Californian pop punk trio blink-182 has just released its ninth album, soberly entitled “NINE”. A darker, moodier and more experimental record which tends to set a new sound for the band. As Mark Hoppus and Matt Skiba were in Paris, they opened up about the record and the themes behind the lyrics.
You’ve released your ninth album, well, according to your own account!
Mark Hoppus (vocals/bass): I’m calling it “NINE”, I don’t have the authority to do it but I’m taking the initiative. (laughs)
The previous one, “California” (2016) felt like you were trying to sound like blink-182 with a new line up. “NINE” feels bolder, darker, and more experimental. For example, in the song “Hungover You”, one can tell you tried to go in a different direction with your voices.
Mark: Thank you, and I entirely agree with what you say. It’s kind of exactly what we set up to do. When we recorded “California”, the first album with Matt, we took it back to the foundation of what’s blink-182. We had lots of discussions in the studio about what makes a blink-182 song to us. We stripped it back and that album felt very much like “Enema Of The State”. When we started recording this album we said: “OK, “Enema” was a gigantic success. We had a Grammy nomination, we had number 1 radio, we had huge sales, but we want to do something completely different.” I really like what we did on this record. It is darker, it is moodier, so many different styles of production, joining influences from hip hop, from emo rap, electronic music, industrial music, punk music, all kind of stuff.
The song “Darkside” is really catchy with the poppy melody, but it has a dark ambience and lyrics. The dissonance between the two is what makes it interesting.
Mark: Yes. This is one of my favourite song on the record and it’s one of the songs I had the least to do with. That song is really spirited by Matt. I think it is indicative of what Matt is great at. Writing catchy melody and lyrics with a dark twist in them. A wink or a nudge to the lyrics and the mentality of it. I love that song.
The video clip was unexpected though.
Mark: Travis sent me a meme that he saw about kids in a school who were trying to do this organized dance that was kind of silly and fun. He said that we should do this as a music video. We did it and I love the video, the energy. I love that the kids who are in the video are so positive and energetic and happy. If they take control of the world, the world is in good hands.
Matt Skiba (vocals/guitar): Yeah, they were lovely. You know what you and Mark said about the juxtaposition of poppy sound and dark subject, in the content of the video it’s all about this happy thing. That song isn’t necessarily dark. I composed it to create the blink-182 version of “Disorder” by Joy Division. Joy Division is only morose, there is no wink, they were not making any kind of jokes. “Darkside” is more of a banger. It’s more like a song you can dance to if you go to a goth club. It’s not really from a depressed place, it’s from a place of struggle.
Mark: It’s also a celebration of the “I know this is going to be a bad trip, but I’m going in anyway”.
Matt: OK, I take that back. (laughs) I guess the idea behind that song is absolutely dark but you wouldn’t know it. I’m watching the video and I think it’s cool that it wasn’t us walking through a graveyard. That it was this sunny video with these energetic and beautiful kids dancing. It’s really cool.
Matt, were you behind the song “No Heart To Speak Of”?
The work you did with your voice is really impressive. How did you push yourself to reach this result? One can tell it comes from the heart, but we were wondering if it comes from a personal experience?
Matt: Oh thank you! It’s something I don’t get to do very often, to sing in that range. Doing all the takes to record the song, I couldn’t talk for some days. There is right way to do that. Like in “California” there are a couple songs where I’m screaming at the top of my register and in the studio I blew my voice doing it. Live, I hold back because I have a show the next day. The emotion or the thing that the song is about is something I don’t really want to talk about. It’s not even about me. I remember singing that song and needing couple of minutes aside from the physical aspect of singing. I was exhausted by the singing and the emotion of it.
It was bold to launch the record with “Blame It On My Youth”. It was like statement: “this is who we are and where we come from, so deal with it”. How did you choose to put out this song first?
Mark: I thought “Blame It On My Youth” was a quintessential blink-182 song. It’s catchy, it has guitar riffs in it, it has this big anthemic chorus, it definitely has modern production and there was some backlash. It was strange to me cause I was like: “this is the most obvious blink-182 song on the whole record”. I think people were caught off guard by the production on it. It was the same feeling for all the first singles. We released them and some people totally got it, some people didn’t and thought that we were trying to be some fucking Coldplay.
Then we released “Generational Divide”, which is a strictly punk song. A minute long, angry and aggressive song. But then people thought that we released that in reaction to the reaction of “Blame It On My Youth”, which it wasn’t. Actually, we recorded it 6 months before recording “Blame It On My Youth”.
Then we put out “Happy Days” and I saw that people were starting to understand what it was going to be like. Then, when the record was out, I saw on Twitter and Instagram people saying: “OK, I get it now, the record makes total sense, I was totally wrong with my first impressions, now I get it and I love this record”. This is great and I’m glad that we got to that point. It’s also to be expected when we tried to go in a complete different direction from our last record. Unless you hear it in its totality it doesn’t make sense to hear one song here. Now that it’s out there, people get it.
Were you affected by the backlash?
Mark: I would say this. I try not to live and die by the comment section. The comment section is the most toxic part of the internet. It’s just people complaining. I was really surprised that people who say that they’ve been a fan of blink-182 for years, even with some surname with a 182, say on this one song: “oh you’ve ruined blink-182, this is not blink-182”. After 25 years and 9 albums worth of songs, you don’t like one song and you would turn your back on the whole band? That was surprising for me. But like I said, the comment section is always the worst part of the internet.
Matt: What I like was when people thought that it was a prank that we pulled.
Mark: God, I saw that too. (laughs)
Matt: Like we just had time and money to burn to play people jokes with radio songs. They thought we were playing jokes on them to release the new record. I played “Blame It On My Youth” for friends of mine who are blink-182 fans, like my friend Carmen who is an incredible musician and grew up with blink. She loved it and said it was a quintessential blink song. It’s fun, it’s poppy. The production is different, but I didn’t think it would make such a difference.
The lyrics are honest, that’s also what makes it a good song.
Matt: All three of us are very proud of the record. One of the things I’m most proud of is that the lyrics are really honest. Not that they weren’t honest on “California”, but this record feels more specific. Those specific things are really heavy.
You talked a lot about depression and anxiety, and you were quite open about it. Mark, you went through a depressive phase, you said that the musical creativity generated by Simple Creatures was a way out of it. You were also about to tour with Linkin Park when…
Mark: Yes, we were set touring. We were in London finishing a blink-182 European tour and we were supposed to fly from London to NYC to play the Blinkin Park Show. We found out that Chester passed, literally 45 minutes before going on that stage in London. The last show of the tour and it just crushed everybody.
Matt: We just played with them a week or two prior. I think that you guys have probably known him for a long time but we were just friendly acquaintances. He just seems like such a nice guy. I remember a show when we played with them. There were lots of kids waiting and his security wanted him to go swiftly on stage. He went over his head to take the time to talk to every single one of these kids. It’s just something that I noticed. He could have pretended that he did not see them and gone up on stage. It was really cool to see it. Mark is the same way and Travis is the same way. Although I did not know him very well he seemed to be such a beautiful guy. Definitely a crushing blow. To think that anyone, especially someone that I love and care for, could loose someone they love and care about hurts.
Mark: We saw him all summer long. We were playing festivals and sharing stages all through Europe that summer. Everytime I saw him he was so stock. Especially with the shows coming up. I was in their dressing room, hanging out, and we found out that the shows were selling out. He was literally jumping up and down in the dressing room. “This is so awesome, I can’t wait. This is going to be so killer”. Which really just shows that depression is really insidious. Looking at somebody who hourly seems happy, positive and in a good place but suffering on the insides.
Matt: Unfortunately I had a number of suicides in friends and family, and I never expected that. It’s always a shock. Anybody passing is a shock. The one who commits a suicide is usually the person who is always smiling. Insidious is a good word for a terrible thing.
In the new record, the things behind the lyrics are quite heavy. It’s a way to help people working through all these dark things.
Mark: Yes, I think that’s the idea. Like Matt, the one thing I’m also proud of is that the lyrics are super honest. We always try to write honest music but I think on this one we had a discussion to agree that we were only going to say what we feel and not try to make it clean or make it happy. Just say what you mean. All these stuff that you tried to hide from the world, that you try to hide from your friends and loved ones, the dark things on your mind. I wanted to put them front and center. This is what’s going on in my head right now, for better or for worse. It helps me, but I still struggle.
And you’re open about it, which is inspiring.
Mark: Well, it’s better for me to be open about it. It happens more often now that I like it to. I’m getting better at recognizing it when it happens and try to channel it to a better place hopefully.
Matt: It’s a very selfless thing that Mark did on this record. If you have a brain between your ears you’re probably going to be depressed at some level. For fans of the band, to hear Mark speak so openly about it, I know that it’s helping kids as we speak. It’s a beautiful thing.
Hearing songs like “Adam’s Song” was really heartbreaking cause it felt true. “Stay Together For The Kids” was powerful as well. We do believe that pop punk is a vehicle to help kids going through their dark periods.
Mark: Oh, thank you. That’s what music and art should be to me. A celebration of great times and memories. It’s also like: “search your soul, what are you feeling and what are you about to do today?”. There are days when you feel like you can go out and conquer the world and there are those days when you feel like the world’s on your chest.
How did it feel to celebrate the 20th anniversary of “Enema Of The State”?
Mark: It was really fun. We’ve played it all summer long and it reminded how great that record is. There’s no song that I regret on that album. There wasn’t a song where I was like: “Fuck, we have to play this song again”.
Matt: I was excited to play such a great record. Obviously it was made long before I was even friends with these guys. I was a fan. I went to the Chicago shows on that tour. When we were going through the set I was getting excited to play that song and that song. “Enema Of The State” is one my favourite record. Being able to play these songs was really cool.
Mark: The cool thing about it is that we came full circle. When we were recording “Enema Of The State” and “Take Off Your Pants And Jackets” (2001) we were working with our friend Jerry Finn, who was also working with Alkaline Trio at that time. Jerry would play Alkaline Trio blink Songs and he would play us Alkaline Trio songs. I remember that when we were recording “Take Off Your Pants And Jackets” Jerry played us the songs he was finishing mixing for Alkaline Trio and Tom (ie: DeLonge) was so affected by them that he was like: “I got to rewrite the lyrics, I got to step up”. He went back and changed some of the lyrics because he was so inspired by Alkaline Trio. Our pasts have been intertwined for a long time.
Matt: Thanks to Jerry!
Last question: as our media is called “RockUrLife”, what rocks your life?
Matt: Music and art, being one of the same thing.
Mark: I would say my family. My wife and son.
Site web : blink182.com