofing job, he would come home and renovate cabinets at home, or paint the walls.  He felt best when his hands were busy building or repairing.

Huey got his name from his best friend, Cody.  In middle school, most kids called him Matt, but Cody decided that there were too many Matt’s in the world, and if he was only going to use half of his name, then he should use the last half instead.  So, Matt became Hew, and eventually, Huey.  Only his mother still called him Matthew.

At 5’11, and roughly 185 lbs, Huey’s body is lean and muscular, and his hands betray the brutal calluses of a man who has worked manual labor for most of his life.  He is handsome, but his exterior toughness hides it from the world, as if beauty were a sign of weakness that he would like to snuff out.  He leers and snarls a lot, and covers his face with an old trucker’s cap that looks older than him.  His wild, brown curly hair is barely contained under the cap, and he prefers to keep it short, but months on the road has kept him too busy for grooming.

He still wears the old jeans that he used to wear hanging sheetrock just two years ago.  They are torn and worn in the front, like a $100 pair of designer jeans, except that Huey’s pants came to this state naturally.  Like Cody, Huey prefers a plain, solid colored, pocketed T-shirts to anything fashionable or designed. And there is always a pack of Marlboros in the shirt pocket.

There is nothing contrived about Huey.  He may be busy with the success of Dutch Oven’s platinum album, Me & Whoever, but he acts as though he is just as content to go back to work building a house.  One gets the idea that success has not changed Huey at all.

We meet at his favorite deli in Old Orangevale, and he gives a curt wave to acknowledge me before going straight to the counter to grab a couple of Heinekens–both for him.  As we start the interview, it is clear that he is uncomfortable talking about himself, and would prefer to have Cody with him.  But he honors my request for a private interview, and after a couple of beers, his answers come easier with each question.  However, by about the twelfth question, Huey is onto his fifth beer, and it is clear that other substances may be affecting the interview.  He gets more contentious and defensive with each question.  By the end of the interview, he is almost completely incoherent.

20 Questions with Huey Guinness:

1)  If you had a full free day with no responsibilities, what would you do?

            Um, besides this interview?  I don’t know.  I guess I’d see what kind of work needs to get done at the house…

Sorry, that sounds like a responsibility.  What do you do for fun?

That is fun, for me anyway.  I don’t like to hit the bars, or anything; not a club rat, or anything like that.  Usually, I work, and then I drink some beers and watch a game, or something.  The guys like to hang out here, which is fine, ‘coz I don’t like driving around too much.  Since I’ve been in this band, there has not been a whole lot of time for fun.  When Cody’s off with his other band, I still work with my brother doing custom home remodels.  But when Cody is home in Fair Oaks, we play all the time.  We are rehearsing, or recording, or playing gigs.  There is no free time when Cody’s home <laughs>.

2)  What impression do you make on people when they first meet you?

You tell me.  No?  Okay, I guess I am pretty quiet and shy.  I really don’t think too much about what kind of impression I make on people.  I prefer to think about what I gotta do each day.  If I’m building, then I am too wrapped up in that.  If it’s music, then I am too wrapped up in that.  It’s not as if I ask people to fill out a questionnaire.

How about after they have known you for a while?

            Well, I guess I scare people a bit.  I like to drink, and then I get honest, and when I get honest, people don’t like me much after that.

What do you mean?

Well, I guess you could say that all my inhibitions slip away.  Everything that I am not saying when I’m too busy to think about saying them comes out of me.  I guess I can get a bit nasty.  Cody and Jamil call me “Crazy Huey”, like it’s a different person, but it’s still me, just talking.

3)  What is you proudest personal achievement?

That I am still here, I guess.  Nobody has ever handed me anything.  I earned my right to be here today.  I earned my right to say whatever I want.

You mean this interview…

            No, everything.  I worked my fucking ass off my whole life, and nobody has ever given me a single fucking thing.  I have been supporting myself since before I left my mom’s house because I knew that it was only a matter of time before she kicked me out.  I prepared myself.  I have worked every single crap job you can imagine to keep me on my feet.  Even this Dutch Oven bullshit; it won’t last, and that’s why I still work construction during the off-season.

Even though you have sold over 1 million records in eight months.

            Especially since we have already sold a million records.  We don’t know if we are a flash in the pan or the real deal.  I’m not going to wait around for the bottom to fall out.

4)  What are you most ashamed of in your life?

            When I was a kid, I used to steal stuff.  This was before I started working, but I would steal stuff.  I would shoplift from stores, steal from my Grandma’s purse, steal from my step-dad’s wallet, from friend’s dad’s wallets.  You name it.  Someday, I’m gonna find a way to give it all back.  It won’t be enough to make up for the deeds, but at least I can give it back.

5)  Do you believe in God?

Not in anything that you would recognize as a god.

Could you elaborate?

            Well, I was raised Catholic; I was an altar boy and everything, but something never really clicked with me about it.  Me and Code would have long, deep conversations about it when we were kids, and I’ll bet he’d give you the same answer.  It don’t make any sense.  I’m sure there is something more powerful than me in this universe, but here on Earth…I don’t see it.

6)  What would you like for your epitaph?

“Don’t fucking call me Matt!” <laughs>

7)  What is the worst thing you have ever done to someone?

            Well, I used to steal, we covered that.  I burned a dope dealer once or twice, but who cares about them?  I used to give my mom all kinds of undeserved hell.  Aside from all that, I can’t think of anything too terrible.

8)  What are you most afraid of?

Having nothing, and no way to earn my way in life.

9)  What is the most important thing in your life?

My little girl, Sunshine, of course.

What about her mother, where …

We don’t talk about her.

10) What do you like best about yourself?

Oh Jesus! Are you kidding me?  Well, let’s see…hang on…

            <goes to get another couple of beers>

What was the question?

What do you like best about yourself?

            Shit.  Umm, well, I guess I like that I am a hard worker.  I would do anything for my daughter.  I’m a pretty good guitarist. I’m gorgeous! <laughs> Fuck it!  Next question.

11) What do you want right now?

For you to erase over that last question.

No, seriously…

            No, seriously.  Right, let’s get serious.  I want more beer and a blowjob.  That’s it, now let’s wrap this up.

12)  How important are your friends to you?

            Awww, I love my friends.  They are really important.  I mean, I’m a pretty independent guy, but I love my boys.

Didn’t you and Allan Beard have a falling out?

            Say that name again, and I’ll knock your teeth through the back of your fucking head!

All right…take it easy.  Nobody told me that was a forbidden topic.

            I just did.  Next question.  <gets up to get more beer>

13)  How important is your band to you?

            Well, it’s a chance to be with Cody.  Who knows if he’d even come hang out if not for the band.

So that’s it, just to hang out with Cody?

            I’d be just as happy pouring concrete or hanging drywall.  The music is great, and I am getting more used to being on stage in front of people, but I don’t know if I would do it if it weren’t for Cody.

14)  Could you stay in the band if you were no longer friends with your bandmates?

            I think I just answered that.

Right, but some bands don’t even speak to each other.  They are just a corporation forced to work together…

            Naw, it would never come to that.  I’d quit if it ever looked like that was happening.

15)  Could you stay friends with your bandmates if there was no longer a band to hold you together?

            Oh yeah, easily.  Remember, Cody was gone for 10 years before he came back and started the band.  We did fine without him, and we would see him whenever the Manatee was in town, and hang out and shit, so you know, we’ll always be friends.  The band’s just a thing.  We don’t need it.  It’s just a thing that’s goin’ on right now.

16)  What would you do if Cody walked out of your life right now?

            What the fuck are you talking about?  You know something I don’t? 

No.  It’s just a question.

            Well, didn’t I already say that he was gone for 10 years and when he came back it was just like he never left.  We got a pretty tight bond so even if he did bail we’d just reconnect later in life.  You put too much emphasis on these material ties, man.  He would never just walk out anyway, more like he’d be on some other trip, and I’d be on some other trip and we’d just move on.  But then we’d get back together and have a few beers or whatever.

17)  What is the worst thing a friend could ever do to you?

           Fucking betrayal, man.  Friends are supposed to have your back and always be there and never fuck you over.  They don’t steal your shit, and they don’t fuck your woman, and they don’t send people over to take your shit.  Man, next question.

18)  Say you met the love of your life; your perfect soulmate.  Now say she wanted you to quit the band.  Would you do it for her?

            I dunno, I’ll let you know if I ever meet her.

Well, think about it.  Is the perfect lover enough for you to leave the band.

            What the fuck is with you and all these questions about me quitting the band?  What’s goin’ on here, man?  I ain’t quittin’ and Cody doesn’t want me to quit and so fucking what if he did?  I got other irons in the fire, man, and this band thing is just a thing, and if some chick wants to break up the band, I’d tell her to fuck off ‘coz she ain’t worth it.  The band’s the thing…<the tape gets unintelligible at this point>

19)  What do you offer the band that no one else in the world could offer?

           I’m Cody’s man, man.  We’ve been best friends since 7th-grade, and even 10 years in Connecticut couldn’t break up this friendship.  He would leave the Manatee so he could be in California full-time if I asked him to.  We learned how to play guitar together.  He gave me my name, Huey.  I’m like his other half, but not in a gay way, right?  We ain’t like that, but we might as well be.  We’re like twins.  He needs me, the fucker!

20)  How honest have you been throughout this interview?

            I don’t even remember most of it, so I’m guessing I been real honest.  Wasn’t really payin’ attention.  Gotta work hard to lie, right?


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