Blink-182 shattered the hearts of millions of teenagers (and wannabe teenagers) across the globe when they very publicly fell apart in 2005. To those ever critical of their dick-joke-strewn paeans to wide-eyed romance and youthful angst, this was a god-send, but to their fans, who had practically grown up with Mark, Tom and Travis, seeing the good times go sour was pretty painful to watch.
Sure enough the three of them took it upon themselves to keep going in some sense and split off, indulging in several different projects, most notably Tom Delonge’s high-concept prog venture Angels and Airwaves and Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker’s straight up Blink-goes-dance project, Plus 44. Whatever you thought of either, the general consensus was that it wasn’t the same, and for the purists, they just didn’t cut it.
Several years down it seemed there was little hope of a reunion with relations between both camps all but severed. However, the group reconnected under unexpected and indeed, rather painful circumstances following a horrible place crash involving drummer, Travis Barker, leaving him critically injured and claiming the lives of four others.
After re-establishing the bonds of yore and most importantly, reconnecting as friends, Blink announced their return in 2009 and have been busying themselves in the studio ever since, in between reacquainting themselves with their no less rabid worldwide fanbase. To coincide with the release of their first new record together in eight years, Neighborhoods, long-time axe-man, Tom Delonge spoke to DiS about the trials and tribulations of rebuilding a friendship, not to mention one of the most popular bands of the past 10-15 years, and what the future holds for Blink-182.
Neighbourhoods is your first record together in eight years but can you tell me a bit about how it came together as I understand the process was rather different and somewhat disjointed compared to previous Blink releases?
Tom Delonge: We both own our own studios, one in Los Angeles and one two hours south where I live, in San Diego. We both have our own guys and everyone’s schedule’s different. At the time, I was doing stuff with Angels and Airwaves off and on. Mark was doing his TV show in New York every other week and Travis had a tour and a solo record so we were all trying to figure out schedules in the best way. But I think about six months into it we really hit our stride and accepted the whole kinda way it was going to work and then from there we were able to get a lot done. But basically, the way it worked was I would write a bunch of songs in my studio and Mark would write a bunch of songs in his studio and then we all wrote a bunch of songs together stemming from Travis’ ideas and then we’d pass all these things around and everyone would work on them and tear them apart and rebuild them as much as needed, and here we are... we’ve got a new record coming out!
You’ve talked in quite a few interviews before about how you guys reconnected as friends first before you started making music together. Did you ever think that you could’ve just left it at that? What compelled you to actually go and make another record?
Well, I think there were a lot of reasons. Personally, I mean I can only speak for myself, but I was really curious to see what we could create, what it would be like, and I think that it was exciting to hear what we’ve all learned in our off-time.
I think that’s probably what everyone was curious to hear, because you were all off doing very different things. Coming back did you find it difficult to strike the balance between the tried and tested fan-pleasers and material that still kept you interested?
Yeah, I think not so much difficult as it was... I mean, I was trying to figure out how much of myself do I force upon the band?! (laughs) because at the end of the day I learned that Blink is no special privilege or one person’s idea, and I had to surrender a lot of the things that I wanted to do on this record because maybe those guys don’t like the same music I like or those guys don’t wanna push Blink in the very modern direction that I might want to or whatever. I think the balance that we found was the one that was correct, which is a bit nostalgic with one foot forward to the future but y’know, you’re taking steps not leaps and I think that’s probably the best way to approach it. I think in the beginning I wanted Blink to become a whole different animal but that probably wouldn’t have made everyone very happy, including some of the band members! So that’s the thing, the ultimate compromise in a band is the magic that you get.
Was it difficult to separate your ideas, the ones you had for AVA and the ones you’d have for blink? Or in other words, did you feel that there were set parameters that you you needed to adhere to in order to create a ‘Blink’ record?
Yeah, I mean I gotta live within the means of what everyone wanted to do, not just what I wanted to do and also, there needs to be a separation between those two bands. And I could see very easily, there becoming no separation just because Angels and Airwaves is a pure reflection of me as a songwriter and me as a person so it’s very easy for me to want to do those types of things in Blink too but it was fun to see resistance on that front only in the sense that it sort of made me remember who I was when I was younger, before Angels and Airwaves. And I enjoyed that too, it was a huge part of me. So now I’m enjoying playing on both sides of the fence. Y’know, I get to be the pretend philosopher and artist with Angels and Airwaves and with Blink I get to be the angst-filled young adult with a splash of rebellion, so that in itself, both those things, are a pretty complete picture of who I am.
When I saw you in Glasgow last year, it was interesting, given the nature of some of your work post-blink, to see you jump right back into the swing of a typical Blink show, dick jokes n all.
I know, right?! I’ve been hiding that from the earth for eight years! That’s me though. The thing people don’t know, the funny thing about Blink and Angels and Airwaves is that behind the scenes, that’s how Angels is. All the time. But on stage we’re super serious. With Blink, on stage it’s super funny, but behind the scenes it’s super serious! So it’s odd, y’know, but that’s still who I am.
Did you feel that you did have to hide that side of you publicly when doing A+A?
No, but I think people need to know that it's impossible to hear 12 songs from a band and think that you know everything about the band members, every two years. I grew up as a skateboarder, completely immersed in punk rock music, I got kicked out of high school and came from a broken family, then toured the world for years and years and years, having no real responsibility and going crazy. Then I got really into literature, got really into politics, got really into philosophical, spiritual and metaphysical books and symbology and iconography to do with the human race. So with Angels and Airwaves I found a forum for that side of me, that side of me that started in my mid-20s up til now. But I think you can’t pretend I didn’t grow up a certain way, or pretend I’m not wired a certain way so a good dick joke... I’m always gonna have those in my arsenal!
I think ultimately the most interesting thing to see when you were back up on stage with Blink was that it seemed like you were actually having a lot of fun. If I’m honest, I half expected to see you phone it in, just to keep up appearances but it did look like there was a rapport between you guys again.
Yeah, we have a lot of fun, we really do. Especially on this tour we’re on right now. I said some horrible shit the other night that was really funny... but yeah we’re really enjoying it. We don’t always meet eye to eye and we get angry every once in a while at the process but at the end of the day I think everyone’s really respectful of each other, which wasn’t the case a few years ago. Now, everyone really respects each other, it’s different. When someone really doesn’t want to do something, we’ll go ‘fine, we wont do it’. It might make you angry, it make you pissed, but it doesn't matter because you know that the same thing will happen later on when you don’t want to do something and those guys will be like OK. Everyone gets their veto y’know.
So do you think the space you got from each other has helped the democracy of the band somewhat?
Oh yeah, absolutely because now everyone knows the band is dispensable so now everyone takes care of it a lot better! At least within the three of us.
As you said earlier, you grew up with a pretty solid punk background but are you still drawing from those kinds of things when making music with blink? What musical common ground do you draw from?
With those guys I don’t totally know. I think Mark is just.. he’ll pick up a guitar and write a song more simply, in an elegant way, than my process. I mean, my process is definitely more measured. So I’ll try and blend elements of say, Fugazi with elements of The Police and I’ll say ‘what happens if those bands meet?’ Travis, I’m not sure, I mean he’s just got endless catalogues and archives of drum beats and rhythms. He always takes whatever the idea is to a whole different place. And when I write songs, I go into my studio and orchestrate them and compose them to be a very specific thing and then deliver it almost done, but we still tear it apart and fix it. But I always know what I’m going for and sometimes it's not always what those guys want because maybe it does cross the fence too much into Angels and Airwaves land or maybe it’s too self-indulgent in some sense for Blink, which it probably is. Because I’m different, I like songs that are eight minutes long, y’know? But I’m glad there’s that compromise to shape things up to be ‘Blink’ rather than ‘Tom’. That’s a good thing.
You’ve used the word compromise quite a lot, and ultimately in a band there is going to have to be some level of compromise in order for it to work, but are you happy with the final result, with what you’ve created together?
Yeah, I’m super happy, I think the record’s great. I think there was a lot of discovery about that process myself, of what Blink is now, because I’m always looking at the whole thing going ‘I don’t understand’, because the [blink] machine is just so huge now and I’m slowly starting to get it this far in. There was a lot of discovery as far as what this record’s gonna sound like, what’s it gonna be, and who are we now? And that’s why I always use the word ‘compromise’ because we were defining it. It was different from what I thought it was going to be. It’s not better or worse, just different. And I enjoyed that journey, it made me really realise that I don’t have all the answers, and I always liked that. I always like when I learn things, because I feel inspired to be better at whatever it is I’m doing and you can’t do that unless you learn things along the way.
You recently cancelled a string of dates in the UK to focus on the album and there’s been several delays as well as that, along the way. What made you feel that you needed more time to get it ready?
Well, we never pressured each other. I think the reason we were able to make a record and get along fine after the malicious break up that we had was that we didn’t pressure each other. People would just show up and record when they could. Despite all the projects we have going on and the family obligations and all that, when people could make it down and do it, that’s how we did it. So we didn’t yell at each other, no one was getting pissed, no-one was telling anyone to cancel things or not do things. Mark would be going out every other week to do a TV show in New York and Travis was doing some stuff with his solo album, and I was preparing the movie and double album for Angels and Airwaves due in November. So everybody has things happening in and out of this, but we kept it very casual and fun, and constructive but it became pretty stressful at the end because we knew we were like ‘fuck, we’ve really gotta get this thing done’.
It is quite bizarre that you’re all so much busier than you ever have been but when you were just doing Blink it seemed like that was burning you out.
I know, it’s really crazy. It’s ridiculous.. I know! Nothing’s ever easy. We’re not 20 years old anymore. We’ve all got bands and companies and kids but I think as an adult you’re not so ambitiously trying to become a different person, you are who you are at this point and that’s a good thing. We’re not gonna change, I don’t think, from this point forward but I think there was a lot of changing happening when we were in our late 20s and that’s when you think you’re indestructible and that your opinion is the only opinion and all that kind of stuff.. I think at this point everyone can handle their shit a lot better.
It’s maybe a bit too soon to talk about what’s next but is this the start of something new and ongoing, or is it just a case of ‘if this one goes well, we’ll keep going but if we can’t be arsed we’ll just stop again?’
I think it’s the start of something as long as everyone’s having fun and enjoying it, and if we continue on this path I think we’ll do much greater work that anything we’ve ever done in this kind of environment. So yeah, this could be the very exciting first step to something bigger and bolder.
Blink-182's new album Neighborhoods is out now.