We sent a couple of questions to Matt Saincome, the founder of the Hard Times (who post some very funny satirical articles about hardcore punk music and more), and received back this finished article, unsolicited, instead. It’s a pretty slow day, so here it is. We guess.
The Hard Times seems to be unstoppable. Started only three years ago by a couple straight-edge, hardcore punks, the site quickly exploded in popularity, began producing live comedy tents at music festivals, shooting viral videos, expanding into video gaming and lifestyle spheres and just generally dominating the newsfeeds of anyone involved in subculture.
How does one site, started with a mere $800 by a kid raised in the punk scene and without any corporate or institutional backing, accomplish all that and look so damn good while doing it? We sat down with founder Matt Saincome at Hard Times HQ in San Francisco to learn more.
[Photo by Senny Mau]
You’re only 27, but you already own a successful business many people in our community love and enjoy. Where do you go from here? What are your goals?
My goals are simple. I went to school at SF State, graduating from their journalism department a few years back. While on the campus newspaper, I worked on a story that allowed me to hold the president of the school accountable for some campus corruption—really putting his feet to the fire. And on the way to his office to interview him, I walked down this hall with all these photos of famous alumni, like Rolling Stone journalist Ben Fong-Torres.
I will not be happy until each and every one of those pictures is removed and a statue of me is built instead.
How many people read Hard Times?
I’ve got millions of readers. Millions of eyeballs. How many eyeballs you got, kid? I’ll tell you one thing: If you post a selfie without some serious filters on it, you’re going to lose at least two that I know of, and they’re looking at you right now.
Me on the other hand? Millions of eyeballs flock to my name, which is right there in bright lights at the top of the masthead, brother! What’s your name on the top of, other than a call-out post about creepy guys rubbing up on ladies on public transit? Other than the “recently dialed” list of a debt collector? Other than the “con” column on a pros and cons list your ex-girlfriend made when debating whether or not to move back to her hometown?
They say never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. Well guess what, brother? I’ve got no interest in trying on those disgusting things covering your feet that you call “shoes,” and I don’t have 25 extra minutes to watch you try to huff and puff your way to the one-mile marker.
How did you start the Hard Times?
Three years ago, shortly after the death of the Carlos Mencia, the Satirical High Order called for an emergency conclave deep within the walls of the City of the Scribe. After three days of fierce argument, debate and pitching of TV show pilots, green smoke from the chimney meant a new leader had been chosen, and it was me. I was very humbled and honored to learn it was the shortest deliberation on record. The very next day, surrounded by high priests like Christopher Guest, Scott Dikkers, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, etc.—all the top guys—I was bathed in Nickelodeon gak, and officially born again as 23rd Crown Prince of Satire.
What were you doing before the Hard Times?
There is no “before Hard Times” on my calendar. Right now, you and I are living at the beginning of year four.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Rejecting my first Pulitzer because it didn’t come with a handwritten apology for the unnecessary delay.
When did you first realize you had a knack for satire?
I’ve never tried satire. I was a journalist at SF Weekly, VICE and Rolling Stone. Now I’m the editor at the Hard Times. Wow, you’re really blowing this opportunity. Get your facts straight.
How much student loan debt are you in?
The school paid me to attend. They’ve been making minimum payments for years, so I’m really making bank on the interest.
You started the website three years ago with co-founder Bill Conway. Did either of you ever imagine it blowing up into such a widely read publication?
This is the biggest interview of your life, and that’s the best question you’ve got? The greatest thing that ever happened to you was that the founder of the Hard Times spoke in your general direction. There’s a reason why you are asking me the questions and not the other way around. You got that, kid? So go ahead with your next question, and let’s both hope it’s a little better.
Has a band member ever looked to physically confront you for your A+ journalism?
Yes, and even if you can’t donate, sharing the GoFundMe for his family would mean the world to them. They wouldn’t be doing this unless they really needed the help. Funerals are more expensive than you’d think, and the fact that he spent 13 days in a coma without health insurance before finally tapping out really added to the medical bills.
If you have to pull the plug on this tomorrow, what else can you do?
As much as you have disappointed me and embarrassed yourself with these questions, I will not pull the plug on Alternative Press.
Just kidding. I know you’re referencing pulling the plug on my baby, the Hard Times. That would be so difficult. I guess I would probably seek advice from someone with experience. Maybe the mother running that GoFundMe?
Every good comic, especially in 2018, has a line they don’t cross. Maybe they walk right up to it, but they never cross it. What is something that you never find funny?
I hear you are a world-class swimmer.
What advice would you give to someone trying to start a business like yours?
You have to stay humble and grounded.
“Do not let initial success bloat your ego and cloud your judgment for future challenges. Growth demands a constant evolution and improvement.”—Matt Saincome