May God strike down Rob Thomas for penning one of the most widely-played, and irritatingly catchy, summer songs of the past summer with guitar legend Carlos Santana. But this momentary, yet successful, foray into mainstream pop with "Smooth" hasn't tempted Rob Thomas away from new work with his band, Matchbox Twenty (the "20" has been replaced). America's own beloved modern-pop quintet has sold over 10 million copies of their debut Yourself Or Someone Like You in North America and now they're back with a new album Mad Season that brings Thomas back to the traditional Matchbox rock sound. On the line from Atlanta, Thomas freely chats about the watershed of "Smooth," Christian bands, losing weight and Latinas... oh, and a bit about the album too.
Hey, it's the "Smooth" guy!
Oh, no! You know what's funny? Once on my honeymoon in Hawaii and just now when I went to do some press a couple of weeks ago in Europe, it was, like, so much that I was Rob Thomas from Santana.
That must piss you right off.
No, actually. I mean, I've only got one record. If I didn't do the Santana thing I would've walked in and out and they would've said here comes some stupid American.
Have you gotten any Latina hotties hitting on you?
Well, my wife is a Latina hottie. She was actually in the video for "Smooth." She's in two parts. She's the girl hanging out of the window in the beginning and she's also the girl in the street with the long dark hair and the little blue top.
What is it about Latin women?
They rock. They're sultry. It's just that exotic vibe. It could just be that I grew up in the South, so there's nothing to me more exotic than that. When she speaks Spanish it just kills me.
Who's more your taste? Jennifer Lopez or Salma Hayek?
I would go the Lopez route.
Cuz of the big ass?
[laughs loudly] I don't know, that New Yorker thing maybe?
Have you gotten a call from Gloria Estefan yet? You know she's been dying for a hit.
Yeah, right! If I did I haven't heard about it. Maybe they're keeping it at bay for me. It's funny, y'know. I get a lot of those calls to my publisher now on that side of the writing fence. People want me to write for those kinds of records. I like the fact that I did something with Carlos and I'd love to stay in that vein, like with Stevie Nicks... I'd love to just write with classic writers. So that's the only time I'd wanna do collaborations.
"Smooth," even though it's a catchy tune, is one of those songs that's played so much that people just say, "Not that again!" So, was there one summer song that you can remember had the same effect on you?
That "Livin' La Vida Loca" song. When I first heard it I was like "You know, that's a catchy song." Then next thing you know you go through that period where you're like, "Fuck everybody! That's a catchy song. That Ricky Martin is a good guy." Then a month later you're like "I wanna shoot that guy!" It was O.K. and then a month later it was just like, "I wanna kill that motherfucker."
Why the hell change your band's name from the number 20 to the actual written word? Some kind of superstition?
Somewhere in the middle of the last record we just started writing it out because we liked the way it looked. Then as a joke we were making it out that we were making this BIG name change, but it really wasn't supposed to be noteworthy. We made a joke that we were sick of being compared to bands like Blink 182, which I thought was an obvious joke, but I guess it wasn't. Then they [the media] started making fun of us because they thought we were serious. It was like "Hello?" And Entertainment Weekly had us in their magazine and I was the loser of the week.
A lot of people shit on your band.
Yeah. [chuckles quietly]
And I don't know if you're aware, but some people think you guys are a Christian band. And people just totally shit on Christian bands.
How can you shit on a Christian band? You're going to hell if you shit on a Christian band.
People just think there's this message that they hide so well to convert you.
We're so sneaky that we really are a Christian band. We're just not telling anyone. And when you're listening to our new record the message of God just seeps through your head.
You haven't heard people tagging you as a Christian band before?
No. Thanks, Debbie! Guys, let's do some Satan rock now! But you know what's funny? Our first tour was with Jars Of Clay, so maybe that's what did it.
Some think you started the whole chain of Christian bands coming out. Jars Of Clay, Vertical Horizon...
Are those guys a Christian band?
I think. I might be wrong, though. But just listen to the lyrics and, man, no matter what they say they're Christian.
Really? Wow. But those guys drink like fish. They're not real Christians.
The new record sounds more rootsy, down-home and settled than the last record [Yourself Or Someone Like You]. Is this a reflection of how you've changed since getting married?
Some of it. It can't be an exact representation. I never write for one record. I write continuously. I just write for fun. Two of these songs on this record are, like, eight years old. It isn't exactly a good representation of the last little bit of time before this record. But some of that is on there. It's almost like you have to take situations and dissect them if you really want to try and get a good song out of it without having a miserable life. That's the only way to do it — to take a situation and, in your head, follow it out to some kind of an awful conclusion and see how that makes you feel and write a song about it. It helps you grow.
I've noticed you've lost a lot of weight, Rob.
Yup. You say that just as I'm sitting here having my grilled chicken.
Critics used to call you tubby all the time.
You know what's funny? Musical criticisms we could take pretty well. That's all a matter of personal opinion, if you don't like our record you don't like our record. But when a lot of people say you're gaining weight then you probably really are gaining some weight and you should probably do something about that. It was a nice coincidence. I stopped the lifestyle I was living which was not only making me gain weight, but it was just making me unhealthy. Too much of the partying.
Living the rock 'n' roll lifestyle?
Yeah. Not taking care of myself. So now I still have a really good time, but I do it with my wife. I try and take better care of myself, I try and work out. And I also realize now that being in better shape makes me a better singer, makes me a better performer. I'm happy with the work that I'm doing. It's not a concern anymore, like when I do a show I'm not going to worry that my belly's popping out of my sweater.
Just sticking to fruits and vegetables?
And heroin. It's amazing! I'm surprised no one's ever talked about that before [in the media]. It's such a great way to lose weight.