Tough Questions for Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba
Singer-guitarist talks devil worship, Glenn Danzig, and his band's excellent return-to-form album.
Since forming Alkaline Trio in his native Chicago in 1996, Matt Skiba has been hit by five cars and drawn the ire of Christian radio stations for talking about his membership in the Church of Satan. Despite those crises, his band’s 2008 album, Agony & Irony, peaked on the Billboard chart at No. 13. Last year Alkaline Trio amicably left Epic and struck a deal with Epitaph to form their own label, Heart & Skull, on which they’ve released their seventh full-length, This Addiction.
Twenty-five minutes after our scheduled interview time, the 33-year-old Skiba — who has “Hello, Cleveland!” tattooed across his ribs — phoned from his Los Angeles home.
You’re late! What was so important that it couldn’t wait?
I have been showering my body. And now I’m making coffee for it.
Interesting. Are guitarists required to use Axe body wash?
I don’t. I’m usually a fan of this Lush apple soap that makes my body smell like apples.
Because “apple-scented” is a selling point for any successful rock star?
Well, I’m a big George Washington fan. I like apples. I have a bowl of apples when you walk in the door. And you know how a lot of rappers get their grills done? I had my fronts done in wood.
You have love song tattooed on your knuckles in homage to the Cure. Why didn’t you go with love cats instead?
We all know that cats are harbingers of the Devil. And, you know, we’ve had this negative thing about us being Devil worshippers that we’re trying to get away from. I thought it would be playing with fire a little too much, even though I like thesong “Love Cats” better.
Did you ever have the Robert Smith ‘do?
No, I never had hair like that. I did want to get my hair like Huey Lewis when I was a kid, though. I asked my mom if I could get my hair cut like his and she said, “You can’t get your hair cut like that.” And I said, “Why not?” And she said, “‘Cause you’ll look like an asshole.” True story. So I have her to thank for never having had a mullet.
What are you doing to get away from the Devil-worshipping rap, by the way?
I became a Scientologist. I thought that it would help, and now I’m fucked. Because now the Church of Satan wants to kill me, and the Scientologists want to kill me. So I stay in a lot now. But, yeah — the Satan thing got blown out of proportion. You can’t be a fan of Anton LaVey anymore without getting burned at the stake.
But don’t you worship the Devil?
Obviously not. The Devil is fun. Rock’n’roll is the Devil’s music. But the Devil is also as real as, you know, me having a mullet is. I think most people, once they look below the surface, get it.
So it was all a joke?
Yeah. I was going for the same effect as the picture of my “pride and joy” in my wallet. It’s actually a picture of Pride furniture polish and Joy dishwashing liquid. I’ll ask people if they want to see my pride and joy, and then I show them the picture. It’s the same thing. Either you’re in it, or you’re out of it.
Admit it: This Addiction is a reference to your dependency on Ho Hos.
No. And actually, I went to Promises. I was there for a few months for my Ho Ho addiction, and they got me off that stuff with Twinkies. So now I’ve got vanilla fever — bad.
What does the title really refer to?
It’s a metaphor. I take heroin addiction and compare it to love. Falling in love with somebody is like a rush of heroin, and trying to break up with somebodyis like trying to kick heroin.
Have you ever had to kick a heroin habit?
I can’t even joke about that. I have not had problems with heroin, thankfully. I tried it a long time ago, when I was a teenager, and luckily it didn’t stick. I’ve been very closeto people who have liked it quite a bit — it’s not a good time.
Has Glenn Danzig weighed in on “Dine, Dine My Darling,” the album’s Misfits-inspired second track?
I’ve done some stuff with Glenn Danzig before, and while I can’t really say that we’re friends, we’re friendly acquaintances. He knows that we’re enormous Misfits fans. The guy has somewhat of a sense of humor about things — if you listen to some of those old Misfits songs, you can hear it. So I think he’ll be all right with it. I hope he is. I don’t want him coming after me.
No shit. He knows kung fu and stuff.
He knows everything! He controls animals. Did you ever see his video with the wolf in it? They didn’t plan that. The wolf just came up to him on the mountain and they bonded.
Crazy. So he’ll sic wolves on you if he hates the song?
Yeah. Or sharks, bulls, whatever he wants. Depends on where we are.