Interviews

Interview - Travis Barker of Blink-182

By: Sindy
They were around long before anyone had ever heard of Good Charlotte or Simple Plan, and now they're back on the scene with a new self-titled album. Sindy recently had the oppportunity to chat with Blink-182's drummer, Travis Barker, and got the scoop on their new tunes, their families and what it really means to be punk. Check it out!

Sindy: Hey Travis! How do you feel to be back with Blink-182 again?
Travis: It feels amazing. It feels like it's just good timing. I think if we were to have made a record two years ago, right after our last one came out, like the record label tried to get us to do, it would have been so far from what I wanted. I think we needed some time off after our heavy touring cycle. It's good and it's fresh to be able to go and play other music with other musicians and just give yourself space and time to grow, you know?

Sindy: Did you ever think you wouldn't come back to play with Blink?
Travis: No. We always knew. Like, when I was doing Transplants, Mark and Tom were at home with their newborns and they would talk to me all the time and I would go 'Man, I have all these ideas' and they would say, 'I can't wait to hear it.' And then I came to them and we started the record and I said, 'Look, I want to pretend this is our very first record and forget about anything we've done in the past or what people are expecting from us and not second guess ourselves and just make the record we want to make right now.' And that's what we did. They were both on the same page as me.

Sindy: Cool. So, what's different with your new album then?
Travis: Everything from the sound, like the sound of the record, sonically, the guitar tones, drums, vocals, the way things were recorded. Songs like Feeling This have, like, five different break beats in it, that you don't hear in a hip-hop song. There's a cow bell in Feeling This - what rock song on the radio has a cow bell in it, where it's still cool? It just doesn't exist. Who can write, by far the most aggressive song, like Easy Target or Stockholm Syndrome, and then follow it up with, like, Miss You or a song like All Of This? This is, like, a record. This isn't some band that put out a record where there's a song on it that you like, this is an album.

Sindy: Then what genre do you classify yourself as? Are you still punk?
Travis: It's really hard. I don't know how much you've followed that whole movement or what's punk rock style, but punk rock has never been like a style of music, even when people thought it was in the '70s. It's more of an attitude. It's the way you live your life. There are hip-hop people who are punk rockers. There are car mechanics that are more punk rock than bands that are on the TV or radio could ever be. It's definitely like a lifestyle, you know?
Sindy: Yeah. Ok, so what do you think the future holds for Blink-182?
Travis: We're going to continue touring this year, we have a big tour in America, in Europe, Australia and Japan, in South America. And then we're going to work on a short film/documentary, kind of like hints of what everyone saw on our CD enhancement or CD ROM with our CD. And we're going to keep making videos and keep making good records until one of us isn't around anymore or whatever.

Sindy: How do you think your music has changed since you guys have had kids and been through so many life changes?
Travis: Having kids doesn't change your life.

Sindy: No?
Travis: It doesn't change your life as far as being a musician. It changes your life, yeah. I mean my life has drastically changed. I went from maybe not being so careful all the time and kind of living carelessly to like thinking about every little thing I do, every move I make. But it hasn't affected us as musicians or the way we write songs and it never will.

Sindy: Do you think your fan base will change at all or has it already changed since you started?
Travis: The people who come to our shows are our fans from, like, the very beginning who maybe were getting sick of Blink but they understand, like 'Whoa, they've really re-vamped and they're fresh.' I think you can tell when a band is happy to be a band and we're happy to be a band again - whereas a couple of years ago I think we were just tired and we just needed everyone to leave us alone. We almost got forced to - because of politics with our record label - make another record, like, literally a year after Take Off Your Pants and Jacket came out. And that would have been the death of our band.

Sindy: So how did you get out of that?
Travis: Well, in not so many nice words, we told them to get lost. And there's a new regime and we're on a new label with different people and presidents of labels who think artistically, instead of always businesslike. You can't talk to a band about business or money or time frames or deadlines. We don't want to hear about that. We want to be creative and when we're done, we'll hand you our record. We don't want you coming by the studio while we're making it, you just have to trust us.

Sindy: Any advice you would give to kids wanting to get into this?
Travis: I think the biggest advice I would give anyone is play music cuz you wanna have fun and you genuinely love your instrument. Don't do it because girls like it or because you think that you're going to make a lot of money or be a huge rock star. My goal when I played music was maybe I'll get in a band. This is when I was like 16, I was out on my own, I had to leave my house and my only goal was that I had somewhere to sleep and maybe one day I would have a TV with a remote. And that was my way of thinking. I never, ever, in a million years, ever counted on selling, like, a 100 records or making a thousand dollars. And I think that's what usually happens, to people who weren't expecting anything out of it, you know? I guess, just don't expect anything out of it, just do it because you love it.

 

Interview with Mark Hoppus

Having put their derrieres on display more often than Marilyn Manson and Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong combined, when Blink-182 talk about taking off their pants (as in their recent album, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket) one thinks, what’s new? Surprisingly though, there’s much more than meets the eye to this seemingly typical Californian punk rock band. Singer/bassist Mark Hoppus discloses the band’s deeper side to NY Rock’s Gabriella.

NYROCK:
First off, I love the title of your new album, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, particularly after the video to "What's My Age Again?" [hit single from Enema of the State (1999)] where you were running around naked....

MARK:
That scene with the butt shots, when we were running down the street were actually the only real nude scenes. We wore skin-colored Speedos for most of the scenes and when we were running, I realized how unattractive male genitals are. Everything dangling and such. I didn't think I could be embarrassed easily, but I really was.

NYROCK:
So no more mooning the audience?

MARK:
Oh, come on. Mooning is completely different. Mooning is not the same. That's just a joke, but as a guy seeing yourself run stark naked and everything bounces up and down, no way. That's really not a pretty sight.

NYROCK:
One thing that I find a bit strange is that fun punk angle. You guys are fun, you moon people, all that, but there is more than meets the eye. Despite all the fun, the lyrics are often quite serious. You hide your punches well.

MARK:
Our humor is pretty rough and crude sometimes; I can't deny it. We do like our fun and all that, but we never wanted to be labeled or have a certain image – that is something we always wanted to avoid.

NYROCK:
But now you're labeled as guys who'll drop their pants in a flash?

MARK:
Yes, I think the video is our nemesis. Everybody always asks us to drop our pants again and if we're going to perform naked again or what. It's really bothersome, you know. So in a way the album title is our way of dealing with it, making some fun because we know the video will follow us until all eternity.

NYROCK:
Are there limits to the crudity of the humor? Is there anything you wouldn't joke about?

MARK:
In general, we really do make fun about each and everyone. I hate it if people take themselves and others too seriously, but you're right, there are limits. Definitely. For example, domestic violence, violence against women, rape, racism or homophobic jokes are simply out of the question.

NYROCK:
What would you be doing if you weren't a member of Blink-182?

MARK:
Be a porn star, of course, and make all the guys jealous and the women happy and horny. Look at me, I should consider a second career.

NYROCK:
Go for it!

MARK:
Well, but the truth isn't half as funny, you know. Actually, I studied English and almost became an English teacher. I like reading and I love Shakespeare. He showed me a completely new way of reading, dealing with a language, you know, how language can be used.

NYROCK:
Do you ever regret not finishing your studies?

MARK:

Yes and no. I think most colleges are boring, just absolutely fucking mind-numbingly boring because the teachers just don't care. They don't give a damn about their pupils. They don't really care if the kids learn something or not. Sometimes I even think they hate kids. They act like robots. The reason I wanted to become a teacher was to change it, get into the system and change it from inside, but then things took off with the band and such.

NYROCK:
Yes, but with the band you reach an even broader audience than you would reach as a teacher. So, it can't be all that bad....

MARK:
That's true and, you know, it's scary at the same time. As a musician you have some responsibility. You're in the spotlight, on some sort of a raised platform for some of the ideas you stand for. But the good thing about punk rock, the real strength of punk rock, is that you can honestly say what you think and that's what we're talking about.

NYROCK:
Are you interested in how your fans perceive you or is it more of a take-it-or-leave-it approach?

MARK:
That's kinda crazy because, yes, in a way I want to know how others perceive me, and I think it's absolutely normal that you want to be liked – even if we really get off on the hate mail we get sometimes because it's just so funny. You get absolutely stupid letters with horrific spelling and they tell you that you're stupid and you suck.

NYROCK:
So how about the image thing then? You are seen as a fun punk band....

MARK:
As I said, we like fun. We're kinda crude sometimes, but we're not just about fun. Our label tried to market us as a fun punk band and it did suck. After Enema of the State, when "All the Small Things" became a hit, they really tried to market us as a bunch of guys that will do almost everything for kicks. Sure, we love to laugh and for a while it was funny, but we kinda got branded with that image and that's not all that we're about. Hopefully Take Off Your Pants and Jacket will give people a different idea about us.

NYROCK:
You always struck me as a band that does like to laugh and, yeah, in some of the past interviews you were a bit over the top – sometimes – but your lyrics usually have a twist. They're not all about fun and games....

MARK:
I think if you didn't know us and never saw a picture of us goofing around or one of our videos, then you'd listen to Take Off Your Pants and Jacket and think that it's a punk album with some really serious lyrics and some funny songs – like "Happy Holiday, You Bastard."

In a way we're in the lucky position that we can experiment quite a bit, do whatever we want, and write songs about every subject: like the pains of growing up (I still feel them) trouble with the girlfriend, parents that don't understand you, that school really sucks.

NYROCK:
What is it like to be in a band and to know that whatever you do, there are people out there who will love it? Is it great for the ego or is it a bit of a strain? You know, the responsibility thing....

MARK:
As usual, a bit of both. But, actually, it's great. If you really think about it, I sit in my bedroom in California and write a song and people all over the world are able to hear it. Like we go to Germany or Italy and they know all the lyrics. That's mind blowing, really.

But what really blew me away and what is actually the greatest thing that has happened, some fans wrote us mail and said that they wanted to kill themselves, they seriously contemplated suicide, but then they heard our song, "Adam's Song," and it changed their mind. That really, really is great. I think that was one of the greatest moments ever in my life.

NYROCK:
Did it inspire you to write more serious songs?

MARK:
I don't know if it is exactly the same, but "Stay Together for the Kids" could have the same meaning, I hope. Tom was dealing with the divorce of his parents. He wrote a song to help him work through some issues he had when his parents divorced. Divorce is such a normal thing today and hardly anybody ever thinks how the kids feel about it or how they are taking it. But in the US of A about half of all the kids go through it. They witness how their parents drift apart and all that.

NYROCK:
I saw some of your tour plans and you definitely look like one hell of a busy band. Combined with all the promotion work, I can't help but wonder how you find the time to breathe far less manage your website and the clothing line....

MARK:
Being a member of Blink-182 is definitely not a part time job, I agree. We're on the road for 9 out of 12 months. Recording, touring, promotion, all that. Sometimes it's just: show, fly, show, fly, show. After a couple of days I completely forgot where I was. I didn't even know in which city I slept. When we got back to the hotel I was just interested in hitting the pillow. Touring is pretty exhausting; the traveling can really do you in.
August 2001


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