Our very own Matt Wicking was featured in The Age and we at CSL couldn't be prouder.
When he's not facilitating workshops for the Future Maker's Fellowship; guiding groups through important and difficult conversations, CSL's very own Matt Wicking heads up emerging Australian band "The General Assembly" singing about issues like capitalism, globalism, feminism and a bunch of other '-isms' that are close to his heart.
Musician Matt Wicking is using his education to foster progressive and 'important conversations'
Working to make the world a better place has certainly struck a chord with this musician, who has put his multiple skills to good use. Konrad Marshall listens in.
EVEN AT 7pm, it is 36 degrees. It's humid, too. And up two flights of stairs inside a stuffy music venue with low ceilings, the heat is even more offensive, as if these sticky floors and dark walls are themselves sweating. The engineers doing sound checks seem annoyed. The dudes stocking the back bar look spent. The clipboard door lady is unresponsive. Inexplicably wearing long sleeves and denim, I'm kind of miserable, too.
The only person who looks happy is Matt Wicking, the frontman for emerging Melbourne band the General Assembly, who is sitting away from the stage a few hours ahead of his gig, sipping ice water through a straw, feet up on a spare chair. The 39-year-old wears a bulbous red beard and beatific smile. "This is kinda romantic," he says of our corner table in the shadows, decorated with a few tea lights in tumbler glasses. "I think it'll be fun."
In two hours, his group will play their first show of the year inside the packed Toff in Town band room in Swanston Street. Such moments used to make him nervous. "The usual – hoping people will come, worrying they won't," he says, laughing. "But now it's just nervous excitement."
He's specifically considering the single his band is about to debut, Things Fall Apart. The chorus begins with the lyric, "Why oh why did America die?" He wrote it five years ago, sensing omnipresent doom around capitalism and globalisation, but singing it now, in the age of Trump, seems more pertinent. "The song always felt good, but this time it felt like it landed," he says, planting a palm on the table, "which is not a good thing. It's not a happy song." Wicking wrote recently that the track isn't so much a single as "a howl".
Given the cringe that follows political songs, releasing it as a single also feels like a risk, but an inevitable one for Wicking to take once you learn a little about the guy. Outside of music he's a "professional facilitator" for worthy causes.
"Which means I work exclusively with good people doing good things in the world, as defined by me.
"Whether freelancing for Melbourne's biennial Next Wave Festival, Moreland City Council or Engineers Without Borders, Wicking runs discussions, retreats and workshops. Using his bachelor's degrees in psychology and commerce, and his master's of environment, he guides teams through "important or difficult conversations", everything from formulating strategic plans to redesigning their hierarchy. "I help them talk better, communicate better or connect better – all that human stuff."
He also facilitates the Future Makers Fellowship, a nine-month sustainability leadership course for 25 people who want to have a positive impact on the world. Graduates have founded such initiatives as The Weekly Service (a community gathering not unlike church, but without any gods) and ROAR (working to stamp out online abuse and support its victims).
Recently, male privilege has been his personal bugbear – his work role, after all, involves equalising power within groups. He's tired of asking a question at a conference and seeing five male hands shoot up. For instance, he was at the Purpose Sydney conference, hosting a panel discussion with limited Q&A time, so he asked for "only great questions". But one other thing, he added, if you're a white male in the audience, your question is probably not as good as you think it is, so maybe sit back for a second.]
"If I were a woman," he says now, "that might have sounded like sour grapes, but the guys were able to hear it, and it had a good effect."
He doesn't expect any pats on the back.
Wicking just wants to use his privilege positively. Sexism, he says, has become less about the glaring offences committed by proud misogynists and instead about the small acts that undermine women.
"It's part of their walk home from the train, their office life, standing at the bar over there, waiting for a drink," he says, watching a few beers being poured. "Guys don't see it because we've got the wind at our backs and it feels fine, but women are riding into the breeze, and it's harder."
Male blindness on this issue frustrates him. It reminds him of the mainstream belatedly raging against Trump. "Like, I'm glad to see people mobilising, but when you've been working for 15 years on issues around civilisation-ending environmental catastrophe, and no one blinks, then some guy who is obviously not a progressive force becomes president, it's funny that everyone loses their shit. I mean, good, it's pricked some bubbles, but I just hope if Trump is booted in 2020, or impeached before then, that we don't all go back to 'It's fine', because it ain't fine."
He's off to do a sound check. His wants his music to sound, well, musical – not like some earnest diatribe. He is more playful than his facial hair might suggest. "I'm not trying to sign people up to a campaign or a rally," he says, laughing, then stretching as the sun sets through the balcony window. "But I don't like the idea of the stuff that's happening in our world happening without someone singing about it, so I might as well."