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You'd think I would have been better prepared for my interview with Matt Skiba, but you'd be wrong. For starters, I've been a fan of his group Alkaline Trio since sometime just before the term "Y2K" became something my dad wouldn't shut up about. I've seen the band countless times with crowds as small as 20 and as large as a sold-out House of Blues. I've got all their records, and last year, I listened to their music nonstop to the point at which my iPod says I've played "Help Me" and "Jaked on Green Beers" 57 times and "Old School Reasons" 59 times.
I'd like to blame my horrific interview experience on the fact that the 36-year-old singer/guitarist and I both had just woken up for an 11 a.m. phone interview, but I also like to think I'm the best-looking man on the planet, and since no one agrees with me on the latter, I'm guessing the former isn't true either. Instead of the awesome, in-depth questions I should have asked, all this lame-ass fanboy could muster were a bunch of generic non sequiturs and a ridiculous amount of the phrases "uh huh" and "Yeah? Cool."
And you know something? Skiba didn't seem to mind. Had it been me being "interviewed," I would have found a passive-aggressive way to tell the interviewer he was an unprepared idiot. I most certainly came off like an unprepared idiot. Seriously, this is one of the questions I asked and how he responded:
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Me: "So you're playing the Musink festival, or something like that. Um . . . as far as your attitude going into something like your own show versus a festival, is there any kind of difference? Do you . . . uh . . . change up anything?"
Skiba: "The sets are usually shorter because you're playing with a lot of other bands. Festivals are definitely easier to play, but they're harder to prepare for because you don't get a sound check. But there is something to be said for the throw-and-go, get in and get out, play 40 minutes of music and you're done."
Never mind that I knew Musink combines music and tattoo artists, and forget the fact I've covered mega-festivals. Here was my opportunity to ask just exactly who Skiba's friend Peter is (from the song "My Friend Peter") or if he ever got to "wake up naked" next to the girl from "Clavicle." Or maybe find out why someone would want to take him hostage and make demands before cutting off his fingers (as he sings on "This Could Be Love"). But no, I asked the most standard question imaginable.
Before anyone thinks maybe there was a chance the interview improved once Skiba and I found our stride, let me assure you that you are wrong. Other questions included the hard-hitting "Are there any songs you guys wouldn't play?" and "Since you are playing a tattoo festival, do you regret any of your tattoos?"
"Not really," Skiba replied like a trooper to my stupid question. "I have some really shitty tattoos, but I used to be a shitty kid, and I still kind of am to an extent, but nothing I'm ashamed of."
I did, however, fire off one question that seemed legitimate. It was about the dual-natured singing and songwriting Skiba shares with bassist Daniel Andriano. Unlike many—if not most—bands, Alkaline Trio feature two prominent singers and songwriters whom fans love so much they don't buy beers when "the other guy" sings. So, naturally, I asked Skiba if he is the world's biggest Andriano fan. I was trying to be clever, something I promise to never do again.
"Yes," Skiba says. "Dan never ceases to amaze me. People wonder why Dan has fewer songs on our records. He's more meticulous than I am. If something isn't written in an hour, I'm done with it. Danny has far more specific ideas of how he wants things and spends more time writing. I think that shows, and I just kind of barf songs out. We never really scrap any of Dan's songs."
At least I didn't ask about his influences or where the name "Alkaline Trio" comes from. Still, I'm pretty sure I suck.
This article appeared in print as "It's Not Alkaline Trio, It's Me: This could've been a story about my favorite band in the world. Instead, it's about me kicking myself for being a bad interviewer."