This is an article on Matchbox 20 from the November '98 issue of Australian Rollingstone Magazine. A friend sent it to me, and I think it's a really good article because it makes the entire band seem so much more..real...human-like, you know? Like when you are a fan you kinda put them on pedestals and when they fall off them, you look at them differently. Am I making any sense here? Well, this article makes it all good, in my opinion. Anyway, I am typing this exactly as it was in the article. So if anything seems like it's spelled funny, well, that's not me. It is, however, censored. I really don't like having TOO much malicious language around here. :)
Let's call it one woman's revenge.
Another night in another hotel room, Matchbox 20 rhythm guitarist Adam Gaynor has settled into the familiar after-show routine of inviting a dizzy young thing back to his boudoir.
"She had a great body, but no face and no head, which was really kind of annoying," Gaynor chuckles. "She slept over, we didn't f*ck around, just rubbed each other's backs - end of story.
"Next morning, I wake up, take a shower, and when I'm coming out of the shower, she's on the phone, and she's like, 'Adam, come and say hi to my friends.' So I grab the phone: 'Hey, what's up, man?' And the line's really bad, like it's a weird connection, or a cellphone.
"And there's this guy on the other end of the line saying sh*t like: 'So what's this I hear about your lead singer in Rolling Stone?' Then he starts asking me the nastiest f*ckin' questions. It turns out this girl had called her friend, who was like a DJ, and he had put me on the f*ckin' air!
"So I'm like, 'Dude, this is not the way to make friends.' And he's like, 'Dude, you don't get on the air and start pissing off the DJ.' Then he asks, 'Who am I speaking to again?'
"My name is Timmy," Gaynor replied meekly, still on the air, "and I'm leaving now, so you can have yourself a great day. . ."
"That stoopid bitch," Gaynor snaps, with a slight smile. "I'm very guarded about sh*t now. We all are."
The past two years have proved to be an incredible learning curve for Matchbox 20, a five-piece from Orlando, Florida, whose debut alubm Yourself or Someone Like You, tapped into the rock and rituals of ordinary lives, and has since sold seven million copies worldwide.
Long time friends, lead singer Rob Thomas and drummer Paul Doucette - the founders and creative nucleus of Matchbox - recently overcame an alcoholic spiral which, at one point, had them outdrinking legendary boozers Pantera.
Thomas and Doucette have also stood their ground against the usual charges: that they churn out bland rock, and that they can't possibly repeat their success. "At some point," Doucette says, "somebody, somewhere is going to have to say 'You know, that band Matchbox 20 - they did it."
It is the afternoon of their first sell-out show at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles. I meet Thomas and Doucette - and later Gaynor, lead guitarist Kyle Cook and bassist Brian Yale - at a hotel just south of the Sunset Stip. Doucette has checked in to the hotel as Tom Cruise; Thomas as Bill Paxton.
Doucette: I used to be Madonna or Suzi Quatro.
Thomas: I used to be Chuck Norris. Now I'm Bill Paxton (Laughs) I don't think we've quite grasped it yet because we always use the names of people who are more famous than we are.
This is a helluva hotel room. Life must be good.
Doucette: We're spoiled rotten.
Thomas: Yeah, but we're better behaved.
Doucette: Everything that goes on with big rock shows - throwing television sets out the window, hookers and rugs and all that. This is like the "Calm Tour" for us. We've settled down. Stopped doing all the excessive stuff.
Thomas: Yeah, we're not the Rat Pack. And, we realised Dean Martin was the coolest of the Rat Pack because - you know what? - he never really drank. While all the guys were out partying he'd be in his room watching a movie or something. That's where I'm at.
Doucette: Definitely. We were starting to become more famous for our drinking than our music.
What do you remember about your first live gig as Matchbox 20?
Doucette: It was sh*t.
Thomas: Yeah, it was really bad. We sucked. We didn't have anything figured out, me and Paul had just come out of this other band that sucked even more. I remember looking down from the stage and seeing my two ex-girlfriends beating each other up. Those were the days of big, high drama.
But did you realise you had songs that might stand up on the radio? Thomas: No, I just remember the transistions, the way the songs changed and eventually came to be what they are. "Real World" was among those songs that came later on. "Busted" always sounded like a Green Day song to me, but the original version was a lot slower. The version you hear now came about by accident, Paul just trying something faster, and us just saying: "Cool, let's keep that!"
Doucette: I don't remember the songs so much, just a lot of hard work, sitting in this tiny room, this rehearsal space for 14 hours a day just trying to make things work.
Thomas: Trying not to fight.
Doucette: Yeah, trying to get five different personalities in one room for two months straight - plus I got really sick, too.
Thomas: (Laughing) That's right. Paul had this patch over one eye, he was bald and he had chicken pox.
What's the creative process for you like these days? Thomas: For a little while there, I felt a little dry period going, and I think it was because I was overthinking my songs. I wasn't happy that people had started to pick my songs apart and, as we go into the second record, they'll probably do it more. I'm living with that. I have to get back to whatever it was that got me writing. Now, I'm just writing everything down - for better, for worse - this is a song.
So your next batch of songs will be less revealing? Thomas: No, I think I'll do the opposite. I think I've got to the point where I have to be as honest as I possibly can. Then I can say, "That's the best I could do, that's the most personal I could be, and if it's not what you want, then, sorry, I can't do nothing for you."
Doucette: We've become really thick skinned over these past two years. We can really take a lot. And, you know, it has a lot to do with the success of the record. I mean, we sold seven million copies of our first record, and everybody's had a lot to say about that.
Thomas: Most of the press you read now is: "Why are they so successful? Why is it doing so well?" It's not about the music anymore.
Doucette: And before, every step of the way, most people were saying, "This record isn't going anywhere." Then, it was, "Oh, they're a one hit wonder." Then somebody actually called us a two hit wonder! Now it's turned to, "Well, they sold seven million albums, the tour is doing really well, but the question is, can they do it again?"
Thomas: Yeah, but we didn't get into this for the critics. That does not drive me to write songs. We are not speaking for a generation, we are not speaking for our hometown, and some of our songs don't mean anything - some of them are just words. My defence for the critics is: "We are John Fogerty's favourite record. Bernie Taupin likes us. These people write music, so we must be doing something right to a degree."
What kind of criticism really hurts? Doucette: Personal attacks.
Thomas: (US) Rolling Stone published a picture of me from England, and said I was fat, gaining weight, and just started picking on me.
Doucette: If you're a music critic, go ahead, criticise our music all you like. You have every reason not to like us, but personal attacks - what's that?
Thomas: That makes you a gossip columnist.
Are you millionaires? Thomas: (Long pause, looks carefully at Doucette) Um. . . I am.
Doucette: I'm not. . . but I'm getting close. Actually, the whole band's getting close. There's money we've made that we won't see for a while, but yeah, after that, I suppose I'll be there.
Is it true you spent a period of your teenage years homeless? Thomas: Yes, but it wasn't something I wanted to harp on. The record company and publicist would love me to push the homeless angle, but it was something that happened to me between the ages of 17 to 21, and it was self-induced. I didn't want to talk about it because I didn't want to belittle the people who are out there, the families who are living in cars, people who are suffering. I had nights where I slept on park benches, but for the most part, I had friends who helped out, and let me sleep over their house. I was playing in bands, I didn't have a place to go afterward. It was just a character building experience.
It is a contrast to where you are now. Thomas: It's one of the weirder things that comes with success. That phantom guilt. You can go two or three days without doing anything and start to wonder, "What am I doing with my life?" Then you realise, "Yeah, I got something going on. Write music and play muisc is all I have to do now." That's the biggest blessing of all.
Tell me about the good life, the excesses. . . Thomas: We just drank a lot and picked up girls.
Doucette: That was our main vice.
Thomas: Me and Paul would sit in one room of a hotel and in the other room there would be like, beer and booze, and women passed out, and we'd sit on the couch going, "You know man, we live a very shallow existence. Do you want another beer?" We out-drank Pantera.
Doucette: It's true.
Thomas: For two years, it was constant, all the time.
Doucette: It was easy to get caught up in it. You do a show, end up in a bar, and the next thing you know, you've got $700 on your bar tab. And I didn't care. It was like, "I don't care, I can pay for it."
What turned you around? Doucette: It was during our last trip overseas.
Thomas: Paul started digging in at me. (Laughs) I was actually drunk on the plane as he was telling me this. It was like, "Rob, man, listen, I'm your best friend and nobody else can tell you this. You look like sh*t, you sound like sh*t. Why don't you just stop."
Doucette: But I couldn't be a hypocrite and say, "But I'm doing fine, so I'll just keep going." I stopped too.
Thomas: And the big test was the other night, Paul's birthday. We came back from the gig and just hung out in my room watching a movie.
Doucette: I can't remember a birthday when I was sober. I would be drunk, falling on the ground and puking on myself.
Thomas: Now we can't drink. The other night we had a beer and got wasted.
Doucette: Yeah, that's f*cked up too. I'm a little guy, and I have build up a hell of an alcoholic tolerance over the years. I put hard work into that.
What about women? Doucette: We can't lie about that. We had our fair share of women as well. It's shallow, you're usually drunk, but you don't care. It's like, "I'm going to get laid." It's just those situations you wouldn't normally put yourself in.
Do you find them, or do they find you? Doucette: We would go out looking.
Thomas: Yeah, and we weren't as selective as we should have been. Now I'm engaged and my girlfriend will watch me when I'm looking around the room. She'll go, "Why are you looking at her? If you're gonna look around, why don't you at least look at the pretty girls." (Laughs) It's really sad.
How do you think "Yourself or Someone Like You" connected with Australian fans? Thomas: The songs deal with people issues. It's about relating to other people and relationships. Because you live in Australia, it doesn't change the fact that you have personal relationships, you have loneliness, you have to learn to be yourself, and learn how to be with other people.
Doucette: I've been told on numerous occasions we have an Australian sense of humour.
Gaynor: Yeah, here in America, people don't find us funny at all. We're like Benny Hill.
(Thomas, in an aside to Doucette, mentions a casting agent has stopped by the hotel to offer a movie part.)
Are you considering acting as an option? Thomas: I appreciate the offer, but, no. It's funny how you succeed in one thing, then they want you for something else. "If you made a hit record, you must be an actor!"
What roles do they see you playing? Thomas: They tell me, "You're the drifter. . ."
Doucette: "The drifter involved in the life of a 13 year-old-girl. . ."
Thomas: I got a script for a Jennifer Love Hewitt movie. (Wide smile) I can't do it.
What were you going to do with Jennifer Love Hewitt? Gaynor: Yeah Rob, what were you going to do with Jennifer Love Hewitt?
Thomas: Oh, a small part, her boyfriend or something. . .
Gaynor: (Laughing) Stunk dick!
Do you have any favourite on-stage movies? Doucette: Kyle has various angst-ridden poses. I just sit there with a cigarette in my mouth, throwing my head from side to side.
Thomas: Yeah, bony Carlos! (Pauses to think about his own schtick.) I flail.
Doucette: Rob clutches his sleeve and flails about. I'm sorry, I don't mean to insult anyone in the band, but Kyle's got the coolest movies in this band. I was watching our video from the other night and Kyle's like: "Rock Star!" Kyle's got a nice ass. That's the thing that drives Matchbox 20 - we are striving to have Kyle's ass.
Thomas: And we all look better in clothes.
Gaynor: What about Van Halen? Eddie's got a nice butt.
Why are we talking about Van Halen? Thomas: There was this whole weird thing going on the last time we were in Australia. We were meant to be having this showdown with Van Halen when we got to Sydney.
Over what? Doucette: They were ragging on us, we'd heard that they'd said some negative things, and I got asked about it when me and Rob were doing a TV show. I called him a pansy f*ck, and they aired it! That's what I love about Australia. Then it got blown out of proportion. We talked to Eddie, and everything is fine. Matchbox 20 and Van Halen is getting back together. Actually, Adam and Gary [Cherone, ex-Extreme, now Van Halen lead singer], they go back.
Gaynor: (Sheepishly) I worked for Extreme. I answered phones at the studio. Eddie's not the problemo, man. Did you know - remember this, Rob? - one critic said Matchbox 20 was responsible for killing rock & roll.
Thomas: Yeah, our one album killed rock & roll as we know it.
That's a heavy charge. Thomas: (Laughs) Yeah, I should call up the Rolling Stones and apologise. I feel just terrible.