Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio)

Despite the discovery of a number of shortcomings in modern telephone technology, I was able to speak with Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio about the band, their upcoming record and the future.

The band will release their fifth studio record Crimson on May 24th.

You can click read More for the interview

.pullquote { float: right; margin: 1em; padding: 0.75em 0.75em 0.75em 34px; width: 25%; font-size: 1.25em; background: url('/images/icons/interquote.gif') no-repeat #ddd; text-align: left;} .triophoto { float: left; margin: 1em; padding: 1em; border: 1px solid #aaa;} So the record is done; how do you feel?

It's a good thing and we're excited about the record and it'll be nice to get out and play again because it feels like it's been ages since we played a tour.

How was the show with 7 Seconds?

It was really fun, there were some disgruntled old school fans there, but a lot of people came out to see us and were singing along

Even the people who hated us weren't throwing anything so I'd say it was a good time, a success.

Even the people who hated us weren't throwing anything so I'd say it was a good time, a success.

Crimson was leaked onto the internet remarkably early. I know that Derek had made some strong statements on the Blood Pact message board about it.

Yeah, it seems inevitable in this day and age. Somehow or another its going to get out and I guess if you make a bad record and it leaks out you're doomed, but if you make a good record and it leaks out, it could be a good thing because people are talking about it.

So I guess I'm trying to look on the bright side, so to me while it's a little like Christmas is cancelled because the surprise is gone, we were half expecting it, so you can't spend too much time being upset about it.

When I first heard the record, I was initially pretty surprised with the sound, but after listening to it a little more, it seems to fit in the context of your other records. The lyrics though seem to have changed more, and they're less about literal personal experiences, is there something beyond the obvious that affected the way you write?

I don't really know. I've been reading a lot more than I have in the past - not that I'm incredibly well read or anything, but it's a lot easier for me to read then it was when we first started. I was just never able to sit still, and while I did well in English, for some reason I couldn't calm myself down enough to read a book. It was impossible, and I think getting a little bit older has calmed me down and I'm able to absorb things better.

I think that it's really interesting reading about others experiences and those things really influenced the writing. I read a lot of "True Crime" kinda stuff.

For me the songs on this record are still very personal, but I like that you don't hear it that way.

I think it might be because there is less literal expressions of anger like dropping a radio in a bathtub and everything is lot more metaphorical and ambigious.

As much as we want to make something enjoyable to listen to, it's important that we enjoy making it and that we're doing something that is interesting to us. Sometimes I listen to some of the old Trio stuff - and while I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world - I think "Oh my God, did I really just say that?"

Hopefully I'm progressing as a writer because the more you write, the more you try and write things that you won't be embarassed about five years down the road. That's not to devalue the songs for anyone, it's just that [writing] is a growing experience.

This was the lot of speculation about the artwork, because some people couldn't recognize the girl on the cover

The people are Derek, our drummer and the girl is my fiancé, Monica.

When we were doing the photo shoot and we had a completely different idea of what the record was going to look like. And Monica was there doing our styling; she got a bunch of outfits and she did the styling for pretty much all the new pictures for the record. She was there and the photographer was just doing all these different things and he had her stand in. He was toying with these different ideas with just a small portion of her face in the picture and then, lo and behold, she's our cover star.

So we thought it looked cool and the people at the art department are in cahoots with the photographer who is amazing. Everybody who worked on the thing was cool and hands on and saw these pictures of her and were asking "who is that?" I said "that's my girlfriend" and they said "that's perfect, we have to use her"

I think it looks very cinematic and that's what we were going for. Once it was coming together, it was like film noir.

The "Blood Pact" fanclub message board seems to have a real "Cult of Matt" with some really serious love that you don't always see with just any band. Some fans trade scans of pictures from magazines and talk about you specifically quite a bit. Is that awkward for you? I know Derek talks on the forums quite a bit, but we don't see as much of you.

Sometimes I really do feel like we have a special relationship - like any band does with their fans - but there is definitely some serious dedication involved, and while this is the only experience I have, I feel like it's something special. As far as the "Cult of Matt" I haven't experienced it yet, I don't really spend as much time looking at the Alkaline Trio related web stuff. I'm glad its there, but I just don't look at it very often. Maybe I should, and maybe I should be posting things more, but everytime I'm online, I hear people saying mean things.

I don't give a shit what people think about me, but when people are slamming Danny or Derek or part of our family, I get upset and there is nothing I can do about it. When I was posting on our website when we were working on Good Mourning, people would pretend to be me and tell people to fuck off. That said, I'm psyched that its there for people.

A lot of it also came from our fascination with the Satanic Bible and the Misfits and all these spooky, creepy threatening things that we love that we wanted to incorporate.

This is your third record for Vagrant and at this point it seems like you guys must have a pretty solid feel for the label. Of course a lot of doors have opened and you've gotten pretty big. but beyond that, how do you feel about that, as opposed to when you first started with Mike [Park]?

I spend a lot of time pinching myself, because we're in a place that I never though we'd be in a million years. When we started the band, our goals went from "We need a place to practice" to "We need a van" to "We need someone to book tours"

I booked our first two tours and we decided that we couldn't let that ever happen again. We took baby steps then and it seemed daunting to us, just as now, we've gotten to a place that's beyond my comprehension and I try to wrap my head around it but I can't. I'm just thankful that people identify with what we're doing and I'm happy to be a part of it. I'm just taken aback by the whole thing.

At the same time, it's pretty simple; if people enjoy our music and this many people enjoy it, then our job got more intense, I guess. We have more a responsibility than we used to. It's weird because we've grown as things have come and we've grown with it. and we've always been able to adapt to it and I think we'll always be able to.

We're just really thankful for where we're at.

Are you guys planning to do another singles collection like Alkaline Trio?

We actually haven't talked about it. Eventually I'm sure we will, I'm not sure if we have enough stuff to do. We might, I guess it was a long time ago that the other one came out. That's a good idea, we should start talking about.

I've always thought that some of your best songs are hidden on a compilations, and it would be great to have them all in one place.

That's not a bad idea, We even have a couple of B-sides [recorded] for Crimson. We usually came in by the hair of our teeth when recording and we came out with some extras.

That's a very good idea, I'm going to take it to the "suits." Ok, there aren't any suits.

It'd probably be a good place for the songs from that limited seven inch with the Misfits covers. I've heard it goes for hundreds of dollars on eBay.

[People] shouldn't go on Ebay because no one should be paying that much for them and because we have a bunch of them. Maybe not so many anymore because we gave them away with the Blood Pact membership, and those are all numbered for the show.

When we did them for the Halloween show in Chicago (documented on Halloween at the Metro) We gave them out as a 'treat' when you walked in the door. One of the boxes wasn't guarded and people raided the boxes and took ten or twenty of them at a time. We still have a bunch though, so I wouldn't go spending too much on them.

One thing that I found unusual was that you used a track from a split on the album ("Sadie")

We wrote that song intending it for our next record, that song and the song "Death Bed" we wrote on the last tour and so after the BYO split came out, we decided to re-record it and put it on the album. We weren't sure and we had a lot of songs to choose from so we weren't realy sure about putting it on the record, but as we were whittling down the list "Sadie" kept winning the battles.

Was that (Alkaline Trio artist) Heather [Hannoura]'s recorded debut?

Sort of, she did some hand claps on Good Mourning and we didn't credit her. I felt pretty bad but we're dicks and we forgot to put her name in there. That sucks and still does, but she came in again for the record and she did the vocals via an answering machine at Matt Allison's studio and then she came down to the studio and did it into the microphone for us.

Speaking of her, you guys seem to have a really clearly defined aesthetic; the colour scheme and gothic style. I was wondering where that came from.

Heather had a lot to do with that. The way that we write the band name is from something she found in a book, and all the designs and everything. Heather did our first shirts with our first drummer Glenn; they used to screen print all our shirts and patches in the kitchen. And then people would buy them and wash them and they'd bleed and ruin everyone's clothes. They're better now.

Heather was responsible for the heart/skull we still use today

A lot of it also came from our fascination with the Satanic Bible and the Misfits and all these spooky, creepy threatening things that we love that we wanted to incorporate.

I would say Anton Lavey and Glenn Danzig had a lot to do with it.

I don't care how many times you've seen Slayer, Naked Raygun shows in Chicago were gnarly.

Danny just did the Falcon with the Brendan (from the Lawrence Arms) and I'm wondering if you're planning anything solo like your acoustic split with Kevin Seconds

I just recorded a song for a Pegboy compilation [The World I Know] that Justin [Schweir] in Chicago is putting out. I did an acoustic version of a Pegboy song for his tribute.

I'm also doing a project with Joe [Steinbrick] from F-Minus and our friend Sam and our buddy Ben is producing it. It's kind of got a Depeche Mode kind of vibe.

I'm singing it, and Joe wrote all the music. We've got some guest performers coming in too.

Do you have a label in mind for that?

Vagrant was interested but it's going to be awhile before we're done with it so we'll just wait and see.

What's it called?

I'm really excited about it, it's called The G.O.D. We should have the record done in the next year or so.

I thought it was really cool that you got Jeff from Naked Raygun to sing on your EP

I thought that was awesome too. I grew up a huge Naked Raygun fan and I'm still a humongous Naked Raygun fan. I even have a Naked Raygun sticker on my car. [They] had the most violent shows in Chicago and I don't care how many times you've seen Slayer, Naked Raygun shows in Chicago were gnarly. I was into that; I wasn't kicking peoples heads in or anything, but being the middle of that chaos was amazing.

I never did see them

They were unbelievable and so great live. I ran into Jeff years ago when Alkaline Trio was playing at Fireside Bowl in Chicago, and the Bomb was playing the late show which is Jeff's new band. And after he came up to me and said some nice things. I immediately knew who he was and just went off about how much I loved Naked Raygun. He was really nice and so I stuck around and saw the Bomb and we hung out for a little bit.

We didn't talk forever but then when we were recording that song, I said "We need some Naked Raygun style "whoahs" on this, but if we did them ourselves it would be really lame and next time I go to Exit, I'd get my lights punched out. So we called Jeff and asked him to sing on it and he came down that night and did it."

Any other splits in the works?

Not yet…

What would be your best case. If you could pick any band?

Pegboy, probably. I love Pegboy. If we could do a split with them, that would be great. I know I'm going to hang up the phone and think of ten more.

Morrissey would be great, I would love that.

That'd be interesting.

Social Distortion would be amazing.

You never know… After HWM, One Man Army and Kevin Seconds, who knows.

Those were bands we really loved, so working with those guys and having a record with those guys with our name on it was an honor.

Any last words?

Anybody who's already got the record; I hope that you're enjoying it, and come out and see us when we come through your town.