In Does Rock 'N' Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz a grizzled artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: Cage The Elephant frontman Matt Shultz.
1: Who subbed in for Cage The Elephant drummer Jared Champion when his appendix burst on tour in 2011?
“We had played one show on tour with Foo Fighters when Jared experienced excruciating pain in his abdomen. We thought we’d have to pull out of the tour. As massive Foo Fighters fans, we were devastated. When we were trying to figure out what to do the next day, Dave came into our dressing room and offered to fill in until Jared could return which was incredibly kind – especially as we were fairly unknown at the time!”
What’s your favourite Dave Grohl story?
“We were playing the MusiCares tribute to Tom Petty a couple of years ago covering ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’. We’d been invited to meet him, so shuffle into his dressing room. It’s all pretty awkward and quiet, then Dave bursts through the door with whisky in one hand and tequila in the other, yelling: ‘Shottttts!’. (Laughs) It quickly became a less tense room!”
Talking of rock gods, what was supporting the Rolling Stones like?
“Seeing them play every night was like going to school! I wanted to thank Mick Jagger for everything he’s contributed to music, so I wrote him a poem and put it in an envelope with a drawing and a little rose. The tour manager looked at the poem and invited me into his dressing room. At the time, I was performing as a character called The Public Fool and was wearing just ballet spanx or pantyhose each night. Mick took one look at me and says: ‘Well, I wish I’d known – I would have dressed up too!’ (Laughs).
“I accidentally ended up having a dance-off with Mick in Paris at his after-party. We arrived there at 2am, and I thought I’d play it cool and just dance around the side observing. But the room naturally funnels towards the centre of a dancefloor – just as a dance-off kicks off! Everyone’s in a circle and circus-esque people are jumping in – a girl sings a high note while doing a high kick before dropping into the splits, then steps out. Then Mick does a move, then someone else. Then all of a sudden I’m dancing off with Mick Jagger (Laughs), thinking this is bizarre!”
2: What did your brother (and guitarist) Brad accidentally show the security guard instead of his artist pass that once got him kicked out of his own gig?
“(Laughs) Well it’s a substance that’s not as vilified as it used to be – and legal in a lot of places. He was trying to pull out his ID and a little bag of marijuana fell out of his pocket. He had to sit in the back of a police car for a little while – but he ended up being let back in.”
“We once got booted out of an Absinthe party – you can probably imagine how that went seeing how we were given endless amounts of free absinthe! I mean, we ended up having to purchase the chandelier from King Tut’s in Glasgow when I hung upside down from and it broke from the ceiling. We still own it. When we played the Vic in Chicago, I climbed the speaker stack not realising how high it was. I was probably eye-level with the third-tier balcony – and the crowd weren’t going to let we get down any other way but jumping! I was obliged to give them what they wanted, and separated my ribs from my sternum – which was pretty intense.”
3: Which actress and one-time roller disco compere did Cage The Elephant once compare mugshots with over Twitter?
“Mmmnnn, I can’t remember. I don’t know if that was myself or Brad.”
WRONG. It was Juliette Lewis.
“For sure, yeah! That was probably Brad. He was apprehended at the same time as me. It was for juvenile delinquency. We were defacing public property – we deserved it! (Laughs). It wasn’t like we grew up in inner city Chicago, but in our small Kentucky town [Bowling Green] we lived in the government housing area and it was rougher than some people’s upbringing. When we were in high school, our parents divorced and it was the classic broken home situation where we played the two sides off against each other and got away with more than we should!”
4: Which British national treasure was your team captain when you appeared on Never Mind The Buzzcocks?
“Ah! Was it Stephen Fry?”
“He was lovely. I was a mess, but he was so sweet and it was like he was protecting me throughout that episode. I think my whole life was off its face at that point. I was just kind of a ragamuffin mess. But he’s an incredibly funny person and a clinical genius – which is something we have in common. (Laughs) No, I’m just joking.”
5: What was the original name of the song ‘Aberdeen’?
“Originally we were looking for words that rhymed and at that point I was singing ‘Maybelline’”.
“I was like: ‘Maybelline? What’s that?’, then realised it’s a make-up company and I should probably search for something different. I was probably spurred on by the fact we were in Aberdeen when we were writing the song, like ‘Oh yeah – I think I meant Aberdeen! That makes a lot more sense!’” At that point, we were living in Leyton at a time when it was dangerous to be there. We called those our dark days in London. Our per diems were quite low, so sometimes we’d have to make the decision between calling home and eating. To our shame, I remember going into Asda and stealing sandwiches and eating them when we were still in the store. I actually got caught one time – which was embarrassing.”
6: What creature that appears in your ‘Back Against The Wall’ video did the Chelsea Flower Show ban until 2013?
“That was the last video we made where we didn’t play much of a creative role. Early on, we didn’t know that bands could be a driving force in their own creative vision. We just wanted to get out of our small town so we thought you were just left to the forces that were at play.”
7: What happened to a present you received from your girlfriend in the firth grade?
“In the fifth grade?! Mmmmn, I don’t know. Refresh my memory.”
WRONG. She gifted you a Green Day album which your father snapped to smithereens in front of you.
“Oh yeah! (Laughs) He was in protective mode and had read an article saying there was a song about suicide on one of their records and feared it might influence us badly, so he took the record and destroyed it front of our very eyes! (Laughs) Music felt dangerous in our house – when my parents weren’t home, we’d sneak and listen to my father’s old record collection which he’d hidden away.”
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
“When I was a kid, I was obsessed with civil war history. One Halloween, I begged my mother to make me a full union soldier’s uniform. (Laughs) I wanted to fight for the union army! I wore it to school every day for two weeks – they had to call home and tell my mother I wasn’t allowed to wear it anymore!”
8: Complete the following lyrics: ‘Killing the moonlight/With daylight…’
“(Singing) ‘I’ve got my X-Ray eyes on and I’m feel so fine/Night running/All night running’
CORRECT. From ‘Night Running’, your new single featuring Beck.
“We were feeling good about the chorus, but were lost as far as the approach to the verses. Brad just had it in his mind that somehow Beck would know the answer (Laughs). We sent the track to him and – testament to his incredible talent – two days later he sent back two finished verses and told us he had six alternates. We were like ‘Ahh, no they’re great – we’ll stick with these’. The challenge was writing my own verse – which hopefully wouldn’t shame the two he’d written! Just hanging out with him is incredible. My teenage self would have wigged out knowing I was texting Beck about creative stuff and video ideas the night before the Grammys – because he was one of my heroes.”
Who else would you like to work with?
“I’d like to work with Mark Ronson and team up with Kanye West at some point. Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem. Paul McCartney would be incredible – I met him at festival and lost myself. I stammered: ‘Uh…you uh, were the voice of a generation Your melodies were so good!’ (Laughs) That’s all I could get out. But our guitarist Nick Bockrath actually ended up at a dinner party playing bongos in a drum circle with Paul and John McEnroe!”
9: Your third album is called ‘Melophobia’, which means fear of music. Can you guess what any of these fears are?
“(Laughs) A fear of zebras?”
WRONG. It’s a fear of the colour yellow.
“Oh wow, that’s pretty interesting actually.”
“I don’t know what that is.”
WRONG. It’s a fear of the bellybutton.
“What is it?”
WRONG. It’s a fear of the Pope.
“Well, I might have that!”
Any fearful moments lately?
“We were flying back to New York from the UK. I got up at 5am and looked in the mirror and thought: ‘Today your life may be demanded of you’. Which is morbid! It was an early flight, so I shut the blind and tried to sleep. And I thought: ‘You jaded fuck! You used to look out the window and take in the experience and this used to be exciting. So I deliberately looked out of the window just as a huge explosion rocks the plane and a fireball flies out from underneath the wing! Everyone erupts and starts screaming. Over the intercom, the captain says: ‘No need to worry, that was just classic static discharge’. I spent the entire flight back watching Lifetime movies while crying and thinking ‘Life is beautiful’. (Laughs)
10: Which two bands do you cover on the B-sides to ‘Back Against the Wall’?
“Oooh…um, maybe ‘Psycho Killer’ by Talking Heads? The Stooges’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’?”
WRONG. It’s Pavement (‘False Skorpion’) and MGMT (‘Kids’).
“Wow…that’s been a long time! As a kid, I was sheltered and it wasn’t until we moved to the UK that we discovered Pavement, Pixies, Gang of Four, anything punk-related that ended up shaping our sound.”
The verdict: 6/10
“I feel pretty good about that score!”
‘Social Cues’, the new album from Cage the Elephant, is released on 19 April