Q&A: The Charmingly Death-Obsessed Alkaline Trio
Putting on some Jawbreaker or Jawbox always acts as an emotional expectorant for me. But just like antibiotics, overuse lessens their ability to disinfect. If the lyrics of Alkaline Trio don't have the poetic beauty or intelligence of the Jaw-bands, the energy of the music more than makes up for it. On their latest, Maybe I'll Catch Fire (Asian Man), Matt Skiba sings and rages with an exhaustive emotive furor that makes Alkaline Trio my latest musical therapy of choice. I interviewed Skiba recently.
I love your record. I've been searching for something that gets me off the way Jawbreaker and Jawbox do. You sound like a mix of Blake and J. Robbins.
Thanks, that's what we were going for. I'm a big fan of J. Robbins (Jawbox) and Blake (Jawbreaker), so I'm flattered.
In your songs, you have written about, well, maybe more like implied, wanting to die or killing yourself.
Those songs are more implied about something else, and in most cases someone else. I've never really wanted to die. A dear friend of mine blew his head off when we were kids. I think about him a lot. I think about killing myself all the time, but who doesn't? I would never in a million years fuckin' do it.
One reason I have always been afraid of killing myself is because it was drummed into my head as a kid that if you commit suicide you go to hell. It's hard to let go of those old beliefs or superstitions.
I agree, totally. I don't know what happens when you die, but killing yourself obviously doesn't have a good result. Punk rock pretty much saved my life.
On the new album, you mention hell a lot. I've heard you're really into the Church of Satan.
I got really interested in Anton LaVey a couple years ago. I think it's really fascinating that this guy dresses up like the devil, writes a bestselling book called The Satanic Bible and acquires worldwide fame by starting the first official church dedicated to the Prince of Darkness. In the 1960s? That's amazing to me. Whether or not you agree with what he's saying, you have to admit that it's a pretty incredible publicity stunt. It just so happens that he's really intelligent. I think that LaVey's form of Satanism represents an incredibly punk-like ethic. It's centered toward independence and personal integrity. A lot of it is bullshit too, but I think he was rad. He told things the way he saw 'em, and he looked really fuckin' cool doing it. He scared the fuck out of people.
You're lucky you aren't in West Memphis, AR, because y'all might be doing time for murder, like those kids in that HBO documentary Paradise Lost.
Yeah, I just saw that. That's totally frightening, but that's how small towns are.
Especially in the South. Where are you from?
Have you ever run in to anything like that?
We have a lot of tattoos, so people at truckstops sometimes stare and give us a hard time. Actually, I just read your book?you have a lot of experience at truckstops. (laughs)
So Maybe I'll Catch Fire came out on Asian Man a few weeks ago, and you're already on a new label, Vagrant. What happened?
Mike Park, who runs AMR, has always had high hopes for our band and has always told us that if a label that can do more for us was ever interested in putting out and pushing our records, that we would have his blessing. That label has come along and offered to give us a little more of a boost. We've accepted. We're stoked, Vagrant is stoked and Mike Park is stoked.
How much bigger are you interested in getting?
We're very content where we're at. If a whole shitload of people got into our music, I can't honestly say I would complain.
A lot of bands get signed to bigger labels, they meet with the whole "selling out" deal?are you worried about that?
No, Vagrant is bigger, but they aren't part of a major, they are still an independent.
Is there a certain point where you'd be interested in cutting it off, or putting a ceiling on what you want to do as an artist?not musicwise, but, careerwise?
Yeah, I've seen bands that I really like go from small to super-mega-huge. It's gotten to a point where I don't go see some of my favorite bands anymore just because going to a football stadium to see Green Day through binoculars seems kinda defeating. It's nice to have a certain element of intimacy between artist and observer. I wouldn't feel comfortable having metal gates and security separating us from people who wanna see our band. I think it's awesome that Green Day is huge, I just don't know how comfortable I would be in that position. Then again, I probably wouldn't be complaining.
Some of your old EPs seem to run more of the brokenhearted, lovelorn-for-the-girl gamut. But this new one is a lot darker, lyrically. What made you shift?
It was somewhat conscious on my part. I really kinda ran out of interest in writing love songs, which might have something to do with a lack of a love interest in my life currently. I have been really preoccupied with death recently, especially during the writing of our latest recording. It's like we were talking about before. It's not a bad thing?I think death is an important thing to think about. Most of our culture seems geared towards helping us forget the fact that we are going to die. For me, being alive is all about challenging what culture hands me.
Alkaline Trio plays this Sunday, April 16, at Brownies, 169 Ave. A (betw. 10th & 11th Sts.), 420-8392.
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