When Blink-182 was nominated for best rock album at the 2017 Grammy Awards, it capped off one of the most improbable comebacks in recent music memory. The year before, they had a dramatic public split with guitarist Tom DeLonge and brought in Alkaline Trio‘s Matt Skiba to honor the dates they’d committed to playing.
Even Mark Hoppus can’t believe how big Blink were in 2016. “As long as Blink has been around and with all the drama we have a number one album, we have the biggest tour of our career and we have a Grammy nomination. It’s insane to me.”
Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker may have been surprised by the band’s incredible 2016, but others in the industry were not. Perry LaVoisne, SVP of North American Touring at Live Nation, attributes the band’s touring success in 2016 to “great songs and the band’s commitment and connection to their fans.”
The band’s longtime agent, Darryl Eaton at CAA, concurs. “Mark and Travis are also super connected to their fans, these guys are Twitter and Instagram monsters. And I think they’ve managed to stay connected with their fans throughout time and we really used that too to help reach everybody from the get-go.”
He agrees with LaVoisne as well: It starts with the songs. “They write great songs. The appeal of Blink-182 throughout history is that they’re incredible songwriters,” Eaton says. “They make music that people want to listen to, and a big part, which got us super enthusiastic too, was how great a record they made on this album cycle.”
With the Grammy nod kicking off the band’s 2017, they have a lot of big plans, starting with, in the words of LaVoisne, “Getting them back on the road.”
The band will have a wealth of new material to draw on with a deluxe edition of California on the way. And the touring will start in January with some intimate shows in California, where the band will play the 2016 album named after its home state in its entirety. Billboard spoke with Hoppus and Barker about their unlikely 2016 and the big plans for 2017.
Talk about what the Grammy nomination to cap off the year meant to you guys.
Mark Hoppus: It is a great feeling to be nominated for a Grammy. It’s something I never envisioned was even possible and to have that happen at the end of this year is a huge honor, so gratifying, so amazing. Two weeks later I want to tell everybody on the street that we got nominated.
Travis Barker: It’s unbelievable. It’s not even something we could have dreamed of. Years ago I was very OK with just being able to play the Grammys with other artists. That was a big achievement, I remember after I played with Eminem, Drake and Lil Wayne on the Grammys, I was like, “OK, I can die now.” Probably the most amazing thing to ever happen to me. Then for this, for the band I’ve played in for almost the last 20 years to get nominated, just being nominated I feel like we’ve won, it doesn’t matter if we win. It’s just awesome.
Who would be your dream Grammy collaboration?
Hoppus: In dream land, with the people who are nominated, I’d probably say it’d be awesome to do a song with Chainsmokers and Halsey. It’d be fun to do something with Twenty One Pilots, it’d be cool to do something with Weezer. I’m down with whatever. Maybe A Tribe Called Quest would be fun, on the record it’d really be fun to do “Bored to Death.” It was the song that was kind of our statement song for what this record and what this Blink-182 was all about.
Barker: Last year I played with Robin Thicke, Pitbull and Joe Perry at the Grammys. I would’ve never dreamed of that collaboration and it was fun. I feel like Chainsmokers have had such a big year, I just played the AMAs with Chainsmokers. If they’re up for Grammys or nominated, I could see that being a cool collaboration.
Did you see early on how people were responding to the new music?
Hoppus: Yeah, we started touring before the album came out. We had a single that came out, we leaked another song, leaked another song. I think that by the time that the album actually hit there were three songs out and we had already kind of started touring. And people were asking for more and more new songs. With a brand-new record, typically people still want to hear mostly old stuff and maybe one or two songs from a new album, but on this tour specifically, people were asking every single show for more and more new songs. So by the end of the tour we were playing probably about almost half of the album as part of the tour.
Barker: I think that’s the biggest compliment and reassurance is we’d play our set and people would be screaming and it’d be something like, “Play more new shit.” People are even calling out, “Play ‘California,’” “Play ‘Sober,’” naming songs off the new album. Usually people, even me, I’m guilty, when I go see someone I’m like, “I want them to play this record or stuff from this album.” That was when we really knew that we won and made an incredible album, when fans that had been with us for years and years came out on this tour and would request more new material.
The timing was right, though, where you hit that sweet spot of older and younger fans converging as Blink fans. Did you pick up on that before the record at all?
Hoppus: Yeah, over the last couple of years and on this tour there is exactly that convergence where people have been coming to Blink shows for decades and there are people who are coming out and it’s their first show that they’ve ever gone to. And you have parents bringing their kids, you have older brothers and sisters bringing their younger brothers and sisters and it’s this very cool collection of humans. It’s awesome. The front row still looks the same as it did when we first started.
Barker: It was everyone from 12-year-old kids to people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, even 50s. It was people that grew up on it and now were there with their younger brother or, in some cases, their kids, and were turning them on to Blink. That’s something we never even dreamed of and it’s just incredible. I feel like this genre of music has eternal youth, it feels like it never gets old and people, whether it’s ones in their 40s or 50s that have been a fan for 20 years and still listen to this genre of music, but it can still be relatable to their kids or younger brothers or sisters.
Are there bands whom you really admire for the way they’ve grown over the years and developed that fan base that is cross-generational?
Hoppus: I think of bands like the Beatles, but all their success, from when they first started until they broke up, was only like eight or ten years. But I always admired the way they evolved and changed even in that short amount of time. I think you’re always trying to change and better yourself and try different stuff. I love the Rolling Stones, I love their staying power, I love U2 and their staying power, I love Neil Diamond and his staying power. All these acts, like Bruce Springsteen, have started off and stayed true to themselves and also changed what they were and keep pushing, I totally admire that.
With the success you’ve had touring in 2016 how would you like to see it grow next year?
Hoppus: I’d love to, and we’re planning on doing this, go over to Europe and do a lot of European tours, playing festivals over there. We’re not gonna be at Reading and Leeds this year, but ideally we’d play Reading and Leeds or Glastonbury and continue…everything that we’re doing is exactly what I dream to do. Like we’re in the studio these past couple of weeks working on new music for the deluxe edition, planning for tours, playing shows, bringing the music we’ve done for the past year everywhere we possibly can.
Can you give us a preview of the studio music you’ve done the last couple of weeks?
Hoppus: It’s almost, it’s more than a whole other record, it’s a double album at this point and it’s more of an extension of what we did in the studio earlier. Some of the songs were songs that we did not put on the first album, but are great songs. And some are brand new that we just wrote last week, a lot of high-energy songs, punk rock, some more ballad-y songs, a little more electronic experimentation, it’s a good mix. It’s not a collection of throwaway songs, it’s like a whole other album.
Barker: We’re working on the deluxe album and I got in a conversation with [producer John] Feldmann this morning. I was like, “Dude, we got a problem, the deluxe album might even be better than California.” It’s a good problem to have, but, oh shit, it’s incredible. It’s kind of like a mind f— because it should almost be a new album. But it just goes to show how natural and organic things are happening and how fun this process has been because it’s not hard to go write great songs and make fun music that we love creating and listening to. And the results are great. The deluxe album will be neck-and-neck with California. It’s in no way fillers.
Are there songs you are particularly excited to play?
Barker: Yeah, there are like four songs that didn’t make the album that we’re putting on there. But then there are brand-new songs like “Wildfire” and “Parking Lot” and “Misery” that are all so f—ing strong, man. It’s amazing. We started writing maybe a week and a half ago and I think we have 14 songs. It’s a good problem to have. I’m really excited about this deluxe edition. It’s gonna be incredible.
Hoppus: There’s a song called “Misery” that we just wrote and a song called “Wildfire” that are both pretty high-energy, anthemic, huge choruses, I think will go over really well.
You just headlined KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas. Looking back on the year in alternative radio, what is the state of rock these days?
Barker: For me, two of the headliners, us and Green Day, both rooted in punk rock, it’s outstanding, it’s f—ing awesome. It was a little weird for me when rock music was folky for the last couple of years. It wasn’t rock and roll to me, so seeing Acoustic Christmas this year, it just seemed like it had more balls and was a little bit more dangerous and more fun and more exciting.
Do you it’s a response to the current political climate?
Barker: Yeah, it’s gonna spark a lot of great music. It’s gonna be how the ‘80s were, there’s tons of great music coming out ’cause of the nature of our country. And, at the same time, we’re not much of a political band. There were bands like Public Enemy in hip-hop, they were really standing for something, they had a political message that most hip-hop bands didn’t have. So I think it’s definitely gonna spark something through a lot of different genres of music, particularly punk rock, rock and roll and hip-hop. Hopefully that will bring the edge and aggression of rock you felt was missing.
Barker: Absolutely, it’s nice right now. I can turn on KROQ, obviously I love when Blink-182 has an album out, but Green Day has a new album out and Rancid is recording an album right now and I just love hearing our genre of music and bands still moving the airwaves with their music, it makes me happy. I love that, I’d much rather listen to that than some of the other stuff that’s existed for the last couple of years.