An Interview With Matt Greenfield, Director of Destroy Cleveland
Destroy Cleveland is a new documentary chronicling the history of the Cleveland hardcore scene. Set to make it’s hometown debut on July 24th at the Ohio City Masonic Arts Center, the film has already been making waves with an onslaught of press from publications like Noisey, Vice, Alternative Press, and Consequence of Sound. It’s also spawned a lot of discussion online, as well as controversy due to comments from it’s outspoken director, former rapper (MC Homeless) and blogger (Rust Belt Hammer) Matt Greenfield. Raised in Youngstown, he’s now living in Austin, Texas. We caught up with him to discuss the film, his love of Cleveland hardcore, and what inspired him on his journey to becoming a filmmaker.
When did you first get into hardcore? What was the moment that sparked your love for it?
I was into really crappy punk music in the 8th grade. I won’t even mention the bands by name. The natural progression from these bands was to better stuff, classics like Bad Brains and Black Flag. By 10th grade, I was into Monster X, Capitalist Casualties, Spazz, etc. Really fast, grindy fast. I was ordering records from Havoc and different distros when I randomly bought H-100s, 9 Shocks Terror, and Puncture Wound. Those bands probably sparked my love for hardcore. I went backwards from there and listened to the bands they were influenced by, [such as] old Japanese, U.S, and European hardcore/punk.
Why did you think people should know about Cleveland’s scene? What it makes it special compared to other cities?
Cleveland is a gritty, blue collar, rock ‘n’ roll sort of place. It’s “rust belt blues,” gritty, mean, cold stuff made by guys and gals that have eclectic influences – everything from KISS to Hawkwind to Cro Mags. Shitty industrial places breed good music. It’s a fact. Look at Gary, Indiana with the Jacksons.
How long did it take you to make the film, and who helped you in making it?
It’s been a year and a half. I’m about at my wit’s end right now. It’s been a roller coaster. I am not equipped to be a public figure or spokesmen. With that said, Destroy Cleveland will speak for itself and anyone who doesn’t see the film is messing up.
Jorge Matthew Delarosa and Colby Grimes are equally responsible for this production. It wouldn’t be made without them. Go Slow Mutants!
You are musician yourself, having been in punk bands and most notably rapping as MC Homeless. Do you think your musical background helped you in making this film? How did the transition from musician to documenting other musicians come about and how did it feel being on the other side of things?
I consider myself an artist in some sort of abstract way, but I certainly do not consider myself a musician. I like being behind the scenes and documenting things better than standing on a stage. I got tired of that shit after a awhile. “Look at me, look at me.” I just want a private life and to be left alone for the most part. I was interested in writing and journalism before I was making music so this is just sort of a natural progression. I want to immerse myself in many forms of art and media.
A Youngstown native, now in Austin. What’s the hardcore scene like in Austin?
I love this city and it has many talented musicians, but I don’t really go to the hardcore shows here. Just not my thing.
What was your favorite interview for the film and why?
Tony Erba and Dwid because they are the yin and yang of the movie.
What type of films inspired your style in making this film? Who are your filmmaker influences?
I like high brow and low brow. Troma and their gutsy, offensive, DIY take is an influence. I also love surrealism, Bunuel, Jodorowsky; Italian Neo Realism is a close parallel to Cleveland hardcore. I am also very influenced by Vincent Gallo as a person. The Brown Bunny and Buffalo ’66 or fuck off!
You’re big into collecting VHS tapes. You often post pictures of your finds on Instagram. Have you considered a VHS release of Destroy Cleveland?
It could happen.
You started a blog called Rust Belt Hammer. How did that come about and do you think getting into writing is what led you to doing the film?
I wanted to document music from this region. I do think Rust Belt Hammer led to this film, yes. Tony Erba’s first interview opened up a can of worms. Highly intriguing.
What’s next for you? Are you considering more films or music?
I never want to make music or be involved with a punk influenced “music scene” ever again. It’s just mind pollution. I don’t have time for all of the drama and faux political causes and self-righteousness perpetuated by a bunch of privileged, self-hating, mostly white kids that rather protest a Crass or Death in June concert or call people out on the internet than create healthy, social change that will better themselves, others and society. They just want to appease their friends and look cool. Maybe get a metaphorical pat on the back. Fit in comfortably with the pack, right? Have your friends reinforce your identical beliefs? It’s not a challenge to the status quo at all. Maybe I’ll start going to jazz clubs [Laughs].
I have ideas for more films but they have nothing to do with punk and hardcore. Ohio is where my interest starts and stops as for that genre these days.
Catch the premiere of Destroy Cleveland on July 24th at the Ohio City Masonic Arts Center (2831 Franklin Ave. Cleveland, OH 44113). Admission to the film is $10 or for $20, you’ll also get access to a Gordon Solie Motherfuckers reunion concert at The Foundry (11729 Detroit Ave. Lakewood, OH 44107) after the film. You can find more info on the film and the screening at destroycleveland.com.