Earlier today, Blink-182 members Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker released a statement noting that founding member Tom DeLonge had "indefinitely" left the band and that Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba would replace the singer-guitarist for the band's upcoming set at Musink Festival. DeLonge countered shortly after, posting on his Instagram, "I never quit the band," calling the press release "weird" and questioning its legitimacy. In an exclusive, candid interview with Rolling Stone, Hoppus and Barker set the record straight on the band's inner turmoils, album delays and ongoing frustrations.
There seems to be a disconnect between your statement saying Tom left the band and Tom saying that he didn't quit. Who's right?
Hoppus: That's all true [laughs]. I'll walk you through the past two years of Blink-182 history: For the past two years, we've been working with a bunch of different labels to try and get a record deal because the three of us collectively decided that we wanted to make a record with a partner. A few months ago, Travis has this festival that he is co-owner of and presenting and he asked Tom and I if we would play and we said, "No problem." At the end of December, we were finalizing our record deal and on Christmas Eve, all three of us signed the deal. We had been talking about where we wanted to record, what producers we want to use, what day we want to start. This is all through e-mail. I don't think either of us have spoken to Tom in person in months, but everything's been moving positively.
We booked January 5th to go into the studio. On December 30th, we get an e-mail from Tom's manager saying that he has no interest in recording and that he wants to do his other, non-musical stuff and that he's out indefinitely. There's a flurry of e-mails going back and forth for clarification about the recording and the show and his manager sends [an e-mail] back saying, "Tom. Is. Out." Direct quote. This is the exact same e-mail we got back in 2004 when Tom went on indefinite hiatus before.
So from your point of view, there was no ambiguity?
Hoppus: Absolutely. Every single thing that we've heard from his camp — from e-mails from his manager to our production team — was, "Tom is out indefinitely. For the foreseeable future, Tom is done."
What was your initial reaction to that e-mail?
Hoppus: To be honest, I wasn't that surprised because his attitude leading up to that had been not excited and not interested. Even though we'd been talking about recording and dates, things kept getting pushed back. Blink was supposed to start recording [a new album] two years ago and then it was, "We need a record deal" because it was relayed to us that Tom didn't want to spend his own money going forward. Even our managers were saying, "We'll put money in to start the process." We respected that Tom's camp was adamant that we needed a label. There were huge e-mails in all capital letters, "WE NEED A LABEL."
"It's hard to cover for someone who's disrespectful and ungrateful...To say, 'I didn't quit the band' is just not true. It's disingenuous."
Did you record any music for the new album?
Hoppus: I have stuff on hard drives at my house. Travis has ideas at his studio. And I'm sure that Tom has music somewhere at his studio. We were ready to go into the studio on January 5th. This is exactly the same sequence of events that happened when Blink broke up 10 years ago. We had things booked in advance and we get an e-mail from Tom's manager saying, "Tom's out indefinitely." But last time, Travis and I took a step back and said OK and we just kept our mouths shut. But all three of us agreed to play this Musink show. So just like last year, when Travis couldn't go to Australia and we got a fill-in drummer to replace Travis, we found a replacement guitarist for Tom on this show.
What was your reaction to Tom's statement that he didn't quit the band?
Barker: I think he's just bummed because Mark and I were finally honest. We always covered up for him before. It was always, "We're going to record an album," then "Tom refuses to get into the studio without a record deal." So everyone does hella amounts of work to get a record deal and now Tom isn't part of Blink-182. It's hard to cover for someone who's disrespectful and ungrateful. You don't even have the balls to call your bandmates and tell them you're not going to record or do anything Blink-related. You have your manager do it. Everyone should know what the story is with him and it's been years with it. When we did get back together after my plane crash, we only got back together, I don't know, maybe because I almost died. But he didn't even listen to mixes or masterings from that record. He didn't even care about it. Why Blink even got back together in the first place is questionable.
"It's humiliating to be in a band where you're apologizing for one person all the time."
Hoppus: His actions speak louder than whatever he feels compelled to write on an Instagram post. We've been trying to record an album for the better part of two years and we had agreed to go in to record and my guess is that Tom was embarrassed because he doesn't want to do Blink. I think that the fans know. Look at each of our social media accounts and look who talks and promotes Blink-182 or is excited about Blink-182. Travis and I were ready to walk into a studio January 5th. That speaks louder than anything.
What's the current status of the new album?
Hoppus: We're concentrating on this Musink Festival. I'm excited about it because Matt is so positive and happy playing shows. When the press release went out today, it felt like a giant weight lifting off my shoulders. Finally, people know what the deal is with our band. Beyond that, we'll see what happens. Last time this happened, Travis and I didn't say anything and we did +44, which wasn't Blink-182 because we weren't playing Blink songs. But Travis and I are intent on protecting the legacy of Blink-182 and continue to do what we've been doing for the past two decades: continue playing the songs.
If this is a permanent break for Tom, do you see a future for the name Blink-182 without him?
Hoppus: There are legalities involved with this. As Tom pointed out, he technically didn't quit the band. Then it gets all lawyer-y, which I will leave to the attorneys and managers. I just want to go out and play Blink songs. I want to go out and play the songs that we've been spending the last 20 years of our lives writing. That's what Travis and I want to do. If Tom doesn't want to do that, which obviously he doesn't, that's OK. He doesn't have to be embarrassed or try to claim that he's secretly really working on Blink. People know what's up. C'mon, man.
Tom wrote on Instagram, "Apparently those releases were 'sanctioned' from the band. Are we dysfunctional- yes. But, Christ....." How did you interpret that?
Hoppus: The press release that came out today is 100 percent from Travis and me and we stand by it 100 percent because it's all true. There's no ambiguity.
Was it odd seeing a conflicting view of the statement you released?
Barker: It's just funny to me. I think he's just in shock that he's finally been exposed. The truth is out. I just don't think he knows how to deal with it, so he says, "I didn't quit the band. I'm booking Blink shows as we speak." You're not the booking agent. We all know that's a lie. You don't want to twist any grown man's arm to do anything he doesn't want to do, but step up to the plate and say, "Yeah, I don't want to play with those guys. I've been saying I'd record with the guys for the last two or three years and I'll just do Blink shows when I need money."
If Tom says tomorrow that he wanted back in and the three members should start recording a new album, would he be welcome?
Barker: Mark's the sweeter one, so I'll let him answer [laughs].
Hoppus: Travis and I and the whole Blink-182 organization have bent over backwards for years to accommodate all of the stuff that Tom wanted to try. Tom calls up in October 2013 and says, "I want to do an EP for Christmas release." I live in London and five days later, I'm on an airplane to Los Angeles to record because he wanted to. We've done everything that we could to give Tom what he says he needs. It's been years of pushing back and I have to tell you: It feels humiliating to be in a band where you have to be apologizing for one person all the time. That's how it's felt for a long time.
When Tom finally said, "I'm not going to go into the studio or play this show," it was kind of a gigantic relief because at least he finally said it. But to then say, "I didn't quit the band," it's just not true. It's disingenuous. I just wish Tom does whatever makes him happy and stops holding Blink-182 back from what we all agree that we're going to do: play shows, record music, continue this legacy and have a good time doing it.