Blink is back: Q&A with Mark Hoppus
The naked bassist talks about T-shirts, Travis Barker’s crash and the thin line between work and play
Thu, Jul 23, 2009 (midnight)
Photo: Megan Thompson
If getting a band back together is much like rekindling a failed relationship, Blink 182 had “the talk” outside of their L.A. studio four years after going on an extended hiatus. Singer and guitarist Tom DeLonge, bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker had been hanging out as friends again and it was just time. “I said, ‘I personally think we should go back out and do what we’ve done for the past 15 years,’” recalled Hoppus of the chat that led to a reunion announcement at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards in February.
Five months later, Blink 182 is back.
They’ve begun work on a new album and have spent three months preparing for a 52-date reunion tour that kicks off on Thursday, July 23 with back-to-back nights at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Over the phone, bassist Mark Hoppus talked about relearning old songs, Blink’s biggest light show to date, and the difference (or lack thereof) between work and play.
Shows have been selling out and you guys have been booking second dates some cities. When you decided to do a reunion did you realize the demand would be that strong?
Naw, it’s really crazy. It’s really humbling and amazing the response that the tour is getting right now. We had no idea. To have these shows sell out and sell out so quickly is really phenomenal and we’re kind of blown away by it all.
Getting a band back together is kind of like getting a relationship back together. Did you guys have “the talk?”
Yea, we did. We were in the courtyard of our studio [in L.A.] and we had all just been hanging around as friends and just reconnecting on that level. Tom said, “What are we going to do about this Blink thing? It’s kind hanging out there. Are we going to do this or what do you guys think we should do?” I said, “I personally think we should go back out and do what we’ve done for the past 15 years.” We all kind of agreed and went from there.
Was Travis Barker’s crash (on September 20) part of the catalyst for you guys getting back in touch and hanging out again?
- Blink 182 Reunion Tour
- July 23 and 24, 8 p.m. $41-$146
- The Joint
- Related Story
- Blink 182 reunion to be the subject of a documentary film (7/21/09)
I think that it was. And I think that even before Travis’ crash we were all probably in a position where we were wanted to let the past be the past and at least come back together and reconnect as friends.
From previous tours, are there any Blink 182 antics or traditions that you think will be coming back?
I’m interested to see what kind of hijinks there will be, because we’re all in our 30s now, so you would expect that we’d have grown up, but that’s not really the case. I’m kind of ashamed/delighted to know that I’m 37 and still laughing at stuff that I did when I was in high school.
Is there anything you’re nervous about in regards to the tour?
Obviously, there’s a lot of…not pressure…but we really want to put on the best shows that we possibly can, and having these shows be as huge and sold out as they are ups the ante. I just want to get out there and get into the routine of playing shows a week into it so it feels comfortable, rather than this thing that has been out there for the past five years. There’s no way we can live up to people’s expectations.
You guys have been rehearsing now for about three or four months. What was it like the first time running through your old songs?
Some songs were totally like right back on it, like we never stopped playing. Some songs we’d have to stop and be like, “What do we do at this point?” and go listen to the CDs and try to figure out how the songs went. But for the most part it was really easy and really natural.
Is Blink 182 recording a new album right now?
We’re not. We started recording a new album and we plan on recording a new album, but we are in tour mode right now. So, we’ll be writing it on the road and we’ll be bringing stuff on the road, but we’re not actually in the recording process anymore. We stopped down the recording process to get ready for tour.
You’ve been doing a lot of producing over the last few years. Has that changed the way you look at your own band?
I enjoy doing both of them for different reasons. I love being on the producing side, because it’s dealing with other people’s ideas, almost like a director does for a movie. You have all these talented people and they have their visions and they have all these songs they bring in. You help them craft it into something that they want and you want. It’s a real collaborative process and something I get a lot of inspiration from. I obviously love writing and performing music in my own band, so I think they go well together.
When you’re putting together the set list for this tour is it primarily your biggest hits or are you mixing new stuff in there?
We were going to mix in a new song; I don’t know if we are anymore. I think we’re really going to concentrate on the songs people know already and get back in the studio when we get back home and start working on new stuff again. This tour is really about us coming back together as a band. Then when we get back home we’ll take the next step forward. We’re not going to hit people with a bunch of new songs they don’t know. I hate that when I go to concerts.
What are the production elements we’ll see from this tour?
We’ve been working with a designer named Martin Phillips who was the guy who designed the Daft Punk pyramid set and Kanye West’s tour, and he’s worked with Nine Inch Nails, so he’s a ridiculously talented production designer. It’s the biggest light show that Blink has ever had by far.
And you’re taking it with you all over the country…
It’s amazing what these guys are going to have to do. They started on Monday of last week [July 13] loading it and figuring out how the stage was going to be built. They had the design, but they had to figure out how all the pieces were going to fit together. And they’re still putting it together right now [July 20], a week later. Starting [July 22] they’re going to have to be building it all and taking it all down every single day.
When you’re up on stage, do you ever get distracted by the lights?
Definitely. I’m looking at all these lights flashing and all these amazing images flashing across these screens that we have and the smoke and the different patterns of lights, and all of a sudden I realize I’ve missed the bridge and gone on to the second chorus instead.
You guys also have some interesting merch…
Our merchandise guy is really creative and really talented. We made a bunch of limited edition items for the tour, like a limited edition T-shirt for each show that just is available at that show. There are only 182 T-shirts for each show of that special design and they’ll never be made again. We made these little rabbit toys that we’re selling. This Blink bunny has kind of been our mascot for years, and years, and years…And limited edition posters…We wanted to do something kind of special for this tour.
You’re kind of a Twitter fanatic. Who’s your favorite person to follow?
I am. I am. The actor-comedian named Rob Huebel. He’s crazy funny. He just comes up with the most random stuff. (Laughs) He’s just a great guy to follow on Twitter. He’s just really funny and really witty.
You also designed a bass, right?
I designed a bass with Fender a few years ago that has been out in stores and we’re doing the next version of it right now. It’s my own signature model bass and it’s a combination of a Fender jazz bass and a Fender precision bass that I’ve been working on with them for a few years. I use them in the studio to record and I use them in the studio to record and they sound amazing.
Does the bass ever get a bum rap as being the least glamorous instrument?
It really depends on the player. I love bass because it requires a lot of taste. I think a lot of people love playing guitar because it’s a lead instrument and it’s a cool instrument. For me personally, I love playing the bass ‘cause it’s really a foundational instrument and it bridges the drums and the guitar. It’s a very tasteful instrument, I would say.
What’s the dynamic when Blink 182 gets together? Is it more work or play?
It’s totally play. Absolutely. It’s totally just having fun. It’s not work at all. When I say I’m going to work, it’s just going to hang out with my friends and doing something I love. Work is a very loose term in my world.