Tours with Alkaline Trio, a new solo album and fronting pop-punk giants Blink-182. It’s been a busy year for Matt Skiba, but the fun is just beginning...
"It was quite the stunt we were about to pull and we had to do it really well"
“When I agreed to do the Blink shows, I said that I’d do it as long as they were willing to practise every day,” Matt Skiba tells TG of his recent fill-in stint with the biggest pop-punk band on the planet. “It was quite the stunt we were about to pull and we had to do it really well.”
Skiba went into the three-show foray with nothing but commitment, where others may have had an eye on a big payday. His near 20-year career has been built on the back of hard graft, the legacy of which is two decades as leader of cult heroes Alkaline Trio. But this was a mighty leap forward over anything the softly-spoken 39 year old had ever experienced before.
When Blink-182 played out a messy split with Tom DeLonge, social media exploded as remaining band members Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker sniped at the ousted frontman through interviews.
DeLonge has changed beyond recognition artistically in the last decade from pop-punk dork to an effects-loving, thoughtful Edge-lite, so the fact that he no longer shared the band’s ethos came as little surprise. Neither did Skiba’s reaction when he was asked to fill in for a pair of Blink club shows and a bill-topping slot at the Musink festival.
"I wouldn’t say it was nerve-wracking, but there was a lot of adrenaline involved"
“It was an easy decision,” he recalls. “I agreed to do it before I really could process what was happening.”
After two months of relentlessly running through the band’s set so he could nail DeLonge’s open string-heavy style, Skiba joined Hoppus and Barker on stage for their debut at LA’s famed Roxy Theater on Sunset Strip. The chasm of jumping from a band with a solid fanbase to one with tens of millions of albums sold quickly came into focus.
“It was very different to what I’m used to,” says Skiba. “It was surreal. [The Roxy] is a small venue, especially for Blink. In this day and age, though, no matter how many people you play for, if you’re playing with a band like Blink, millions of people will see it thanks to YouTube and everything recording it. I wouldn’t say it was nerve-wracking, but there was a lot of adrenaline involved.”
The hard work paid off: the Skiba-led Blink was met with an overwhelmingly positive response, with many fans pleased to see him smash such a huge gig out of the park.
“If the reaction had been negative that would have been terrible,” he admits. “Having the support of both Blink and Alkaline Trio fans has been massive for me. It means everything to me.”
"Having the support of both Blink and Alkaline Trio fans has been massive for me"
Fronting a pop-punk behemoth certainly wasn’t on Skiba’s radar in the spring of 2014 when he made the decision to resurrect his Matt Skiba And The Sekrets side project. The band released their debut album, Babylon, in 2012, and it was time for a follow-up.
“I was working on the record while Alkaline Trio were on tour in Europe,” he explains. “I started writing then we had a bit of time off from the road. I wanted to use that time to get into the studio. It had been a couple of years since the last one and I was itching to get in there and do something new.”
Alkaline Trio fans expecting a dose of goth punk might just be surprised, however, as the Sekrets sees Skiba reaching beyond the immediately recognisable roll call of influences that litter his back catalogue.
While single She Wolf does have a flowing, Trio-esque chorus, tracks like Krazy and I Just Killed To Say I Love You hark back to the 70s and 80s for their cues, touching on everything from Bowie to Gary Numan via Skiba’s in-built punk filter.
Trio vs trio
“With Alkaline Trio, we are who we are,” he says. “We never really feel too confined, but when we get together, there is an Alkaline Trio sound and when I go off and do something on my own, there is an element of freedom that I don’t have with the Trio.
"I have a lot of stuff to do before we can carry on with anything else Blink-related"
“I went in with very stark, raw ideas. I did that intentionally; I wanted to build the record in the studio and see what happened. The Cure is one of the more obvious influences on this record.”
While 2015 has been jam-packed so far for Skiba, this is just the beginning. With the Sekrets album out now, he tells TG that he will bring the band to the UK, it’s just a matter of finding a slither of time in his packed schedule.
His diary is also full of Alkaline Trio dates thanks to the band’s co-headlining tour with NOFX (which hits the UK late June), and he hasn’t ruled out more activity with Hoppus and Barker.
“I have a lot of stuff to do before we can carry on with anything else Blink-related, but there certainly has been talk of it,” Skiba says of Blink’s future plans.
“Travis has expressed in the press that he would love to do some recording together and that’s something the three of us have discussed. The hope is that we will do more stuff together. We’ll just have to see what happens.”
Matt's played Les Pauls and strats over the years, and even has his own Fender Malibu signature acoustic for unplugged gigs, but he’s firmly a Jag man.
"I think the Jagstangs that Kurt played are what turned me onto the look of the Jag"
“I think the Jagstangs that Kurt played are what turned me onto the look of the Jag,” he explains to TG. “I played Gibson Customs for ages and discovered the HH Jags just as Fender approached [Alkaline Trio] about playing their guitars.”
His custom HH Jag models have stock humbuckers, but we couldn’t help noticing his favoured black model with Blink has a nod to Matt’s love of the Italian motorcycles. “all of my HH Jags have Ducati stickers on ‘em,” reveals Matt. “I have several... every single one is repping Ducati!”
While he’s been settled on the guitar front for a while, his traditional Bogner and Fender backline is facing serious competition from Kemper’s amp profiler.
“I use it when I play with Blink, but so far I still have my amps for Trio gigs. It’s fucking great for what it is; I’ll be using it with Blink for sure. I’m hoping to eventually be using it for everything live.”