Matchbox Twenty drummer discusses group's rise to fame

By Conor Bezane

Iowa State Daily (Iowa State U.)

(U-WIRE) AMES, Iowa -- Matchbox Twenty drummer Paul Doucette isn't the type of guy you'd expect to be in a Top 40 band.

He hates pop music, listens to cool cutting-edge college bands like Yo La Tengo and Radiohead and admires songwriters like Tom Waits.

He's passionate about politics, endorses Al Gore and enjoys film and photography.

In essence, Paul Doucette is a regular guy and Matchbox Twenty is a regular band.

"I don't think we'll ever be a cool band, but I don't really care," Doucette says wryly. "I don't give a shit."

Matchbox Twenty isn't pushing musical boundaries or inspiring masses of teenagers to pick up guitars. But that doesn't matter to Doucette.

He could care less about making it onto the cover of SPIN magazine, selling 11 million records or getting recognized by fans while eating in a restaurant.

Doucette sits down for a phone interview from Indianapolis, where he's recovering from his day off spent catching the new film "Almost Famous." He's soaking up the last few moments before he has to prepare for the next show.

"I didn't get into the movie as much as I thought I would," Doucette says of "Almost Famous," Cameron Crowe's snapshot of a '70s rock band on the rise. "It was like watching my own life. And it was like, you know what, it's not that fun to watch."

Matchbox Twenty may not be cool in the minds of music critics, but to legions of fans, they're the shit. The band's 1996 debut "Yourself Or Someone Like You" featured the hits "Push," "3 a.m." and "Real World," and has sold more than 11 million copies to date, a figure that would even exceed expectations for a mass-marketed boy band like 'N Sync.

Despite their high sales figures, Doucette doesn't think his band fits in with the current pop-dominated music scene.

"It's entertainment; it's fluff," he says of the scene. "I mean it's not what I personally listen to, but at the same time, I'm not gonna wreck anyone for doing what they do."

Though he'd like to separate Matchbox Twenty from teen pop, the band's newest album, "Mad Season By Matchbox Twenty" sits at No. 38 on this week's Billboard Top 200 Albums chart, just below Christina Aguilera.

And "Yourself or Someone Like You" joined the elite list of Top 10 highest-selling albums of 1998, rounding out at No. 10, according to the Los Angeles Times, under self-titled albums by the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync.

"None of us are really happy with the first record. It is what it is, and it's the best record we could have made at that time," Doucette explains. "But we wanted to make a record where we each kind of made an imprint."

"Mad Season by Matchbox Twenty" is a tightly crafted symphony of clean-cut pop rock. It's loaded with heavy production - thick guitar fills and vocal harmonies intermingle with string orchestras and brass bands. The debut was mostly controlled by frontman Rob Thomas, but "Mad Season" is more of a group effort.

Ever since he won three Grammy awards in 1999 for his hit collaboration with Carlos Santana on "Smooth," Rob Thomas has been in the spotlight. Suddenly Thomas became a music industry icon, coming dangerously close to overshadowing the rest of the band.

"It's not something I really care about," Doucette says of all the attention Thomas has received. "I love being able to live a normal life, to be a musician and get paid for it, and be able to have the time when we're not working to go and pursue other interests. I've seen what's happened to him and I don't envy it."

"With the Santana thing everyone's like, 'Rob Thomas and Matchbox Twenty? Where did they come from?'" he continues. "You know, we did sell [11 million] records before that."

When a band goes multiplatinum, it's natural for a record label to demand a reproduction of the same idea that already worked.

However, Doucette feels Atlantic Records has been supportive in allowing the group to do what they want.

"I don't know if that has to do with it because we've sold so many records that now it's like we have a little bit more power," he says. "They haven't really been on our asses at all."

The fate of "Mad Season" is yet to be determined. The album has already gone double platinum, but it's unclear whether Matchbox Twenty will be able to replicate its massive success.

A large portion of the band's record sales come from high school students, but ironically, Matchbox Twenty's conservative sound doesn't fit Doucette's high school musical taste.

"I don't know that I necessarily would've listened to Matchbox Twenty," he says. "When I was in high school, I started discovering bands like Soul Asylum and the Replacements ... I'm into things that make you feel something, you know."

"Most people like music just to be background or something to take away their troubles for a second," he continues. "And I definitely think we fall into that category. It's not like we're doing anything that's all that substantial."

"But ... At least it's us."