Music interview: Matt Skiba of Blink-182 on anniversaries, accolades and song writing inspiration
Proclaimed the most influential American punk pop band of their generation, Blink-182 have had an eventful history over the course of the last 25 years.
Their most recent album, California, sees Matt Skiba step to the fore as the group’s guitarist and co-vocalist following the departure founding member Tom DeLonge.
For the 41-year-old Chicagoan, who is also continuing to front his own long-running band Alkaline Trio, the record marks a new chapter for Blink-182.
“It definitely solidified my position in this band,” he says of an album which has just been re-released in a deluxe edition to coincide with their UK tour.
“I would say that the three of with John Feldmann [who produced the album] everyone was fully invested and fully present, including myself, and I’m very proud of my contributions to the record and my place in Blink. It’s my first record with Blink so it’s really huge.”
Skiba’s arrival indeed seems to have sparked a creative renaissance for a band famed for the multi-million selling turn of the Millennium albums Enema of the State and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. So much so that Skiba and his band mates Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker produced more than 25 songs that now form a double-disc deluxe edition.
“We call it mojo and it’s like once you write your first song the s*** starts cracking and they kind of write themselves. I was talking to my friend Alisa [Xayalith] from The Naked and Famous last night and we were talking about our neuroses and how we have nervous energy and crazy mood swings and we’re all a bit nuts, maybe moreso than the usual person, but it makes you able to write songs quite easily once you get that mojo. Once we hooked up with Feldmann we were off to the races, we were writing two songs a day. It was like they were gifted to us from the gods, it was amazing.”
Working on this record, Skiba says the trio had different interests. “I can say for Travis drums, drums, drums and drums – but the interesting thing about playing with Travis a lot of the time his drum patterns become the hook and that’s something I’ve always loved about Blink-182 before I was even in the band. Travis also has very left of centre vocal ideas oftentimes that always work. I look over and think, ‘OK, that’s interesting’ and then we try it and I’m like ‘What? That makes perfect sense but no one but you would think of it’.
“Then for me and Mark – I think I can speak for both of us – we were reading a lot together. We read Dead Wake about the sinking of the Lusitania, we read Blood Meridian in tandem, we read The Revenant in tandem before the movie came out, so there were a lot of rushing rivers and the whole idea of using metaphors to describe loneliness, just like settler, Native American and Southern Gothic influence of literature, that was kind of our rhyming dictionary. While we were making the record we were reading this incredible, beautifully written prose and I don’t want to sound cocky but I think we nailed it, it represents a lot of the things we were reading and some of the things that I was going through and likening them to that sort of description and having it be a little less ‘poor me’ and a little bit more empowered and coming across the fact that you aren’t drowning and you need to fight your way out, that was the theme of the record and I think for me and Mark that was influenced by literature.”
As well as topping the US chart, California became Blink-182’s first Number One in the UK. Its significance is not lost on Skiba. “It feels really good to be a part of something is a first for the band,” he says. “I know full well that I didn’t do it on my own and that I walked into something bigger than myself, but to become a part of that team and to help that team elevate to a Number One position is great.
“Music is art; I don’t think art should be about competition, I don’t think it should be about accolades, but getting them certainly is rewarding. But it’s more about what that represents and how close we are to this record and how many people identify so closely with it. That means the world to an artist to have that connection with people.”
This year marks Blink-182’s silver anniversary. Skiba is also celebrating 20 years with Alkaline Trio. “Twenty-five years that is a lifetime of playing music and that is something definitely to behold,” he says. “I’m proud to be playing alongside guys that are so committed to music and so committed to the fans, as am I. I can’t celebrate the 25 with them but I’m certainly grateful to be alongside it.”
Regarding the future of Blink-182, Skiba reveals that after their UK tour the trio plan to go back into the studio “and doing it all over again, making another record”. “I’m going to be doing Blink-182 and Blink-182 alone for quite some time, I hope. I’m really blessed that I have Alkaline Trio that is more of a cult punk band with my friends I grew up with. Blink is a band I joined. One’s not better than the other, they’re just different.”
First Direct Arena, July 5. www.blink182.com