Stephan Jenkins is inescapable: Turn on the radio and he’s there, wailing away; click on the TV and he’s there, too, singing to a girl through an intercom; if he hasn’t already, he’s coming to your town, he’s gonna party down. Last year the sugary, twisted “Semi-Charmed Life” delivered Jenkins from self-described “bohemian squalor” to opening for Mick and Bono and hanging out with actress Charlize Theron. Three years ago, Third Eye Blind barely knew each other; now they’ve got two singles in Billboard’s Hot 100. Such rapid success has made Jenkins the type of fellow many guys would like to punch, though even that won’t make him go away.
“Semi-Charmed Life” is pop-y as hell, but it’s about crystal meth and oral sex.
Yeah, it’s funny. I wrote a song about drugs and fucking, and I’m pretty much about clean living on the road. We can’t even believe it got onto the radio. “Coming over you” is just really what it reports to be: “She comes around, and she goes down on me.” It’s not cryptic.
Have you heard the adage “Write what you know”?
If you’re trying to get me to say I’ve taken speed, that won’t happen.
Popular on Rolling Stone
It hasn’t happened, or you won’t say?
I won’t say. But I definitely write about my life and the lives I see. It’s about a time when my friends and I were at a Primus concert and somebody brought speed. No one had done it before, and, like, three weeks later all of my friends were addicted.
Does Third Eye Blind refer to the metaphysical third eye?
Yeah, but it’s also kind of taking the piss out of that. I like names with wit and a sense of punk-rock irony. I’m not into that Kula Shaker shit: some guy sitting there in his mantra position – ugh!
Are you tired of the road yet?
When I get on the stage, it’s just like a good shot of coffee. It pops me right in there. And sometimes when we play, I have my Clash moment.
I’m not sure I follow you.
Sometimes I feel like the Clash when we’re out front banging on our guitars. I have a Sarah McLachlan moment, too. I just feel all groovy when I’m singing, sort of picking away on my Martin [guitar]. It’s just so goddamned tender.
What’s your songwriting philosophy?
Martin Heidegger said something like, “The way of thinking is not some well-worn rut.” And I think songwriting is the same thing for [guitarist] Kevin [Cadagon] and I – we don’t have a method. For example, “Narcolepsy” happened when Kevin was telling me about post-sleep paralysis. That’s when your body paralyzes itself when you dream so you don’t get up and do all kinds of things. I thought there was a metaphor in that. Don’t we all just want to wake up?
Yes. Are you working on new material?
Oh, yeah. I’ve been reading an evolutionary-psychology book called The Moral Animal. It’s this discussion of how we conduct ourselves as a species. [Sings] “The chromosome divides/Multiply and thrive/And the strong survive/And a spaceman fucked an ape/Then cut out on a date/Now it’s much too late/The spaceship has escaped.” We’re writing all kinds of stuff. What it’s about to me, man, is the friction between people. If you do a bong hit, put on your headphones and listen to our album, you’ll get it.
What were you doing before the band?
There are all kinds of really gorgeous ideas that never see the light of day. I rapped in a group with a guy who DJ’d. Actually, in high school I went through a phase of wanting to be black and regretting that I wasn’t. Then I got over that.
What’s it like to be romantically linked to Winona Ryder?
It’s old news. She contacted me about a benefit, but our schedules got really busy. Maybe we’ll get it together one day – the benefit, that is. I don’t have a relationship with Winona Ryder, I really don’t. I never did. We went out to some bars in S.F., and that was it. C’mon, bro, this was, like, last August.
Hey, it’s Winona Ryder!
But that’s all there was to it.
Are you dating Charlize Theron now?
She’s a … she is a … really good actress. There are people like her and Claire Danes who have this emotional range at such a young age that it’s really amazing.
But are you dating?
We’re mutual friends. So … you just wanna kinda … yeah, you know.
Well, all right then.
You know, I think you now know more about me than I know about myself.