Mark Hoppus sat across from me in a music room. He looked neither like a father nor a rockstar, but an odd amalgam of the two. His hair was done in a style I have never seen a father wear before, yet he presented himself like a father would: Dignified and wise. His attire placed him at the cross-roads of getting older. He seemed to be dressing as if he were a younger man. I suppose he is one of the few people who could get away with doing such a thing. When we spoke, he talked excitedly both about his band and his son. It is clear that he is talented, yet he seemed humble, friendly.
Blink–182 started in 1992. Hoppus moved from “the desert,” Ridgecrest, California to San Diego to go to college, at California State University in San Marcos, and start a band. It was there that he met Tom Delange, lead guitarist of Blink, and began writing songs in his garage until the met drummer Travis Barker in 1996. “That’s when the band coalesced,” Hoppus said.
Hoppus believes that there was never one big break for Blink-182. “It was a thousand little steps,” said Hoppus.
“I never thought we would be huge,” he said. “Our biggest goal, when we started off, was to play SOMA [a concert venue] in San Diego, so when we headlined it and sold it out, we thought we had made it.”
He goes on to describe the rest of the history: Labels, the Great Western Forum, Madison Square Garden. “It’s like, amazing opportunities that everyday you think, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that happened,’” he said.
After meeting producer Jerry Finn in 1999, Blink-182 began to develop its identity. He “passed on the knowledge of why he did what he did [which] made us who we are.”
According to Hoppus, Blink is a “punk-influenced rock band,” with influences from most Southern Californian rock bands. These include the Descendants, Bad Religion and Face to Face. “When you grow up with punk rock, you will always have that influence,” he said. The tone of the band remains consistently punk, and many of their non-punk songs still carry punk influences.
Blink-182 will rehearse for 7 to 10 days in a studio in Orange County before a concert or a tour. “We are either really rough in the beginning, or we are pretty good at the beginning, and we get better from there,” Hoppus explained. “We will show up, make some jokes and start going through some songs.”
When going to rehearse, they work on the songs they have been performing for 20 years. Most of what the band performs in concert is old material. “Being in a band for 20 years, people want to hear new stuff, but people also want to hear the singles that were on the radio 10 or 15 years ago,” he told me.
Writing Blink’s music is a personal, creative process. Every member of the band takes turns writing songs, but they each do it differently. Hoppus comes in with a rough idea for a song and they work from there, whereas Delange comes in with a completed song and they deconstruct it. This does not stop band members from commenting on or composing for instruments that are not there. While Hoppus writes the songs on bass, he has ideas for drums or guitar parts, as well as vocal lines. In order to do this, though, “There’s a lot of talk that goes on in the studio of people trying to make music sounds with their mouths,” Hoppus said. Alongside this abstract discussion, a more technical conversation takes place. “[Barker] may say, ‘Mark why don’t you hit on the one-and instead of the one?’” Hoppus said.
Hoppus said that the band has grown and developed as they have grown older. “We don’t want to write the same album we wrote twenty years ago, so we have expanded as musicians and music listeners,” he said. They have looked to produce a wide variety of music, dabbling in electronic, dance and acoustic music.
Despite living 5000 miles away from the rest of the band, Hoppus said that working with them has not changed. “It is just more travelling on my part,” he said.
It has changed his family life, though. When he lived in Los Angeles and would record an album he could “get [his son] Jack [Hoppus (’20)] up in the morning, get him off to school, head to the studio, work a full day in the studio and be home in time to have dinner and help him with homework,” Hoppus said. Now, when Hoppus goes to rehearse or record with the band, he has to leave for a week and a half, but when he is not, he can act as a full-time parent.
Looking back on the last 20 years, Hoppus would not have done anything differently. Even though they had a breakup in 2005, which he described as “heart-wrenching,” Hoppus believes that they couldn’t be where they are today had they not gone through that.
While filming a music video in 2000, Hoppus met video producer Skye Everly. Delange asked Everly out for Hoppus as a joke. She flatly rejected him. By 2002, they were married and had a son, Jack Hoppus (’20).
All three members of the band had children by 2003. This has brought the band together, because when “doing sound check, the kids are riding their razor scooters through the arena,” Hoppus said, smiling.
Jack, along with the rest of the band’s children, used to attend most of the concerts that Blink-182 would perform. This has created an awkward spot for these men as parents. They had to explain to their children the band’s onstage persona and the immature videos (the video for “What’s My Age Again?” shows the band streaking through the streets of L.A). Hoppus sat down with Jack, when he was young, and told him “there are times where you can say the ‘F-word,’ and times you can’t.” Hoppus tells me that he believes that understanding that distinction is “growing up.”
Just because Jack has been to Blink’s concerts does not mean he is a fan. Driving through L.A. five years ago, a Blink song came on the radio. Hoppus pointed it out to his son. Jack’s response was, “Yeah, that’s cool but you’re not really my top three”.
Hoppus’s move to London largely revolved around Jack. “We want him to appreciate different cultures and parts of the world,” Hoppus said. As much as he tries to give his son a worldly view, he will always have certain problems. “[Jack] has never had to wait in line at Disneyland for a ride, so does that ruin the [worldliness]?” Hoppus would love to make him wait in a line for him to experience that, but, “I wouldn’t stand with him, because it is too boring. I’d make him do it on his own,” He joked.
Jack’s friends never really understood the importance of their friend’s father until recently. “I was always ‘Jack’s dad who was in a band,’” Hoppus said. This changed when Blink-182 performed at the O2 Centre last year, and Jack took 15 of his friends to watch the concert from the stage.
Hoppus said that Jack does not want to follow in his father’s footsetps. He played drums for a while and recently learned his way around a guitar but he does not play very often.
Hoppus does not find this to be strange. “We are going to put every different opportunity and idea in front of Jack and whatever way he gravitates towards, that’s where he should go,” said Hoppus.