I have rediscovered some archive interviews I made a decade ago. Here’s the first of a few I intend to post here. Matt Skiba of The Alkaline Trio.
Matt Skiba interview with Simon Nott
We managed to get hold of Matt Skiba on the second attempt, the first international phoner had to be cancelled because he was stricken in his sick bed. Thankfully with ‘Time To Waste’ in the national top 40 and Crimson flying high in the album charts he was well enough to give us the low down on all things Trio. Quiet and polite, every question as greeted with a pause for thought before his slow precise answers.
Although Crimson appears as dark themed as their previous offerings it seems that maybe that Alkaline Trio and Matt in particular are not as angry as they used to be, does he agree?
“I think Crimson is our darkest record yet, I wouldn’t have said that it’s less angry. I think, at least from the way I feel, I’m more spiteful and angry than ever, maybe now we are dealing with those sorts of emotions in a more constructive way, I think there’s just as much piss and vinegar in these songs but hopefully put a bit more eloquently but I guess that’s just a matter of opinion”.
It has been rumoured that the entire band are now all very happy in their personal lives, and with the added success of Crimson and the band as a whole are you all becoming too happy to keep up the Alkaline Trio line in songs and can we expect a whole shed load of cheerful songs to follow?
“I think that there have always been things in our lives that have been as happy and equally things in our lives that have made us unhappy and those things will always be there. I think life will always be more enjoyable if you have somebody who you love and trust to share it with but that doesn’t change the fact that we live in the world that we do and that things in life are more fucked up than they’ve ever been. There’s a lot of our older songs that people always assume are about failed relationships between a boy and a girl and often in fact that’s incorrect. Often times they have things to do with situations an experiences that friends of ours and people that we care about have been through and often the songs are about situations and experiences that we have never personally been involved with so. We will just continue to be creative, we have an aesthetic and a vibe to our band that’s never going to change no matter how happy we are personally”
The Trio were involved in the Rock Against Bush project, how did his subsequent re-election affect you and could you see yourselves going down are more political avenue musically?
“I don’t think we are ever going to write songs that are political, the song on the Rock Against Bush compilation is called ‘War Brain’ but it has nothing to do with the current government and it’s not a political song at all, but maybe that song as well as some of our other songs were influenced by some of that anger comes from the current US government and their involvement in the rest of the World, we disagree heavily with the Bush administration and anyone that supports it. We felt it necessary to get involved with Rock Against Bush because a) We don’t agree with Bush and b) Fat Mike is our really close friend and we are proud to be in cahoots with doing something about it. We were proud to stand up for ourselves against the current administration but I don’t think you’ll ever hear us preaching politics in our songs or otherwise. We felt it was something we had to do because we felt strongly about it and it was fun and it was important to step up and say ‘This is wrong’ so we were proud to be a part of that”.
The last time you played at Reading it was late in a dark tent, how are the Alkaline Trio going looking forward to playing mid afternoon on the main stage in what at least all of us in the crowd hope will be blazing sunshine, is it going to be a problem to get your darkness over in that sort of environment?
“We have had a lot of experience of playing with the Warped tour and other festivals in the day time, we just have to wear our sunglasses! It isn’t as comfortable as playing inside in the night time, at the same time we are really excited about the show, playing with some of our favourite bands, Iron Maiden, Marilyn Manson and NOFX, I hung out with Bruce Dickinson once before at the Kerrang awards, he was a really nice guy, it will be nice to see Bruce and Mason again and hopefully hang out with them so the trade off is it’s pretty good to play in the day light, we’ll make it work”.
So does idea of living in a tent, using disgusting toilets and listening to rock n roll for a weekend appeal and would you go as a fan if you were not playing?
“No!” “No it’s hard for me to say because when you play in a band you have a different view of a show. Me personally when I’m off tour, it takes a band that I really love to get me to go to a show, I’m around music so much that I want to do something non music related when I have time off music. But if I had never had the musical experiences I have had, yes I would probably be in the crowd and live in a tent enjoying it because I wouldn’t know any differently”
What can we expect from your Reading/ Leeds shows and do you have any surprises in store you can let us in on?
“Hopefully you’ll have a good time and if we have any tricks up our sleeves it wouldn’t be very surprising if I told you about it now would it?”
Why only the one gig and the Reading/ Leeds dates in the UK and a lot more in Europe?
“Well we are planning on coming back before the end of the year to do an exclusive UK tour. At the moment with have personal things that are taking precedent but I think in November we will be doing the entire UK”.
Ok, it seems to me that you as a band have a nasty vendetta going against a song that you would have thought you would owe a lot to, why do you never seem to play ‘Stupid Kid’ live?
“I hate to say this but we never really liked that song, when we recorded it we didn’t particularly care for it, but Vagrant Records were really into the song and wanted to push it as a single so was something that was kind of pushed on us from the beginning. We have never been huge fans of playing that song so now if we have a short amount of time to play we’d rather play something else”.
Radio 1 have playing ‘Time To Waste’ on regular rotation next to loads of pop and worst, the Crazy Frog, how do you feel about being in such musical company on the airwaves?
“We’re happy that our music is getting out there, it’s a blessing for us to be able to have our music reach people, it feels great it’s been really exciting to watch how things have been going in the UK with Time To Waste. We play not just because we enjoy it but we want other people to enjoy it, regardless of what they are playing next to it we are happy that they are playing it and that people can hear it. I don’t feel strongly against it at all, I’m just glad that they are playing it”.
Following on a bit from that, with the national radio airplay Alkaline Trio’s music is reaching a much younger audience than probably originally intended, are you a bit worried about young kids delving into your back catalogue and listening to pretty strong songs like ‘Radio’?
“No, I got into to music at a very young age and it has always been something that is very important to me. Regardless of their age I’m just glad people are listening us doesn’t matter to me how old you are or what colour your hair is or skin is or any of that shit it’s just like we psyched if anyone is listening if they are children or elderly, if they are getting something out of it we are happy. It would be insulting to our young fans if we said we are unhappy that they are listening to our music”.
‘Sadie’ is a song about infamous Manson Family murderess Susan Atkins aka Sadie Mae Glutz, is the song morbid curiosity, admiration or sympathy?
“Kind of all of those things at once. My interest in the Manson family like with most people comes with fascination into what provokes someone to kill another human being and what brings somebody to that situation. I can only assume that Susan Atkins is as horrible as the crimes she committed, it’s sort of a look at how people want to say how evil and horrible she is but I then again I can only imagine the evil and horrible things she went through to put her in that place. I have sympathy for families that suffered under her knife and I think that’s horrible, but I also think that it was also horrible what can bring people to do those sorts of things and what she must have gone through to make her feel that was the right thing to do at the time. I think everything is like that, every nothing is one-sided, it’s a look into that aspect of that woman and that case”
It’s hard to ignore Green Day at the moment and the high profile they are giving punk rock, do the Alkaline Trio have similar aspirations and is the sky the limit?
“We have always thought that the sky’s the limit, but I also think that we are a band that has always been thankful for what we have and for the people that we have coming to see us. We already gone far and beyond the wildest dreams that we ever had as a band. As for where Green Day have gotten, they are one of the biggest bands in the world right now. Do I think we’re headed for that? I don’t think so, I don’t know, I just happy with where we’re at and what we’re doing, for us, and for lack of a better term this is the biggest and most popular we’ve ever been and we’re quite happy with that, but you know, the more the merrier, our music is there for people to listen to and the more people who sing to it the better”.
‘Emma’ from ‘Good Mourning’ is it about a girl you knew from school or just Danny’s dog?
“It’s not about Dan’s dog, that’s kind of a joke because he named his dog Emma, the song is named after somebody I went to school with but the song is not about that person”.
Marilyn Manson was originally going to appear in the video for ‘All On Black’?
“We asked him to do it, we had a script written for the video and one of the characters written was for Marilyn Manson but it never came to fruition”.
Who’s the blonde guy in the ‘Goodbye Forever’ video?
“Joey, he was our road manager and friend for years”.
Is Derek going to get to sing one?
“Derek does a lot more singing these days, as for the role of lead vocals I guess it’s not out of the realm of possibility.”