We recently posted a long series of interviews with the members of Blink-182 – but that was only the beginning. Here's part two of our series of Q&As with Mark Hoppus, Tom Delonge and Travis Barker, conducted backstage at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in upstate New York. We spoke about the difficult birth of their new album Neighborhoods, how they finally learned to communicate and compromise after years of strife, and Delonge's belief that that the band has embraced a "much more modern and relevant form of rock & roll."
Everybody in the group spent the last few years working on different projects. Do you think that helped the creative process after you guys convened to cut the new album?
Yeah, absolutely. I think that doing things outside of Blink allows us to find out what our skill sets are, what we're good at, what we lack, what each person brings to the table. I think probably the most important lesson we learned from taking five years off from Blink was each of us is very different from one another and we're never going to connect on certain things and it's that disconnect that makes us Blink.
Often the very thing that drives a band apart is that force that makes them so great in the first place. Some bands just can't compromise and they simply cease to function. You guys have clearly learned how to compromise.
Well, we're still learning. It's somewhere in there, in this battle between our ideas the good stuff comes out. That's probably the biggest lesson that we learned being absent from one another for so long.
How do you decide what direction a song should take when you all have such different musical tastes?
Definitely on this record there was a lot of push and pull from where it started to where it ended up. Take a song like "Love Is Dangerous." Originally, Tom's ideas was a quieter, more electronic song. I think Travis and I put rock into it. In the large view, Tom has ideas for things. I don't really have ideas for songs. I go in with something like a guitar riff and I build a fairly simple song around it. Travis expands that idea into something stranger and grander, and Tom comes up with really way out ideas. I'm usually trying to pull them back into a more rock, concise arrangement.
Tell me about an average day on tour.
It's Groundhog Day. Every day is very similar, but in a different location. You wake up on the bus. You're in a parking lot somewhere back beyond the stage. Luckily now, we've come through these buildings so many times that you kind of have a reference point to where things are. But the other day we played this arena in Des Moines. I woke up and there are these rows of buses idling, generators on. You look for a door, any door you can walk in. I had no idea where anything was. There is normally a sign that says where to go. You go in, have some breakfast, check e-mail, walk around and talk to people all day. I'll go sit in my dressing room for awhile, see some people, then I'll sit on the bus, get bored there, walk around, talk to other bands, and then we'll get to play the show. The shows are the best part about touring. After the show, go back on the bus, watch movies, TV, computer 'til four in the morning, until you do it all again.
People always have this idea that backstage is this amazing place to visit, but it's usually just people sitting around, bored.
It's really interesting when my friends come backstage for the first time and they're looking for this giant party and it's just a bunch of people poking around, doing their job, getting to work. It's like when people come into the studio when you're recording. They go, "Oh, I want to come see you guys record!" They think everyone is just rocking out in this 10-hour jam session. They come in and people are working the gear, setting up mics, we record a part, "How was that? You like that sound?" You work about half an hour getting a bass sound. They're like, "This is so boring." Then they leave.
Before the reunion tour in 2009, did you worry it had been so long that maybe nobody would care about Blink-182 anymore?
Absolutely. We had no idea what to expect. We'd had minor success with our side projects, nothing at all on the level of Blink. We were coming back after a five-year hiatus of acrimonious back and forth and everything else. To come back on that tour and have it be the biggest tour we've ever done, and the reaction be so positive, it's been amazing. Really, I don't know what happened. I don't know how we got so lucky to have people that like our band so much that we can go away for five years and they'll come back and watch our band play. It's really cool.
It would have been such a bummer if Blink-182 had just gone away forever. That happens with some bands.
I was worried too. Blink had such success and we did stop at our highest, back in 2005. Coming back, I didn't want to suck. I wanted to come back and do something cool. I didn't want to come back and do a shitty album. I'd rather have left it at the height then come back and do a record that wasn't as good. I'm proud of this record, though. I don't think it's shitty.
It's definitely not shitty, but the birth of it seemed to be more difficult than previous records.
Yeah, definitely. It was a completely different process than we'd ever used before. And then we didn't have Jerry [Finn] at the helm. Everything was different. We were just starting to have kids back in 2003. Now our kids are going to school and so much has happened in the last five years. The crazy thing is that everything is so crazy in our careers right now. Every one of us has a different manager. We have different attorneys. We have different business managers. It's like, everything on the outside of the three of us is totally different and weird and bureaucratic. I mean, there are good people involved, but there is just so much on the outside of us. But when the three of us get in a room, it's all good. The three of us get on stage, it's all good. The recording was completely different, but when the three of us sit in a room together and Tom picks up a guitar, I pick up a bass and Travis gets behind those drums, there's something that happens. It works. I've stopped trying to figure out why that is and just accepted the fact that Tom is who he is. Travis is who he is. He's awesome. I bring something to the table, and just let it happen.
Tell me about Jerry Finn.
One of the smartest, funniest, most generous people I've met in my life. He was just the ideal friend. His loss is heartbreaking.
He died right around the same time as the plane crash. Out of nowhere, you guys are hit with two unspeakably horrific events.
There was a time when everything was very bleak. There was a lot of tragedy. It was all terrible shit.
That could pull people apart or push them together.
Yeah, in the end it obviously brought us together. But there was an awful, awful period of time that I think we're still going through it in a lot of ways.
I think if a lot of people went through what Travis went through, they would not be nearly as functional as he is right now. Fewer things are more traumatic than his accident.
Nobody should ever have to go through something like that. Travis has seen it through very well I think. It's crazy.
In some ways, Neighborhoods is a mature sounding album for you guys.
I would say that. I was trying to shy away from saying that Blink-182 has made a mature album, but listening to it, I think that it is.
In the minds of so many people, you guys are just eternal goofballs.
That's the thing. We write this dark, moody, powerful, strange record, but then we get up on stage and say a bunch of dick jokes and make fun of each other. But that's kind of the way it's always been. We'll play a song like, "Stay Together for the Kids," but also throw shit at each other.
Next: Tom Delonge
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