Matt Spiegel, Radio Personality, Musician

By Rachelle Bowden in Miscellaneous on May 26, 2005 12:18PM

2005_05_matt_spiegel.jpgMatt Spiegel is the Executive Producer for the weekly talk show Sound Opinions on WXRT, but people around town are more familiar with him as the front man to the ever changing entity that is Tributosaurus.com. To say Tributosaurus is a “cover band” would be an understatement along the lines of Courtney Love has some “personal problems.”

The band is not only ever changing, but they are growing in popularity as more people are becoming familiar with the concept: A core group of some of Chicago’s most talented musicians take on a well known artist/group the first Wednesday of each month at Martyrs.

They cover the gamut from hits to the album cut you swore only you loved. But the magic is, they scour the city for whatever they need to make it sound just like it did when you listened to the record in your bedroom or rode the el with the headphones on. String sections from the symphony, 15 piece horn sections, and a marching band are all in a night’s work for Tributosaurus.

Who is the ringleader of this circus? Chicagoist interviewed Matt and we had this exchange…

Dinosaurs of rock? What criteria do you use to hold a band up to see if they are a dinosaur? You’ve done the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney and Wings, but you’ve also done the Smiths and Joe Jackson…. What determines someone’s dinosaur status?

We've never said we become "dinosaurs" of rock. The dino-root of our name implies that we ourselves are a bizarre beast, morphing into whatever we choose. It'd be too limiting to keep it to just becoming classic rock acts.

To qualify as an artist we'd like to do, the first question to answer is: "Can I go 15 songs deep with this band, and maintain a bit of integrity?" That's why we almost did Hall & Oates; We got about 12 deep and started to have issues. Next questions: "Will anyone care?" "Would it be fun?" "Can I sing that stuff?" "Do we all want to do it?" Those answers point us in the direction...

How does the artist get selected?

We talk about it all the time. I mean, all the time. It's fun to think about, and everyone has little pet bands in the back of their minds that they fight for on occasion. We look a couple months down the road usually, so we know we're being diverse enough. Also, some patterns have now developed. August was our first month ever, and we were The Who. Now, every August means we do a "Titan of Rock." Check the list - Zeppelin, Stones, so you know this month will be a big hitter. Every February we do an R & B great: Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire...we have a couple other tricks like that we keep to ourselves.

As we understand it, once the artist has been chosen, each permanent member of Tributosaurus brings 3 songs by that group/artist to the set list – no veto allowed. Is that correct? What happens if two people bring the same song?

That is correct. If people double up, than Ii kind of get a chance to guide the set in a particular direction it might need: Are enough era of the artist's career represented, enough different styles and tempos, enough hits vs. deep cuts. But that kind of guidance seldom needs to happen; everyone in this band has good taste, and usually picks at least one hit and one deep cut.

Once a group/artist gets picked and the set list gets created, the group has one formal rehearsal in person together, right? Are all of the auxillary/ancillary musicians at that rehearsal? How long does that rehearsal go? Do you take charge….is it like Tributosaurus boot camp? How do you and the other musicians come prepared for that night’s rehearsal? How do you learn the songs?

I put together all the tracks, and get them to everyone involved. I used to mail out cds, and now I upload them onto a dedicated website. We figure out everyone we might need to pull it off, as all of us are in charge of our own sections. Chris Neville hires the keyboard guys, Curt the guitarists, etc... I do a lot of that also. We listen, a lot, and we all have good ears.

As for the rehearsal, it's great fun. Everyone needs to be there. It's just part of the gig, but we do it at a good friend's restaurant, with tremendous pizza and drinks flowing, and it's so damn cool to hear things come together the first time. Yes, I lead it, but it's no boot camp...we're all professionals who don't need too much prodding. Often times, things are better at rehearsal than they are on the gig...that nervous energy is irreplaceable.

After a month’s worth of “preparation” (whatever that looks like), when you get on stage for the performance, are you as much of an observer as we are? Are you happily surprised at the end when it all goes off without a hitch? On nights when there are two performances, is the second time more flawless than the first?

At this point, we pretty much know that things will be alright on the gig....we're 34 months in. That said, no one is listening harder and trying to soak in what's happening than we are. I want to make sure I notice as much as possible, so I can break it down with authority later on when we all go out for a bite after the show.

I wouldn't say the second show is always better, but it's always a bit different. We're tighter for sure, but that's not always better--depends on the artist. And sometimes, the early crowd is more attentive and passionate for some reason. Alright fine, the dirty little secret is that the 2nd show is always better....we can lean in more, knowing the tune will go right.

Why the reprises? What will cause you to redux a band?

The reprises will just be mid-month gigs at different venues, like the Park West or some upcoming summer festivals. A lot of the stuff we did early went unseen by so many of the people who come to shows now, and it's fun as hell to do some of them again. You think I never want to do that Earth, Wind, & Fire set again? That was spiritual.

Have you been approached to cut an album?

No...we record all the shows at Martyrs, and could probably put some of them out, but there are legal fees and rights issues.

You see, the reason this thing works so well, is that it exists without all the rock star bullshit that drags so many bands down. We've all been in numerous projects with all the nagging issues: "how do we get signed...let's go on tour for no money in a big van...you're not respecting my originals enough...we need to define our sound..." I respect that process immensely, but this thing has none of that, which is why everyone loves doing it so much.

What ex-Chicago sports figure do you think would make a good mayor?

This is bizarre in context. John Paxson did wonders with the Bulls...I'd like to see him deal with the aldermen.

Where’s your favorite spot to eat in Chicago?

Star of India on Sheffield, north of Belmont. Sabatino's on Irving park. I miss the Busy Bee in Bucktown.

Your favorite Tributosaurus moment so far?

So many. San Jacinto on Peter Gabriel night. Live and Let Die on McCartney night. How Soon is Now on Smiths night. You're All I Need to Get By on Marvin Gaye night.

The best moments are usually the encores, when the crowd is surprised and hopefully psyched...after the Zeppelin show, we announced that the next month was Elton John, and did Rocket Man. We had a pedal steel player there for some of the Zeppelin stuff, and he played those ascending slides in Rocketman...the whole crowd was swaying and singing. That was tasty.

Tributosaurus next becomes Van Morrison at their usual haunt, Martyrs. There’s more information at Tributosaurus.com.

Photo via Tributosaurus.com.

Thanks to Jocelyn for this Interview!