the unofficial cage the elephant fan site

Matt Shultz talks about overcoming his drug addiction

By Korina Lopez, USA TODAY
Everyone loves a good story: Cage the Elephant has some doozies. There are funny ones, like how the band got its name (a stranger ran up to them, ranting, “You’ve got to cage the elephant, just cage the elephant”). There are scary ones, like the time the group overheard a murder. And there are sad ones, like singer Matt Shultz’s battle with drug addiction. It’s this honest storytelling that powers the bluesy rap-rockers’ self-titled debut album, which has been gaining momentum since its release in April 2009. Third single In One Ear is No. 1 on USA TODAY’s alternative airplay chart, and the album has sold 332,000 copies.

Catch them live: The quintet — Matt, 26; his brother Brad (guitarist), 28; Lincoln Parish (guitar), 19; Daniel Tichenor (bass), 29; and Jared Champion (drummer), 28 — brings its gritty, frenetic sound to the Stone Temple Pilots‘ tour starting Aug. 10.

Modest beginnings: Growing up in a Pentecostal household, the Shultz brothers were allowed to listen to gospel music only. But their father, a freight truck driver, was once a musician and occasionally would play a Joe Walsh or Pink Floyd album for the kids.

Dumpster diving: The family lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Bowling Green, Ky., so it wasn’t easy to slip music past their mother. But that didn’t stop them from trying. “We found a drum kit in a dumpster and dragged it into our apartment,” Matt Shultz says. “We used coat hangers as drumsticks.” Brad bought his first guitar from a neighborhood kid for $20. “The back had fallen off, so we duct-taped it on,” his brother says.

From Kentucky to London: Cage came together in 2006 and started practicing in Champion’s mom’s basement, eventually signing with a U.K. indie label. The band moved to London, where they lived in an area nicknamed “Murder Mile.” “One night, we heard someone getting strangled,” Shultz says. “We didn’t know how to call the police, and we were afraid to go outside. The next day, there was all this (crime-scene) tape. I will always feel terribly about that.”

Musical inspirations: Shultz wrote the band’s breakout hit, Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked, during a two-year stint as a plumber for a construction company. “One of my co-workers was a drug dealer (on the side) and always talked about wanting to quit that business,” Shultz says. “I asked him why he didn’t and he said, ‘There’s no rest for the wicked.’ I ran out to my car and wrote that down on this old crusty paper plate. I wrote the lyrics on drywall at work. So somewhere in Bowling Green, those lyrics are written behind someone’s toilet.”

Love and loss: Sadly, Shultz has lost a lot of childhood memories to methadone use. “I started very young,” he says. “Opiates gave me this warm, fuzzy feeling, like lying on my father’s chest, watching Saturday morning cartoons. And when I cleaned up a year and a half ago, I was worried that I’d lose my creativity. But the opposite happened. It opened the floodgates.”

Forging ahead: With his mind clear and open, Shultz and the band are finishing up a second album. He’s looking forward to the new memories that are waiting for him: “I don’t think being sober makes me a better person, but I definitely have a better life.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s