Tom DeLonge had a funny moment during Blink-182's set at New Jersey's Starland Ballroom on Tuesday night. The band had just launched into "Carousel," the first song DeLonge wrote with bassist Mark Hoppus in 1992. "I felt massively enamored with how the kids reacted to it," he told Rolling Stone, sitting next to Hoppus backstage the following day at Brooklyn's 500-capacity Music Hall of Williamsburg, where the band was to play a charity show to benefit research for life-threatening diseases. "I got soaked into their enthusiasm last night, trying to figure out why that song is still around."
As the sound of opening band (and Blink disciples) New Beat Fund rattled the club walls, DeLonge and Hoppus gave a wide-ranging interview, revealing to Rolling Stone they are in town meeting with labels for their next album due next year (they recently left Universal Music Group after 15 years) and opening up about their creative process, their status as pop-punk pioneers, their wild early years and their sometimes-rocky relationship. "Everyone is so different," says Hoppus. "It's what tears our band apart and it's what makes us great when we're great."
It's been 21 years since you formed Blink-182. Is that a crazy thought?
Hoppus: It feels natural; I don't know. I think since day one, it's felt like Tom and I have been destined to write songs with one another. The very first time we ever met each other, we started writing songs that night. We still play that song "Carousel" in our set today so I don't know, it feels like it always has, really.
DeLonge: It's like family, you know. I mean, for good and for bad, you're kind of born into it, you know.
You mentioned "Carousel," the first song you wrote together. Do you still feel connected to that song?
DeLonge: Oh yeah. I do. I was going to say absolutely. It's weird. I thought about that exact same thing when we played last night. It's kind of out-of-body. It's a weird thought.
It's a love-hate thing. To me, it was a philosophical kind of question: How did we have one of our first songs, if not our first? How do you feel not a part of it? I always feel I wish I wrote better lyrics, yet at the time it was so different for pop-punk. It was, like, so fast. But how we play it now so many different years and so many people like it or whatever. Anyways, whatever your question might have been, I had a really interesting moment with that song last night trying to figure out why it's still around.
I do a lot of those moments with songs of the Enema, Jacket era. Specifically before the smiley face album [the band's 2003 self-titled album], I feel very connected to it in the full punk-rock kid way. Those feel the most like me for some reason. Even though my favorite stuff to play and the stuff I like the most is our latest stuff from smiley face on to Neighborhoods and whatever, the most of my DNA is in those songs, if that makes sense. The rest of the songs are me just trying to be something I'm not. (laughs)
I listened to your early albums again recently, and it still stands up after 15, 20 years. What do you think the magic of Blink is?
DeLonge: That's nice of you to say that. I hope that's what a lot of the fans think. That's the goal. That is the only goal that you make a piece of art that matters that long in the future. So if you believe that, thank you, spread the word.
Especially the way you write songs together – the songs where you two sing together, there's a chemistry.
DeLonge: I think our band's strength has always been the way Mark and I can come in; we both have specific skillsets and when they come together, it really works well. If you had two people in the band that had a high-pitched, screamy, whiny voice, it might be bad, you know.
What's it like to be such a huge influence on bands that might be a generation removed from you guys? Wavves, for example, talk about how they're influenced by Blink-182.
Hoppus: It's really an honor. It's really cool. It's always a huge ego boost when another band says they like our band. It's hard to think we've been a band long enough to influence other bands. When we're writing other music, we're still influenced by other bands as well, so to to think of other bands referencing us when they're writing their songs is really awesome.
DeLonge: I laid in bed for an hour yesterday trying to figure out where Ad-Rock lives in New York. I'm still a superfan. I just want to go bang on his window. I was thinking, "Who do I know that can tell me?" And so, like Mark said, we're still looking at the bands we love. It's weird someone's looking at us like they like us.
Have you started writing songs together for your next album?
DeLonge: The way we always work is Mark and I pick up our acoustic guitars in our living rooms with our families. And once we start getting little things together, you'll see text messages and emails, then managers get involved and then everyone needs to talk and then we're on tour talking, so we're three or four steps in, so the actual getting onto the same room and tracking that has not happened yet, but that's pretty soon. That's probably the next step, to be honest.
I enjoyed your Dogs Eating Dogs EP. It was interesting; "Boxing Day" had acoustic guitars and electronic drums.
DeLonge: That was a joke song at first. The war in our band all the time is, "Do we sing about fucking dogs, or do we sing about growing up in a dark world?" That was the only one where [we] could be funny, but it turned out to be a pretty rad song. It's good you like it. I was wondering what Blink fans would think about that one.
I always want to do different things. I'm always obsessed with trying to do different things. I'm always obsessed because I like so many different kinds of music. And I was the one who was against it for so many years because I was so dumb. I was like, 'Punk rock, punk rock, punk rock!' And anything that wasn't, I thought was just lame and I was so elitist. And now I find myself wanting to do everything but punk-rock stuff. That's not totally true, but the "Boxing Day" thing was different for us.
Have you thought about your musical direction for the next record?
Hoppus: I think we never have any idea where we want to go musically. Even on every single song – I forget what song it was – like "Stockholm Syndrome" was a completely different song when I brought it to Tom and Travis; it was this slow, acoustic thing and Tom said, "What about this?" and it changed completely to this really like progressive rock, angsty kind of way-out song.
DeLonge: The chorus on "Up All Night" was Travis. It was all these synthesizers and Travis comes in on his drum track, didn't tell us and said, "I think it should go like that" and it was the absolutely the best thing to do for the song. And like Mark said, you always think you know what it should be and it takes a left turn and it's always better.
Hoppus: We never set out really to say, "This will be our prog-rock album." I guess the closest we came was the smiley face record where we were, like, we want this to be like The Wall where there's like interludes and it has the whole "Stockholm Syndrome," a woman reading a letter. We wanted it to be an album rather than a collection of songs. We were like, "We want this to be a cohesive work unto itself." So I don't know the great thing about Blink is we're so different. Everyone is so different. It's what tears our band apart and it's what makes us great when we're great. So what we think we new get into an album cycle might come out totally different.
Do you guys still have the same humor you did 15 years ago?
DeLonge: It's what keeps our band together.
How did jokes, onstage and during songs, become such a huge part of the band?
DeLonge: I think Travis thinks we're just so fucking funny. He calls me at two in the morning saying, "I want to laugh so hard I'll cry." No, I'm just kidding. Mark and I grew up with a rat pack of guys. I wouldn't say grew up – how old were you when I met you? 18?
DeLonge: Were you 20? When I was 16 to about 21, when Blink really became full time, those years: I say I grew up with those guys. I never say I grew up with the guys in high school. I say I grew up with that group of people. And a bunch of them we still see regularly. They're very active in my life, particularly. That group of guys, Mark was one of them; we had a lot of fuckin' fun. We were out all night skateboarding. We were out throwing food and drinks at security guards who were chasing us through malls, skateboarding at four in the morning, eating doughnuts at places making hot doughnuts near the beach, breaking into schools and finding skate spots in dark schools or slaloming down parking garages naked and shit in downtown San Diego. It was an incredible existence during those years and I think that was absolutely the foundation of what this band was. And fortunately it seems to have stuck or related to a lot of people. And one of those things is humor, you know.
How close are you two now?
DeLonge: It's the same, you know. We don't talk as much as we should, but Mark's probably never going to get away from me.
Hoppus: When we're apart, we're with our families. I live in the UK, Tom lives in San Diego and Travis lives in Los Angeles, so we'll talk through text message every now and then, but as soon as we're back in a room together, it's like time travel, like nothing ever happened, like we just got off tour. Maybe for the first half-hour people are like, "So what's been going on? How are things?" Then we start playing music and it's all normal.
So next year there will be a new record?
DeLonge: That's the plan.
Do you have a producer?
Hoppus: No. We're talking about it but we haven't decided on anyone yet. This whole tour, this whole experience is about getting ready for that next record. We've been meeting with labels, we've been talking about producers, trying to figure out internally what the plan is for Blink.
Do you think you'll go to another big label?
Hoppus: I don't know. We're keeping our options open. We're meeting with some labels.
DeLonge: We're not against it.
Hoppus: We're not against it. If it's the right label and the right partnership and the right vibe or we could do it ourselves or use a distributor. There are so many options for bands now.
DeLonge: There's not just like be completely independent or be on a label. There are many shades of grey so you can use labels for parts of what you need or you can hire services. It's a lot of options. We're not opposed to any of them.
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