“It’s better to burn out then to fade away,” said a wise rock and roller (who has yet to do either after over 40 years). But these words ring even truer in the world of punk rock. Like a red dwarf, these bands burn brightly with passion and fury, then fade out quickly. It’s just too damn hard to maintain that intensity, and, in some cases, the lifestyle.
Alkaline Trio have been together for 17 years and just released their ninth album, My Shame Is True. It has all the intensity that 1998’s Goddamnitcontained. And it should, it stems from a very intense and personal time in lead singer Matt Skiba’s life.
In his interview, Skiba talks about that turbulent time in his life, the new album, and how the band has changed and grown (sometimes to the chagrin of their fans) over the years.
Even though Matt Skiba is supposed to be singing the praises of his new album with Alkaline Trio, the prolific punk songwriter is clearly excited about the record he’s recording with his side project.
The Hell is a band he founded a couple of years back with former Angels & Airwaves drummer Atom Willard. The fact that he fields this call from the studio is proof that he’s clearly not very good at sitting still.
“If I’m not recording something I’m painting something or making a mess of some kind somewhere,” Skiba begins.
“But I love what I do and I have access to a beautiful studio and beautiful friends to make music with. You know with this new Hell record what we’re doing is a total studio piece. So it’s been a lot of fun.”
The beautiful studio is Studio 606, which Dave Grohl moved from his basement in Virginia to Los Angeles and is topped off with the Neve soundboard featured in the Sound City documentary. “It’s the same board, it’s a different location but it’s very similar to Sound City minus the personnel and the bong on the console,” Skiba adds.
The new Hell record follows on from My Shame Is True, Alkaline Trio’s ninth album recorded in Colorado’s The Blasting Room with producer Bill Stevenson - a dream come true for Skiba, who grew up worshipping everything Stevenson laid his hands on, be it Black Flag, the Descendents or All.
“Yes, sir, it was really an honour,” Skiba says. “Descendents and Black Flag are my two favourite bands. I grew up playing drums so he was always my hero as a drummer, and he’s such a great songwriter. He wrote a lot of the really catchy poppy Descendents stuff, and all the All hits. Bill wrote all that stuff, and he’s a shredding guitar player and killer producer, and a killer guy. He’s a mentor but also a really good friend.”
Already thinking ahead to Alkaline Trio’s next album, Skiba says he’d like to record with band mates Dan Andriano (bass) and Derek Grant (drums) in a similar fashion to the way the Hell operate.
“We all live in three different cities and we don’t really have time to mess around,” Skiba says.
“Maybe next time we make a record I would like to do it that way because the way we’re doing it here at 606, we’re building something from the ground up and doing it together, it’s really neat. And I have that relationship with my (Hell) bandmates you just don’t have unless you have the convenience of being in the same place.”
Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba on why he hates Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes”
In HateSong, we ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.
The hater: As Alkaline Trio’s frontman, Matt Skiba has spent the past 17 years in punk-rock purgatory, releasing an album about every other year (the latest, My Shame Is True, is out now) and spending countless hours in the van on tour listening to boring, non-adventurous rock radio. As such, The A.V. Club thought Skiba might have some pretty strong opinions about what songs are so terrible that they get instantly vetoed on the road, no matter what, and sure enough, he did.
"I don’t personally feel that I’ve lost my fire. There is a difference between the young, angry, super-drunk, fuck-everything, who-cares kid that had no responsibilities, versus…well, I’m still not that far off from that, fortunately, and I don’t want to be anything but that. But I’m more of a man about the things I need to be a man about — relationships, my family, I have children in my life now, none of which are mine, thankfully. But I have friends over and they’re just like, ‘You’re a fucking maniac,’ and I love that. Hopefully the new record captures some of that still."
— Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba. I’ve ranted about the band losing their fire before, so I spoke to Skiba and Andriano about it, fairly directly, for Billboard. Two of the most honest interviews I’ve been a part of—even if you’re not a fan, there’s real insight into aging artists playing typically youth-oriented music. (And if you are a fan—the new album sounds creatively engaged again!! “She Lied to the FBI” is really awesome!)
This record, we’ve definitely cloaked a lot of ourselves in metaphor and there are definitely metaphors through and throughout the record. This record for me was written in somewhat of a vacuum. It was this apology love note to my ex-girlfriend who I’m still very close with. I think the emotions presented on this album…I think it’s very human. I think everyone, whether they know what these songs are about or not, I hope people can apply these songs to their own lives and really feel that someone is singing their feelings for them. I mean that is always the goal, but I feel with this record we’ve come back to closely accomplishing that.
That’s the whole point and I think there should always be a tongue planted firmly in cheek especially when you’re singing about something that was pretty dreadful for you because you’re not shooting strangers in the desert in Iraq. I have good problems but they’re still problems and they still affect me and I’m going to write about them. But I think you have to be careful how seriously you take yourself and metaphor can be a really good ally [when it comes to that.]
Another new track, “The Temptation of St. Anthony” lyric video.
And an interview -
“I went through some pretty rough patches in my life and I’ve come out of them a stronger, more inspired and energetic person. I don’t personally feel that I’ve lost my fire,” says Skiba, confident he once again found a way to channel “the young, angry, fuck-everything, who-cares kid that had no responsibilities,” a fellow that Trio fans grew to know and love on 1998’s now-classic “Goddamnit.”