Alkaline Trio Interview - Matt Skiba and Dan Andriano | ThePunkSite.com
|Band: Alkaline Trio
Matt Skiba and Dan Andriano
Heart and Skull Records
Plaines D'Abraham - Quebec, City
|Date: July 14th, 2012
Fresh from their sound check overlooking the empty Plaines D’Abraham in Quebec City, Chicago’s favourite punk rock trio Alkaline Trio sat backstage to discuss the event that brought them back to the city for the first time in a decade. Of course, it was the Festival D’Ete de Quebec – an eclectic, eleven day festival that sees more than a million people pass through the gates, savouring every minute of music possible. It was this type of recognition that convinced the band to come out and do the one-off show in the first place and as Alkaline Trio soon found out – the hype was not unwarranted.
For while the fields may have been empty a few minutes prior to the interview during their sound check, that was not the case when they took the stage that evening in front of close to ninety-thousand people. A packed house from front to back, the show was vastly different than when they were last in Quebec City and had to spend the night on someone’s couch. It was, as Matt Skiba announced at the end of their set, “the best show they’ve ever played, ever.”
That’s saying a lot considering the band has been touring heavily for sixteen long years. We talked to them about their touring schedules, festivals, their writing process and their plans with Heart and Skull Records all the while Dan sat trying to come up with the set-list for the evening’s performance, a set that will be remembered by the band for years to come.
Photos by Renaud Philippe.
Bobby: This is a one off-show that you guys are doing. Dan was just in Europe doing his solo tour that ended two days ago. What made you do the one off show here for Festival D’Ete?
Dan: We just heard this was a great festival and that there was going to be a lot of people; and we wanted to come and play with The Offspring.
Matt: And Metric.
Dan: And Metric. And you know; Bon Jovi was just here. Dashboard Confessional, Aerosmith, Sarah Mclachlan. It’s kind of crazy to be on the same stage as all these people. Like we’ve heard this about the festival, that everyone is just excited to be here and have a great time, and there’s whole lot of people –that it’s something that we shouldn’t pass up. So I was like “yeah, I’ll just come here instead of going home. It’ll be great.”
Matt: Yeah, last time we were here, we were sleeping on a friend’s floor. We haven’t played Quebec City in…
Dan:.. Way too long.
Matt: Almost ten years or more. Probably ten years actually. So it’s nice to come back to this city and also to be playing in front of so many fucking people.
Bobby: It’s also unique, like you said, this festival you have Lionel Ritchie and City and Colour to Mastodon and Sarah Maclachlan. With such a wide variety, how does a festival like this works?
Matt: If I’m not mistaken, this festival is kind of a city wide thing right? It goes on for like two weeks.
Bobby: Eleven days.
Matt: Eleven days. So you have all of Quebec City which is composed of rock fans probably I’m assuming since there was ninety-thousand people here to see Jon Bon Jovi or Sarah Maclachlan or anyone that’s playing. Like everyone’s coming out to it, it’s a big thing. It’s amazing to be a part of something like this. This is sort of like Lollapalooza in Chicago. When Lollapalooza happens, there’s all different kinds of bands playing. It’s not quite like Bon Jovi and Lionel Ritchie and stuff like that, but I think it works because people love music and even if you like different kinds of music, if you’re a big music fan – it’s the same energy. Whether there’s a circle pit or whether it’s a bunch of house wives smoking weed, watching Lionel Ritchie. It’s still the same energy. It’s still people that want to see good music, whatever their taste may be.
Bobby: Over the years you guys have done countless festivals. Like you just did Punk Rock Bowling where you played with Laura Jane Grace, you did Goezrock and Punksprings. You’ve gone all over the world playing festivals. To you – what makes a festival successful?
Matt: Well, I think weather is a huge thing. It’s really nice that it’s not raining today. Obviously. I’m sure it had to have rained at least a few days since the festival started.
Florence (Representative of the Festival): This year there’s been no rain.
Florence: Yeah, that’s rare.
Matt: It’s nice that the weather is beautiful outside. It’s really, really nice. I think that’s a big thing. I mean, you go to a place like England where they’re used to being in the pissing rain all the time – so they don’t care at all. They’re into it no matter what. And I mean that as a compliment. They’re just there to have a good time and it’s at the end of summer, so it’s still warm out. So even though they’re covered in mud and rain, they’re not freezing to death hopefully.
But I think that the energy of the crowd and the energy of the performers – how much they want to be there and how important putting on a good show is to them. The combination of those two things on a nice day like today in a beautiful city like Quebec City is the makings for a really good time I think.
Bobby: Obviously I follow the punk scene a lot more and you guys have one a lot of punk festivals – like Goezrock, Punksprings, , The Fest, Punk Rock Bowling, Riot Fest – stuff like that. Whereas this one and Lollapalooza is much wider. Which do you prefer? Do you like the variety or do you like the niche festivals?
Matt: Oh, I like the variety. The rock festivals I should say. Like us playing with Lionel Ritchie would just be silly. Like it wouldn’t make any sense at all. So when we’re playing Leeds and Reading, playing the rock festival – it’s still diverse. Like we played right before Iggy and the Stooges and then Marilyn Manson played and then Iron Maiden. We sound nothing like any of those bands and individually, those bands don’t sound like each other necessarily. I guess Manson and Maiden are kind of both metal but totally different.
So I like the diversity. Generally with punk festivals, it ends up being a lot of punk bands that sound the same. Without being cruel, it just turns into kind of mishmash. Where as if you have something with diversity, it helps to kind of highlight each performance. So I prefer the big kind of more diverse rock shows. This is the first time we’ve shared the stage with Bon Jovi or Lionel Ritchie I think *laughs*
But at the same time, it’s an honour too. I’m not an enormous… Nothing against them - I don’t love Bon Jovi and I don’t love Lionel Ritchie, but I grew up around it and it’s crazy that Alkaline Trio and Bon Jovi (are on the same bill). Like it’s pretty wild. I think it’s good that we’re playing with the Offspring tonight though. Us and Bon Jovi might be a little weird.
Bobby: Just a little off.
Matt: A little off yeah… and Lionel Ritchie even more so.
Bobby: You guys are doing another festival in November – the WROS Festival in Sao Paolo in Brazil. Are you excited for that one too?
Matt: We’re very excited for that. We’ve never been to South America at all. Especially way down there. I think we’re playing Chile, Argentina and Brazil. So yeah, we’re stoked. Sao Paolo is going to be huge. I forgot about that until just now. It’ll be really fun to go down there; I’m hoping to get some surfing it. It’ll be good.
Bobby: So like you said, you’re also going to Argentina and Chile. This is your first time in South America – why’d it take so long?
Matt: Well, I don’t really know. There’s people that write us online and ask why we’ve never been to Indonesia or why we’ve never been to different places.
Bobby: It’s tough.
Matt: Well, it costs a lot of money and it sucks to say it, but we’re not rich – we can’t just pay to go play somewhere. We have to be able to afford to go play there. So some of these places… not necessarily South America. There was a couple times when we were going to go down there and play like Mexico City and then work our way down the continent, but there’s just been hiccups that happened that stopped it. It wasn’t us; we’ve always wanted to go. It’s just maybe promoters backed out or there just wasn’t enough money, I don’t really know. But I’m glad we’re going - better late than never right?
Bobby: You guys have been going for quite a while – this is your sixteenth year as Alkaline Trio; but you also do quite a lot side projects. Like Dan with the Emergency Room and you with your solo stuff and The Sekrets. Do you like having the other outlets to kind of write a different style than Alkaline Trio? To have an unique voice?
Dan: Yeah, I mean I just like – and I think I speak for all of us – we just like playing songs. It’s not exactly like… I’m not trying to say my cup runneth over with songs; but sometimes I come up with shit that I’m like “I don’t know about doing this with the Trio” and eventually I had enough of those songs to make a record. Now that I’ve done it, I’ve definitely got the itch to keep it going. It’s been fun; I’ve had some weird experiences doing it. So I’ll make a new record, but I’m not in a big hurry. Our focus right now is going to be making another Alkaline Trio record, and that’s going to be fun. But yeah, I’ll play any damn thing. If it’s fun and I like the songs, I’ll play any kind of songs.
Bobby: So are you guys working on a new album right now for The Trio?
Dan: Yes, we’re supposed to be recording this fall.
Bobby: I know for This Addiction, you guys went back with Matt Allison at Atlas Studios and just locked you guys – the three of you and Matt – in a room with nobody else. Are you going to do the same kind of thing again?
Dan: No. I mean, I don’t want to say who we’re going to record with just yet, even though I think it’s locked in.
Matt: I already have.
Dan: Yeah – we’re going to go work with Bill at Fort Collins at the Blasting Room. Bill and Jason. We’ve all wanted to work with Bill for a long time and this is kind of the time to do it. So we’re going to go hang out there in October. Make a new record.
Bobby: I was reading an interview that Matt did a while ago about the writing process for This Addiction and you were saying that if a song took more than thirty minutes to write, you would just throw it away.
Matt: For me, yeah. I still do that. At least Monday through Friday, I try to write a song a day. Sometimes I write two songs a day. They’re not necessarily good, but I just try and always keep writing and if it starts to become something… I mean, if you really get going on something, it’s more of the idea of it and the skeleton of the song shouldn’t take more than an hour to put it together. You do fine tuning as time goes on, but I mean with Dan and Derek – when I bring them a song, I try to record it as simply as possible so that we can all make it an Alkaline Trio song. So it’s not like I’m sitting there putting drums and synths and all kinds of stuff on our song – but the idea of a song should come pretty quickly. I’m not speaking for anyone else but myself, but the best songs I’ve write come to me really quickly I’ve noticed. So I’m kind of sticking with that.
Bobby: Yeah, you don’t want to force it into something.
Bobby: You guys are originally from Chicago but now you’re (Matt) living in LA, Derek’s in Minnesota and Dan’s down in Florida. With the three of you living on three different sides of the US, how does that work for getting together, writing new material?
Dan: It’s kind of how it’s been for so long. It’s just how we do it. I mean, internet. We’ve got phones.
Matt: Send each other MP3s.
Dan: We stay in pretty good contact. It became more important for us to all be happy when we’re not on the road as well as on the road, then where we were living. There’s no reason why we all have to live in LA or Chicago or something at this point. You know what I mean? When we’re home, we’re all kind of up to different things. I’m busy with a five year old and going to the beach. I don’t want anything else when I’m not on tour. It’s been great actually, we email each other songs every once in a while and then we get together for things like this.
Then when we get together for things like this, that’s when we talk about recording. Let’s get together and work on songs for a few days, when do you wanna tour again? You know what I mean?
Matt: And we write on tour, we tour so much and we write on tour as well.
Dan: But it’s a pretty laisez-faire kind of situation and that’s how we like it.
Bobby: It also gives you more control. Like even having gone to the Heart and Skull imprint for This Addiction and Damnesia, you guys were in full control. Do you plan on only doing Alkaline Trio stuff on Heart and Skull or do you plan on putting other bands on there?
Matt: Well, initially we were hoping to do something similar to what Tim did with Hell-Cat where it was under the Epitaph umbrella. But our band, because we’re in it, is first and foremost before anything else. But if we have bands that we loved and wanted to work with us and Epitaph was willing to help, that was the initial plan. But things in the music industry are taking a serious dive. I mean, it’s a real bad time to start a new label. That’s not to say that something might change and maybe there’s a new way to actually turn a profit. Not to sound too business hungry, but that’s a label – a label’s a business. It doesn’t make any sense if you’re not going to make any money so you can keep putting out records. So we’ll see. We’re hoping that Heart and Skull does turn into a label, but as we’re hoping for that, labels are shutting their doors. So time can only tell.
Bobby: I remember you guys experienced that first hand before Agony and Irony when you signed to V2 Records and then they shut down.
Matt: We got out lucky. I mean, we hadn’t turned a record in yet. Some bands that we were labelmates with weren’t so lucky. It’s been weird, we’ve moved to a lot of different labels as the tides are quickly sifting. But we’ve been lucky, we’ve been very, very lucky.
Bobby: I guess that’s about it; thanks a lot. Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to add?
Matt: No, just thanks for coming.
Dan: Thanks for digging the band if you do, and if you don’t – then start.