Days of Lore

Matt Hogan in 1994. R.I.P.

Matt Hogan in 1994. R.I.P.

Life is good
Here I am … again … back in my rectangular 11-by-4-inch box at the back of the paper where I belong. It’s a little-known fact that I am actually not a real person, but a tiny brain in a Mason jar that editors plug into an antiquated PC every week to fill this space.

For the previous two weeks, this cute little lump of gray matter was kicking it 10,519 kilometers away on an island—a little routine maintenance if you will. Well, it done did me some good. No computers. No cell phones (OK, I cheated a couple of times). Just two Kiwis, three Germans and myself, traipsing around New Zealand’s north island in two shabby cars.

It was amazing to say the least—not just from the standpoint of being in a new place with incredible scenery, but also the honor of being part of a beautiful wedding and sharing the experience with incredible people. I’m a better person for knowing them. Isaac, Joanne, Carola, Normen and Mary-Ann: Das leben ist schön!

I’m sure I’ll expand on my exploits in future columns … if you’re (un?)lucky! I’d like to give sincere thanks to Jason Cassidy for holding down the fort with authority, and to Conrad Nystrom for dropping some knowledge in this spot for the past couple issues, all while dealing with a new baby and the sleepless nights that come with the territory. Belated congrats! He’s going to be the coolest dad ever.

The Everyman
I’m not even going to try to make a clever segue here. It’s been a rough few days since I heard that Matt Hogan died. I can’t say it’s surprising … which is what makes it so sad. He was cut from the same cloth as Danny West and John LaPado—all brilliant musicians who lived hard and died before their time. He was only 54 years old.

Matt was a sweetheart. He was sharp. “Chico’s oldest teenager” could talk about anything with anyone. I don’t even remember how I ended up becoming friends with the guy. To me he was “Matt Hogan from the Incredible Diamonds,” the guy with an arsenal of licks whom I’d watch in awe. Everything about him was cool—the horn-rimmed glassed, the greased hair—and seeing him walk on tables during shows (without missing a note) never got old to me. Fucking cool.

One of my earliest Chico memories involved seeing the Incredible Diamonds perform at Stormy’s, where he ended the show with one of his signature closers, a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds.” I was still learning how to play the guitar, and I remember drunkenly going back to my apartment after the show with a couple of friends, plugging in and playing the song over and over—Hogan style.

Then it just happened. Some time, some place—we became friends. He did that with people. Punk rockers. Farmers. Veterans. He’d strike up a conversation, and two hours later you were buddies with Matt Hogan. He always complimented my writing (he also wrote a column for The Synthesis for a number of years). It was always: “I don’t know what you’re talking about most of the time, but I love what you do.”

Even after I had known Matt for a few years, I’d still get a little giddy when I thought about the fact that I was having a Budweiser with Matt Hogan.

He was the everyman. The Incredible Diamonds played benefits for flood relief in Hamilton City where Matt grew up. They played at farms, veterans’ halls. Phil Heithecker, who’s played guitar in the Incredible Diamonds since 2002, told me about how they performed every Monday afternoon for one year at the convalescent home where Hogan’s father lives.

“It really cheered them up. Matt would talk to them after the performance then talk to his dad. His dad was really proud of him.”

I know Matt’s mother passed away recently, and that really broke his heart. I know his passing has broken the hearts of anyone lucky enough to have known Matt Hogan on any level. My condolences go out to his friends and family.

Goodbye, friend. Thanks for everything.

There will be a small service for friends and family, and a big wake party with bands. Update to come.