Q&A: Blink-182's Mark Hoppus on The Long Road to 'Neighborhoods'
"Neighborhoods," Blink-182's sixth full-length, was released on Tuesday (Sept. 27), exactly seven years, 10 months and nine days after the band put out their previous self-titled album. In between the two releases, the pop-punk icons experienced a painful split in late 2004; the death of longtime producer Jerry Finn; and drummer Travis Barker nearly perished in a Sept. 2008 plane crash, a terrifying moment that eventually served as a catalyst for the band's reunion. After heading out on a massive comeback tour in 2009, Barker, bassist Mark Hoppus and guitarist Tom DeLonge pieced together a dark, infectious full-length, led by the anthemic first single, "Up All Night."
Blink-182's full comeback tale is detailed in this month's Billboard cover story, but to celebrate the release of "Neighborhoods," check out the full Q&A with Hoppus, who talked with Billboard about Barker's plane crash, the "really depressing" lyrics on "Neighborhoods," and the future of Blink-182 after their current tour wraps next month.
Billboard: After so much time away from the studio, why do you think Blink-182 needed to make a new album? Why not just keep touring?
Hoppus: We didn't want to be one of those bands that kept touring on music that was 15 or 20 years old. We want to remain current and vital and relevant and keep creating. We didn't want to just keep touring the same songs forever; that's boring.
What specifically was the problem that caused the hiatus in 2004?
We stopped having fun. I think it started to feel more like a job and a commitment than a joy, which it should always be. Tom was the first one who really wanted to take a bunch of time off, and Travis and I didn't; we wanted to keep touring. We like to tour, we like to have fun, but Tom was the first one to say, "I need a minute here", and it caused a lot of turmoil in our band. It kind of melted down from there.
Were you and Travis angry with Tom?
I was angry at Tom because I wanted to keep touring, and Tom was angry at us because he needed to take a break for a second and we weren't hearing it. Just bad communication and too much time in the crucible, I guess.
You all explored other projects during the hiatus. Was it always in the back of your mind that Blink-182 would get back together?
It's strange, because every interview I did - if it was for [side project] +44, or for producing a record -- everybody would always ask if Blink was gonna get back together. And to be honest, I could see it either way. I could see Tom never talking to us again, or I could see the band forming at any given time. I don't think it was in "Tom's court"; I think we had to let time go by before we could deal with one another again and appreciate how lucky we are to do what we do.
How did you find out about Travis' plane crash?
I was asleep at my house in Los Angeles, and one of my very good friends called and I answered the phone. It was unusual that he'd call me so early in the morning, and I picked up the phone and he said, "Are you okay?" And I said, "Yeah, why, what's up?" And he told me what had happened, and it was… awful. It sucks. It was one of the worst things to ever have to hear. I got on the next plane I could, out to where Travis was, in the hospital. It was awful.
When you got back together, did it feel as natural as when you first started playing?
As far as our personalities, yeah. Within the first phone call that I had with Tom, he and I were cracking jokes about old times and making fun of one another and making fun of the breakup of our band. And then when we got into the studio, it was good.
We just needed to go on tour, because we reformed the band and then we went straight into the studio thinking we were gonna record another album. And everybody had all these ideas, but we were all very polite about it, and we were all trying to protect this little spark that was forming with Blink-182 again. You need to be a band. You need to be able to say, "Hey, I don't think that part works in that song," or "What if we tried this?" You have to be able to argue about your parts and debate things, and we were at a point where it was like, "Yeah, whatever you wanna do is cool."
Was it hard working without Jerry Finn on the new album?
It sucked. He was the invisible fourth member of Blink-182. He helped form our sound, he helped us discover what our sound was, he helped in the creation of every single record. He taught us. He was very generous with his knowledge. I felt like he taught us what we needed to know, and I wish he could have been there for sure, but I felt like he was there in spirit.
"Neighborhoods" is a pretty serious album. In terms of subject matter, did you have a mission statement heading into the record?
We didn't really set out with any goal in mind; we just wanted to make a record that we loved. It is lyrically pretty heavy in a lot of places. Maybe that's just where we are in our heads -- we've gone through a lot of stuff over the past few years. I think we're in a better place because of it all, but we've gone through some shit, for sure. I couldn't write a happy song for this record. I wrote upbeat music for the record, but lyrically, I think all the stuff I contributed was pretty dark.
I like to write really depressing lyrics over really poppy music. I've always kind of liked that about our band. We've always tried to make the best music we could, but when it comes time to be on stage, we try and have fun, we try to play the songs the best we can, but we also take everything with a grain of salt and a sense of humor. The humor has really shown itself on the record, but as people and performers we definitely still have some stuff we need to work out and we need to grow up with.
Geffen set a hard deadline for you guys to turn in the album -- which was pretty surprising, because Blink-182 is such an established band.
There wasn't the pressure of a budget for the album, because We were using our own time and our own studios. We love creating music and working on it and agonizing over it… We wanted [the deadline]. We needed it. Because we had already lagged and taken so much time in recording that we actually had to postpone a European tour, and we didn't want to postpone another tour, and we wanted the record to be done.
Is it weird to come back and release a record in a world where so many things have changed? For instance, social media is so important and album sales aren't what they were.
It's definitely different, but I think it's cool. Before it was like, you have to get a video on "TRL"-- that was the pinnacle. Now, MTV doesn't play videos, so there's no "TRL," so that whole goal is nonexistent. Now it's about getting directly to the people -- still having a great video, but instead of MTV, having it on Fuse, YouTube, Vevo, our site. I think it allows artists more direct access and a lot more control over their music. We decided we wanted to release "Heart's All Gone," and the next day we had it up.
What are your plans after the current tour ends? When do you plan on touring again?
Not until next summer. It's difficult for us to tour internationally with Travis not flying. It's something that we totally get and totally respect; it just makes it difficult for us to get some places. We can't really tour South America very easily, and we're trying to figure out a way to tour Australia and Japan.
Do you see yourselves continuing as Blink-182 after this album? Do you see more Blink-182 albums in the future?
Yes, absolutely. We've always said we would continue to do Blink-182 as long as it's fun, and when it wasn't fun we stopped it, and now it's fun again I want it to keep going for as long as we can.