It was well over a month from my writing this that I was able to talk to the boys of matchbox 20. The interview went well, I thought the show they did that night was awesome, but for the life of me I haven't been able to figure out just how to put this thing together - until now. The worst writer's block I have ever had, I figured the band thought I was using them, their publicist probably hated me, and every time I sat down to write this article my mind turned off. I tried to take the easy way out, just writing down the questions with their answers, but that read like shit. Then I thought of just dumping the interview and making it a downloadable audio file but that seemed worse. So, I waited, and waited, until the time finally would hit me of what to write. It came, and oddly enough it came now, while I'm on a plane to New Jersey, for a working vacation with much of the staff. Well, this article is sort of a Q and A article, it's sort of not, and whether you like it or not at least it might give you some insight into a few of the boys from matchbox 20.
I remember this interview like yesterday, only it wasn't. It was a gorgeous day in Chi-town and I was heading to meet the band at Schuba's, a local tavern type place, around 5 o'clock. Strolling past the bus, I'm a little early, and out comes Adam Gaynor, the rhythm guitar man for the band. Then, at the worst time, brain fart. I couldn't remember his name. So, it started with a "Hi, I'm The Dude on the Right. I've got an interview with you guys." Yea," Adam said, "you must be our 5 o'clock." That I was. Well, they were still doing some sound checking, so he has me come into the bar. Sitting there was Brian Yale, bass player, watching a little TV and reading the paper. I start the casual conversation, and the conversation turns to basketball. This being Bull's town, and most of the matchbox 20 boys being Miami fans, conflicts of interest had already begun. But, this interview wouldn't be about basketball. Nope, this interview would be about David Hasslehoff, Peter Jeremy, and a dog.
Sound check ended, and it was time to head for the bus and the talkative dudes of the band, Rob Thomas, lead vocalist, Adam Gaynor, and Paul Dolcette, the drummer. Armed with some standard questions, and our typical list of off-the-wall type questions, it was time to find out about one of my new favoritist bands, matchbox 20.
They Ain't Tired, They Ain't Talkin', but They're Hobnobbin.
Simply enough, I ask the guys how they are doing. I know they've been on the road, "Push" from "Yourself or Someone Like You" is just starting to get some major airplay, and I figure it's got to be pretty exciting. Rob blurts out "Tired. No, wait, that's not true. Ever since we got the bus I think I've been sleeping too much." It turns out they say it was Vince Gill's bus, and it is then that I find that there is one person in the group who you really don't know if you can ever believe, and that dude is Adam. In keeping with the country theme, they point out the cute little window etchings, and Adam throws out that it is actually an etching of Bambi's mother before the gunshot wound, complete with an "X" where the gunshot hit.
Now, as important as Bambi is to many people, the e-mails I got before the interview didn't care about Bambi, the girls wanted to know who was single, who wasn't, and who might cheat. So I asked, to which "Jerome" said they all were single, except when their girlfriends were around. Not talkin', except to say most of them have girlfriends, but you ladies out there, you have to find out.
Enough about girls, how was the band handling their new-found notoriety and was there anything they don't like about being famous? Well, it seems the band just really likes to play and they take the good with the bad. They're in a strange spot, or the "in-between stage" as Rob seems to explain. Some days big, some days small, they play major venues to sold-out crowds who didn't pay to see them, and tiny venues where they don't even know if anyone will show up. Kinda like this show at Schuba's - the boys wanted me to call all of my friends because they didn't think anyone was coming. I couldn't break it them that I don't have any friends, so relying on me to bring in some people wasn't a good marketing strategy. But, in the end, it seems they already have the right name because the place was packed. Rob also put things in perspective, about how cool it is to be opening for bands like Offspring and Jackopierce, but as of then, he says, they're "hobnobbin with the stars, but they don't know who we are."
The Music Biz
So they're a new band, they've got a hit under their belt, and I'm wondering if they'll be around a while and if they wonder that too. The breakdown of the question was pretty simple, what might be the reason for the number of "one-hit wonders" that seem to be prevalent today - maybe more so than before, but who was to blame - radio, the industry, the bands, who? Well, Adam had his answer, and he blamed it all on Peter Jeremy, some dude who lives in South Dakota. The band explains he is well connected, and just keeps this list, with bands like Dexy's Midnight Runners, to control the fate of every band out there. Alright Adam, first you're pointing out that "X" marks the spot on the Bambi etching, and now the "downfall of all bands that don't make it over a year," as Adam put it, can be blamed on one dude. Well, I didn't believe this one, but Rob led the discussion into a way most bands can probably gauge the life of their success - the number of songs you have going into that first record. Yea, maybe some of those songs won't be making it on to that first CD, but if you've been writing for a while and can do it smartly, your chances of lasting over a year will be greater.
Rob then put things into a perspective I never thought of before, "For a lot of people's first record they have their whole life to write that record. They've been working on it since they were ten, culminating it into a record, and then the next record they have a year to put together twelve songs…. Now you've got the pressures while you're writing, worrying if people are going to like this… Before you were just doing it." And as Adam explains that Rob did their record in an hour and a half, and a half-hour of that was a lunch break, Paul works in the culture of Americans versus the rest of the world. Groups like Bon Jovi, artists like Meat Loaf and David Hasslehoff, are still considered huge throughout the rest of the world due mostly to the loyalty of the fans, whereas Americans always want the next thing. The guys don't blame radio alone, they don't blame the industry, in fact they seem to think that most of the times the success of that second record is usually just luck. And as they're talking, their attitude isn't one of worrying about their second entry into the CD rack, their attitude is of just playing and writing the next record and hoping people like it. "All we can do is play and play and play and do the best we possibly can," Rob says, and "try to never get caught with a dead hooker in a hotel room."
The Internet, "Always and Forever," and Rob Writing
for David Hasslehoff
Contrary to many bands with web sites, matchbox 20 seems to really take an interest in their site and in keeping their fans informed. They also seem to understand the concept of why the web is there and where it is going. From their excitement in the first weeks where ten people may have visited, to now bringing in over 1000 a day, Adam says he still has the first message ever posted and he still writes back and forth to that person on occasion. Adam and Brian Yale tend to most of the e-mail and messages, but they all seem to get involved. And it's from their site that led me into where the superstition of singing "Always and Forever" before every show began. See, the web site said they do it, but didn't tell how it started, and like most superstitions, I figured it perpetuated itself because of a bad performance. I was right.
Rob explained that it kind of started from his seeing Martin Lawrence in "House Party" singing the song, and from then on an occasional hug of a bandmate would bring a re-enactment singing of "Always and Forever," and they explained that it usually happened before shows. Going on and on they didn't realize how much they were doing it until one night when they didn't. Yep, as superstitions would have it, the show that night fell apart, and hence, before every show, it's a little singing fest with the boys of the band and their tour manager. And if you want to catch them with their pants down, literally, the easiest chance is before a really big show. They sing and drop their pants and piss off the people trying to get them on stage.
And the conversation shifts to songwriting. A couple of days before this interview, a fan wrote in with a simple question - When will matchbox 20 be releasing a new CD? Well, not to burst the new fan's bubble, but it might be a while. They've been writing together, and Adam says everyone should just relax. They've got plenty of songs to put together a new CD, but "Yourself or Someone Like You" is now starting to get the sales that, even though it's been out a while, for the new fans it is brand new. They say they are waiting for some time off, and looking towards Summer of '98, but Adam says they're waiting for David Hasslehoff's writers to give them a call and maybe lend a hand. Rob throws himself into songwriting mode, throws out some lyrics, and Paul shifts the attitude from waiting for Mr. Hasslehoff's writers to maybe Rob should be doing that writing. Rob, with a gleam in his eyes, says "I could get just shit drunk and write something and he (David Hasslehoff) would just eat it up!" I really didn't know that "Baywatch Nights" could have such a profound effect on an up and coming band, but the dudes of matchbox 20, well, let's just say their seems to be a weird appreciation for the show.
A Funny Story - only one, Van Morrison, and A Good Shirt
The press release for matchbox 20 tells of Rob Thomas' transient days, hitchhiking and singing at off-ramps in the middle of the night. Me, I'm thinking there have got to be some stories to tell, so my inquiring mind asked Rob and the band any good stories while starting things out. Again, as talkative as they were, they weren't talking about this because, as Rob says, "We'll either get in trouble with our family, our girlfriends, somebody, or our record company," but Adam felt this sudden need to clear his soul and confessed that "we once killed a man in Denton, Texas… we're not going to say who killed him, but we all hid the body." I questioned their burial techniques, without the use of a couple of bags of lime (all of a sudden they seemed really scared of my knowledge of burying bodies, but just seemed to chalk that to my being from Chicago). In the end, Rob did have one story to tell. He put it like this: "You meet a lot of guys, like I met this guy who wanted me to pose naked for a men's magazine, and some other guy who pulls over, and I'm like the farthest, farthest, farthest thing from homophobic. I mean, I'm like borderline bitch. But, I get in the car, close the door, put my bag behind the seat, it's a truck, we pull off, I look back, see some golf clubs, and say 'Do you golf?' He looks over, he's like 65, and he goes, 'Listen son,' exact words, I'll never forget them, 'I'm a gay person. Do you mind if we pull off over here and I suck ya?' I was like, 'a… no.' 'So you don't mind?' I was like, 'a.. no, I just appreciate the ride.' And he was like 'Well, how about if I just touch ya?' and he reaches over and starts grabbin' for my package, and we're doing like 70 and I grab the gear shift, the truck starts rattlin', stops, and I get out, I'm like kickin' the truck. I was like 17 or 18, it was fucked up." Adam comes in "That's when he started hating golf," which isn't true, according to Rob. My personal moral to the story: Be wary of dudes in trucks carrying golf clubs.
Now, as much as funny stories are few and far between, the bands and artists the boys would like to jam with are many. Rolling Stones comes out first, Anni DeFranco, Paul throws in R.E.M., Adam wants to dance with Michael Jackson, Rob would like to jam with Van Morrison, and Neil Diamond comes up as well. And you know, as they rattle off the names of the bands, it starts to fold into place where the musical stylings of matchbox 20 come in, because if you listen to their songs, you can start to hear a little bit of all of those, and then with their own styling thrown in for good measure. That rolls into what makes a good song, which Rob thinks is impossible to tell. His analogy - "What makes a good shirt? One person will like it, one person will think it sucks," and I get the feeling from all of the boys that they play what they like, like what they play, and will enjoy the ride as long as it lasts.
What Do You Remember Most About Your First Car?
With the serious questions over, it was time for the important things, and what better thing than first cars. For Paul and Adam, the stories ended the same. Paul, his was a 1980 Datsun B210, gray, and he loved it, "more than life itself," as he put it. He remembers that some guy smashed it, and he was sad. For Adam, it was a 1972 Chevy Malibu, and Adam wonders why he is still alive because it seems he got plowed to by an illegal alien in Texas. But it was Rob's story that had some helpful hints. It seems his first blue pick-up truck got re-possessed at a gig. But the advice I get is if you're behind on your payments, don't ever tell people where you are going to be. He explains that someone called his house looking for him, and they were told what club he was playing at. Well, repo people are tricky, and when he left the club his truck was gone. I'm just hoping that he can keep up the payments now, with the band's success and all!
Are You Dog or Cat People?
Paul blurts out first - "Dog," followed by Rob, "Cat…, and dog," while Adam heads for the reptile bunch. They all agree they would love to have a little dog on the bus, a trained Chihuahua who could fetch them a pack of Camel's or a red-head, but due to some allergies to animals, it looks like they'll be looking for a new rhythm guitarist because Adam, although he would love a dog, is allergic. A problem in the band, but I hope they can overcome it.
Corner Pub, Dance Club, or Crowded Bar?
General consensus among the boys - corner pubs and crowded bars, but no way in hell a dance club. Rob, though, seems like he is on the perennial search for dive bars, "the dirtier and divier the better."
Drink of Choice?
Rob - Jack and Coke
Paul - Beer, Dos Equis Lager preferred.
Adam - Apple juice
I Never Leave Home Without…
Rob blurts out "My condoms, nah, just kidding." Paul chimes in "You're in big trouble now!" But the conversation turns to pre-bus, post-bus, and not being on tour. Answers ranged from ear-plugs, bus keys, guitars, sunglasses, and Adam's real answer, "My cosmetic bag, that would be my answer, because I've got so much shit goin' on between oxys and hairsprays and fuck it, I'm the biggest bitch you know." 'Nuff said.
Is It Okay to Lie to Someone You Love in Order to Avoid
Hurting Their Feelings?
General consensus, yes, and Rob thinks it's alright to lie to everybody. But seriously, he follows that by explaining "on the grand scheme of all the bad things in the world that can happen, a little white lie is nothing if it spares a little embarrassment, as long as it doesn't get out of hand." Meanwhile, Adam turns lying to someone into the founding of our country, and that "George Washington, he was the biggest liar ever, no offense to his family and stuff, but he was a liar." Thanks Adam, I'm sure the Washington's will appreciate that.
Favorite Cartoon Character?
A tie in the cartoon character between Space Ghost and The Tick. However, there is a little more fondness for Space Ghost because they all say they've met him, and "he's awesome," so says Adam.
Any Good Lawyer Jokes?
Adam has a million of them on his computer, he says, but Rob says the biggest joke is how much they pay their lawyer. I understand.
What Was the Worst Job You Ever Had?
This one brought a little bit of thinking to the group, and Rob found his. Turns out he worked at one place for two days, but had to quit because he wouldn't wear the little red hat, Adam worked for a pizza chain and wouldn't put his arm in the big vat of pizza sauce, thus ended his rise to stardom in the fast food industry, while Paul loved every job he ever had, and was always able to find a little bit of fun in everything. Rob then changed the tone of the question to the best job, which he considered his present employment in matchbox 20, while Paul still would like to wait on tables, as he puts it "I rocked at it, I was so good. I was a much better waiter than I am a drummer, that's for sure."
What's the Best Advice Anyone Ever Gave You?
Here's the list, by no particular person, in no particular order:
"Stay focused, it matters." - Kim Stevens
"Deny, deny, deny."
"I don't know that girl."
"Be conscious of everything that's going on, know what everyone is doing, but act like you're totally an idiot."
And the Interview Comes to a Close
So I wrapped it up, Rob apologized for their somewhat lack of seriousness in some of the answers to which I apologized for the lack of seriousness in some of the questions, and Paul kicks in "That's the first time anyone has ever asked me about my first car." Was I impressed - pretty much so, for this band seems to have their act together while still having fun just playing and writing. Me, I'm hoping that Peter Jeremy doesn't have them on the list of one-hit wonders, but I think they might have a chance to pull it off, because as Rob puts it, "As long as they let us tour, we will tour. We will do whatever we have to do to keep this bus."