Stacy Jones and Paul Doucette Interview – by Travis Marc – 2013.
Paul Doucette and Stacy Jones of Matchbox Twenty are two of the coolest and most upbeat guys I’ve ever met. Both outstanding musicians in their own right and each having had success behind and away from the drums, I was very excited to get the chance to talk with them. It was nice to get insight from both Paul and Stacy on a lot of the same subjects as both are multi instrumentalists who’ve had enormous success within the music industry, Paul as a drummer/rhythm guitarist/co songwriter in Matchbox Twenty and Stacy as a drummer in bands like Letters To Cleo and Miley Cyrus and a guitarist/singer in his own group American Hi-Fi. Here’s what the guys had to say on a recent interview we did with them…
(Paul Doucette loving his new role as rhythm guitarist)
You guys are both multi instrumentalists, instead of just talking about the drums I thought we could try throw it all out there. Let’s start by talking about what actually got you into music and more specifically when your interest in drumming began?
Paul – Honestly, I don’t really remember a time when I wasn’t into music. I ended up playing drums because two of my friends and I wanted to start a band and they both already had guitars so I guess that you could say that I kind of just fell into it.
Stacey – Yeah I fell into it too, my parents were really into music and so I actually started playing drums when I was a kid while we were still living in London where I started playing in the school band, I can’t remember why I chose the drums but I do remember that I was always banging on pots and pans with wooden spoons etc. We lived in a flat in Swiss Cottage and because of limited space I wasn’t allowed to have a drum kit, so instead I set up a bunch of pillows and just tried to drum along to bands like Kiss and The Eagles.
Paul – Ha, I did the pillow thing too but I was drumming along to Van Halen My parents said they’d get me a drum kit if I agreed to join the school band so I joined the band and the moment that I got the kit I pretty much quit the band. It’s something I’ve always regretted though because at the time the school band wanted me to learn all the rudiments and technical stuff and I just wasn’t interested, but after I had been playing for a while I had to go back and learn all that stuff.
Stacy – I was in the school band and had started taking lessons pretty much all through junior high. I played in the marching band and concert band and once I got into High school I quit because I decided that I wanted to play Rock n Roll. The irony of the whole thing was that as a junior when I initially applied to attend Berklee they suggested that I join the Jazz band in order to get all the stuff under my belt but I had skipped so much of it while playing along to my Motley Crue records. I really had to buckle down in order to learn it all and I still take lessons now with Gregg Bissonette. It’s great I’m always trying to learn and up my game.
How’s the current tour going and have there been like any super highlights?
Stacy – Dublin has definitely been one of the highlights for me.
Paul – Dublin was insane. It was the first time we’ve ever headlined a show out that way and there was an energy there that we haven’t felt in a really long time. Generally speaking all shows are always a lot of fun but both nights we did in Dublin on this particular tour have been completely amazing, almost on another level you know.
Stacy – Yeah they were great. I don’t think there’s really been any negative sides to this tour.
Paul – It’s been really great. When I switched over from drums to guitar in the band it was quite a tricky dynamic to establish because the band had gotten so used to how I play and my style within our live situation. Especially Rob, he’s so in tune in regards to where those snare drums land. Getting Stacy in the band has been really good though. Everything has seemed to gel really easily and it just feels right. I’d go as far as saying that it has really elevated the band to another level, so from pretty early on the shows have been great.
How did you guys originally meet?
Paul – We actually met many years ago when Stacy was still in Letters To Cleo. We weren’t even known as Matchbox Twenty at the time but we were one of the bigger local bands in Orlando. Letters To Cleo had quite a big song on the radio at the time and it just so happened that we were both put onto the same bill for an outdoor festival type gig in the local area.
Stacy – It was a really memorable gig for us because it was one of the first gigs that Letters To Cleo had ever done outside of Boston where people actually knew who we were. Orlando was one of the first places to pick up on Letters To Cleo at the time and for that particular gig the Matchbox Twenty guys actually opened up for us. I think Paul and the guys were psyched because maybe they felt like they were opening up for like this ‘established band’ and we were psyched because we were finally starting to get a bit of recognition outside of our hometown. I almost got arrested that night for wrecking the drum kit though. To be fair I hadn’t really wrecked anything as I’d gotten quite good at making it look as though I was completely trashing the drum kits I played on but I wasn’t really doing it any damage. I rammed the hi hat stand through the bass drum head and unfortunately bent the hi hat rod in the process but besides that the kit was in great condition. Anyway after the show we were hanging out at Jami Lanes (Ex Warrant) club when the organiser of the event we had just played at walked in with these two cops and they tried to arrest me for vandalism. Luckily our tour manager calmed them down and was able to convince them that the kit hadn’t really been trashed so the whole situation blew over. After that I made it a rule that I only trash my own drums ha ha.
You’re both established as live performing musicians – Stacy do you ever find it hard to switch hats from producer to performer and Paul do you ever find it hard to switch off as a drummer now that you’re up front in Matchbox Twenty as the rhythm guitarist?
Paul – Basically I’d say that there’s definitely a few things that I feel need to be in there drum wise and if those are there then I feel like there’s quite a fair amount of leeway for Stacy to do his thing. Stacy is a great drummer and he knows where the core elements in each song should be so he’s made it easy to make the transition.
Stacy – I do play some stuff that maybe isn’t on the record sometimes when I notice that Paul gives me a certain look ha ha.
Paul – Well, it kind of goes back to your first part of the question because as a guitarist (or a drummer) there are so many things that are really fun or impressive to play but when you try to look at the song as a whole or think about the bigger picture there are certain things that don’t make sense musically even though they sound really cool. As a unit I feel that it’s important to sometimes take a step back and think about how powerful and effective things can be when everyone is playing together aiming for the same results and hoping to take people somewhere, rather than playing just for yourself because it looks or sounds cool.
Stacy – I’ve always loved Paul’s drumming and I think one of the greatest things about the Matchbox Twenty gig is that both Paul and I are song type drummers. I’ve honestly never sat down behind my kit and thought to myself ‘I can’t wait to play this lick’. I like playing grooves and I’m more than happy to play the same grooves over and over for very long periods of time. For me personally I feel this in drumming what separates the men from the boys is simply coming up with ways to play creatively within a Rock/Pop, standard two and four back beat kind of context. I think it’s one of the things that Abe Laboriel Jnr is amazing at. At Berklee you could hire out these shed type practice rooms to rehearse in and pretty much all the drummer I could hear would be in there pulling off these amazing licks and chops and I’d be in my shed just playing along to things like Public Enemy, just trying to internalise different grooves etc. One day Abe knocked on my door and we started chatting, and it just so happened that he was doing the same type of things in his shed. Don’t get me wrong I’m not trying to compare myself to Abe but I’m just trying to say that in my opinion song drummers (and especially guys like Abe) will always have work. The flashy stuff is all great but it only works in certain scenarios. Getting that pocket is not an easy thing to do. It takes work.
Paul – It’s definitely not an easy thing to do. Go check out guys like Al Jackson, his groove and feel is better than what drum machine can do. Its consistent but it breathes etc. I’ve always liked Steve Ferrone and what he did with Tom Petty – he’s playing is just incredible and I dare anyone to try and emulate it or groove as well as some of these guys can because it’s really hard work. You’ll obviously have your moment to shine when you need to bridge various sections of a song together so try make the most out of those moments when there’s there and then get out of there.
Stacy – It’s one of the thing I’ve always loved about Dave Grohl’s drumming. He always supports the song he’s playing in and although he’s become a little busier over the years, generally speaking whatever he plays just grooves and seems to work. Plus you can air drum to almost all of his playing and if you can create a part that even the average Joe on the street can air drum too you’re right on the money man.
Paul – It’s something I’ve noticed with our song ‘She’s So Mean’. I’ve started to notice all these YouTube videos with all these up and coming kids doing drum covers of it. It has a really basic fill in it but I think that because that particular fill serves as a bit of a hook that people seem to really like it. It’s definitely one of the biggest reactions I’ve ever had as a drummer. So sometimes playing certain things, even though we might think that they’re to easy are very appropriate for a particular song, and that’s personally what I think you should strive for.
What are your thoughts on the current state of music education/tuition because I talk to a lot of guys lately and the general consensus is that as great as all these institutions are incredible but what seems to be happening is that a lot of the guys coming out of these types of places are all just sounding the same?
Stacy – Wow man, we were talking about this just yesterday.
Paul – I think that there’s a couple things happening in the States at the moment. The one thing is how music is being presented in schools and how it’s falling behind because when there are needs for budget cuts a lot of the time the music/art kind of stuff is the first thing to get cut and the other is that we’re living in the age of the Internet and therefore, pretty much anything you want to learn how to play is now available to you on some or other kind of platform because someone somewhere has figured out how to play it and has put up a video teaching you how to do the same. I mean I learnt how to play the Ukulele off Youtube and that’s really just how people seem to do it now days. As far as the whole individuality thing goes I feel that that aspect of things seems to be getting a little lost in general. I mean every Hipster band sounds the same or every Pop band sounds the same and I just don’t know why that is. Is it that there are people doing other things but we don’t really pay attention because it’s not what’s trendy at that particular time or just maybe that we don’t listen out enough for the guys who are making the great records simply because they haven’t quite broken through yet. It’s really hard to break through now days even though its much easier to get your music out and release it. Maybe there’s just so much stuff out there that maybe there’s only so much attention that we can give. I don’t know, I’m quite confused by it all actually because I really can’t decide if everything really is all jammed up and that’s why we think it’s all the same or am I just not seeing the whole picture.
Stacy – From another perspective though. As mentioned earlier I did go to one of these institutions as I went to Berklee after High school. I really tried to learn as much about music as I could man. I learnt theory and arranging and all these kinds of things and although sometimes going through the kind of curriculum’s that get taught as these types of places can definitely turn out some carbon copies type players on a whole the experience was really rewarding. One of the things that I always tried to strive for has been to be that little bit different. I’ve always felt that I had a little bit of a Punk/Rock ethos and even while at Berklee I was always performing and playing with guys outside of the school all the time. I was playing in Rock bands and in a Gospel choir and whatever I could but I was really the type of guy that if one guy told me to do something a certain way that would learn it that way and then try and experiment with the idea to rather try make them it my own you know. and I think that’s how you develop a personality of your own. I know I’m not the worlds greatest drummer and there are things that I do wrong but that’s what makes you you. My favourite drummers are all like that, they have their own stamp and when you’re listening to records you can immediately hear when it’s them playing. Look, there are definitely things that I do that Paul doesn’t and visa versa, but that’s a great thing because your feel makes you who you are in regards to your specific instrument. I love quantizing things and making things make sense when I’m producing but if there’s a way for me to not have to do it I totally will, because even if there’s something on the track that’s a bit sloppy or not quite to the grid it’s probably happening for a reason and it keeps things real. Steve Jordan is without a doubt my favourite drummer and he totally gets it. He knows when to leave stuff out or push things or how to make things busy or simple and keep things real.
Paul – When we were growing up nine times out of ten what you heard on records was played and recorded by an actual musicians. A lot of times when you hear popular music now its not actually being played by real drummers it’s programmed, so that feel gets lost I think..
Stacy – Also I have to say that while attending Berklee, that I had really great teachers who would encourage us to play different things from each other. It was great because they weren’t trying to mould us to be anything that we weren’t. It helped me find out who I was/am as a player and I think I’ve done that. Sure, it’s not some new ground breaking thing that I’m bringing to the table but here I am at 42 years old and I’ve never had a day job in my life so I think I’ve done something right.
Paul – I like to relate it to singers, and I can totally respect artists like Celine Dion or Mariah Carey, as I understand that there’s an enormous amount of talent involved with such named artist but I can’t say that these types of artists really appeal to me personally. I prefer someone who’s going for a note who maybe doesn’t quite reach it but shows that there’s enough of a passion for them to try. There’s a definite quality to admire about that you know. It’s distinct and real, and unique and everyone has the ability to do it because we all have our own feel when we play.
Stacy – Something I’ve been working on with Greg Bissonette lately is just trying to accentuate the things that make me me. I play in the cracks a little and my go to feel has always had a little swing to it. When I’m playing with the Matchbox Twenty guys I really have to focus and keep things as tight as possible etc. Greg’s cool because he makes me do things that force my personality as a player out even more, it’s just great man.
What would you say has been the most important thing you have learned over your careers as musicians?
Paul – The most important thing I think I have learnt is that you have to check your ego at the door. Whether you’re doing music on your own or with other people, you have to get out of the way of whatever it is that the music is trying to let happen. You have a certain amount of control over most playing situations and there’s a belief that the song is always there and that you’re just lucky enough to hear it, and that all you’re doing over time is getting better at hearing it. I kind of believe that there’s some truth to this, because in a sense you have to realise that it’s not about being in a moment and thinking how great you are just because people are enjoying it. You should rather be a part of creating something that’s bigger than you and just letting it happen. Sometimes your part might be really simple and sometimes it might be a little more but there are always things that need to happen if you listen closely enough the music. The person listening to the song has to experience the whole rather than just each musicians individual parts.
Stacy – I’m going to say be authentic. I think that I’ve spent a lot of time as a musician chasing things or trends. Like I’d hear from my A and R guy and he’d tell me that I’d need to write a song like so and so, or as a drummer sometimes you wanna try play a drum part like someone else for example Josh Freese and that’s all good and well, but at the end of the day things need to be authentic and music should come from a place that at least feels real to you. The things that really connect with people are usually real and the types of the things that would connect with you personally too.
Paul – Music should be an inclusive thing in my opinion. There’s a lot of guys out there that say they make music for themselves and not for other people, but if that’s really the case then why even put it out there, they obviously want a reaction to it and that’s why they release it. So, if you’re going to put stuff out there why not try include other people in it? Why not make it about everyone? When I work on music, I want people to feel something, I don’t want it to be a selfish thing. That’s my goal at least. I think this way of thinking can sometimes get lost though and a lot of artists forget that there’s even an audience. The audience know what you’re doing man. I’m not saying that as artists you should have to cater to the audience and write what you write because you think your audience is going to like it every single time you write something, but you should at least try think about what you’re doing and try think about who your audience is because music is, or should be about giving.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the music industry, and if you could do something to improve it what do you feel you would improve?
Paul – I don’t know what the music industry is at this point, and I’m not even sure if the music industry knows. Distribution networks have changed so much and how people experience music is different now too, so I don’t think anyone quite has a grasp on what’s going on anymore.
Stacy – I think that there’s always going to be a need for some kind of structure, whether it’s record companies or management companies etc. Whether those kinds of things become one conglomerate I’m not to sure, but it’s definitely interesting to think about what’s going to happen to music in the next few years.
Paul – I feel very strongly that apps like Vine are the start of another new age because it’s all about instant file sharing. Provided that as an artist I have a bit of a market everything could become almost instantly direct. I think it’s all about being able to monitor file sizes and once that’s under control and doable I think it’s going to become a completely different thing.
Stacy – The grey area however is how one goes about getting noticed though, because if you’re an established artist it can work and that’s all cool, but if you’re not how do can you go about getting noticed. To make an album when I was coming up was a really big deal but now days anyone can do it. Now days it’s really easy to be a band and it’s very easy to have a product but it’s harder to get noticed.
Stacy – how involved is Paul in regards to the live show in regards to your drumming ? Does it ever feel like you’re stepping on each others toes?
Stacy – He’s all over the show but it never feels like we’re on each others toes or weird not at all actually.
Paul – Stacy’s a pro. That’s why he got the gig. I mean obviously every now and then there will be a few different things that happen, but generally speaking as long as that back beat is there everyone is happy.
Stacy – I really took the time to learn the tunes before going out on the road with the guys. I learnt all the recorded versions and a lot of the live YouTube versions so I felt really prepared coming into the gig. If ever we’re playing and Paul gives me ‘the look’ I know that I’m doing something wrong, so if and when he does that I know that I need to make an adjustment. It was really important for me to come into the gig and get inside of what Paul originally did though because a lot of these songs are really important to the Matchbox Twenty fans so I didn’t wanna just do my own thing you know.
Paul – I want Stacy to play how he plays and bring his feel to the band and it’s kinda cool because he brings a different element to the band to what we had when I was playing drums. Changing to the role of rhythm guitarist in the band, the hardest thing about getting Stacy (or anyone else) into the band was making sure that we got all the endings right, because it’s really something that you only get tight by performing with each other so that was really the only thing that we had to work on. Stacy and I get on really well though and considering how hard it actually is to replace a drummer in a band I’m really happy how it’s all worked out.
What advice could you share with other musicians about trying to stay healthy while on the road?
Paul – It’s all about the food you eat so you’ve really got to try and eat well in order to stay healthy.
Stacy – And wash your hands.
Paul – Yeah, not that we’re germaphobes or anything but sometimes some of the places that we’re in are quite dirty, and keep in mind that you’re meeting loads of different people all the time so you’re constantly shaking loads of different hands and it only takes one bad germ to get you sick.
Stacy – You need to know your limit too. If you’re feeling sick you have to go to the Doctor. I got sick on one of the American dates in the beginning of this tour and actually ended up in hospital on drips and everything. I think that we often ignore sick like symptoms and luckily I never did in that particular situation because if I hadn’t gone to the hospital when I did we probably would’ve had to cancel some shows and that starts to cost a lot of money.
(Stacy Jones Keeping it solid behind his kit)
Any last thoughts or words of advice for drummers?
Paul – My favourite bit of advice is to remember that everything you do is a craft. I’ll try relate it to songwriting in regards to that there’s the inspiration part and there’s the craft part. The inspiration part is when you’re just reaching for ideas or looking for a melody, or just an idea that you feel you could build other things from. The craft part has to do with when you look at all the times that you’ve written songs you didn’t like and thrown them away etc. Where I think a lot of people go wrong is that a lot of people believe that creating something comes down purely to having the inspiration to do so. What they don’t seem to realise is that by simply sitting down and working on your craft although at times very time consuming, can be a way of calling on inspiration that might not have been there in the first place. You need to put the work in and the guys who work on their craft make it look easy because they’ve spent time on it. The more you work on your craft the better you’ll become and in turn the easier it is for you to feel inspired and use that inspiration to your advantage.
Stacy – I’m going to take the practical approach in regards to working on your craft because whether it’s as a producer or a drummer I feel that you need to learn to be consistent. It’s one thing to be able to play all these fancy chops and crazy ideas but I’ve found in studio that sometimes when trying to direct guys to do different but simple ideas that a lot of them freak out. You need to be consistent because that back beat is always the bread winner. Have the discipline to practice and get things right. It’s work you know so treat it like a job but have fun.
For more information on Stacy or Paul please visit www.matchboxtwenty.com