By Paul Cashmere
When Matchbox Twenty formed in 1996 no-one, including themselves, ever imagined that their debut album would sell more than 10 million units in America alone.
Having Diamond success put enormous pressure on a band to perform, but Matchbox successfully managed to come back with a second album 'Mad Season' and now a third 'More Than You Think You Are'.
Now two hits in with 'Disease' and 'Unwell', it is time for Matchbox Twenty to hit the road and once again they are heading to Australia for shows presented by Undercover.
As he packs his bags, Paul Doucette from Matchbox Twenty checked in with Undercover's Paul Cashmere.
Paul Cashmere: How is the setlist looking these days?
Paul Doucette: The set-list is looking pretty good. It is a lot of the new record. We are concentrating on this new record. We aren't ignoring the old records but we are playing a lot of the new stuff.
PC: What are you opening with?
PD: I can't tell you that. Hey, you know I can tell you what we opened with in The States because maybe it will change for down there. We have been opening with 'Cold'.
PC: Interesting choice. Why that song?
PD: It's a little bit rocking live and we wanted to come out that way. It seemed to fit when you put together a setlist, everything seems to have its place and 'Cold' seemed to fit there.
PC: What I like about 'More Than You Think You Are' is that you have made a rock album. Right from track one 'Feel' you have made an announcement that Matchbox Twenty is evolving.
PD: Yeah and you know the funny thing is, is that is why we put that song first. There was talk about that. We always have one song that is a little more rocking than the rest of the record. On Mad Season it was 'Stop' and it was 'Busted' on the first record. They are always like pushed towards the end of the record. With this record we wanted people to know as soon as they picked it up that it was going to be a little different.
PC: That was one you contributed songwriting too as well.
PD: Yes, it is.
PC: It is credited to you, Kyle and Rob. Exactly who did what for the song?
PD: Part of the verses musically was something Kyle was messing around with at sound-checks. Then I sang a melody with it and Rob wrote some lyrics for the verse and then I wrote the opening lick, guitar stuff and then me and Rob both wrote the chorus.
PC: Songwriting is not something you have done a lot of but on this album you actually make your solo songwriting debut with 'Could I Be You'.
PD: Yeah. I just started writing between 'Mad Season' and 'More Than You Think You Are'. I had a few songs. Rob liked that one and he could sing it. I wasn't as attached to it anymore.
PC: It is also the first time a non-Rob Thomas song has ever made a Matchbox Twenty album.
PD: I actually had another one called 'Bound' that we recorded and that I gave Kyle a co-write on because he added some stuff to it. I ended up pulling it in favour of 'You're So Real'. Both of those songs may end up on a record later.
PC: What about solo work. Are we signaling 2004 to be the Matchbox Twenty member's solo years?
PD: Yeah, we are definitely going to. Kyle has a band that he plays with called The New Left. He has a whole other side band he plays with. Rob has definitely been writing for other people for a long time now. He wants to pursue some stuff on his own. I am working on stuff of my own. We are going to give each other time to do that and then pursue another Matchbox record after that.
PC: So there will be a whole lot of solo albums in 2004 / 2005?
PD: Yeah. I think the obvious thing is most people are going to know Rob's solo record. The stuff I write for me is a lot less commercial than anything that a Matchbox fan will typically listen to. I think maybe 10 people will hear my record. Kyle's sounds pretty good though. People may actually hear that record.
PC: How far down the track are you with your solo album?
PD: I put it to bed for a little bit. I was going to start it in between Mad Season and More Than You Think You Are but then I stopped because it was time to start working with Matchbox again. I can't split it. When I am working with Matchbox I am in a Matchbox mindset and when I am on my own I am in my own mindset. I can't do both. It won't be until after we are done touring on this.
PC: I can't help but think that after the success of the first album there must have been enormous pressures on you internally within the band. What kept you together and how close did it come to someone actually leaving the band?
PD: Oh, I have left like 5 times. I leave all the time. It's a daily thing. I just call up in the morning and quit the band and by afternoon I am back in. We definitely have our tension filled moments. We can go at it pretty good. I did seriously think of quitting the band and actually did for a very short period of time in between the first record and the second record. I just wasn't that into it. It was great but I was just not feeling it. I have always been a little bit more into other types of music other than what we play. Then all that changed. On this record, well, this is a record I would actually buy. I am pretty happy with this one.
PC: Have any of the other guys ever quit?
PC: So you are it. You are the bands Prima-Donna.
PD: I am. The joke in the band is if we made the kind of records that I would like to make 5 people would buy the record but the critics would love us. It is the joke of the band.
PC: Well the critics have been pretty cruel to Matchbox Twenty.
PD: Yes they have.
PC: Does it hurt?
PD: It doesn't hurt for several reasons. Firstly, some of the stuff critics praise I have listened to and I think it really sucks. I can tell when they are too much into the image and not really listening to the music. A critic's job is to critique. That is what they are meant to do. We are a massively mainstream successful band so we are an easy target for that. I get it so it doesn't really hurt. I am surprised though because I never pictured I would be in a band that critics didn't like. It just blew my mind.
PC: I recall reading a quote from Rob where he said that you never had to worry about losing your rock credibility because you never had any to start with.
PD: We never had it. There is something to that. If you are like this critically loved band I think you have just as much pressure to stay within that and not branch out from there. That is what people are praising you for. We don't have that. We can do whatever the hell we want because we aren't really listening to what people say. We just play what we want to play and people like it or people don't like it. We have consistently sold less records with each new record but we have consistently made records more like we want to make them on every record. We are happier now than we ever have been.
PC: How's the wife? (Paul is married to Frank Zappa's daughter Moon Unit Zappa).
PD: She's great. She is making a movie right now.
PC: Tell me about the scene in the Austin Powers movie where she gets a mention.
PD: That was pretty funny. We saw that and said "what the fuck"?
PC: What was the reaction?
PD: We laughed. She is used to it. Her name has been pop culture ever since the day she was born. It was a new story when she was born that this crazy rock start guy named his kid Moon Unit. She is used to it. She has had it here whole life. It was definitely funny.
PC: What do you call her?
PD: Moon. I don't know anyone who calls her Moon Unit. No-one ever does.
PC: Let's talk a bit about the songs on the album, firstly 'Disease'. Mick Jagger is credited as co-writer with Rob. What exactly did he do?
PD: That song was originally written for Mick's solo record. Rob had gotten together with Mick to write his last solo record and the night before Rob wanted to write a song that he thought Mick would sound really good singing, so he wrote 'Disease'. Mick wrote a couple of lines in the second verse. I actually think even one of those lines got changed when we recorded it. I actually think the only thing left from what Mick did was two lines. Most of the song was Rob's which is why we put it on the record.
PC: 'Unwell' comes across as having insight into mental illness. It is the sort of thing someone close to someone with a mental illness might say. Was it just a clever line or based on a real situation?
PD: The funny thing is it is actually about ordinary paranoia. It can go as far into mental illness but it is more about insecurity than anything else. There's a whole line about dodging glances on a train and Rob was basically thinking about people staring at him and he was like "what's wrong with me, why are people staring at me". It didn't even occur to him that they were staring at him because he was Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty. That never crossed his mind. His instant thing was "is there something wrong with my face" or "do I have something hanging off my nose".
PC: Rob catches the train?
PD: He lives in New York City. That is how he gets around. That is how everyone there gets around.
PC: What about you? How do you travel?
PD: I have a car. I live in LA. You have to drive everywhere.
PC: I'm sure it is a nice car too.
PD: I have to say I am a big fan of my car. It is a BMW Z3. It is the first and only sports car I have ever owned. I have one of the coupes though. I have one of the rare ones. I don't have a convertible. I got it because it looked like an old Jaguar to me.
PC: What is the most affluent thing you have done with your money?
PD: Probably that. I bought a house a few years ago but Moon and I like cars. We are pretty average. I buy a lot of music stuff, like instruments.
PC: You all live in different parts of the country. Is that difficult?
PD: It actually makes us work better. When we get together we know what we are getting together for. There are no distractions. We meet in the city. When we started this record we met in Nashville for a week. That was the first time we got together for this record. We knew we were going to Nashville to work on new stuff for a new record and there was no other reason for us to be there. Your focus is very keen at that point.
PC: There was the cancellation of the European tour because of what happened in the Middle East.
PD: Yeah. We just postponed it until September. We are going back in September.
PC: Why would you let the fear of terrorists get in the way of a tour? A lot of bands have taken the opposite decision not to let terrorists dictate what they do.
PD: I think that is irresponsible. I think at that point, our tour was scheduled to start the next day. It was like the height of that. It wasn't for us. We were playing in some large venues. We were playing 11,000 - 12,000 seaters. We didn't want to be responsible for putting 11,000 in one place where something could happen. It is not the right decision to make. I think a lot of people were canceling going in to Toronto because Toronto had the SARS scare. We didn't. We went. People in Toronto said it was fine so we were going to go. We didn't let that bother us. The people were already in Toronto, they were already going to come to the show and were living with the possibility anyway. In this case, we didn't want to put anyone in danger so we held off a bit.
PC: Final question, what is your favourite drummer joke?
PD: What is the last thing the drummer said before he was kicked out of the band?
PD: Hey guys, lets try some of my songs.
PC: Hey you got away with that.
PD: Yeah, I'm still in the band.