By Melissa Ruggieri, Richmond Times-Dispatch Staff Writer, Contact Melissa Ruggieri at (804) 649-6120 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Things haven't run tremendously smoothly since Matchbox Twenty kicked off its spring-summer tour last month.
The day before the first show on April 25, drummer Paul Doucette, who also co-designs the band's light shows, rammed his fist into a trash can in a fit of frustration.
The shows went on, despite his swollen digits. But after a week of continued pain, Doucette visited a doctor, who determined the drummer had suffered a "boxer's break," a fracture on the bones of the knuckles caused when a punch lands wrong.
He's still playing, assured that while his hand might not heal quickly, drumming won't worsen his condition.
Then last week, Matchbox was forced to do the arena shuffle when the NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series between the New Jersey Nets and the Boston Celtics caused the band's performance at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., to be moved.
Because of that shift, Matchbox's MCI Center show, originally slated for tonight, has been bumped to Wednesday. All purchased tickets will be honored.
Before the tour to support "More Than You Think You Are," the band's third album, we chatted with Doucette from California. He exhibited a brightness and keen sense of humor that fans can't always encounter since the guy is usually hanging behind a drum kit - someplace, interestingly, he'd almost rather not be.
"I'm not really a fan of the road," Doucette said. "I like putting the show together and I'm pretty heavily involved in doing that. But I'd just rather be in the studio. Touring gets a little old. Some of the other guys really get off being in front of a crowd, but not me.
"One of the reasons I don't like to play live as much is because I play piano and bass, too. The drums are actually my least favorite instrument. I would love to play the others live, but none of the other guys can play drums well enough to take over for me."
The "other guys" in Matchbox are Kyle Cook (guitar), Adam Gaynor (guitar), Brian Yale (bass) and some guy you might have heard of, Rob Thomas (vocals).
After the 1996 release of the band's debut, "Yourself or Someone Like You," Matchbox took some time to relish the astounding radio success of singles "3am," "Push," "Real World" and "Back 2 Good."
Though considered generic pop pablum by critics, the band's album sold more than 12 million copies, assuring it a one-way ticket to Hootie-ville or a carte blanche career.
Thomas quickly leapt out of the confines of the band and stretched his songwriting muscles with "Smooth," the Grammy-winning tune that reignited Carlos Santana's career.
For a while, rumors spurted that Matchbox squashed itself before it could muster a second album, but Doucette says he and his bandmates were never that worried.
"None of us thought Rob was going to leave. We never actually sat down and talked about it, but there were plenty of other things for the rest of us to do," Doucette said.
"The only negative was that suddenly a lot of attention went to Rob - deservedly so - but it gave the impression that the rest of the band didn't matter, and we're very much a band."
That eventual follow-up, "Mad Season," pushed the 5 million-in-sales mark and spawned the hits "Bent" and "If You're Gone."
Now "Yourself," released in November, is slowly gaining in popularity. It has only sold little more than 1 million copies so far, but the two radio singles, "Disease" and "Unwell," exemplify what a fine songwriter Thomas has blossomed into.
For the first time, Cook and Doucette shared songwriting duties on a couple of tracks on "Yourself," a movement that Doucette says will have an impact on the future of Matchbox Twenty.
"Kyle and I write a lot, and now that there's more songwriters in the band, there's talk of putting Matchbox to bed for a little bit after this tour and going off to do something on our own."
On the back burner are Cook's side band, The New Left, with which Cook wants to record, a solo album from Thomas and a release from Doucette and other musical friends, which Doucette likens to Golden Smog, the early *'90s gathering starring members of Soul Asylum, The Replacements, Wilco and the Jayhawks.
A Matchbox breakup, though, is not in the plans.
"We've been at this too long and built it too long to see it go," Doucette said.