Interview: Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio

Alkaline Trio

Hi, this is Roze from

Hi Roze!

Hi! How are you doing?

Doing well, how about you?

Can you hear me okay? You’re on speaker phone.


Ok good. So let’s do this interview!

Ok, where are you at right now?

I’m in Oregon, where are you at right now?

I’m in San Francisco.

Oh do you like it there?

I love it, yeah, I live here now. But I actually just talked to my friend Amy she sings for a band called The Start. They’re playing in Portland tonight.

Oh yeah! I’m going to that!

You are?!

Yeah, I love The Start.

Me too. We’re doing shows with them coming up. The Start is in Eugene eating lunch right now, just so you know. They’re almost there. They had to drive from LA, I guess, which is far far away.

Yeah Eugene’s only an hour and a half away from Portland.

Yeah, they’re almost there.

Cool. I can’t wait to see them tonight. I didn’t know that you liked them.

I love them. We did some shows on Warped Tour together. And me and Amy kind of just kept in touch and stuff, and we’re “bros.”

That’s cool.


So you moved to San Francisco?

I did, yeah. I lived in Berkeley for a couple years then I moved over here to the city about six months ago.

How do you like San Fran?

I love it. I’ve always loved it here. One of my best friends moved out here years and years ago. Probably like seven or eight years now. I would come out and visit him before we ever even toured out here and I just loved it. My parents are from out here, so I’ve seen a lot of pictures and I knew a lot about the city and when I came out here I fell in love with it. So I eventually got to move here, I’m grateful.

Is the rest of the band living there?

No, those guys are still in Chicago, Derek and Dan. But I do a commute to the office. I have to go to Chicago before tours and stuff. It works out, it’s fun.

Are you stoked about the upcoming tour?

I am. I’m really excited. We’re doing like a week going out to the east coast and doing a couple Canada dates. And then in May and June we’ll be out on the west coast with The Start and One Man Army. Then on the east coast we’ll be with Pitch Black and Pretty Girls Make Graves. We’re really excited about getting to tour with our favorite bands that are playing right now. We haven’t toured in a while so we’re super excited.

That’s awesome. So how did the new record turn out?

I think that it’s pretty good. I mean it took us a long time to do and I think most of the people that I talk to that make records and stuff, there’s always stuff that you wish you did better or maybe a little differently. I’ve never been able to avoid that, even with this. There’s things that I wish I had done maybe a little differently. But that also comes with just listening to it and living with it for so long that until it’s done you won’t really hear things in that way until it’s like too late I guess. But I would say for the most part that I’m really happy with it.

Did you know that it’s leaked on the internet already?

I do. I was just talking to a friend of mine who was telling me how much he liked the record and was telling me he got it off the computer. I think it’s impossible to avoid.

How do you feel about downloading music though? Does it bother you that it’s out there?

Uhh… I guess you know, we did everything we could to keep that from happening, but you know I guess when it’s out of your hands there’s nothing that you can really do about it. I think it’s kind of pointless to get too bent out of shape about it, you know? It’s kind of like it’s gonna happen, I’m not gonna lose any sleep over it. Hopefully people dig it enough that they’ll wanna have the artwork and they’ll wanna have the finished product. But you know it’s kind of a bummer, it kind of spoils the surprise when a record comes out everybody already knows it. But also at the same time when we go on tour people will be more familiar with the songs, cause we go out pretty much right when the record comes out. I know before all of modern technology took over, I’d go see a band who I really dug and never heard their record or any of their songs really until I’d go see them live. I’d buy the record at the show. There was something really exciting about that, I think obviously that doesn’t exist anymore. Hopefully people just dig that I’m just trying to keep a low-key attitude about it. I would prefer that people heard it for the first time when it was released, but those days are over. I don’t really care too strongly one way or the other. I would prefer, but it’s out of my hands.

Yeah, it’s kind of inevitable these days.


Did you guys do anything different recording this time than recording your other albums?

We have a new drummer, so that was a new thing. I think that’s one of the main things on the new record I’m excited about. Derek had a lot to do with arranging songs and you know, like structuring things. So we have that, a whole new influence with Derek. And then for the first time we worked with Jerry Finn and Joe McGraph during the recording process. We worked with Jerry before, but I think he’s worked on the whole record and working with new people always brings in a new influence. I think it’s for the better. Hopefully you know, everyone agrees.

What’s the recording process like for you guys?

Well this time it was a lot longer than we’re used to. But I think for the right reason. But you know, it’s just pretty cut and dry. You always have an idea of what you want the record to sound like and it always comes out a little bit differently… hopefully for the better, sometimes. Who can really tell? But I’d say it’s just something that… it’s just kind of a step by step process. It’s slow but sure and hopefully more time than not, it’s fun. So there’s times when it gets frustrating or we have to kind of stop for the day or whatever if it just gets too much like, it just isn’t gonna happen. Or if someone starts getting too frustrated we’ll start moving onto something else for the meantime. For the most part I’d say it’s pretty smooth sailing.

You and Dan were sick during some of the recording times, right?

Dan got sick right before we started recording and I think maybe I got sick from him. Dan has strep and so we both got sick at different times and when I was sick we were rehearsing and I blew my voice out really bad so it took a long time for me to get repaired. And even during the singing and finishing the record my voice still wasn’t a hundred percent but at the same time I think it kind of made it better.

Yeah. I heard that Dan sings most of the songs on this album, is that true?

Well no, I sing one or more two than he does. But it’s split a little more down the middle.

Was that because of the problems you had with your throat?

I had more songs than Dan did, but the songs that we didn’t use of mine Dan took the place of. We had songs that didn’t get recorded. It wasn’t necessarily because of that. We never really laid it out like “Okay I’m gonna have this many songs and you’re gonna have this many songs”. It’s just always the way it’s happened and this time it’s more evened out I think. I think it’s good. To me we spent more time on the songs and that’s possibly how that happened and for the first time I wrote a song that Dan actually sings the lead for. That was fun too.

What’s your favorite track off of Good Mourning?

I would probably say “Emma”, which is the song that I wrote that Dan sings. I really like the way that it came out and Dan’s voice works really well on it. And I think a song called “We’ve Had Enough” mainly because we had Keith Morris come in and sing on it and he fronted the band we kinda grew up on and are to this day in love with. So it was a treat having him in there.

What’s going to be the first single, have you decided?

”We’ve Had Enough.”

Are you guys gonna make a video for it?

Yeah we’re actually in the process of trying to go through treatments, like the scripts, I guess, for videos. We’re trying to decide what we want to do. I guess we have a few different ideas and once we decide on one we’re going to shoot the video.

Do you know who’s going to produce the video?

We don’t, no.

So who chose the title Good Mourning for the album?

Well we all decided on it. We all kinda put our heads together to come up with different ideas. We had several titles that we were playing with and just one morning I was having breakfast down the street from the studio where we were recording and my waiter said “good morning” to me and it just kinda like the double meaning/spelling kinda registered and I just called everyone and I was like “How about Good Mourning with a U?” and everybody liked it equally as much so we used it.

What kind of bands did you guys listen to while you were recording?

When we were recording we spent a lot of time just listening to our own stuff and working on that. And a lot of times, at least for me, when I’m in the studio all day you’re ears get really tired. You’re in the studio from noon until midnight when you get out of the studio and you’ve been listening to guitars all day or the kick drum all day, or whatever it is, your ears are just fried. You don’t have the strength to listen to anything else. So while we were recording I didn’t listen to much else than what we were working on. But umm… you know prior to recording and after I pretty much just listened to the stuff that I grew up on. I did get the new Interpol record which I think is really good. And what else did I get recently that we listened to a lot of before we started? I don’t know, we listened to a lot of Ramones and Husker Du and stuff like that. I guess those are the bands that have the most obvious influence on us and probably did on this record. But during the process we pretty much have our heads into what we’re doing

What do you think are the main differences between From Here To Infirmary and Good Mourning?

I would say that what was different about this album is working with Jerry and Joe and having Derek on board makes it different and hopefully better. I think that the record, the new record, is definitely sounds bigger and deeper than the last record and I think it also sounds maybe a little bit rawer. And that’s something that was intentional.

Derek played keyboards for Ozma on Warped Tour so I was wondering if there were going to be any keyboards on the new album?

There are. There’s a lot of Hammond organ we used and it’s not so much that it sticks out as a lead keyboard part but it’s just for texture or something, for lack of a better word. There’s some keyboards on the record thay you can definitely probably pick out pretty easily. It’s nothing that we would need to add a keyboard player for or anything.

Right. So you did a solo tour not too long ago. Do you or Dan have any plans of doing that again?

We don’t have plans. I mean both of us had a good time doing solo stuff and if we have a bunch of time off that’s what we’ve done. But thankfully we’re not going to have that much time off soon. So if that does happen, it probably won’t be for a while.

Do you think there’s a possibility of you putting out a full length of your solo stuff?

Yeah, I mean there’s something that I’ve talked to with friends from labels that have expressed interest in doing. It’s something that I think I’d like to do someday but I’m not really … like I said … I’m kinda busy with Alkaline Trio right now. But I never say never. That’s something I’d like to do someday.

A visitor at AP wanted to ask you what the title for “5-3-10-4” off of your album Maybe I’ll Catch Fire means.

I used to be a bike messenger in Chicago for a number of years and one of my best friends who I worked with his name’s Virgil but over the radios when you talk to each other you don’t call each other by name. You have like a call number. His call number was 53 and you know on the radio I’d call him 5-3, and we’d meet up on rainy days or whatever long busy days we’d call each other on the radio and meet up and smoke pot and hang out and whatever. He was kind of my leaning post on rough days. A lot of times he would tell me where he was and I would answer with 5-3-10-4 and go meet him and hang

What are your long term goals as a band and individually?

I think our long term goals that we set when we began the band have long since been done. It’s gotten bigger and gone farther than I would have ever imagined so I guess at this point I just hope things continue as good as they’re going and hopefully we can consistently have a really good time and hopefully have people enjoy themselves and have a good time with our music. I’m pretty blown away with where we’re at. Anything else is just a cherry on top, I guess.So during your recording process you guys played a lot of Tony Hawk 4 and Madden and I was wondering who won most of the time?

Well I didn’t get so much into the Madden. We didn’t have a whole whole bunch of time to play video games. At least I didn’t. We were all really busy. When I would play, I would play the Tony Hawk. I’m proud to say that I was probably the master at the Tony Hawk, at least during that time period. But Danny and our manager Erik played a lot of Madden I believe and they got pretty into it

(Car horn honks in the background)

There were some hard feelings because of the bad traffic. (laugh) They were yelling.

(laugh) I also read on your recording journals on your website and I saw the socks that you wore.

Oh yeah?

I was wondering what the deal is with those?

(Sarcastically) You don’t like them?

I… I like them a lot!

(laugh) Um I dunno, they were just gifts. I like, I like… socks. I like cool socks. They don’t make many boys socks like that, so I have to buy girl’s socks.


I don’t mind, you know, they fit. The Emily socks seem kind of universal. I started buying all of the Emily socks. I think they’re cool, they’re my colors. My friends saw my stupid socks and just started buying me wackier and wackier socks, so I wear them.

You should wear them like that when you play shows, wear them up to your knees.

(laughs) Pull them up over my pants?

Yeah that’d be cool.
I’m glad that you think so. I dunno that … uh..

It could be your new “thing.”

Yeah, start a new trend.

(laugh) yeah. So have you ever written your name somewhere you weren’t supposed to?

I can’t really think of any time that I’ve done that. Our first drummer Glenn used to like to spray paint the shit out of clubs all over the place and we would get in trouble for that. But as far as myself, I dunno, I probably carved my name into some picnic bench or tree somewhere or something a couple times along the way.

Do you have any scars that you’re proud of?

I have a scar on my left hand and it’s kind of like a jagged lightning bolt looking kind of scar on the edge of my hand. When I was a little kid I went flying thru a plate glass window. The scar, you can kind of see it now when you look at it, but it used to stick out kind of on my hand when I was younger. It was how I could tell my left hand from my right hand. It’s kind of this lightning bolt looking thing, but it to me was the “L” meaning my Left. So when I would tell someone if they had to go left or right I would have to look at my scar first.

A visitor at AP wants to know when your birthday is.

My birthday is February 24th.

They said they heard that you were a Pisces.

I am.

Me too!

Alright! When’s your birthday?

March 1st.

Aww. Happy belated birthday.

Thanks, you too.

(laugh) Thanks.

What are your views on the war in Iraq?

Well I think obviously it’s wrong. I think that obviously nothing was perfect over in Iraq and there’s definitely people over there that need help. I think that this way that the Bush administration is going about this is not for the better of the Iraqi people. It’s just not! It’s a fact! They can tell you whatever they want but to George Bush this war is about putting money in him and his father’s pockets. It’s just sickening. I feel like I just walk around while something like really bad is happening. If you’re ever going thru a really hard time and you have it in the back of your mind all the time, just this kind of nauseating sickening kind of feeling. That’s how I feel. What you’re hearing on the news is completely bias and it’s just horrible. What can I say about it? I wish that people’s votes actually mattered. That guy wouldn’t be in office right now. It’s a disgrace.

You guys have put out albums for over 7 years now. Most bands don’t last that long. So what motivates you to keep making music?

Well we enjoy it, number one. We really have a good time with what we’re doing. And I think the amount of people that support us and pay to come see us or buy our records and show up at the shows, that’s also a really big part of it and it makes it more fun for us. The more the merrier. I think we do it for ourselves just as much as we do it for the people that enjoy music.

Do you guys have any funny stories that happened while you were recording?

I can’t think of anything off hand. The studio that we were recording at though, we ran into Vince Neil. He was hanging out there. There were all kinds of famous people lurking around there. That was kind of neat. I can’t think of anything very funny off hand. I’m sure I’ll think of like 20 things after I hang up with you, but off hand I can’t really come up with anything specific. We spent a lot of time laughing in the studio, I’ll tell you that.

Do you expect very much commercial success from the new album?

I don’t really know. I think that there was some things going into it. You know we’re making a video that obviously we’re hoping MTV will pick up. We’re releasing a single that we’re hoping radio will play. So it’s not that we’re expecting it, but measures are being taking to see that as many people can hear it and is available for them as possible. I guess at least there’s a certain expectation of commercial success or whatever, but hopefully it doesn’t change. We did the same thing with the last record. You know, we’re not going to quit doing it if that doesn’t happen. The label is just trying to make it, I guess, possible. I’m just glad that we finished the record and I’m excited to go on tour and whatever comes along with it we’ll need to wait and see. But either way we’re stoked.

That’s all the questions I have.

Well thank you very much.

No, thank you for doing the interview, that’s really nice.

Yeah, thank YOU for doing the interview. And give The Start hugs for me, and have fun tonight.

Ok. You have a good day.


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