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Q&A: Pete Wentz

The Fall Out Boy bassist says the band has gone from playing in basements to getting paid in Benzes

Pete Wentz, Fall Out Boy

Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy on December 16th, 2005.

Stephen Lovekin/WireImage for ON 3 PRODUCTIONS/Getty

After dominating MTV and rock radio throughout 2005 with hits like “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” and “Dance, Dance,” from their second album, From Under the Cork Tree, Chicago’s Fall Out Boy will be rocking arenas when their headlining tour kicks off in March. “I just like saying it: arena tour!” says bassist-lyricist Pete Wentz, 26. “It hasn’t sunk in at all.” In addition to the trek, Fall Out Boy — whose name comes from Milhouse’s alter ego on The Simpsons — are looking forward to recording a new album (which Wentz says is already written) and the Grammys, where they’re up for Best New Artist. “John Legend is gonna be hard to beat,” says Wentz, sitting in the bar of Manhattan’s Paramount Hotel on New Year’s Eve before their MTV gig in Times Square. “But we’re total creeps. We’re going for the gift bag, and to spot the real famous people.”

What is your earliest musical memory?
My parents had a house on the Jersey Shore, so my mom and sister would fly there, and me and my dad would drive. I remember hearing “Build Me Up Buttercup” [by the Foundations] in the back of my dad’s car. He’d listen to oldies all the time. My next memory is really bad: I was watching Olympic figure skating, and Katarina. Witt was wearing a leather jacket and a Michael Jackson song was playing. I was like, “This is rad, dude! I love Michael Jackson!”

When did you get onstage for the first time?
I obsessively wanted to be in bands. I was probably fourteen when I got my first bass — it was my friend’s brother’s, and we stole it. I was really into the idea that we could just play basement shows. The name of the first band was First Born, and it was terrible. We played this hair-metal place in Iowa — they gave you 150 tickets to sell, and you give them the money. We gave the tickets away, said we lost the money, and this old Italian guy almost beat the fuck out of us. But to me it was awesome.

Do your parents hate punk rock?
They didn’t get it at all. My dad would come to our shows and he’d be the only guy in a tie. They’ve gotten more supportive. While I was at college there was a bumper sticker on the car — like, MY KID IN FALL OUT BOY COULD BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF YOUR HONOR STUDENT. My mom sings along to all the stuff now.

What’s her favorite song?
She’s like A&R: She’s only into the singles. We don’t really swear, but she doesn’t like the songs that are about hating people. Anything about hating she won’t listen to.

You got your name when a fan yelled “Fall Out Boy” during a show. Is that because your guitarist looks like Milhouse?
That’s so amazing, dude! Joe [Trohman] actually has these amazing pictures where he looks like a cross between Milhouse and Egon from Ghostbusters! [Laughs] I hadn’t thought about that.

Where were you when you wrote “Sugar, We’re Goin Down”?
I wrote the lyrics in Chicago. I was with my dad, and we were listening to the old music where they’d always say “sugar” and “honey” — stuff like that. I was like, “Why doesn’t anyone do that anymore?” But we really locked it down in California. It was the day before the new Taking Back Sunday record came out. I remember calling those guys to say congrats.

Do you ever go to the old Chicago blues clubs?
I used to go with my dad, and whenever my grandpa is in town. I always wanted to go to the one in Adventures in Babysitting. I don’t think it’s real, but like when they came in and did “Babysitting Blues,” I want to show up at a club like that. The record will stop, and then we’ll win over the crowd.

What are the three best Guns n’ Roses songs, in descending order?
Oh, wow. “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and then “Welcome to the Jungle.” I could switch those two back and forth. And then, y’know, I should be dragged out in the street and shot, but “November Rain.” We talk about it all the time. I mean, Slash has two solos. It’s crazy!

Do you remember your first royalty check?
They were, like, thirteen dollars, Now they pay us in Benzes. We’re like, “Send us an S-Class.”

No one seems to pick up on the From Under the Cork Tree acronym: FUCT.
No, people do not pick up on it, ever. But it’s amazing for radio. When we’re on some radio show and they’re being totally weird to us, we’ll be like, “Go out and get FUCT!”

In 2005, you OD’d on Ativan and nearly died while sitting in a car in a Best Buy parking lot. Were you listening to music?
Not a good experience at all. At the time I was really into Frou Frou, but I was in my sister’s Escort, so I was probably listening to 101 in Chicago. So it was whatever new-metal band that was big then. Probably Trapt. It was a bum-out.

Jay-Z is a huge Fall Out Boy supporter. What are your favorite Jay tracks?
The Blueprint is my favorite album. And I love his Unplugged — that’s flawless. The stuff he drops during his verse in the Kanye song [“Diamonds Remix”] is just insane. “I’m not a businessman/I’m a business, man.” He’s amazing. He’s got it all figured out.

Did you get any nice Christmas presents from your bandmates?
No. Two years ago I got everyone big, gaudy engraved belt buckles, and I didn’t get anything. I was like, “Fuck these motherfuckers.”

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