Matt Skiba and the Sekrets recently released their debut album ‘Babylon‘ via Superball Music. This latest project from the busy Alkaline Trio singer / guitarist has him teaming up with AFI’s Hunter Burgan and My Chemical Romance drummer Jarrod Alexander on the record. With the album now in-stores and the live shows underway, with a much talked about debut performance, Deborah Konopnicki and Jarret Gahan recently caught up with Matt Skiba to talk about this latest project, future projects, and find out just what happened at that debut performance. You can pick up a copy of the highly reccomended album now online [Here].
Hey Matt! How are you doing?
I’m doing well. How are you?
I’m great thanks! We’re pretty excited to be having a chat with you today.
The brand new record “Babylon” has only been out for a matter of weeks and still quite fresh. How are you feeling about having such an emotional record out in the public?
Pretty good. We’ve been touring on it so I don’t really listen to it anymore. It’s kind of the way that it goes with Alkaline Trio or anything else that I do. Musically, I listened to the record pretty much right up until it was released. After that, we started playing the songs every night. I’m very proud of the record and I’m very happy that it’s out there for those who enjoy it, to enjoy!
One of the tracks that really stood out for me – and I’m assuming most of the other people who have heard the album – is “Voices”. It’s got such a fun and catchy melody and that chorus can get stuck in your head for days. It’s a bit of a different vibe for you, so what kind of place were you coming from when you wrote that song?
Not a very good one. Like a lot of songs, there are some songs like “Haven’t You?” that’s kind of ballad-y and “You” is a love song. There are some songs that are about some darker stuff and that would be one of them. Just like anything, if you’re struggling with something then it’s very cathartic – at least for me – to put it into song. I try and veil as much as I can in metaphor and leave it open to interpretation. I would never explain to anyone what that song’s about because people make it about something that they’re going through or have gone through. I’m glad that people dig it. I’m still a big fan, but for a while it was all that I was listening to. I wanted to make sure that it was right before it came out and I’m still quite proud of it.
Hey Matt, this is Jarret.
Hey! Being a long time Alkaline Trio fan I’ve really appreciated your ability to articulate feeling of depression, despair, anger, revenge and everything else that makes the human psyche so difficult to express. Given that you’ve written several post-break up anthems, I’ve wondered if Matt Skiba would ever write a love song, and you have with the track “You”. Can you let us know what the decision was to do a love song, and the inspiration behind that track?
I can, and it’s a one-word answer, and the answer is love.
Ok! Is it difficult to perform a song like that given that it’s based on someone that you’ve recently parted ways with? Are the wounds still fresh when you play it?
It’s definitely an interesting song to do live, but at the same time it’s sort of like tattoos. It’s part of your life, so I don’t regret it. There are songs that are 13 years old that are about girls that I’ve parted ways with. They’re not necessarily straightforward love songs but I still love the song. It came from a real place but things happen; things change. The song remains the same as they say.
Are there any songs that you’ve written in your expansive back-catalogue that you’ve written that are too personal now that are impossible to play live?
No. Nope! Not one.
Going back to “Voices”, the music video itself is quite poetic. It almost mirrors the lyrics without being too literal. Do you have much of an involvement with the music videos that you’ve done in your career?
All up until this one. The last few Alkaline Trio videos that I wrote – or at least I wrote a rough outline in the initial idea and then I let the director or producer run with it. The last one; that was initially my idea. It started off as this silent film type-of-thing with the villain throwing this damsel in distress to the railroad. Then it evolved into this steam-punk-futuristic thing while keeping it somewhat antique. I think that it turned out really well. I gave the director some creative freedom. If they really like the idea and then you have more than one person in the process and the label wants something, things get changed. The initial idea is from the person that wrote the song to say “Well, what does this mean? What do I want for this tune?” For “Voices”, I didn’t have anything to do with that. I had seen some of the videos that guys had done before and I was like “Do it. I don’t want to be in it; I think it’ll be cooler without me in it. Just make it good!”
It’s so strange (the video) and especially the chorus. It’s kind of like this acid comedown. It’s just incredible. I watched it and thought that even though the lyrics are quite different, just the way that the chorus works I was like “Wow! This is actually a really, really good video, and it’s fresh to see something like that”.
Yeah, it was fun to do.
You’ve enlisted some pretty talented musicians for the record, including my favourite bassist in Hunter Burgan from AFI fame. I heard that it was quite late in the process that you contacted him with the intention of him joining all along. Was there any reason that you asked him to close to the actual recording?
Well, we didn’t want to do it until it was done. I played bass just to fill it in, and Hunter was my first choice. I figure that if you ask somebody too early in the game then at least for me – I don’t want to speak for Hunter – but it’s more daunting if you ask somebody a month out. Like “In a month, will you come and play bass on this song?” It’s way better if you ask them a week before, like “Hey, do you want to come hang and bang out some bass tracks?” It works way better. It worked this time!
On the topic of the genesis of tracks from the Sekrets album, there are three tracks from the demos album that you released in 2010 and they’ve really come into their own. They’ve evolved and they’ve become something totally removed from the original home recordings. Was it always the intention to use the demos for a Sekrets related project or were they potentiality Alkaline or even Heaven track at the time?
They were never intentionally anything. The Sekrets idea didn’t come till way after they were recording. I kind of had a feeling that I was going to do something with them, but at the time I thought that they were going to be more low-fi or possibly acoustic. I didn’t really know what kind of record I was going to make. Then it kind of turned into this full rock and roll thing. We kind of took the songs that were applicable from the demos and put them on the Sekrets record.
With the various projects that you’ve had over the years, you’ve explored many different musical landscapes. Alkaline Trio with punk, Heavens with I guess and indie rock kind of sound, Hell with rock and roll and recently the Sekrets with pop. Are there any frontiers that you hope to explore in the future, and have you thought about lending you talents to electronic music?
The thing that I really would like to do eventually is score films. With that, you have to break out. With everything that I’ve done, it might sound different within this genre, but people like Mark Mothersbaugh, Danny Elfman that are scoring films now from bands – at least in the US – they are writing marches. I went and saw the new Wes Anderson film last night, Mark Mothersbaugh did the music and it’s all these like marches and it doesn’t sound anything like Devo. That’s the kind of thing that you have to do. You have to get every genre and be familiar with it to pull that kind of thing off. Obviously, every movie has a different colour and you have to find something that compliments it. A film scoring thing, that’s my next dream; my next dream job. I’m definitely going to have to sharpen my teeth on a lot of different kinds of music.
Do you have a preference to something that you’d like to work on or perhaps something that’s already earmarked to work on in the not too distant future?
Yeah, I don’t want to say anything because if it happens it’s huge. I also don’t want to jinx it! I have another friend of mine that is a far more famous person than I. We’re both total book worms. One of our favourite books is being turned unto a film. I believe that Brad Pitt just bought the rights for it and we’re doing everything in our power to try and get on that and try and do our first score. I think that me and this guy could pull it off. I don’t want to say anything past that. Even if that doesn’t happen, there are a lot of indie directors that need music, and luckily I have this new accomplice that opens new doors. Together our talents will work famously and we’re been friends for years and years. To be able to sit in a bay and watch movies and make music with him, whoa… it’ll be so fun.
Being a bookworm and having references to novels and characters from novels and even costuming now with Sekrets, have you thought of actually writing a novel yourself?
I have. I actually started to at one point, but I think I need to take some writing workshops. I know when something is trite, and so far that’s all that I’ve gotten. At first I like it and then I’ll read it again and it sounds like a fucking eighth grader wrote it. Right now I’m five pages from finishing “Survivor” by Chuck Palahniuk and it’s such a great read and I’m surprised that someone hasn’t already made a film out of it. I’m sure that someone already owns the rights but yeah if you get a chance to read “Survivor” by Palahniuk, it’s really good.
Thanks for the recommendation. Quick question, with the project that you did with Atom Willard; Hell earlier on in the year, are there any intentions to do another EP or album down the track?
There is, yes.
With the tour getting off to a rocky start in Chicago from what I’ve seen on YouTube of the New York show, it was amazing and you killed it! Did you want to comment on the Chicago show at all?
I kind of went into a downward spiral. It was a chain of events that unfortunately led to a really embarrasing evening for me. I don’t even remember it. We’d been rehearsing for like a week straight before we came out to Chicago. Somewhere between here and there, I completely lost my voice. In retrospect we should have just cancelled the show. I couldn’t sing, I couldn’t even talk. I thought, “How the fuck are we going to put on a show?” I was taking this cold medicine, this throat medicine and I already had started drinking tea with whisky and hoping to break my voice up way early. I was drinking all the way up to the show and I just ended up getting myself meds and booze and all this kind of stuff. I don’t remember the show and I feel horrible. It’s embarrassing that it’s now on YouTube for sure. As embarrassing as it was, I feel bad for people that bought tickets and came to that show and got that. It sucks for me and it’s something that I’m ashamed of but it’s almost something that I learnt a lot from. I could sit here and dwell on it, but I had two choices. We go home, or we keep on going and we kill it. I think that we made the wise choice in keeping on going. I was mortified after Chicago. I think that a lot of people were. I feel really terrible about it, mostly for the people that paid money to go and see that bullshit. I’m going to stop it there but all I can say is, my apologies to Chicago and I don’t know who that guy up there was but it certainly wasn’t me.
Well I appreciate your honesty Matt and as I said, from what I’ve seen of the other shows you’ve been playing you guys are killing it and doing an amazing job. I really hope that Australia gets an opportunity to see Matt Skiba and the Sekrets perform live. Is there any intention to tour Australia?
Not yet. I would like to but there’s nothing in the works yet.
MATT SKIBA AND THE SEKRETS – Babylon
Out Now on Superball Music.
Buy Online [Here] with free postage.