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Strike it Plucky
Back from hiatus and ready to rock once more, Matchbox Twenty have just topped the charts Stateside. Guitarist Kyle Cook explains how his move behind the desk helped shape his band’s first record in ten years.
Dave Hanratty, 25 Oct 2012
Kyle Cook’s weapon of choice might feature six strings (less if he opts for one of his trusty banjos). But, as he returns from the wilderness alongside his Matchbox Twenty bandmates, it’s obvious the guitarist drew on the more internal aspects of his arsenal when it came to creating fourth album proper North; chiefly experience and restraint. Providing you discount the Steve Lillywhite-produced 2007 compilation effort Exile On Mainstream, North represents Matchbox Twenty’s first brand new material in a decade.
Perhaps surprisingly, it also marks their first ever debut No. 1 on the coveted Billboard 200, though with only 95,000 sales required to climb that particular mountain, it is arguably more reflective of an increasingly troubled industry than the reaction of a loyal fanbase. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine North going on to sell over 15 million copies worldwide à la debut effort Yourself Or Someone Like You.
However, it speaks to the band’s character that they dug in, ready to pick up where they left off with renewed vigour. Moreover, the recording process gave Cook and multi-instrumentalist Paul Doucette, now established producers in their own right, the chance to flex some muscles behind the scenes. As comfortable behind the desk as with guitar, what was the most important trait that Cook brought to working alongside long-term producer Matt Serletic once again?
“What was definitely reinforced in our time in the studio is the old adage that ‘less is more’” notes Cook.
North’s title refers to Matchbox Twenty’s attempt to find a coherent direction and move forward. Despite their past success, Cook is fully aware of the importance of remaining relevant and how much work that can take.
Like many who wield an axe, Cook isn’t a slave to one signature guitar, having sported the likes of Fender (Telecasters and Stratocasters), Les Paul (of which he seems especially fond), Mustang and PRS throughout his career. Range, then, appears to be of paramount importance. That willingness to experiment and find the right result through multiple sources is particularly present on North, most notably on ‘Put Your Hands Up’, a glitter-stomp with repeated references to the dance floor. A world away from their soft grunge exploits, it smacks of strategically writing for a younger demographic. They pay strict attention to current trends, then?