Travel Profile: Matt Ochoa of Dirty Heads
By Sean Ritchie | Published on November 1, 2016
Travel Profile: Matt Ochoa of Dirty Heads

After two decades spent chiseling their unique, multi-genre infused sound, Dirty Heads have finally come into their own. Since the release of their 2008 debut “Any Port in a Storm”, the five-piece band — Jared Watson (vocals), Dustin “Duddy B” Bushnell (vocals/guitar), Jon Olazabal (percussion), Matt Ochoa (drums) and David Foral (bass) — has consistently experimented with their sunny style, leaning heavily on reggae fused with hip-hop cornerstones. It’s now, with their fifth and self-titled album, that the group has felt fully confident in a body of work, ready to bring their unique style to the masses. Ochoa sat with us at The Paramount in Huntington, New York to discuss their new music, all things travel, collaborations and more.

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Read the interview highlights below, or listen to SCP Radio’s full-length podcast:

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Sean Ritchie: You’re from Huntington Beach, California. Is that where you grew up?

Matt Ochoa: I’m from the Orange County area. I grew up kind of in like Anaheim. It’s kind of the same Orange County area, but I’ve been in Huntington for about six years now. It’s great; I love it. California, to me, that’s where I grew up. The weather is just great. I just love coming back home to it. Especially after touring [in the] wintertime, fall, especially on the east coast. I still love to do it, but it’s also great to know we’re going back to beautiful weather all the time.

Travel Profile: Matt Ochoa of Dirty Heads© Jeff Turner

SR: Nice. Now, for someone who’s coming to California, either Orange County or Huntington, what’s one stop or spot that you would suggest to check out if you really wanted to get that vibe of the area?

MO: It sounds pretty typical to say, but I live really close to the beach. I would just say, “Go to the beach!” But, I guess just being outdoors, and just experiencing the weather. There’s a lot of cool restaurants around. Yeah, just being outside and being active, going to the beach and being in the water, and just hanging out with people.

SR: Growing up where did you vacation to?

MO: I didn’t really travel too much growing up vacationwise. I moved around a little bit between family members. Not too far, I would say Orange County. I moved to [Las] Vegas for a little bit, which is weird for a child to grow up in Vegas. I was only there for a few years, then came back. I didn’t really move around too much. Growing up I just kind of went to the skateboarding lifestyle, stuff like that — music from the area, Orange County music. I grew up on that.

Travel Profile: Matt Ochoa of Dirty Heads© Nan Palmero

SR: Now, how did you get started in music?

MO: It was just going into middle school. Actually, at the time, I moved out of Orange County, with my mom. I lived in Los Angeles County. I went to this performing arts middle school. They have a lot of elective programs for younger kids, so band was one of the options. My mom just wanted me to get into something extra to kind of keep me out of trouble, and I was put in band not thinking I was going to like it at all. I had no idea that band, although they have flutes and trumpets, included drums. I just gravitated towards that, because I guess I would say that MTV and all that stuff was in my brain — guitars, drums, all that kind of stuff. I started, I think it was like sixth grade when I started playing drums.

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SR: That’s sick, and it just took off from there?

MO: Yeah, I liked it. My mom saw that I was sticking with it. Then, going into high school that’s where they have the marching band, and all that stuff, because the high school kids will come to the middle school band to try and recruit. It seemed cool to me, but I was getting more into skateboarding. I [didn’t know] if I wanted to join band. Somehow they got me to come to one of those summer [camps]. Just hitting me up.

SR: That’s how it starts.

MO: They just got me to go to one of those band camps. I don’t know why I went, but I was like, “This is actually pretty cool!” I just saw all the drum stuff, and everyone was together as a unit. I kind of went into that. Did skateboarding too, but I also was a band geek on the side.

SR: Hey, whatever works!

MO: I think it turned out okay for me though!

SR: Yeah, I’m pretty sure dude. So, fast forward a little bit, I know Dirty Heads formed in 2006, and you came on board in 2008 I believe?

MO: ’07, actually. My stepmom was working with their management company at the time, and I think they had just left Warner Brothers, they were only a three piece at the time, maybe a four piece. They had a DJ, Rockyrock. They were trying to get a full, touring band together, and they were just having auditions. I got one of the auditions, heard back like a week later and started touring with them two weeks after that.

Travel Profile: Matt Ochoa of Dirty Heads© Ian D. Keating

SR: Wow. So, everything just fell into place?

MO: Yeah, it did. I had knew about Dirty Heads too, just through, at the time it was Myspace. They had a good following on Myspace. I was like, “Ah, they’re from Huntington!” At that time I lived in Cypress, which is like 15-20 minutes away from Huntington. I was like, “Yeah, Huntington is really close. These guys are dope, they’re like Beastie Boys and Sublime.” I was huge into Sublime at that time. I was so stoked to actually get the audition. I got the songs, I practiced and I went in there and killed it. I was like 19 at the time. I wasn’t even old enough to buy beer.

SR: To tie it into travel a little bit, past the shows, past touring, how does music really fit with travel? Like, when you go to a vacation a new album can come out, and a song can tie into a memory. Or, when you’re on the road there’s nothing that can pass time better than listening to music. How does that really tie and translate to each other?

MO: Oh yeah! I definitely remember, I guess this does have to do with touring, we did one winter tour I think right when this Kings of Leon record came out. I think it was “[Only] by the Night”, or something like that. It was a few albums ago. It was the one with “Sex On Fire” song on it. That had just come out and our van didn’t have an MP3 player or anything. We just had the CD player. That happened to be the only CD that we had in the van at the time. So, it just stuck in there, and it just looped and looped.

Travel Profile: Matt Ochoa of Dirty Heads

We did a lot of nighttime drives on that tour. I can’t drive during the day, I kind of get sleepy. I’m a nighttime driver, so I would just put that on, and I’d have whatever co-pilot with me, Jon Jon or [someone]. We would just sit there and drive from whenever we get out of the show, like 1:30 in the morning, and drive as long as you can until you fall asleep. Sometimes it would be like three-four hours. I just remember that record on loop, and whenever I hear that record I just think of those long, nighttime drives.

Also, there’s another time we were in Europe and the Hozier record came out. Every time I listen to that that ties to it. I think it’s cool that people can take songs and that just takes them back to another part of their life, or it reminds them of certain things, whether it be a relationship or traveling.

SR: Right, high-school days.

MO: I think that’s what you mean.

SR: Yeah, exactly. On point. Now that you’re a little bit older, obviously well-traveled, when you do get some downtime, is it the beach? Do you stay home? Or, are you looking for a city nightlife type of feel?

MO: Little bit! You know what? A lot of the guys too relate to this. When I go home after I’m on tour I like to just do nothing. I just want to enjoy home, and stay home. I just kind of put Netflix on and hide out in my house, because when you’re on the road you’re going to different cities all the time. You’re scheduled, doing interviews, doing sound checks, you’re playing shows, you’re doing meet-and-greets, so you’re constantly doing stuff. When I get home I just like to do nothing.

Travel Profile: Matt Ochoa of Dirty Heads© Nathan Katsiaficas

SR: That’s probably nice and refreshing.

MO: Yeah, and then like a week later I’m like, “Okay, I’m ready to go on tour again!”

SR: Right, that’s funny. So, you guys just put your latest studio album, self-titled “Dirty Heads”, in July. We actually talked to Rome over the summer after you guys linked up on tour and he said it was really like a family tour. Kind of touch on that a little bit, and what was that experience like?

MO: Well, always working with Rome [is great]. Like you said we toured with them; we’ve known him since, I think, 2010 when “Lay Me Down” came out. We knew him even before that, like going to the studio in Costa Mesa. He would just go and record his own stuff there. That’s kind of how we met him, before the whole Sublime with Rome thing.

SR: Oh, so you knew Rome before?

MO: Yeah! We knew Rome a little before that. I feel like “Lay Me Down” was written even before the Sublime with Rome stuff happened. Kind of right in that time. He was just a kid, kind of living in his van; living at the studio. He was just grinding, and recording his songs, kind of interning at the studio, doing whatever he could. We would come in and he met us. He was stoked on our music. He was super talented.

I remember him just wanting to work with us, and us wanting to work with him. I think, Jon Jon and I recorded some of his early demos. I think “Only” and a couple other songs like “Pacific Coast Highway” — early demos at the studio. Jon and I were just around. He’s like, “Hey, you guys want to play drums on this?” I was like, “Yeah!” He was a super-talented kid. So, we go way back to that.

READ MORE: Travel Profile: Rome Ramirez of Sublime with Rome

SR: That’s crazy.

MO: Then just working with him all the time. He’s like a brother.

SR: So, it really was like a family tour.

MO: It’s super comfortable. Then doing the “Sound of Change” record. He has just progressed so much as a producer and artist — everything. He just killing the game, and we’re fortunate enough to be in with him. You know?  Working with him is just awesome. It’s a blessing. And, touring with him and Sublime [with Rome] it’s like family. It’s like summer camp.

Travel Profile: Matt Ochoa of Dirty Heads© Nathan Katsiaficas

SR: How was the record received by the fans when you guys played it live? Was it exciting playing the new music?

MO: I think it was great, because this record, to us, pretty much the reason we called it, self-titled Dirty Heads, is just because it’s taking all of our previous records and finally getting our sound – the Dirty Heads sound. That’s kind of why we just wanted to label it that. I think our fans were extremely happy. Especially coming after the last record “Sound of Change”, which was different. Obviously the title “Sound of Change”. Then, bringing it back to this record, I think the fans were very excited about it. I’m stoked. I love playing the songs off it.

SR: For sure, we’ve been checking it out, and it’s definitely been on repeat.

MO: Cool, you guys like it?

Travel Profile: Matt Ochoa of Dirty Heads© Ross Fowler

SR: Yeah, I was actually rocking out to it before we came here today. [Back to travel], are there destinations, or cities that you guys want to play, either personally — [some] you just want to go to?

MO: Definitely! We want to get to Australia, and go back to Japan. We went to Japan one time, but it wasn’t like a tour. It was kind of like a promo thing. We definitely want to get out there and do some shows. We’re starting to get our in Europe more, and do Germany — the [United Kingdom]. That’s great, we just want to keep expanding, get more people to hear our music and be a worldwide band.

SR: Lastly, to wrap this up, after you guys leave [Long Island] tonight you head out towards to Midwest, then up to Canada and back down to Cali. I believe [that] is this route.

MO: Yeah, kind of like this weird zig-zag pattern. Never really just comes together in a nice routing form, but that’s touring, whatever.

SR: So, talk about going forward on the road. What are you guys looking forward too? Keep spreading the music?

MO: Yeah, definitely. The shows so far have been awesome. We didn’t know what to expect on this, because it’s kind of a B-market run. It’s a little colder. It’s in the fall/coming into winter. So, we know our music usually comes across as “summer time” — the summer time shows. This tour so far has been awesome. All the bands have been great. We’ve been kind of mixing up the set lists a little bit, which is something that we haven’t normally done that much. We kind of find the set where it’s like, “This set is the best. We want to play the best for every fan out there.” We don’t really want to mess with it if we’ve figured it out. The fans have been digging it. We’re stoked to be here.

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For more on Matt Ochoa and Dirty Heads find their self-titled album on iTunes:

Travel Profile: Matt Ochoa of Dirty Heads

Cover photo © Nathan Katsiaficas

About The Writer
Sean Ritchie

By: Sean Ritchie | Published on November 1, 2016

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