NY Rock Interview

by Gabriella, August 1998

Rob Thomasís charismatic stage presence and catchy tunes have made Matchbox 20 the music bizís latest greatest stars. Backed by Kyle Cook on lead guitar, Adam Gaynor on rhythm guitar, Brian Yale on bass and Paul Doucette on drums, Thomas and company have been the mainstay of dozens of American and European festivals this summer. Despite a never-ending world-tour schedule, Thomas seemed far from tired when NY Rockís Gabriella recently met up with him. Rather, she found him in a brilliant mood, enjoying success to the max...

NY ROCK: I read that a lot of your songs are autobiographical. Doesn't it frighten you to bare your soul to a crowd of strangers?

THOMAS: I don't think you can take the songs literally. I tried to be cryptic. I didn't want to be too obvious but my past has inspired me a lot. I came from the wrong side of town and that wasn't really easy. So, if I sing about "the same old trailer trash in new shoes" on "A Girl Like That," then I know how it feels. My mom and I used to live in a trailer park for a while. I certainly wasn't born with the silver spoon in my mouth. It's hard for me to feel settled. I'm the typical military brat. I was born on a military base in Germany and I grew up in different places.

NY ROCK: And now you're traveling more than ever...

THOMAS: That's true. We always seem to be on the road. I don't even have an apartment back in Orlando anymore. Everything's working so great for us. You know it's like snowballing; it just seems to go on and on and I love it.

NY ROCK: So you enjoy the rock'n'roll lifestyle?

THOMAS: I'm kind of "drifting" once again, always being in different places, always being on the road, but I really enjoy it. It's a good feeling and we love playing live. To be honest, I can't imagine anything I'd rather do. You know it's so amazing if thousands of people are singing your music. It's really mind blowing. We all love it, but we're not the kind of guys who go around and play the big stars. It's all about music you know and playing the music you like, not about big egos and rock star attitude.

NY ROCK: What kind of music inspires you?

THOMAS: I've always loved the music of Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Al Green and R.E.M. They have great songs and they inspire and influence me. I think their songs can be best described as quality songs, great songs.

NY ROCK: You've often been called the "next big thing." How do you feel about that?

THOMAS: Somehow I think the music business is always waiting for the so called "Next Big Thing," but we've been playing music for quite a while. I've been writing songs for longer than yesterday. I think the danger is that a lot of bands are pushed by the industry. They have a good song and the industry pushes them. They become stars over night and they end up being one-hit wonders. The music biz is pretty fast paced and there are a lot of hypes, but there are always people who like quality songs and if you're writing and performing quality songs I think you last longer. At least I hope so.

NY ROCK: You're really busy with touring. Don't you feel washed out?

THOMAS: We're not good being lazy. You know, if we take time off, we just don't know what to do with ourselves. We're so used to our routine, to be on the move, constantly being on the road with concerts ahead of us. It grows on you and you get so used to it, you're not complete without it. Really, I was waking up and thinking about going on the road, then I remembered that it was time off.

NY ROCK: In America and Europe, the single "Push" has caused quite an uproar. A lot of feminists seem to be offended.

THOMAS: I don't understand how people who claim to have a brain can misunderstand [the song] so much. It's not about physical violence. It's about emotions and how somebody can push you around without even lifting a finger. It's all emotional. It's all far more subtle. Anyway, in that song it's the guy who gets pushed around by a girl he's having a relationship with. I had a relationship like that where I was emotionally pushed around, and you know what? I grew almost comfortable with it. I got used to it. Almost enjoyed it because I thought that's how relationships work. I thought it's about getting manipulated and controlled. It's a bit crazy that people claim that I'm a chauvinist and have a violent attitude towards women.

NY ROCK: You seem pretty annoyed with it...

THOMAS: What annoys me even more is that some people claim we are a one-hit wonder. Even when "3 AM" was played by all the radio stations, some people still called us a one-hit wonder. That's pretty stupid and unoriginal. I guess they didn't even notice that we already had another hit, but probably two-hit wonder doesn't sound as good. It's a pretty good way to try to discredit a band. Call them a one-hit wonder and people won't expect much from them. It just didn't work the way they've planned it.

NY ROCK: You guys must spend a lot of time together. Don't you get annoyed with each other? Isn't it hard to have five different characters more or less locked up together?

THOMAS: We're spending so much time together, we're like family. Five brothers who are also friends and we try not to invade each other's breathing space. Of course we have different opinions on some subjects, but we try our best to talk it out. Of course we squabble and quarrel occasionally, just like siblings do, but we don't carry grudges and we treat each other very civilly. If you're living in a tour bus... Well, I think it's not possible for people who aren't friends, it's so crowded. We've learned to deal with it and we take everything with a pinch of salt. Humor is the best way to get along.

NY ROCK: So what are your goals for the future?

THOMAS: We are enjoying the success we have now and we'll try to make another good record, but we don't know if people will like it. We sure hope so, but there's really no guarantee for it. I think it would be wrong to write songs because you think the audience might like it. The goal is to write the best songs you can write and hope for the best.