The Alkaline Trio are a guilty pleasure of mine. I really want to dismiss them as shitty pop or wimpy punk, but I can’t. Their songs are too well written, their hooks unmistakable. What I like even more is that they sound sweet as kittens lapping milk, but their songs are more like lies and deceptions told with huge smiles and convincing handshakes. So, if you like a nice right hook and what sounds nicey-nice until you slow down the donkey punch, bloody nose lyrics, the Alkaline Trio are a good bet. Parts of this interview were published in Thrasher.
Todd: Give me a super-short history of the band.
Matt: We started in 1996. Rob and I grew up together, and we met Glenn in our high school years. Rob and I were playing in these shitty high school bands. Glenn was playing in 88 Fingers Louie at the time. Both bands kinda broke up simultaneously, so me, Glenn, and Rob got together and formed Alkaline Trio. Then about a year into it, I dropped out to play music and was bike messengering. I wanted to make this band my job. Rob wasn’t down with full-time touring so we gave him the option – shit or get off the pot. Then we got our friend Dan, who’s currently in the band. He was playing in Slapstick and then in Tuesday. We started touring full time. We were out two hundred fifty days of the year just playing to pretty much no one, and we had some personal difficulties. Me and Glenn were getting along pretty un-well. We were like, “Dude, you’re an asshole, see you later.” Then we got Mike, who was in the Smoking Popes. He was really nice, a really humble, mellow guy, which is kind of the opposite of our last drummer.
Todd: You’re the only original member?
Todd: You’ve been described by some of your fans as being “two lazy guys and a drunk.” Which one is you?
Matt: [laughing] I’ve never heard that before, but that’s pretty accurate. I’d be the drunk.
Todd: Name the beer brand that was on Jeff Spicoli’s t-shirt in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Matt: Was it Pabst?
Todd: Colt 45.
Matt: Oh, shit. See, that’s malt liquor, though. I should have asked Mike, ’cause Mike got one of those new Apple G4s laptops. It’s got a DVD player in it, so on our flight out here, he was watching Fast Times.
Todd: What’s the tag line for Colt 45?
Matt: “Works every time.” Billy Dee Williams. Beatin’ women and drinking Colt 45.
Todd: How is The Alkaline Trio like R.E.M.?
Matt: I’m trying to think of a really clever way to answer that? I don’t know.
Todd: You both got your names from the dictionary.
Todd: They randomly picked their name, and you were really close to becoming the “Alkametaproteins,” which is the word after “alkaline” in the dictionary.
Matt: That would have been a little hard to fit on a t-shirt. If anyone’s looking for a way to name their band, open a dictionary and start flipping through it. You’ll find your band name in there. It’s the “two lazy guys and a drunk” plan.
Todd: Did you get the title of your CD From Here to Infirmary from?
Matt: Not from the Simpsons. We named the record probably two months prior to that episode and if anyone doesn’t believe me, that was a January episode of the Simpsons and Vagrant were running ads in December. NOFX always has really awesome play on words, with record titles like Punk in Drublic and Pump Up the Valium. When I saw that, I almost shit my pants, I was laughing so hard. I love NOFX. Totally ganking the idea. I was sitting there, thinking about whatever and I was “from here to eternity”/”from here to infirmary.” I was like, “Fuck yes, I’m a genius.” I was nervous to tell my bandmates because I thought they’d be like, “That’s fucking dumb.” They wouldn’t say that to me, but I was afraid they wouldn’t like it. I told them, and they said, “That’s fucking amazing.” In January, I was off being an asshole somewhere and Dan called my cell phone, left this message. “Dude, I’ve got really bad news for you. Call me back.” Totally shit my pants. Thought one of my friends got killed. I was mortified. I called him back. He was like, “Dude, it said, ‘From Here to Infirmary’ on Itchy and Scratchy.” And I was like, “You scared the shit out of me.” It’s actually kinda cool that it was a coincidence. When I thought of it, I was “I can’t believe no one’s thought of that before.”
Todd: Would you say, when you play live, that more people untie your shoes on stage or is there more leg stroking?
Matt: No one’s actually ever untied my shoes, but that’s a really good idea. I’ve gotten a few leg strokes in my time. Mostly, it’s kids jumping on stage trying to sing along and accidentally stepping on or unplugging my volume pedal. It’s punk, whatever.
Todd: You have songs that sound sweet, but when you put the lyrics in, they’re kinda diabolical. Have you ever made a girl cry so much that she got her t-shirt wet with tears and you could see her nipples?
Matt: No, dude, but that would be kickass. If anyone reads this and that has happened, please let me know because I want to see it. We could do a re-enactment. That would be a really good idea for a video. Some hot girl in a white t-shirt, her shirt getting progressively wetter and wetter. Then you could totally see her boobs and nipples and stuff. It would be amazing. I’m totally into it.
Todd: Have any of the labels that you’ve been on approached you to do anything that would be construed as “boy band”ish?
Matt: The only thing that’s been remotely close to that is that they’re doing a story in Teen People about us. Eminem was on the cover, so I’m down. I don’t think it’ll fly. I think the little girls are afraid of us.
Todd: As it should be? Do you have a side project called The Bush Pilots?
Matt: Dude, it’s fucked up how much you know about us. The Bush Pilots is not actually a band. They’re our alter ego. We made it up being bored, sitting in the van. We’d go into gas stations and these people in the middle of wherever who don’t have the first clue about anything in underground music, would ask, “What’s the name of your rock band?” We would tell them, “Alkaline Trio,” and they’d be like, “What type of fucked-up faggot shit is that?” Of course, they’ve never heard of us. So, from now on whenever anyone asks us what band we’re in, we tell them The Bush Pilots. When we’re in the van, having random conversations, and sometimes something will slip out of someone’s mouth that would be a Bush Pilots’ album. We’ve got this whole list of Bush Pilots’ albums that we’ve made up. The first is called Drop Your Bag? The Big and Tasty. Totally random, weird shit. It’s ridiculous, but it passes the time.
[phone gets handed over to Dan]
Todd: Dan, explain how to modify a regular hotel television set into one that will play your Playstation.
Dan: Well, there’s two different kinds. Mike and I have termed them “Funbusters,” ’cause it denies to have fun in our hotel and have Playstation. There’s this fucking thing they put over where the coaxial goes onto the TV. It’s this weird little sheaf so you can’t get to unscrew the coaxial, but there’s two different kinds. One of them is a really shitty, fuckin’ version, where it’s made out of aluminum and you can’t fucking break that one. But this one night, Mike and I stayed up for three hours. It was one of the plastic ones. We unscrewed the back panel of the TV so we could get it flat on the desk, and we just had the cable hooked up to the paneling where the wires go in. And we took the iron, got it really hot, and started melting the plastic. For about an hour. It was really bad. We got plastic all over the iron. We were just trying to melt this groove into it, and we were thinking we could cut it – but the plastic, it was some intense shit, man. They really don’t want us to use our Playstation. I was getting so frustrated, and I just had to go in the fucking bathroom and smoke a bowl and really think about this. When I was in there, I noticed the toilet had this big, heavy porcelain lid on top. So we got the plastic really brittle and then I went and got the porcelain lid and set it right on crack there, and just stood on it, bounced up and down like three times, and it snapped right off. We were victorious, three or four hours later. We played with it until seven in the morning. We had to. I think I got my best Tony Hawk scores ever that night.