Singers on Singing 2015

Feature5MATT SKIBA

Contact: Jon Pebsworth - Century Media/InsideOut Music/Superball Music, jon.pebsworth@centurymedia.com

Co-founder of iconic Illinois punk-rockers Alkaline Trio, Matt Skiba recently raised his star even higher by joining powerhouses Blink-182 as a temp singer/guitarist following the departure of Tom DeLonge. In addition to playing with both bands this year, Skiba is also rolling out a second album with the Sekrets.

What makes you a better singer today than when you started?
The fact that I don’t drink or smoke anymore is huge. There’s guys like Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen, where the cigarette is part of their thing and enhances their storytelling, but they’re few and far between. It doesn’t sound very rock & roll, but I say to save partying for when the tour is done or when your job is done.

Greatest challenges as a singer?
Getting used to a healthy lifestyle was a hurdle, but I’m happy to have gotten over it. It makes the experience more fun––being more present.

Have you had any formal vocal coaching? What effect did it have?
I took some vocal lessons. It wasn’t “punk rock,” but as you pursue a career in music, you owe the audience the best performance you can give. You can take vocal lessons without changing your voice, you just learn how not to hurt yourself.

How do you warm up your vocal cords before a performance?
I had a CD of one of the lessons, and that’s what I would warm up to for years. Now I’ve committed it to memory. An hour outside of show time, I drink tea and do various exercises. When I get offstage, talking is a big no-no. People flood into the dressing room; I try to find a quiet place to warm down.

What are diet do’s and don’ts (alcohol, caffeine, weed, etc.)?
I have a couple of cups of coffee every day. Dairy isn’t good for your voice. I suffered for a long time from acid reflux. A lot of times on tour, you’ll get after-show food, like pizza, tomato sauce and cheese before bed … nah-nah, terrible for your throat.

Do you deal with stage jitters or red light fever?
I still get them. That’s part of the fun of it––as long as it’s not debilitating or getting in the way of memory or performance. The jitters are part of the experience.

How do you calm yourself and focus?
I meditate in the morning and again after soundchecks or interviews.

Can you name some favorite personal performances of yours in the studio?
Jerry Finn––he passed away a few years ago––he taught me so much, and I think we made some of our best records with him.

Are you loyal to specific types and brands of mics and in-ear monitors?
Neumann microphones are the best, in my opinion. I use Sony Studio Monitor Headphones––they’re simple $100 headphones and comfortable. Ultimate Ears make the best in-ear monitors today.

Favorite all-time recordings or performances by other singers?
“Ashes to Ashes” by David Bowie was something we referenced on the new Sekrets record. There’s a song Brian Eno and David Byrne did recently, “Home,” [that I like].

What are your most memorable stage mishaps? And how did you deal with them?
I recently did a show with Blink-182 where I was playing a guitar that was horribly out of tune. I took the guitar off and Mark [Hoppus] and Travis [Barker] both saw that I had done that and did this impromptu breakdown until I had the in-tune guitar on. Journalists wrote about it as a great moment in the set.

If your voice isn’t working, it’s best to cancel the show. People are going to be bummed, but not as bummed as going into a venue and seeing you not perform well.

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