Mark Hoppus on Blink-182's Past: "We Thought That We Needed To Be Unified As Three People With One Vision, When We're Not."
Tomorrow night at Gexa Energy Pavilion, things will come full circle for Blink-182: The San Diego-sprung outfit will celebrate the release of their new album, Neighborhoods, their first release in eight years and their first since their ugly split in 2005, which saw the band publicly airing their grievances and saw its members taking up new projects.
Tom DeLonge formed Angels & Airwaves. Meanwhile, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus formed their own band, +44. In addition, Barker branched further out, engaging in critically lauded collaborations with the late DJ AM and, earlier this year, releasing his first solo LP. Hoppus, interestingly, went in a completely different direction: He became a featured contributor for Spin magazine's online entity and, in 2010, he launched a music talk show on the Fuse network called Hoppus on Music.
The time apart seem to have done the band well: Last year, the band came through town on their reunion tour; this year, they come to town promoting their reunion album. To hear Hoppus tell it, it's just the start of a Blink's long future back together, which, yes, they totally are, now and forever. Mostly, he says, Blink-182 has finally grown up and learned how to function like they always needed to.
In anticipation of tomorrow night's performance at the Gexa Energy Pavilion -- the same day the new album is released, conveniently enough -- Hoppus was kind enough to grant DC9 an extended interview in which we spoke with him about his TV show, the time apart, the somewhat awkward times when the band first reunited, the new album and the pretty stellar bill his band is touring on, with My Chemical Romance and Matt & Kim serving as their opening acts.
I guess congratulations are in order: You've just celebrated your first full year of Fuse airing your television show, Hoppus on Music. But you're also on the road with the band right now, as we talk. How does that all work out, schedule-wise?
Well, we tape the show in New York, and I live in London. We pre-taped a bunch of stuff before the tour, and we're not taping while we're touring. As soon as the tour ends, I start getting back in the schedule. What I do is I fly from London to New York every other week and we tape two episodes each time.
What's it like being on the other side of this interview equation?
It's cool! I like it a lot. I like talking to people about their creativity and their ideas and being able to talk to other musicians about their art.
Has being an interview subject for so long helped you become a better interviewer?
Absolutely. For sure. It taught me a lot of the value of doing research before you sit down with somebody. People would interview Blink, and it was obvious that they were just asking a list of questions that they would ask every band that they've ever interviewed.
Like who your influences are?
Any other tips you've picked up?
To listen to people when they talk. I guess that's probably the most important thing about interviewing anyone. Just listening to what they're saying, rather than just waiting to ask the next question.
Have you noticed these things more and more now that you're on the other side of the fence?
Are you being critical of me right now?
No, not at all!
Well, good. Obviously, you're on the road right now, and the big thing on the immediate horizon is the impending release of Neighborhoods, your new album. I assume you're playing some of this new material on the road, right? I know you just recently released the second single, "After Midnight," for streaming. And there was a lot of excitement back in July when you streamed the first taste of the new stuff, "Up All Night."
We are. And it's going great. I've been really surprised at how well-received the new songs are. It's not because I don't love the songs, but just because every time I go see a band play and they start playing new material, I tune out. I hate it. But we started this tour and were playing four songs that were new, and people had only heard two of them. But the reaction was so great that we kept all four in. We were going to toy around and see which ones were working and which ones aren't and adjust accordingly. But people have gone on YouTube and learned all the lyrics to these songs that haven't even been released yet and they're singing them back to us. And the response online has been really incredible, so I'm just really stoked.
If they didn't go over well, would you have scaled back how many songs you were including in the set? You guys are a revered band amongst your fans; they have a very set idea, I imagine, of what they want to see at a Blink show.
Exactly. We started off with the four thinking that we would pare back the ones that maybe didn't get the crowd to react all that well or made the show drag or whatever. But the show has a really great dynamic.
Well, last year's tour was definitely the big reunion tour for you guys. This one is more like the standard promotional tour. Are you noticing any differences immediately or is there still some carry over from the excitement of the last go-around?
It feels like a combination of both of those tours that you just said. it feels like a continuation. Obviously, the majority of our set comes from the previous albums. But this is a promotional tour, for sure. It's also definitely the best-looking, biggest production tour we've ever had.
Now that the reunion tour is out of the way, do you just feel like you're back in the swing of things?
Yes. And I can't wait for the record comes out, just so people can stop saying, "Is Blink back? Is this for real?"
Really? Because it's been clear for a while that you're back, I thought.
I know. But people still ask, like, "Are you guys going to keep doing this? Is this for real?" And, I mean, they're valid questions, but the ones that are really funny to me are the ones from people who follow me on Twitter, but then ask, "Hey, is Blink-182 ever gonna reform?"
Comes back to the whole research thing, I guess.
Maybe people are just still surprised by it, though. Back in the "indefinite hiatus" days, there were some pretty nasty comments made by all involved parties. You're back together -- understood -- but has any of that had a lasting effect? How have the dynamics of the band changed?
They've changed only in that we're a lot more open-minded with one another, a lot more understanding of one another. It's not as much of a battle as to what we're going to do. We're all fairly like-minded right now. We discuss things a lot more. We're a lot more open about any issues that might be out there. Before, we just held grudges and got weird with one another. Now we'll actually say things rather than just harbor ill will.
Is that true both of the backstage show environment as well as the studio?
Oh yeah. Absolutely.
What was it like just being back in the studio? It's not like any of you guys lost any sort of creative outlets during the time off. You and Travis started +44. Travis played in a number of other projects. You started the TV show. Tom had Angles & Airwaves. Were you sitting on Blink stuff? Was Tom sitting on Blink stuff? Or did you just wait until you were in the studio, and then try to recapture some of the old magic, so to speak? How did these new songs come to be?
When we first got back together, we went straight into the studio. There were ideas for songs. There's always a handful of ideas floating around in my head, and Tom's as well, and same with Travis. So we immediately went in and started throwing ideas back and forth, but we were still very polite with one another.
How long did that take before that ginger period wore off?
Probably a few months.
Even in the studio?
Yeah, that's why we stopped writing after a couple of months and decided that we wanted to go out on tour, just because that's when you really get your chops together as a band, and that's where it all kind of forms.
Is that true of previous records, too?
Yeah, a little bit. I mean, we don't really write on the road. We went on the road, just to get chops together as a band and to be able to get past the politeness and cordiality, I guess? What's the noun there? The cordial nature of things is what I'm saying. Not that we needed to be acrimonious or at each other's throats, but you need to be able to tell somebody, "Look, that idea's cool, but what if we changed it? What if we tried it this way?" It's that push and pull that makes Blink-182 what it is.
What was it that brought the walls down again?
Just being around one another long enough and knowing that this was gonna stick. We agreed that we were going to continue as Blink, and once that happens, you don't have to worry that something's going to happen and we're going to break up again or something.
A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed Patrick Stump when he was coming through town and we ended up talking about Blink-182 and what Fall Out Boy is currently going through. He saw some parallels between what Fall Out Boy is going through now and what you guys just went through. And he was raving about you guys, saying that the way you guys have come back is the way to do it -- how it was never a formal breakup or anything. How do you feel now, looking back at those times. Any regrets?
I don't regret any of it at all. I feel like we are very, very fortunate to be able to come back and still have it be relevant. People want new music. We're not a band that just plays reunion tours year after year, playing the same old stuff.
Well, yeah. Like, people go crazy for those Backstreet Boys reunion shows, but no one seems to give a crap about their new records. That's a terrible example, but the point is the same.
Totally! There's bands that come back and people will still like them, but they're cool with just hearing all the old stuff. We never wanted to be that band, and we're very fortunate to not be that band. I mean, sure, it was definitely a very painful time, definitely a huge loss of identity, but it was also a giant education for all three of us, just to find out what our skill sets are, and what we get creatively from each other and what we give each other creatively. And we're very different. I think, before, we weren't necessarily trying to make each other be each other, but we thought that we needed to be unified as three people with one vision, when we're not.
Just looking from the outside in at all you've all got going these days, I think it's safe to say that you now have more clear-cut identities.
Oh, yeah. Totally. It's more obvious. And that's showed us that we don't all have to be the same person. We're very different from each other, and that's what makes us work somehow. The stuff that bums me out about Tom is the stuff that makes hum amazing with his creativity.
Based off the first two streaming songs, these sound like evolved Blink songs -- there's a little bit of maybe both +44 and Angels & Airwaves in there. How would you describe this new material?
It sounds like everything that we've ever done. It sounds like everything from Dude Ranch to Angels & Airwaves to +44 to the last Blink album. It pulls from, like, everything.
Yeah, both individually and as a band. There's stuff on the new album that it could be from Angels & Airwaves or +44 or old Blink albums. And there's stuff on there that sounds like nothing we've ever done before as well.
Is that a result of that give and take?
Yeah. It wasn't what we intended on doing or anything. What's interesting to me is that people act like... or... well, I don't know how to say this the right way, but people are like, "Well, there are elements of Angels & Airwaves in it..." Well, yeah, of course. Tom wrote the songs for Angels & Airwaves. And I wrote songs for +44. Same with Travis. We're always just going to sound like ourselves is what I'm saying, I guess. But I've seen stuff online where people seem bummed out, like, "Oh, man, this sounds like Angels & Airwaves." Well, of course it does.
Certainly, though, you guys have been around for so long that you probably have gone through different cycles of fans that all have different ideas of what Blink meant to them at a certain point in their lives.
Yeah, that's totally it.
Is that something you keep in mind?
It's something that I've notice, for sure. There are people that expect different things from Blink-182. There are people that would still have us playing songs from the Dude Ranch era, wearing skateboarding clothes and things like that. And there are people that want new stuff. We're cognizant of that, but we don't pander to it. If we start writing songs based around what people are expecting us to write, then that's really disingenuous. And that's not we've ever wanted to do. We just want to write music that, hopefully, we love and then that people respond to after. And that's always worked for us in the past.
How'd the bill come together with My Chemical Romance and Matt & Kim? I've seen you interview My Chemical Romance on your show. Are these bands that you hand-picked? it's kind of a perfect bill.
That's awesome! Thanks! We're really proud of the lineup. My Chem, we actually went after: Tom went to one of their shows in San Diego and proposed the idea to them and pushed for them to come out on this tour. I think they were a little on the fence about it. They didn't know about coming out with us because they have their own identity and their own stage show. But I think that our bands are similar enough in genre where it makes for a great lineup, but it's different enough where it makes for a great show where it's not just the same thing over and over all night.
Are they still able to have their own set and everything?
Definitely. They have their own set-up for when they play. It's awesome. I haven't seen them on other tours, so I don't know if their production is always this amazing, but their stage show on this tour just looks so awesome.
How are Matt& Kim working out.?
Oh my god, they're great. They're so rad. They're actually the band that I had thought to have on this tour. I don't know where I heard of them first -- maybe one of the writers at Spin that I'm friendly with -- but I've been a fan of theirs for a couple year now, and I really wanted to have them on the tour and take them out with us.
I've seen them play a few times, and I don't know if I've ever seen them play for a crowd that they couldn't win over.
Totally! And they're in the most difficult position of this tour. They're in the opening slot on a tour that's largely in amphitheaters, when people are still walking in or buying their beer or getting something to eat. Most of the time, you look at an opening act and maybe a quarter of the people are paying attention and the rest are texting and stuff. But they have everybody at their feet by the end of the set. They're just so much fun and such great performers -- obviously, I mean, you've seen them so you know what I'm taking about.
It sounds like you're having a good time with all this, which is awesome. But are you going to be able to personally keep all these interests and activities up, with the show and the touring and all that?
Definitely. We're doing this tour, and next summer we're doing Europe and the U.K. We're trying to stay in markets that we can't really get to -- since Travis doesn't travel by air, he has to travel by boat and we're trying to figure out a way that we can bring the show to places that we can't really get to and we're trying to figure out how that's going to be. But, yeah, we're going to keep doing this, and it's super fun right now.
Maybe you can bring the TV show onto a cruise liner?
I can do that, too!
Or you could do something like the Bruise Cruise.
Or the Weezer cruise! That looks like such a good time.
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