A Really Great Song Needs Angst and Humor

Geoff Boucher is a Times staff writer

Potty punk--that may be the best way to describe the goofy, catchy rock of Blink-182, a San Diego-area trio that aspires to the comedic accomplishments of Beavis & Butt-head and seems to approach life like class clowns strolling through a world of substitute teachers.

The only thing serious about the band is its success--Blink's "Enema of the State" album has now topped 4 million copies sold, which means bassist Mark Hoppus, 29, guitarist Tom DeLonge, 25, and drummer Travis Barker, 25, can afford to buy large crates of fake dog poop and whoopee cushions.

Even though the hit "What's My Age Again?" encapsulates its winking, sophomoric approach to music, Blink-182 caught some observers off-guard with "Adam's Song," a poignant essay on a teen mulling over suicide. That, along with impending marriages for Hoppus and DeLonge, would seem to suggest the boys might be growing up. Hoppus and DeLonge took some time recently to talk about those issues and the band's new album, "Take Off Your Pants and Jacket," due Tuesday (see review, Page 58).

Question: How has the band's sound changed on the new album?

DeLonge: All the songs are in D major instead of C sharp ....No, really, we like to say this is a more serious album. But it also has some of the most disgusting joke songs you've ever heard in your life. It's one of the most anti-serious serious records you've heard.

Hoppus: It is a lot edgier, I think. We started really getting into bands like Refused, and we've always liked Fugazi a lot. Whatever we were listening to around the two weeks when we wrote this record really made its way onto it. And we listened to a lot harder stuff than we normally would.


Q: Does the huge success of "Enema of the State" liberate you or create a new yardstick?

Hoppus: Coming off of [the 1997 breakthrough album] "Dude Ranch," people said, "You just had a gold record, do you feel like you have to top yourself with this one?" So we've heard this before. If you start thinking like that, you defeat your own purposes. All you can do is write the best songs you can and hope for the best. That was our defeatist attitude going in.


Q: Could you make an album without humor?

Hoppus: I think we have a sense of humor about things, but I don't think they're joke records by any means. I think our sense of humor will always come through no matter what we do.


Q: That's why, to a lot of ears, "Adam's Song" was a departure for you in tone and topic. On that song, did you set out to go in a new direction or was it less calculated than that?

Hoppus: We've always taken that kind of artistic license on all of our records. There's always a song or two where we really try to really push ourselves....On this new record I think we've done a lot of different stuff that people wouldn't ever expect from us ....On the new one, it's "Stay Together for the Kids."

DeLonge: It's a song about divorce. It's just as heavy if not heavier than "Adam's Song." We're super proud of it.


Q: What inspired it?

DeLonge: Mark and I both went through a divorce.

Hoppus: Not like that.

DeLonge: Oh, no. Not like that.

Hoppus: Tom's family and my family both got divorced when we were growing up. I was 8 when my parents divorced.

DeLonge: The song is definitely biographical in that sense. A lot of our stuff is ....It just boils down to being a kid and feeling alienated and sad that this is going down in your family. You have to deal with the pain. I think it changed Mark a lot. Both of his parents didn't want him. They just left him in the desert.


Q: Bands with punk roots and pop success inevitably face questions about "punk credibility"--how do you handle that?

Hoppus: We don't really worry about it. It seems like the only people who care about who is or who isn't punk are 14-year-old kids who are being subsidized by their parents and want to set themselves apart from other kids.

DeLonge: We don't ever think in terms of punk. We always just say let's just write a fast song, a song that rocks. It has to have angst of some sort. Then it's good for us. If it's funny and fast, even better. *

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