We recently had a really long conversation with Matt Skiba about guns, planes, fear and buses. Here we go:
Hi Matt, where the shit are you?
I’m sitting on a bus bench in LA. I don’t get any phone reception in my house.
Isn’t the public transport in LA notoriously full of weirdos?
Yes it is but luckily I don’t use it. I have a car and a motorcycle that I use instead of the bus.
How is everything going at the moment? You seem like a busy dude. You’re all over the place with Alkaline Trio, and now you’ve got Matt Skiba and the Sekrets…
I think something that people don’t know about is that I spend pretty much all of my time making music. When I’m not doing a project with my name on it I do what they call ghost writing. I work with other writers and help them write songs and they get all the credit. I’m a silent writer – I just get paid for it and then it’s their song, they take the song writing credit. I just help. With some people it’s a matter of helping them arrange songs. Some people can’t write lyrics. Some people can write lyrics but they can’t write melodies. Or some people can’t do any of it and I go in and write a whole song and sell it to them and they take credit for it, which is fine with me as long as I get paid. I love doing it. I don’t wanna be famous.
Is it ever difficult to letting go of a ghostwritten song? Like “That turned out great, I wish I’d kept it”?
If it’s something that’s really great that I wanna keep for myself, I just do. But I think if you’re doing something you want it to be great, so you have to sacrifice those ideas for the greater good. You gotta kill your babies.
You just played Groezrock, so we’re officially in festival season. As a dude who’s played his fair share, do you look forward to festivals or do you prefer a crowd just there to see you and your band?
I really like both. I love playing festivals, especially in the UK. In the United States music genres are very divided. You have kids that like their punk rock and kids that like their heavy metal or this and that, while it seems to me like that in the UK people are more keen on anything that’s good. So you get to play a festival in front of a bunch of Mailyn Manson fans and they get really into our music.
Is there an optimum partying level you want your festival crowds to be at? Do you want them they’re out of their minds or just getting there?
I like it when people are having a good time but are in control. I can’t stand drunk rude people. As long as people are good and drunk and having fun and behaving themselves then I’m all for it, get as crazy as you want. But once people start grabbing at women and starting fights and doing things like that, that’s when it’s too much. There should be a jail on-site for those people. As long as everyone’s having fun and no-one’s getting hurt, fucking go crazy.
Cool. You’re into transcendental meditation, right? What is that?
Transcendental meditation was brought over from India where meditation is something that people do the way people drink coffee in the UK, just as part of their daily routine. People dedicate hours of their day to do it. So this guy Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who passed away about three years ago, pioneered a form of meditation called transcendental meditation that is for Westerners. It’s for people that have jobs, kids and responsibilities. Transcendental meditation is kind of short, twice a day for 20 minutes. There is a mantra involved but you’re not sitting and going ‘Ohm’ or anything. You’re completely quiet. You have your eyes closed. You’re in a quiet room with a chair and it s a way of completely turning your mind off whilst still being wide awake. It does exactly what sleep does for your body, except while you’re awake. It’s really helpful with anger management and with creativity and helps with every aspect of my life. If I meditate and sit down to write a song, I’ll write a song in like 20 minutes. If I don’t meditate and try and write the same song, it’ll take me two hours. Basically, it just heightens your level of consciousness. I would equate it to an orgasm, minus the sexual aspect of it. It’s a very powerful feeling. You can literally feel your nervous system being cleansed.
On that topic, we have a joke. Why did the Buddhist monk refuse Novacaine?
I don’t know.
Because he wanted to transcendental meditation. Ah fuck!
Did you get the punchline wrong?
Yeah, it’s “Because he wanted to transcend dental medication”. Damn it. You can use that on stage if you want.
Well, when you write this up, you can pretend you didn’t fuck it up.
Nah, we’ll embrace our mistakes. Hey, we read an interview where you claimed to basically be fearless. That’s a bold statement…
Well, right after I started meditating my wife who I was with at the time was reading a shitty magazine, and it had a questionnaire about fear. It was like, are you afraid of sharks? No, I went diving with Great White Sharks a year ago in South Africa. Are you afraid of death? No, it’s inevitable. Are you scared of flying? No. Are you scared of dying in a plane crash? And the list went on and on and on. And at the end, it said if the person that you’re interviewing answered no to all these questions, then they were a liar.
My wife thought it was the funniest thing in the world until we were in a near plane crash. We were flying to New York and the plane started going down. I thought that was it. The tail was over the nose. We were going straight down into the water. So the fucking plane is crashing and I have my wife squeezing my hand, screaming. I open my eyes for a minute and I look at all the stewardesses and people are holding onto their rosaries, people are praying, people are screaming, the fucking doors of the cockpit are slamming open and the pilots are freaking out. We all thought we were going to die. And I was totally fine with it. I just was like “Well, I talked to my dad yesterday and told him I loved him, and I’m with my wife”. All I felt was pity for the people that were so terrified on this plane. I came into the world screaming, I’m not going out screaming.
You survived though, right? well, yes, of course you did, that’s a stupid question.
Yeah. So I really can’t say that I’m afraid of anything. I’m a surfer, I jump out of airplanes, I ride motorcycles. It sounds cheesy, but I live life in the fast lane cos the slow lane is boring to me. I wanna live my life to its highest potential while I have one. If one thing doesn’t kill you, another will. I’m sitting here out on the street, and a bus could kill me right now. Why be scared of that?
Or the weirdos on the bus could jump off, as they do in LA. We saw a lady do a piss on a bus in LA once.
I just saw a bus, that’s why I used that as an example. So that’s that.
Wicked. Right, let’s do the big PR question – why should people check out Matt Skiba and the Sekrets?
If you like to have fun, check out Matt Skiba and the Sekrets! We made a record that we’re proud of. I mean, I’m proud of all the music we’ve put out. Alkaline Trio have been making music for close to 20 years, so there’s songs that don’t really apply anymore, but they’re still songs the kids wanna hear so I’m still proud of them. And the Sekrets, record this is something that I’m really proud of. I’m really honoured that I have the musicians I do to play with me. Lesley from Murder City Devils has just joined the band, playing keys. So we kind of have a little punk rock supergroup going on. I think the songs are a lot of fun, and it’s a fully theatrical thing, with costumes.
We saw that picture where you looked like Rufio out of Hook, a little bit.
It’s more of an Adam Ant, southern death cult kind of vibe that I’m going for, but yeah. The feathers and the war paint and black contacts, it’s not something that hasn’t been done before, but I put my own spin on it. That picture doesn’t do the suit justice. With Alkaline Trio we give people a punk rock show. With the Sekrets I wanna give people a theatrical post-punk kind of show, just something different.
Sweet. Hey, what’s the stupidest thing you own?
Probably my .44 Magnum Desert Eagle. I have a couple of weapons but there’s no reason I should have that thing. It’s so big and so powerful. If I were to fire it in my house it would shoot through the next four buildings. So I have that for fun. There’s a lot of bad people out here and in Los Angeles. I’m really close to a drug war in Mexico. I don’t hunt. I don’t even eat meat. My second-worst nightmare is shooting someone in my house. The first worst nightmare is someone shooting me in my house. So I’ve evened the playing field. I have a 9mm that I keep next to my bed – if you kick my door in, and it’s gonna be you or me, it’s gonna be you.
We’re not gonna kick your door in, Matt.
But yeah, I don’t need my Desert Eagle. Snatch is one of my favourite movies and Bullet-Tooth Tony has the Desert Eagle in that, which is what made me want a Desert Eagle. I take it to the range and shoot it. It’s nickel-plated, I mean the thing is fully blinged out. It’s completely frivolous and useless, and ridiculously unnecessary.
When you got it, did you do the obligatory thing of taking a photo where you’re pointing it at your head?
Uh, I don’t really tend to point my gun at my head. That’s kind of a no no. I did take a phto for my computer though – you have tot ype in a passcode to get into my laptop, and the picture displaying then is of me pointing my Desert Eagle at whoever’s trying to get into my computer.
Like a “Don’t even try this, I will fucking kill you” thing?
“I will shot a big old fucking hole in your face”. But I’m not a violent person, just protective.
What is it on your computer that you’re so protective of? Anything dodgy going on there?
Nothing dodgy. Just my art and music that I don’t want anyone stealing. Nothing illegal. Nothing perverted or whatever. I just have my computer locked. Last time I was in Leeds, I got my computer stolen and ever since then I lock it.
Fair enough, just as soon as anyone talks about keeping their computer safe you wonder if it’s a porn thing.
I use porn, I think everyone uses porn. I’m about to go use some when I get off the phone. Nothing illegal though – I’ve been through airports and they’ve made me go through my computer and they’ve been like ‘Do you have any pornography on your computer?’ and I was like ‘Of course. Do you have pornography on your computer?’ And the guy was like ‘I don’t have to answer that question.’ And I’m like ‘Exactly. Of course you do. Everyone does.’ It’s consensual adult pornography. There’s nothing wrong with it, in my opinion. I’m not a big porno guy but I use it as a tool when necessary.
It’s a means to an end. When not transcendentally meditating, it’s another way of relaxing and refreshing oneself.
Exactly. That’s what I always say. Meditation and masturbation and you won’t be angry.
Babylon by Matt Skiba And The Sekrets is out on May 7th. Matt will be over here with Alkaline Trio on May 10th and 12th, without his gun but with his porn.