By: Milo Beasley
Milo Beasley: What a cool little concept this company is; how did you get involved with it in the first place?
Matt Cross: I’ve had friends driving from Cleveland to Fest for the actual music festival every single year for forever. And everyone that I’m involved in, this is my world. I’ve been into punk since (pause) ‘95? I heard Face to Face and I haven’t looked back since. I saw the Sex Pistols and the Ramones in ‘96, and that’s all I care about. Every other form of music died. I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s 100% true for me. So what Fest represents was so perfect to me. Unbeknownst to me, Tony (Weinbender) likes wrestling. So when he started wrestling, I was like “Wait, wait… There’s no possible way! This is so good!” So here I am, in conjunction with Fest, Fest Wrestling! So I’m like a kid in a candy shop. I mean, Against Me! changed my life again in 2001. So Gainesville, Florida took on this mythical proportion. I’ve already talked about the mythical proportions of just Florida, and then Gainesville, and where all these bands like Less Than Jake and everyone came out of. I read about this thing in, just in zines and Maximum Rock and Roll and stuff, just as a punk kid in Cleveland, ya know? Just Gainesville, Gainesville, Gainesville! I will say that Gainesville is very nice. I pictured it just a dingy, crappy….
Beasley: It’s just this, you know, uh, it’s a University, it’s a college town. Gainesville is a college town. That’s all that there is to it. And you have that atmosphere, and of course, you know along with college towns, you have angst. Lots and lots of angst. It’s really hot in Florida, so we get really pissed off very quickly.
Cross: It’s nice for me to come down here, cuz I just get to experience Gainesville and go to all the record shops. Tony takes me around. I’ll be staying here ‘til Wednesday. I’m an explorer; I’m a pirate; I’m a traveler. So wrestling enables me to do all that kinda stuff so I can get more of a sense of the place. It’s really great for me. And I can’t wait to be back this year for the actual Fest!
Beasley: Do you fanboy out for some of your favorite bands?
Cross: I mean, Against Me! is doing “Reinventing Axel Rose” in its entirety. And if you haven’t heard it somehow, it’s one of the greatest albums of all time in human recorded history. So for me, it was absolutely, no word of a lie, life changing, and I wouldn’t be standing here, for better or for worse, I wouldn’t be standing here right now if it wasn’t for that specific album. So for them to do it in their entirety; and I first saw them in 2001, and became friends with those guys, so that’s gonna be great. Nothington is playing this year. The whole lineup is amazing. So I have buddies, of course, flying in from San Francisco and all over, and asking “Oh, do we need to buy your ticket, too?” And I just feel like such a dick to them, like “uh… uh… I’m good.” And then I’m like “My life! YEAH!” But it’s been 16 years of hard work to get to this point where I can enjoy every weekend now, a lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes, but I carved out a little niche for myself, and enjoying it. I don’t take anything for granted, and everyday I’m grateful.
Beasley: Are you a big fan of comic books and comic book movies?
Cross: Well, I was gonna lie, but no, 100% no. Which I realize I’m in the minority in the wrestling world. It’s a very, very, very big thing.
Beasley: I think it’s the storytelling, so I think it has to do with that.
Cross: I see the parallels, but to me, and hopefully this isn’t too controversial; but I’m a diehard punk. So to me, these punk bands represent what comic books represent to many people; except they’re real. People are like “Batman’s cool,” and I’m like “…. ehhhh.” I dunno. Batman’s not real. Like Earth Crisis, to throw out an example, is a real band, that really believes in animal liberation, believes in veganism, to a militant degree. So that’s their superpower to me. And they live, eat, breathe, sleep, and make music and tour, and spread that word. All these bands that stand for something, whether I agree with it or not, to this crazy degree that a superhero WOULD agree and fight for something, I feel there are real life examples of it. So it seems silly to me personally to be like, “Oh, Superman’s so cool,” when there are real life supermen, I think, who are dressing just as silly, just as unique, just as imitable, but they are real. I’d rather spend my time and energy on that.