Early in the morning in a parking lot just outside San Antonio, three skinny young men stumble from a bus and shield their eyes from the sun. Today the heat will top out in the mid-90s. This is not a good place to find yourself first thing in the day.
“Fuck everybody and everything,” says Blink-182 bassist-vocalist Mark Hoppus. “I hope everyone catches gonorrhea and dies.”
Hoppus has woken up on the wrong side of 8 a.m. to appear on the morning show of KRBE 104, an influential Top 40 radio station. The band – Hoppus, guitarist-vocalist Tom DeLonge and drummer Travis Barker – stands yawning, waiting to enter the studio. “There’s no call for this,” Hoppus insists, but the band’s tour manager, Alex MacLeod, ignores Hoppus – he’s heard these complaints many times before. MacLeod has officially limited him to 15 minutes of kvetching per day.
Searching for a more receptive audience, Hoppus looks over at me, scribbling in my notebook. “Did you write down, ‘I hope everyone catches gonorrhea and dies’?” he inquires. I show him his quote. Satisfied that his complaint has been heard, he nods with grim satisfaction.
Not that he actually has much to bitch about: A nation of teenagers has proved unable to resist the hard-candy charms of Blink-182’s brand of pop punk. The videos for “What’s My Age Again?” (in which the band members run around without any clothes, slowing down only when they spot porn star Janine, who is also featured on the cover of their CD) and “All the Small Things” (in which the band parodies Total Request Live staples such as Britney, Christina and the Backstreet Boys) have received saturation play on MTV. Blink-182’s third album, Enema of the State, has gone quadruple platinum, and the group has embarked on its biggest tour ever. Hoppus has even found true love, in the person of his charming and willowy fiance, Skye Everly.
“We’ll complain about whatever,” Hoppus concedes. “We’ll complain if the hotel where we’re staying has no pornography.”
Inside KRBE’s Studio C, two DJs and 25 fans are waiting. The studio has been promoting “Breakfast With Blink-182.” The three band members are given two microphones; Barker happily goes without and stares off into space.
“How’d you guys initially hook up?” asks the DJ.
“Soft, sweet kisses to the lips,” DeLonge says. “My hand slipped down his shirt. His pants got tighter around his penis.”
The DJ, a little taken aback, tries a different approach. “So did – “
“The second time was different,” DeLonge interrupts. “I started by kissing his ear.” Hoppus doesn’t bat an eye as DeLonge relates these details.
They shift uncomfortably in their folding chairs as the questions continue, feeling slightly like zoo animals on display. DeLonge calls a halt to the interview and moves his microphone to the general region of his rear end – just in time to broadcast one of his own farts.
“Solar flare!” Hoppus announces.
DeLonge admonishes the laughing fans: “I can’t believe how immature everyone is.”
“And I’m 28!” Hoppus cackles.
The studio audience is mostly teens, but one of the older members, a schoolteacher, has an etiquette lesson on this crude behavior. “It’s courtesy to say, ‘Pull my finger,'” she points out.
“But I have 10 fingers,” DeLonge objects.
“I can fart 21 times – let me put it that way,” says Hoppus. The DJ cuts to news and weather before the mathematics of that statement can be further explored.
Blink-182 Play Word Association, Part One:
“I was such a punk-rock skate-board kid,” remembers DeLonge. “We would start from one end of our town [Poway, California, a San Diego suburb] and skateboard to the other, fucking with people on the sidewalk, stopping in every department store, and knocking everything into the aisles and getting arrested.”
“Tom’s first musical instrument was the trumpet,” reports his mother, Connie DeLonge. “We bought it for him as a Christmas present when he was 11 and told him, ‘When you get really good, you can wake us up with reveille.’ What we failed to emphasize was that we would decide when that day had come.” So one Saturday around 5 a.m., young Thomas DeLonge woke up his parents with a loud noise, closer to the squalling of an ill mallard than to a military bugler. His dad was furious, but his mom was secretly amused.
DeLonge specialized in finding ways to agitate his father – although he also incurred his mother’s wrath in junior high school when she heard he had been performing one of his early pop-punk compositions, “My Mom’s a Transvestite.” The song had a harder guitar riff than he had attempted previously – which meant, of course, that “My Mom’s a Transvestite” was the work of a more mature artist.
“I knew exactly how hard I had to work in school,” says DeLonge. “As long as I got that C, I wouldn’t try one minute extra to get a B. I just cared about skateboarding and music.”
“He always wanted to open a coffee shop,” Connie reveals. “I love him – even though I don’t understand the vulgarity of some of the humor.”