Published Jul 12, 2016San Diego-bred pop-punk act Blink-182 have come a long way from their humble beginnings as a trio of skate brats practising in original drummer Scott Raynor's bedroom (Raynor was replaced by Travis Barker in 1998). With 35 million records sold worldwide (and counting), they're one of the most successful modern rock acts of all time. While internal band issues have led to a number of lineup changes, the group have somewhat returned to form on their sunny new LP California.
To fully understand their new release, however, one must look through the long, storied career of Blink-182. The band are currently the subject of Exclaim!'s Timeline (which you can read in full in our print issue, in newsboxes across Canada now). As a nice little teaser, though, here are some facts you may not know about the band.
Five Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About Blink-182:
1. They can't decide if they are punk or not.
"All the punk rock I had heard before was all very political and very angry, with a lot of yelling," Mark Hoppus tells Exclaim! "And then I heard the Descendents and it changed my whole world. The Descendents were catchy and fun and angry but not in a political sense — disaffected is more of a description for them. They were punk rock Beach Boys…. From there, there was this whole world."
In a Los Angeles Times profile in 1995, Tom DeLonge is challenged by the notion of calling Blink-182 a punk band. "What is punk?" he asks, adding, "Punk has tapered off. The Offspring is nothing like the intense force of a Black Flag or the Descendents. But the attitude is the thing. We all share the same energy and view on life and really don't care what other people think. I'll continue to call our music 'punk,' and I'm proud of our toilet humour."
Further cementing Blink-182's status as mainstream pop superstars, Universal Records presses promotional 7-inches of Enema of the State's "All the Small Things" and The Mark, Tom & Travis Show's "Man Overboard." On the flip side of each respective record is Enrique Iglesias' "Be with You" and Eminem's "Stan."
Speaking with Exclaim!, Hoppus explains that he understands the debate over Blink-182's punk status.
"We've always debated, and people have gone back and forth on it," he says. "I think we kind of stopped calling ourselves a punk rock band a while ago. We're just a rock band with punk influences. And I don't know, I've never really concerned myself with are we punk enough or are we not punk enough. We just write songs that we love and keep our head down and work hard."
2. Despite influencing the sound of Enema of the State, Travis Barker had to fight for writing credits in the band.
"When we went in to record Enema of the State, I was very instrumental in the writing with Mark and Tom as far as tempos and arrangements and parts and accents," Barker tells Exclaim! "I loved doing that and I think it changed the sound quite a bit from Dude Ranch to Enema of the State, just a little bit broader. I think a year and a half went by, and I was still being paid as a touring musician…. The way I see it is, if that song would sound different without you then you're writing. If you're saying we should do this in the bridge, or no it should be this tempo, or no that chorus sucks it should be half time, or you should sing that an octave higher. If you're contributing anything at all, then you're becoming a writer. You're basically throwing yourself into the writing process, which is important. Which I did so much on Enema."
By the time the Take Off Your Pants writing sessions rolled around, Barker insisted that he be given full writing credit. "I said to the guys like, 'Hey if I'm not going to be part of this band or get any writing credits, then I'll just let y'all write the whole album and then I'll come in and play drums,'" he recalls to Exclaim! "I finally started getting more accepted and I think my value was appreciated and I became somewhat a member of the band. But it took a little while. It took a couple of years of having to prove myself."
3. There was a lawsuit over the title Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.
In keeping with Blink-182's themes, the album's title, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, is a masturbation pun (a remarkably subtle joke that people are still cluing into today). That choice won out against If You See Kay (a spelling of the word "fuck" that's later used on Britney Spears' song "If U Seek Amy") and Genital Ben (a play on the television series Gentle Ben). The final name was suggested by guitar tech Larry Palm, and DeLonge allegedly told Palm he'd "hook him up." When the title was chosen, he was offered $500. Instead, he sued the band for $20,000, eventually winning $10,000 in an out-of-court settlement.
4. Travis Barker asked self-help guru Tony Robbins to counsel the band.
Following a European tour in 2010, Blink-182 cancel some 2011 dates in an effort to work on their next studio album. DeLonge suggests that the band work on the album separately so that he can stay with his family in San Diego while Hoppus and Barker work in Los Angeles. Rather than replace Finn, the album is produced by the band themselves, and each member gets his own sound engineer. Adding to the clutter, Blink-182 has four separate managers during the process of recording. DeLonge and Hoppus would go for months at a time without speaking to one another, only communicating through their managers.
Still, conflicts plague the band. In 2014, DeLonge abruptly quit the band, only to beg Hoppus and Barker to ignore his emails the day after. Their strained interpersonal relationships mirror that of Metallica in Some Kind of Monster. In his autobiography Can I Say, Barker admits that he forwarded intra-band emails to Tony Robbins in the hopes that the self-help guru could offer some group therapy.
5. Producer John Feldmann encouraged the band to write their California songs as fast as possible.
By the end of 2015, Blink-182 has written and recorded over 30 demos. They planned to record them with Feldmann in early 2016, but the producer had a different idea. "He came into the studio and we played him a bunch of stuff, and he said, 'I think there are some cool ideas on here. But why don't you guys come into my studio tomorrow and start a song from scratch, and we'll see what happens when you get into my studio,'" Hoppus recalls. "So the next day we went into John's studio and wrote two songs that day. Then the next day we wrote two more songs. And just kept going in and writing more and more music that we never even really went back and listened to the 30 songs that we'd written prior to walking in with John."
Feldmann also encourages the band to write quickly and not overthink what they're doing. "He would literally say things like, 'I'm going to go make myself a cup of coffee. When I come back, I want you to have a chorus written for the song or lyrics done for the song,'" Hoppus tells Exclaim!, admitting that Feldmann's speed was a welcome change for his writing process. "If I'm left alone with a song long enough I will just beat it to death. I'll pick at it and try to improve it and whatever, and sometimes it's not the best. Sometimes for me, what's best is first thought, best thought."