Andy Hurley is eating macaroni with vegan cheese and talking about the end of the world. We're in a cozy East Village vegetarian restaurant, fresh from shopping for comic books at Forbidden Planet. More than anyone in the band, Hurley has stayed closest to his left-wing hardcore roots: Besides his vegan diet, he's so serious about being straight-edge that he pulls his shirt collar up over his mouth and nose when Trohman smokes pot.
Hurley's father died when he was just five, and he was raised by his mom, a nurse. He was inspired to start drumming by Metallica's Lars Ulrich: The first albums he bought were Ride the Lightning and Van Halen. "Andy is a musician, he's the instrumentalist of the band," says Stump, who as a drummer himself is a tough critic.
Hurley – who lives in Germantown, Wisconsin, about an hour and a half from Chicago – has some radical political views, part anarchist, part environmentalist. "My whole thing is I'm not into civilization as a whole," says Hurley, who's wearing a Starter-style jacket with the Public Enemy logo on the back. "The only actual solution is the eventual collapse and demise of civilization . . . I think it needs to happen, but no one, not even me, really wants it to happen." It's not that hard for him to reconcile all this with his band's success. "Ultimately I am an employee of a corporation, and that's weird, and does contradict some of the things I believe in," he says. "But at the same time, I have to make a living."
So will there be rock bands after the collapse of civilization? "Probably not. Music would probably go. A lot of art would," he says, looking sad for a moment. "That's what I'm saying – I'm really into comics and movies and video games, and I don't want to give that stuff up. At the same time I think it's filling the void for stuff that we're missing."
It's Saturday night in Atlantic City, where civilization's long collapse is clearly under way: Beefed-up dudes in starched, untucked Oxfords are cheering unironically for "Eye of the Tiger" at a basement club in the Borgata hotel and casino, where Pete Wentz has a DJ gig. Spinning records (or, rather, CDs or MP3s) is a sometime hobby for Wentz, who has previously DJ'd at events such as the New York hipster party MisShapes – and tonight's set is a chance to pick up some easy cash and get a comped trip for a posse of friends. Afterward, Wentz wanders through the mazelike casino. "I don't gamble," he says, glancing at aisles of frantically buzzing slot machines. "I mean, not with money – I gamble with my band."
It's 3:30 in the morning, and we head up to his hotel room to start an interview. Wentz turns on the TV, which happens to be tuned to a series of alarmist Fox News reports on teens gone wild. He takes off his graffiti-covered white Converse sneakers and sprawls out on one of the beds. I kick off my shoes and hop onto the other one. Wentz – a chronic insomniac since age ten – talks with dazed, sleepy honesty.
First, he discusses how it felt to have his unit go, um, viral. Last March, some nude self-portraits Wentz had taken spread across the Web. He's pained by accusations that he deliberately leaked the pics – and is pretty sure that someone hacked into the backup Web site for his Sidekick. He was driving in Chicago when he heard the news, and he became so distracted that he ran into the car ahead of him. "I thought it was the end of the world," he says. But he now laughs off the incident. Mostly. "I had dreams that it didn't happen, that it was all a joke, and then you wake up and have that sick feeling in your stomach, because it did."
Wentz, the child of a law-school professor dad and a private-school admissions-dean mom, had always presented his childhood as idyllic and uneventful. When pressed, he touches on a couple of traumatic events. The first is relatively trivial: "My parents separated on my birthday when I was, like, six, and got back together about six or eight months later. That made me hate my birthday. I mean, Patrick's parents are divorced, and Andy's dad has passed away, so I don't really think of myself in terms of really having a fucked-up childhood – everyone I know had a more fucked-up one."
Wentz, who's wearing a brown-and-black vintage hoodie and untapered, regular-guy Diesel jeans, nervously slides the battery cover of the TV remote control and moves on to a later trauma: "When I was fourteen, I got sent to boot camp," he says, gazing at the ceiling. He had been skipping school regularly in his freshman year, and a guidance counselor persuaded his parents to send him to a tough-love, scared-straight sleep-away program. For eight long weeks. "It was terrible," Wentz says softly. "Every kid there was so much more fucked up than me – demented, satanic kids. I got beat up a couple of times. I'd call my parents every day, crying and saying I wanted to come home. I would beg. I felt isolated. It created these dependency and attachment issues."
And then you ended up living at home . . . Wentz nods. "Until age twenty-seven. Yeah. Even now I need maternal people in my life more than anything," he says. He traces many of his emotional problems – and his artistic drive – back to the boot-camp experience. "That was the point I stopped talking to anybody. I really haven't since then. I don't talk to people about my emotions – it's not pleasant to be in a relationship with someone who's robotic like that. And if I don't get the emotions out somehow, whether it's punching things or writing, I would probably explode."
The reason Wentz finally moved out of his parents' house was to get away from Jeanae, his sulky teenage muse. "There was bad stuff between us, bad blood," he says. "She's one of the few people who can actually get to me. One day I was just like. 'I'm leaving,' and I took a plane." But now you're back together? "She's irresistible, I guess. The best ones are crazy, for sure . . . There are parts of me that are like, 'Yeah, we could get married,' but there are parts of me that couldn't spend tonight with her."
Wentz, who has never had trouble attracting female attention, seems enthralled by Jeanae's relative indifference – she's even unimpressed by the songs he writes about her. "I don't know that she cares about the songs as much as everybody else who listens to them does," he says. He seems half-asleep, his eyelids drifting down. "But I don't know if I could write them if she cared that much. If you could ever explain yourself to somebody, why would you keep explaining again and again?" He shows me half-moon scars on the knuckles of both hands – he's put each of them through windows during fights with her. "You watch Walk the Line and you don't feel so bad. Everyone's got a bit of a crazy spirit in them. I'm not interested in other people. There could be a million girls and it doesn't matter to me."
I look at the clock: It's six in the morning. I head to my own room and pass out. Wentz stays up watching TV, and gets two hours of sleep. It's not unusual for him.
We continue talking two nights later back in his Ritz-Carlton hotel room on Central Park South – which is a mess, with sweat shirts exploding all over the floor from his leather Louis Vuitton suitcase. Amid the clothes is a copy of Kafka's The Metamorphosis and Other Stories. He loves the hotel, especially since room service has been willing to bring him peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches each night.
In recent months, Wentz has dropped some of the signature looks that have become emo clichés: He doesn't put on eye-liner much anymore, and he's moved away from tight girls' jeans. "All of a sudden you see the laughability of swished-over hair and eye makeup," he says, perched on the hotel bed. "New metal had its look, and Seattle had flannel shirts. It's stupid."
Wentz was a soccer jock when he started playing music. "I used to get made fun of for being, like, your typical dude," he says. "So sometimes I tried to look strange. I wanted to look androgynous, weird." Wentz's five-foot-seven physique is boyish enough to fit comfortably in the girls' jeans that he's helped popularize for guys – a style choice that was also big in early-Nineties hardcore. But the look has become so popular that the emo masses are all but starving themselves to squeeze in – prompting this magazine to coin the term "emorexia." And Wentz is sick of it. "It definitely got ridiculous, where we were painting on our pants, pretty much," he says. "I'm over that thing."
Instead, Wentz has been engaging in the least emo of all activities lately: He's been lifting weights. "I've been working out. Isn't that weird?" he says. "I'm going to get buff. I want to be, like, a man now." Pete Wentz, king of the lost boys, flashes one of his killer smiles and repeats himself: "I want to be a man."
This story is from the March 8th, 2007 issue of Rolling Stone.
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