Interview with Skerik of Garage A Trois: Musical Madness

Has there been a moment in the tour where you thought to yourself, ‘God, I love what I do?’

Oh yeah. Every night playing with these guys. I mean, Stanton is a really good friend of mine. He’s the drummer. I mean, he does not hold back. Every night, he’s playing as hard as he can, just crazy rock energy. Just… (screams). You know, he’s my Keith Moon, kind of. He was just going nuts every night, and that’s what I need. I need that energy. I need that. That makes me jump up and down. That makes me so happy, you know?

The album was actually finished a year-and-a-half before it was released. Why the delay?

Just like really bad business, you know? Bands are victims of timing sometimes. Sometimes they could get hooked up with a really bad tour, or the record gets delayed, or someone breaks their arm in a band, or they have really bad management. Sometimes you think someone’s working for you and their actually not. And it takes you a year to find out they actually weren’t doing anything, or they didn’t understand what they were doing.

Bands are very sensitive items that are completely subject to the environment in which they are in. If you’re not in the right environment, it doesn’t matter how good your music is. You will not be heard. So the whole jazz ghetto or instrumental music ghetto, all these music labels for so many years have tried to marginalize this music, and they succeeded. They don’t want anyone competing with their product, which is the singer. So for years, they manipulated the music business by trying to separate the singer from the band. So that they can work with one person. They not only want to create that succession there, they don’t want anything competing with the singer. There always used to be instrumental hits, too, since the ‘40s, ‘30s, and ‘20s. You know, ever since recorded music there have been instrumental hits in music. All that stopped when lawyers started taking over record labels in the late-’70s and early ‘80s. They just took over and wanted to have control. So all those instrumental hits and all that stuff went away because no label was backing it. So it’s kind of interesting [as an instrumental band] to live in the wake of that. A very manipulative time.

I know you contributed to some of the tracks on the new album. What was your personal inspiration behind one of these songs?

‘Purgatory’ is about being in a relationship that isn’t going anywhere. You can’t break up and you’re not really together. You’re living in this purgatory. That’s what the music sounded like to me, so that’s why it has that name.

So a lot of it is storytelling through music?

Or another way to think about it is it’s because we’re not telling one specific story that you can make up your own story to it. That’s what I like about instrumental music. It doesn’t tell people how to think, you know what I’m saying? It’s like a lot of the music I listen to is vocal music. I really like it, but man, lyrics can be—I was joking around with Mike Dillion once and I said, ‘It’s the gilded cage of literacy.’ Because once you write those lyrics, that’s it forever. That song is constantly associated—those feelings, that story, that thought is permanently affixed to that music. Where as an improvised musician, I can reinterpret the story every night, and change the lyrics and play to what I’m feeling that day instead of going back to one specific place every time.

So 2010 is almost here. Where do you see music going in the new decade?

I see the subsequent generations—you know, younger people being born in the ‘80s and the ‘90s—I think are getting super intelligent. Evolution is really happening. I see it happening with my daughter and her friends. She is nine years old, born in 2000. And I really see it in musicians that I heard that are born in 1990 and even in the ‘80s. Every five years, 10 years, just a new generation of kids comes around and they have amazing musical ideas because their access to education is so much greater now than it was. The difference is now you can go on the Internet or do lessons via the Internet, etc. Access to books is so much greater. And all the music, too.

I mean, part of studying jazz is you have to listen to this music all the time. If you’re working on a new song, you have to be able to access that song and listen to it right when you’re working on it. So instead of trying to track down the vinyl somewhere, you just go online and get it right away. I can’t even imagine what that would have been like when I was growing up. I’ve just been doing everything slowly. I’m slow. I’m really behind everyone, so it’s like I’m just always trying to catch up. But it’s really hopeful seeing all that, and I think the next decade is going to be filled with some amazing music. There’s all these little Brian Wilsons running around that put shit together. It’s great. I can’t wait to hear what’s next.

Catch Garage A Trois at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC on Dec. 19. For more,