Trio fans know and recognize artist Heather Gabel as the fourth member of the band. Gabel created the iconic heart and skull logo, as well as the dark imagery that has adorned merch and albums throughout the band’s career. “We knew we were getting some crazy, cool ideas coming out that were definitely different for the scene we were a part of at the time,” Andriano says.
Gabel also took photos of the band, as well as images that appeared as album artwork. “She took the photo for the cover of Maybe I’ll Catch Fire; that was actually a house that exploded in the dead of winter in Chicago. We just heard this huge explosion and all woke up,” Skiba says. “This house had exploded, and we all went to see what was going on and she was taking photos of the firemen going in and out of there.”She also took the photo on the first demo tape they ever put out, which was a picture of her mom holding a shotgun.
“Eventually, she was touring with us, selling our merch and designing our merch. She was and still is our fourth member,” Skiba says. “She is one of my very favorite people in the world and one of my best friends, one of the band’s best friends or sisters, I guess I should say. She’s been a huge part of the band.”
Rocket From The Crypt have the rocket, the Misfits have the Crimson Ghost, Social Distortion have Skully and Alkaline Trio knew they wanted an image of their own. “Those are all the bands who raised us and influenced us to do what we do,” Skiba says. “We didn’t think of it as a brand back then, but we wanted a logo that when [people] saw it, they knew what it was.”
Skiba says the band had pretty realistic dreams early on as far as the size of audience they’d be playing for, and decided they’d try out a tactic they learned from Rocket From The Crypt to get fans to shows around the country.
“I remember me and Danny were at a Superchunk show in Chicago, just as Danny had joined the band,” Skiba recalls. “There were 500 people at that show. It was at Lounge Ax in Chicago, and we were like, ‘Man, how great would it be to go to Chapel Hill (where Superchunk are from) and play for 500 people. Or go to Kalamazoo, Michigan, or wherever it was that we had been touring. To play for 500 people in every town would be unbelievable, could you imagine?’ And at this time, we had already had the logo.
“We started telling people that if you had the logo tattooed on you, you could get into the show for free. That lasted maybe one tour, because by then, everyone who came to the shows, whether they knew that we had that rule or not, had the tattoo. So when people found out and were trying to get into the shows for free, the promoters were like, ‘We have to let everyone in for free; everyone has the fucking tattoo.’ Sometimes fans will kid us about it. I’m sorry we said we would do something we wouldn’t, but it turned out to be impossible, and I’m glad for it. It’s pretty amazing: Our version of the Kiss Army or whatever we had unintentionally created.”
MAKE A WISH
While on Warped Tour in the mid 2000s, the Make A Wish Foundation contacted Alkaline Trio and asked them to meet Carlton, a kid in his early teens battling terminal cancer. Skiba says the fact that this young man’s wish was to meet Alkaline Trio was such a huge honor.
“Having never been asked to do anything like that before, I can only speak for myself, but I was worried that I would be outwardly emotional about it,” Skiba says. “I wanted to show him a good time, not have him feel like anyone was pitying him or make any fear in his heart worse by losing it in front of him. But that didn’t happen, and we had a really awesome day.”
The guys hung out with the teen and his father all day, and Carlton even joined them onstage to play guitar during “Radio.” Carlton is still fighting his battle with cancer. Skiba says they stay in touch and calls him “a super-awesome guy who I still am friends with.”
“We were looking for something to do, and knew we didn’t have a record out,” Andriano says of how the idea came about. “We were like, ‘Man, we made eight records.’ We thought we were gonna take a break. We didn’t know Matt would go play for Blink and [have] it turn into this long break,” he says, laughing. “Someone suggested we get out and play some of our records [in full] and then it turned into, ‘Well, we could play them all.’”
The band went back and forth on whether they wanted to tackle such a large task. “We said ‘Yeah, fuck it. It’s eight records, and we know them or can relearn them.”
Despite the stress of playing eight records over four nights in multiple cities, it ended up being a really special experience for fans and the band. “Getting a chance to go back and play some of these songs that we may have never played on tour, and it seems like people are into almost everything. That made me feel pretty good,” Andriano says. “I wasn’t expecting that.”
It’s no secret that the Trio are fans of the classic horror punk avatars. If you couldn’t tell from their look in the early 2000s, their cover of “Halloween” might have been a clue.
“I never, ever thought in a million years that would happen. Partly because I didn’t think the Misfits would become a band again,” Andriano says, laughing. “I never, ever thought my band would get a chance to play with them, and we did—a couple times—and that was crazy special.”