Matt Skiba is finally home, and finally able to relax. After the release of Alkaline Trio’s seventh studio album, My Addiction , in February this year, Skiba and bandmates Dan Andriano (bass) and Derek Grant (drums) did what any well respected group of fourteen years does: hit the road.
Celebrating My Addiction as the first record ever released on their own label Heart & Skull, (“We were out there playing the shows – Epitaph Records are the machine behind our label. Those were the people that did all the real work back at the office,”) the punks rolled out their new material on the UK’s Leeds and Reading festival stages, travelled with the epic Warped Tour for the best part of two months and played myriad smaller shows for Alkaline devotees.
In the blink of an eye, the year has nearly past. No sooner do the boys catch their breath, they’ll be on a plane to New Zealand to join the No Sleep Til festival before the whole, rowdy shebang jumps the ocean and floors major cities Australia-wide. The tour – boasting an incredible lineup of metal, hardcore, and punk legends –certainly checks off a new, if somewhat unexpected, ‘first’ for Alkaline Trio.
“We’ve never played with Megadeth,” laughs Matt. “The Descendents; I am really excited to see. They're good friends, and heroes of ours. Same thing with NOFX: good friends and a really great band. Yeah, we're looking forward to coming back down,” he says of Australia.
No surprises there: it’s common knowledge in the rock world that, once the gruelling flight is over, international acts love playing the Australian summer festival circuit. Alkaline Trio should be expecting a doubly warm welcome. The new songs have had time to be absorbed into their fans consciousness and, if the audiences of the past few months have been a true indicator, the forecast response here looks good.
“We are all music fans, too, and we understand when you go to see a show you want to hear bands play the old stuff, but people like to hear new songs. This record was really well received; people actually seemed really excited to hear new stuff. It was really a surprisingly great reaction to new songs – people had time to let it sink in. [My Addiction] went over as well as our older stuff.”
Alkaline Trio fans have remained loyal during a perceived diversion from the bands original sound; unimaginative reviewers have daubed My Addiction with the ghastly phrase “return to form” but while musical explorations may be part of the makeup of a creative band, their connection to their people who guaranteed their success has never deviated. Although, Matt is happy to admit that, unlike many Twitter-happy artists, it’s not online social networking that is keeping the communication lines open.
“I don't do that stuff as much as some other people do. I do post those things, here and there,” he admits, “but we’re pretty accessible at shows. Our fans are the reason that we get to travel and play music, so we try not to put up too much of a barrier. We like to keep in touch, let them know what’s going on and that we do care for, and appreciate, them.”
In a roundabout sort of way, that was one of the deciding factors regarding Alkaline Trio’s decision to develop a sport shoe with Nike, concedes Matt. “The Nike stuff we did was marketed to extreme sports and I discovered punk rock through skateboarding magazines. I was reading Thrasher magazine when I was a kid and they would feature The Misfits or Devo or Jawbreaker; I’d get turned on to that sort of stuff. [Strategic branding] seems different because it’s now but I think it comes from a similar place.”
Certainly, punk is about the freedom to do as you please, but that freedom idea can seriously juxtapose the anti-establishment ethos of punk, can’t it?
“It's interesting. With the exceptions of The Misfits – The Ramones, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Sioux Sioux and The Banshees, a lot of the stuff that’s considered true punk rock, was actually released on Sire Records, labels like that. I think now more than ever, especially with the digital age, it seems as though things have gotten more DIY. You could do it yourself in the past, but in this day and age there are a lot of popular artists out there that do everything on their own. Whether or not you consider it punk, I think that there's definitely a lot of really independent music: people taking the digital age and using it in the sort of DIY ‘punk rock’ way.”
While taking back control of your recording career is admirable – and in the industry’s economic climate quite necessary – it means becoming involved in many aspects of the business that were previously dealt with by others. Irrespective of Alkaline Trio’s production and service delivery techniques, Skiba is, like all hardworking singer/lyricists, a keen creative writer at heart. Although a passionate film buff, he admits to finding inspiration for songs in another treasured medium.
“For me, it is literature. I love to read. I think that any art – no matter what the medium – should evoke emotion. I think the more poetic something is, while still being able to paint that picture, that’s the trick. People who do that well are the people I respect and I listen to. Art should tell some sort of story.”
ALKALINE TRIO return to Australia for the NO SLEEP TIL festival, alongside Megadeth, Descendents, NOFX, Dropkick Murphys, Gwar, Parkway Drive, A Day To Remember, Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, Frenzal Rhomb, Atreyu, Katatonia and heaps, heaps more. It takes place at the Melbourne Showgrounds on Friday December 17 tickets from ticketek.com.au, 132 849, moshtix.com.au and 1300 438 849. My Addiction is out now through Epitaph/Shock.