exit interview

Matt Skiba Is As Excited As You Are About the Blink-182 Reunion

Photo: Aaron J. Thornton/WireImage

Matt Skiba hasn’t had time to dwell on the news. The now-former Blink-182 singer-guitarist has been in the Illinois suburbs for the past few weeks caring for his sick father. But after the trio announced original singer-guitarist Tom DeLonge would rejoin the band for a world tour, prompting speculation about Skiba’s future in the project, he wanted to “say something without making a huge deal about it.’”

Because, to him, it’s not a huge deal. Skiba, best known for co-founding the punk outfit Alkaline Trio, insists he wasn’t blindsided by last week’s announcement; bassist and singer Mark Hoppus had previously informed him he was putting the pieces in place for DeLonge’s return. And even if the non-tech-savvy Skiba thought it was a bit clumsy of DeLonge to post a thank-you text to him on Instagram, he appreciated the gesture itself, replying with his own statement days after this interview: “I am truly grateful for my time with blink and I am truly happy you guys are a band and a family again.”

Joining the group had always been an unlikely turn of events for Skiba, who came up admiring the band as peers in the turn-of-the-century pop-punk boom. Alkaline Trio even supported Blink on tour for the 2001 album Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. In their tight-knit scene, it wasn’t uncommon for musicians to split their time between groups, but the singer of one prominent act joining another still turned heads. “I didn’t really have to think about it — the only thing I was juggling in my head was Alkaline Trio’s schedule,” he remembers. “I was like, ‘It’s a pretty crazy idea, but if you guys think it’ll work, I’m down to give it a shot.’”

Skiba found a way to be in both Blink and Alkaline Trio (where he shares vocal and lyrical duties with bassist Dan Andriano), releasing their last album, Is This Thing Cursed?, in 2018, and an EP called E.P. in 2020. Since touring returned, Alkaline Trio has been his focus, with a steady run of dates set to end later this month at the much-anticipated, nostalgia-fueled festival When We Were Young in Las Vegas. He’s been writing, too, and is excited to return to the studio to work on the band’s tenth album. And, yes, he’s psyched to watch this new era of Blink-182 as a fan again. “With Alkaline Trio, there’s so much of me in it that I can’t see it any other way,” Skiba says. “Blink, I put my all into it, but while I was involved, I couldn’t see what everybody else saw. And it really is a cool thing to be able to step outside of something that I’ve been so closely involved in and be a fan of it.”

I want to walk through the past few days. We get an announcement earlier this week that Tom is back in the band. And then implicit in that announcement is that you’re no longer performing with them. When did you find out that this was going to happen?
I’d heard that there was an announcement, but I didn’t see it myself. I just saw what they had posted on blink182.com. When did that announcement come out?

I think it was Tuesday.
I promise I’m not being daft or cute. I’m really like a caveman, dude — I do not pay attention. And what’s today, Friday?

Yeah. And I didn’t see any mention of you, but there was this clip that had Tom, Mark, and Travis.
Okay. So Mark texted me, I guess it would’ve been Sunday or Monday. But I didn’t see the text until — basically, I found out when everyone else found out, but it wasn’t their fault. Mark had reached out to me to talk, and I’ve been home dealing with a sick dad. So I haven’t really looked at my phone. I forget when the video, the “they’re coming” thing came out. Whatever day it was —

Yeah, that was Tuesday.
So I found out on Tuesday is the short answer. But people were trying to get in touch with me. And since COVID happened, of course, and almost in tandem with COVID, Mark was diagnosed with lymphoma. So Mark and I would talk, but we weren’t really talking about the band. We’re friends before we’re a band. Far beyond what the band is to me is Mark’s health and his friendship. So we just were talking. And over the course of, I don’t remember the exact time frame, but Mark said that they were talking to Tom and starting to work on things. So it didn’t come as any — it was just as far as the actual information dropping and the schedule of everything was revealed to me when it was to everyone else, but I knew that it was coming. It wasn’t this huge surprise, nor was it a stab in the back or anything.

Those guys, we were friends — and this includes Tom. Tom especially has been a friend and a fan of my band for many years. Long before I started playing with Blink, Alkaline Trio was out on tour opening for Blink. And Tom had, if not everything to do with it, a lot to do with that. So we’ve always been buddies. We haven’t talked in recent years.

What’s happened between Tom and his bandmates is between them. I really am genuinely glad, as a fan of the band, that they’re a family again. There’s just a lot that I don’t know about the record. I saw the tour dates and everything. I saw the teaser video, which I thought was pretty cute and funny. And it seems like it’s going to be huge. It seems like people are really psyched about it, and I’m one of those people too. I’m honored to have been asked to fill in for Tom or to join the band or however you want to phrase it. I’m proud of the work that I did with them. We had a great time. I mean, I was just talking to Mark this morning about the new Cormac McCarthy book. There’s no bad blood, there’s no drama, there’s no nothing. It’s just the next chapter in the band’s life. And I think anyone, whether it’s my dad getting sick or Mark getting sick, it just sharpens your appreciation for those people in your lives, no matter how dinged up it can get. It’s like, it can always be ironed out. I’m nothing but thankful for my time with the band and to be sitting here having this conversation with you about it.

The other day, Tom put on Instagram this message that he sent to you, thanking you for keeping the band going for the past few years.
I’m so behind the times, bro. Genuinely, I’m a reject. But yeah. I got a message from Tom. I found out, maybe two hours ago, somebody said, “Hey, look what Tom posted on his Instagram,” which I was surprised to see. But yeah, I was really thankful for the text and I wrote him back and we had a really cool conversation.

I think Tom is a genuinely good person. He’s always been nothing but kind and amazing to me. And he genuinely wrote me that, and we had a really beautiful, genuine conversation via text in response. He’s free to post everything he wants. I’m guessing it, more than anything, is to show everybody, and bless his heart for doing so, there isn’t any bad blood. There isn’t going to be any mudslinging or any of that kind of shit, not from me and I’m really glad not from them. There isn’t really any mud to sling. We’re all friends. We played music. None of us take each other or take ourselves that seriously. So I think him posting that, I guess you’d have to ask him. I would think it’s a clumsy way to clear the air. Is that a weird thing to say?

No, I think that’s accurate. And what you brought up was what I was going to say. From what I’ve seen in the past few days, it seems motivated from a lot of fans caring about you and your fate with the band.
Sure, yeah. I think that it was done with love. And the conversation that we had, there’s a whole lot more to that than what he initially wrote that will remain between us.

Have you heard the song that came out today?
I did.

What do you think of that?
I think that it’s really great. Honestly, I’m a fan of Blink. I wouldn’t have joined the band if I wasn’t a fan of the band. And it sounds like Blink. It really is rad to see those guys back together.

Now that you’ve been back on the road in the last year or so with Alkaline Trio too, how does an Alkaline Trio show compare to a Blink show?
That’s a very good question. I don’t know. It’s weird how similar they are and how different they are, and both are equally stark. I would say that it’s the crowds, but it isn’t. I would say that it’s the locations of things, but it isn’t. The differences are many, but I can’t really even put a name on what they are. There’s almost no similarities, but I couldn’t tell you what they are either. There’s a guitar, a bass, a drum kit, and three people, but it just is a completely different animal.

Alkaline Trio is the band that I started. That band has a lot of me in it. With Blink, it really always felt like a team. The things I can say that are similar about the bands are that I really love and care about the members of the band beyond the band, and for very different ways. Maybe that’s a corny thing to say. I’ve struck gold twice, but in very different ways. To get on with people that you play music with so well and to annoy each other in such similar ways and to know when to stop and just to become truly good friends and people that inspire each other. As, again, corny as that may sound, I found that in Blink too. It was just different ways of carrying my weight in it.

I’ll tell you the biggest difference and the weirdest thing for me, is that I stand on different sides of the stage, literally. With Blink, I play stage left, and with Alkaline Trio, I play stage right. And I don’t know if you’ve ever been onstage with other people, but it’s a huge difference when you’re the one standing there. [Laughs] And that is the best answer I can give you.

A year ago, you were talking about a new Trio album. You were talking a bit about the Strokes, and you were talking a bit about politics. How has writing new music been?
I was talking about politics?

You were saying that you weren’t going to write about Biden.
[Laughs] Oh! Good, okay, great. Yeah, politics is none of my business. That sounds like some weird random shit I would say. It’s funny. I hadn’t listened to the Strokes in probably a year, and I just listened to them right before we talked. It’s one of my favorite of their records, Comedown Machine. Love that record. “Welcome to Japan,” it’s one of my favorite songs. But it’s funny: When I say things like that, people that are fans of our band, or people that have written about it, assume that we’re going to try and sound like the Strokes. It’s just what I’ve been listening to. The next record will hopefully sound like everybody’s favorite Alkaline Trio record. It’s what I think every band tries to do every time is make their best record. At least, hopefully; that’s what we do.

I have so many songs. I know Dan’s got a ton. I’ve got probably 200 songs in notebooks and on my phone. Dan, I know, is a lot more scientific — he’s got the legit studio and he’s all fancy with the machines. I’m just like, voice memo and a loose idea. I would like to say quality before quantity, but I think right now, quantity is winning, but only because of obvious events pulling everything to a screeching halt. Tim Armstrong, years ago, told me that he writes a song a day. I don’t write a song a day, but I try to. I have 200 songs, maybe 100 of them are good. Hopefully, ten of those are great, and hopefully we pick the right ones.

We’ve been talking about working with Steve Albini, which is, I’m a huge, huge Steve Albini fan. I played drums in a band called the Traders that recorded with Albini. And I don’t automatically love a record because Steve Albini did it, but some of my favorite records are done by Steve Albini. So we’ll see what happens.

As a band that’s been around for a while, when you hear this next album is going to be your tenth album, is there more pressure on that?
Is it our tenth album?

Shit, there is now! [Laughs] I didn’t know until just now. Holy shit. That’s a lot of records. Goddamn! Yeah, now there is! Thanks a lot, Justin.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
No, no. I think probably, in all honesty, most of the songs that I wrote will never make the [album]. It was more like an exercise. With all that time with COVID, it would be a sin to not be writing. All I did was paint and write. Maybe go for a hike or whatever. And Dan has been working on stuff steadily. He put out a solo record. My favorite Dan songs, for sure, are his new songs. And my favorite me songs are — I guess it’s the way it always is, but it’s the first time we’ve had such a long time to go over things. Yeah, I would be really sad if some of the shit that he and I have written somehow got erased or went away.

Related to that, were there more Blink songs that you had worked on, that you were, or maybe are, hoping could come out at some point?
I don’t know if they’ll come out. I think they’re really good. But there’s almost a whole album’s worth of stuff. It was supposed to be an EP, and it just kept going, and going. And now we have, I don’t know if they’re just going to get scrapped, but there’s eight or nine brand-new songs that are done. We basically finished those, and then Mark was diagnosed, if I’m getting the timeline correct.

Honestly, until you mentioned it, I hadn’t even thought about those recordings. But I have them. They’re good songs. I’ll keep them a secret. I’ll keep them safe forever. But we’ll see. I don’t know, maybe they’re something that we could open up and look at differently, or it’s something that’ll come out later, I have no idea.

Trio has a few more shows before the end of the year, and you’re playing this When We Were Young festival that everybody is so excited about. How are you feeling about that?
You want to hear something? Whether I’m supposed to, or not supposed to say anything, I guess, is immaterial. It makes the conversation more fun. But that festival — initially, they announced all those bands playing before anybody said yes. It was a Fyre Festival kind of stunt that worked. And I only know that because my band was on that initial flyer, with every other band from our whole ilk. And they almost expertly started advertising it before they had a single band on the bill. And somehow, all the bands agreed to do it. I’m not making this up. Somebody may correct me, but I know that Alkaline Trio, we hadn’t confirmed anything. And when we read that, we called other bands that were playing, and nobody knew about it.

I wonder if it was this idea that everyone else would say yes, because they thought all their friends were saying yes.
If that’s an accident or a fluke, then it’s like two particles of sand meeting each other in space. It had to have been planned. And they weren’t wrong. Whoever did that, I’m not even mad. You took a shit in the fridge and ate the whole wheel of cheese? I’m not even mad. It’s like, holy shit, dude. Congratulations to whoever masterminded that, the Lex Luther of promoters. And I think everybody, including us, is really pumped about it. It’s going to be a great time.

I’ll be excited to hear more about how it goes. It feels like it came at this time when there’s a really palpable nostalgia and hunger for the early 2000s, pop punk and emo, and all that.
Oh, man. A friend of mine bartends at this club in Los Angeles. I’m 46 years old, so I’m the old dude. I just go say what’s up to my homegirl that bartends. It’s all kids in their early 20s, and all they blast at that club is that early-2000s emo-punk shit, and they eat it like fucking ham. And it’s great. Everybody’s having a great time, and dancing, and singing, and it’s just like, Goddamn, that’s what’s huge right now. It’s cool that something that we’ve been a part of is having such a big … I don’t know if comeback is the right word, but the timing of it. The fact that any of us still have careers playing music in front of audiences is somewhat of a miracle to me. I didn’t know what was going to happen when COVID hit. But I’m really glad that everybody beat cancer, and bands stayed together, and we’re all going to go play this big show in the desert, in Vegas. It’s going to be awesome.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Vulture has reached out to representatives for We Were Young Festival for a response.
Matt Skiba Is As Excited As You About the Blink-182 Reunion