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Exclusive Interviews: Inside the Ups and Downs of Blink-182

The Rolling Stone Blog

Back in the days of Total Request Live, the three members of Blink-182
seemed to have barely distinguishable personalities. But anyone who has
ever spent time with Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker and Tom Delonge knows
that was never true. They are three drastically different men with very
different ideas of what the band should sound like, and how they should
evolve as a collective unit. Those problems came to a boiling point in
2005 and they took a four-year break. They reformed for a reunion tour
in 2009, and spent the last two years recording their new album Neighborhoods.

We checked in on the band backstage at the Saratoga Springs
Performing Arts Center a couple of weeks ago. Tom spent his afternoon
working on future Angels and Airwaves projects, while Travis focused on
his extensive fitness regime, and Mark met with fans and worked on his
Fuse television show Hoppus on Music. We sat down with them
separately to talk about how the band has learned to function as a unit
after such a tumultuous break-up and Travis Barker's tragic plane crash.
The conversations covered everything from Caddyshack to battling a severe Vicodin addiction to the challenge of touring the world when you refuse to board a plane. 

Mark Hoppus

How has the tour gone so far?
Really good. I'm
glad that people are embracing the new songs. We started out playing
four new songs right at the beginning of the tour and we didn't know
what the reaction would be because the album wasn't out yet. Personally,
when I see live shows and the band says they're going to do a bunch of
new songs I'm like, "Stop, no, I want to rock out to stuff that I know!"
But even before the album leaked people were singing the songs back to
the stage, which means they were going on YouTube and learning the
songs. 

So you started recording 'Neighborhoods' two years ago?
Yeah,
we took the first steps just a few weeks into the reformation of the
band. But a few weeks into it we realized that we weren't ready to
record yet. We were all friends again, but we were being too polite to
each other to record. We were too protective of that little spark of
Blink-182. So we decided to go on tour and build the band back up again.
So, we really started digging into the album about eight months ago. 

How did the creative process work this time around? Was it the same process as back in the day?
It
was the same process, just different geography. We have always
introduced songs to one another and bounced ideas off each other, but
this time we weren't in the same studio the whole time. We'd start by
going to the studio in Los Angeles and recording structures for songs.
Then we would break apart. Tom would go to his studio in San Diego where
he would work on guitar parts or vocal ideas. I would work on stuff in
Los Angeles with Travis, recording drum and bass. Then we'd all get
together and compare ideas and change some stuff. The cool thing about
recording this way is that everybody got the chance to explore all their
ideas without the other guys in the studio waiting to record their
bits. I think that consequently it probably took a little longer to
record this album, but it was one of those things where we wanted to be
able to say that we'd exhausted all our ideas and this was the best
possible album we could make.

When the word came out that Tom was working in a different
studio than the rest of you guys there was some concern it meant you
guys weren't totally getting along. There was also worry it would really
have an adverse affect on the music. How would you address that?

I
can only address it to say that it's not like that. I was very
skeptical of working like this. Tom wanted to work like this for a
while. It was a big point before the band broke up. Tom wanted to work
in San Diego, despite the fact that Travis and I live in Los Angeles. I
still think that the best work we do is when the three of us are in the
same room. I still believe that. The best. At the initial genesis of
songs, we would all be in the same room - or I would present a song to
Tom in its infancy and he would try different things. So, I was really
skeptical about this recording process - but somehow it worked out
really well for us. Much better than I thought. It sounds cohesive. I
guess each of us have our own unique sound that we bring to Blink, but
no matter what we should sound like Blink in the end.

Did you worry about fan expectations when you made the album?
I'm sure a certain segment of the fan base doesn't want to hear your
sound change at all. Is that on your mind?

It is. We had to
make a continuous effort to set that aside and just do what we have
always done, which is keep our head down and make music that we love. I
can't second guess people. We're going to put something out and some
people are going to say, "I wish it sounded like Dude Ranch." I think there are songs on this record that seem like they could be a part of Dude Ranch and there are songs that sound like they could be a part of Take Off Your Pants and Jacket

I know that in the past Tom has voiced some reservations
about playing some of your older songs as he got older. Has it ever felt
weird to you?

From the outside, looking at the situation, I
would think so. I mean, here were are, grown men with kids and families
and houses, and we're singing about things that happened to us in high
school. But I still think they're completely relevant to the people
coming to the shows. If I ever get bored . . . not bored, but weird
about playing a song like "What's My Age Again?" I just remember when I
wrote that song and how much fun it is. And the reaction on the floor is
always great.

I imagine that the Who had a similar kind of feeling about
doing "My Generation" as they got older - singing "I hope I die before I
get old" in their fifties and sixties.

It's something they
wrote and it's them. It's that energy and that moment in time,
crystallized by that song. "My Generation" sounds completely different
to you in your experiences than to me with my experiences. Aside from
photos, there is very little else in life that crystallizes moments like
a song. You remember the first time you heard it, driving a car or the
heartbreak you went through. So, I don't feel weird playing songs about
high school even though I'm a grown man.

How are things between you and Tom right now?
Good. Really good. Probably better than it's been in a decade. 

It seems like Tom is into the real big, epic sound of Angels
and Airwaves, and you and Travis are more into a punk sound. Some fans
thought that the tension between those two ideas is what took you guys
so long to finish this album. Is there any truth to that?

Yeah,
totally. I don't want to say that Tom wants us to sound like Angels and
Airwaves, but I think that Tom wants stadium rock. Tom wants to be the
Police. He wants to be the Who. He wants to be Muse, you know, the big,
giant theatrical production. Big things, like U2. I want things to be a
bit simpler, a little more indie rock, a little more concise. Travis is
all over the place with music. I never know what he's going to do with a
song once I give it to him. It's always different and 10 times better
than what I could have hoped for. But, yeah, there definitely is that
struggle between Tom wanting his big stadium thing and me wanting things
to be more compact and elemental.

How do you reconcile those two things?
It's that
struggle. It's not a difficult struggle. It's a creative struggle. It's a
lot of talking and trying to understand what people are going for in
songs. I would present something to Tom and he would play a guitar part
over it that I wouldn't feel comfortable with. I would say, "Why did you
play that?" And then he would explain it to me, and I would be cool. We
had so much time to make this record that if I felt that guitar part
wasn't going to work, I would say, "All right, let's sit with that
guitar part for a while, work on this, and them come back to it." 

There's gotta be a lot of downtime on this tour. Are there certain movies that you watch over and over again?
Every tour I watch Caddyshack, Stripes, Vacation, Fletch and a bunch of classic movies. This tour, I watched Maltese Falcon, Citizen Kane and Lawrence of Arabia. Then I usually end up watching The Thin Red Line or Platoon or some kind of war movie.

Finally, do you see yourself still in this band in 10 or 15 years?
As
long as I'm having fun in Blink, I'm going to play in Blink. When Blink
stopped being fun, we broke the band apart. Now it's fun again and
we're loving it. In 2000 I couldn't have imagined myself doing it in 10
years and here I am, 11 years later, doing it and loving it.

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Photo by Nigel Crane/Redferns

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