Exclusive: Madina Lake bassist Matthew Leone opens up about the attack that nearly took his life

October 18, 2010 by Tim Karan

Exclusive: Madina Lake bassist Matthew Leone opens up about the attack that nearly took his life

How was it on your family? It must have been especially difficult on your twin brother.
That was the part that really started to wear me out. Every day it went on, the pain and torment it was causing my family was really stressing me out. I’m usually the one trying to make other people feel good and here I was responsible for causing all of this pain in the family. I knew my dad, Nathan and my girlfriend were all really hurting, so I wanted to act like I was better quicker than I was.

What have you done with yourself during this time?
I took my couch for a surf for about two months. [Laughs.] I could pretty much tell you the programming of every TV station by heart. I had a lot of physical rehabilitation, too. Something that came out of it for me, though, was that the ugliness of the event was so squashed by the beauty and love created by it. I really took value in that. So a lot of this time has been spent reconnecting with people in the world who I love. A problem with our culture is that things move so fast and everyone just gets absorbed into it. They sort of lose track of the things that actually matter. Events like this, while traumatic and painful, force you to stop and reevaluate, and there’s beauty in that. It brings people together and trivializes the things they thought mattered.

Have you had any contact with Justin Pivec?
No, he’s requested to talk to us a few times. But to me, he’s a nothing. He’s a wife-beater we got off the streets. If you focus your energy on that, it’s gonna consume you in a bad way. He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothes who needs to be behind bars (Pivec was charged with Attempted First Degree Murder, Aggravated Battery Causing Serious Bodily Harm and Aggravated Battery in a Public Place —ed.). That couple has two kids—they had just had them. People say to me, “That’s so sad for the kids that their father went to jail.” I don’t know their histories, but I would assume maybe he grew up seeing his father beat his mother. So his kids would have grown up seeing their father beat their mother and the cycle would perpetuate. To me, this was the best thing that could happen, even though it’s in a painful way. It illustrates to these kids that it’s not okay to do that. Nathan and I lost our mother in a car accident when we were 12, and she was just the most amazing, beautiful spirit I’ve ever seen on the planet. We have three older sisters. Women are just absolutely marvelous, beautiful creatures and in no way, shape or form can it be tolerated that they’re treated like that. So I’m just grateful that stopped.

Did you ever get thanked by the woman?
No, sort of the opposite. This is something I probably shouldn’t talk about, but I was told she filed domestic charges against him that night but dropped them the next day.

Had you ever done anything like this before?
Nathan and I encountered a car accident once and helped pull the people out of the car, but that’s about the extent of it. There’s just an instinctive awareness that if someone’s in danger, you want to prevent that if you can. It seems sort of natural.

A lot of people wouldn’t, though.
That’s what I hear, but the whole “hero” thing really embarrasses me. I’m humbled by all the kind words people have said, but when people say they wouldn’t have done something like that, I have a hard time believing them. Or maybe they’re underestimating themselves. You see a man beating a woman like that and I don’t see how you can look the other way. Then again, I guess there were three witnesses watching from their houses. [Laughs.]

Right around the incident, you guys had recorded a song called “They’re Coming For Me” that proved eerily prophetic. How did it come about?
Collectively and individually, we as a band were enduring hardships. We had a series of stumbling blocks: We got dropped by our label and then our booking agent and management, all while we were on tour. What we decided to do was rent a house in Florida and be isolated and write and record. When we were writing, things just weren’t going well at all—divorces, addictions and things like that. So what we were writing was sort of really intense because we were in that frame of mind where you can’t think of anything but the disaster in your personal life. We co-opted with Pledge Music [to let fans help raise funds to release the upcoming EP, The Dresden Codex]. Right before the incident, we were writing the song, “They’re Coming For Me.” Nathan wrote the lyrics a week or two before and three or four days before the incident, I walked into the studio and our guitarist Mateo [Camargo] said, “Why don’t the two of you sing this chorus simultaneously and we’ll do it a few times to get this ‘choir’ effect.” We’d never done that before. I had only heard the chorus lyrics one time before that, but I remembered all of them because they resonated with me. A few days later, I recorded my bass part for the song and later that night was when the incident happened. The lyrics are an eery premonition: “I can feel the angels coming for me but I’m not ready to leave/I’ve got a promise to keep.”

At what point did you guys say, “Wait a minute. Remember that song?”
[Laughs.] Before all of this, we were really feeling good about the song and decided it was gonna be the first single. While my lights were out, our mixer offered to mix for a severely reduced rate and when we got it back, we were blown away. That’s when we were like, “Wait a second. That’s kind of unusual.” [Laughs.]

Will you be doing anything special for this EP?
Definitely. We’re only printing 2,000 copies of it, but that’s it. It won’t be reprinted ever. We’re customizing each piece, signing and numbering each. They’re gonna be a pretty special edition. Since we aren’t gonna be able to tour on this EP, we wanted to put as much value in it as we possibly can. They’ll only be available through the Pledge Music campaign. It’s sort of a thank you to fans for their support.

When are we gonna see you back out and about?
That’s the part that’s to be determined. My prognosis when I was unconscious was that I wouldn’t be walking or talking for six to 12 months and there was an 80 percent chance I’d have full amnesia. I’ve obviously managed to walk and talk and my memory is pretty decent. I’ve got some vertigo issues that set me back, but they’re projecting I’d be able to tour by February or March.

Is there anything you’d like to leave people with?
I just can’t thank everyone enough. It’s so flattering and humbling. It demonstrated to the world how incredible the music community is. It was a demonstration of compassion and generosity and selflessness in a world where selfishness prevails. The music community conveyed that it’s actually a community. Also, I’m so grateful for the fact that the focus is on all of the good that’s come out of it. That’s the way the world is left a better place: instead of anger being contagious, beauty is contagious. alt


 

MUSIC IS THE BEST MEDICINE
Finding himself with time on his hands, Leone unsurprisingly took comfort in music. He narrowed down his playlists to three emotional phases: angry, sad and “better days.” Check out what helped get him through (and—if you pay attention to some of the titles—his very intact sense of humor).

 


ANGRY PHASE


1. Dillinger Escape Plan “Good Neighbor” from Option Paralysis


2. Deftones “Knife Party” from White Pony


3. Smashing Pumpkins “XYU” from Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness


4. Nine Inch Nails “March Of The Pigs” from The Downward Spiral
5. Ministry “Thieves” from The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste


6. "As I Lay Dying
7. Norma Jean “Memphis Laid To Waste” from Bless The Martyr And Kiss The Child
8. Sepultura Chaos A.D.


9. Filter “Hey Man, Nice Shot” from Short Bus

 


SAD PHASE
1. Band Of Horses “Funeral” from Everything All The Time


2. The Flaming Lips “Evil” from Embryonic
3. At The Drive-In “Napoleon Solo” from In/Casino/Out
4. Portugal. The Man


5. Portishead “The Rip” from Third


6. Thrice “Come All You Weary” from The Alchemy Index


7. Bob Dylan “In My Time Of Dying’” from Bob Dylan


8. Tegan And Sara

9. Tom Waits “Alice” from Alice

 


BETTER DAYS


1. Johnny Nash “I Can See Clearly Now” from I Can See Clearly Now


2. Madina Lake “Let It Go” from The Dresden Codex EP
3. Bob Marley “Redemption Song” from Uprising
4. Kid Kudi “Pursuit Of Happiness (Nightmare)” from Man On The Moon: The End Of Day
5. Young Jeezy feat. R. Kelly “Go Getta” from The Inspiration
6. Michael Franti & Spearhead “Say Hey (I Love You)” from All Rebel Rockers


7. John Lennon “Imagine” from Imagine
8. Decemberists “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” from Picaresque


9. Radiohead “Karma Police” from OK Computer 


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