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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Alkaline Trio Interview

Jay Hayston: You’re about to tour with Rise Against, Thrice, and the Gaslight Anthem [they hit the Palladium in Worcester on October 6]. Are you looking forward to it?

Matt Skiba [lead guitar and vocals]: We’re really excited about it. We’ve been friends with Rise Against for a long time, we’re both from Chicago. We took them out on tour a couple of years ago, and now they’re taking us out. We’ve been all over the world with Thrice. We haven’t played with the Gaslight Anthem but I’m a fan of their music.

JH: is anything unusual going on during this tour? Any pyrotechnics, instrumental set lists, crazy stuff like that?

MS: Yes, we’re actually going to just play a forty minute [instrumental] free jam. The kids that come to our shows, they don’t want to hear songs they know that they want to sing along to. They want to see self-indulgent musicians being self-indulgent musicians…[laughing.] No, there will be no instrumental set.

JH: Speaking of the new material, how satisfied are you guys with Agony and Irony?

MS: We’re very proud of it, and people seem to be digging it. More copies of this have sold [than any other Alkaline Trio record] so it seems that they like it.

JH: How has the shift to a major label [to Epic Records] been for the band?

MS: It has been great! [Epic] has done a really good job for us. They’ve been very cool, and very supportive of what we do as a band.

JH: There seems to be less instrumentation on Agony and Irony than there was on your last record, Crimson; was that a conscious decision or just how the album came together?

MS: It was a little bit of both. We thought that the songs called for a little less embellishment, and we also didn’t want to over-think the record. With [Agony and Irony] there’s been a minimum amount of over-thought while still making the songs perfect. But we never try to make songs too perfect; we want the music to be fun and come out naturally.

JH: There is an honesty and a relatability to your music. Is this something you’re aware of when making music?

MS: It’s flattering to me but I’m only aware of it because they tell me that our music is more poignant to them [than some other pop music]. I’ve always been a fan of things that are unfamiliar. I’ve found that the coolest, most powerful things are unfamiliar…somewhere outside the mainstream. Not everyone would know who the Chameleons are, or who Mark Ryden is, but they’re some of the most important, most creative minds of our time. Ryden’s paintings sell for millions of dollars, but not many people even know who he is. We’re sort of in the mainstream, people know who we are, but we’ve never really been embraced by the mainstream. We like that, that we’re a little bit outside…being outside is good for me.

JH: There seems to be an increasing expectation from all sides with each new album a band puts out. Some fans want to hear an old album redone, and others want to hear a completely new sound or direction explored. Are all the expectations difficult to deal with?

MS: Those expectations don’t really factor in. If you love a certain record that much, listen to it again. We’re not trying to be different when we make music but we like what we do to be new. You can’t make everybody happy. We try to focus on the songs themselves.

JH: Could you describe what the song-making process is like for a band that has two great singers and lyricists?

MS: Dan and I usually write the songs. I use Garage Band to rough out an idea, maybe add something with the keyboard. It usually only takes an hour or two to rough out an idea for a song. I send that sketch to the other guys, and they look it over. When we come together to jam we all have a different perspective on the song sketch, and when we jam it all comes together. For the three of us, it would be a mess to not go in [to jam] without some sort of idea. If anything, the different musical talents of each of us makes everything better.

JH: So what can we expect from Alkaline Trio in the future?

MS: Right now we’re excited about and focused on the tour with Rise Against. [However] we’ve definitely got a bunch of things cooking, and information will be coming out on some of those things soon.

Jay: Thank you Matt, for your time. And as a fan, let me just add that it’s been a pleasure talking to you.

Matt: Thank you, Jay. That just made my day.