Intervista a Mark Hoppus

S: We're really excited to talk to you about Plus-44. You've been really quiet about this project- what's the reason for keeping it so low key?
MH: We kept it so low key because we didn't really have anything to talk about until the record was done. When we first started the Plus-44 recording, we were in Travis' basement and my dining room writing songs. We did a couple of interviews in the very beginning of the project and we were like, wait, what the f*** are we talking about? We're talking about an idea. People are going to ask us what it's gonna sound like and we're gonna say, "we're still working on it, we don't have all the songs written yet." So we just made it a policy that we weren't going to talk about anything until the album was done. Otherwise we were just spinning our wheels, you know? We wanted to have something of substance to say when we actually started speaking about Plus-44. So now that the record is pretty much done, we know exactly what our band is, we know exactly what our direction is, and we're ready to talk about it now.

S: When is it set to be released?
MH: It's either late October, early November. There's never been a firm date.

S: What are you planning on calling it?
MH: As of today, we are titling it When Your Heart Stops Beating.

S: Is there any special reason or meaning behind that title?
MH: It's the title of one of the songs on the record that we love the best. It seemed like a great title for the record cause it kind of has two meanings. Like when you see someone you love and your heart beats or when you're super excited about something and your heart skips a beat. It's also some of the bad stuff we've been through over the past couple of years. Like, what do you do when everything's over, you know?

S: Do you have any guest appearances on the record or is it just you guys?
MH: We had Dan "the Automater" come in and work on one song with us but that was pretty much it. We wanted to stand on our own two feet. We wanted this band to stand on its own and we didn't want people to have to question if it was us being creative or if it was someone else's influence or whatever. We really wanted to do everything ourselves.

S: That makes sense.
MH: Which is kind of what this band became, through the process of Tom quitting Blink 182. Travis and I wanted to move on and like I said, we started off in Travis' basement. We had to do everything ourselves, we had to start from square one. It was like a whole rebuilding of our musical sensibilities. It's been really fun because we got to do s*** that we had no idea we could do at all. I was playing guitar for three quarters of the record, Travis was writing drum beats on computers, his drum kit, electronic drums. With all the different tools at our disposal we really approached this album differently than we had with anything Blink 182, but we still brought our sensibilities with it. I mean, we are 2/3 of Blink 182 so we kind of sound like ourselves always. But we're definitely in a new direction.

S: In what ways is it a new direction exactly?
MH: There's a lot more of the electronic influence on this record for sure. And I've really tried to push myself as a vocalist. Before, we kind of unconsciously fell into roles in Blink 182. I wrote a certain kind of song maybe and Tom wrote a certain kind of song maybe. Or on songs with a certain key or vocal range, Tom would sing that part. And other ones, I would always sing a certain kind of part. It wasn't intentional by any means but I think we got into a comfort zone. With Tom quitting and Travis and me having to start out with everything on our own, we really had to dig deep in ourselves and figure out what we could do, and I think that we really surprised ourselves. Definitely vocally, I've done more s*** on this record than I ever did on any Blink 182 record. I'm pushing my voice harder, into different ranges I've never gotten into before. And I'm really happy with the way it sounds. I'm also singing songs that I'm barely whispering, it's pretty cool.

S: Well, we're excited to hear it! Didn't you originally have a girl member (Carol) singing as well?
MH: When we first started recording, we had a couple songs demoed out, and Travis had this idea for one song where a girl would sing on it. So we brought in his friend Carol, who he's known from back in high school. She sang and played guitar, so she came down to the studio and I wrote the lyrics to the song, and so she jumped in on the song and it sounded awesome. That was when we did those interviews- we were talking about the project at the time and the album and said, "this is me, Travis and Carol, and we're writing songs." And then we stopped doing press and everyone ran with that, that it was me Travis and Carol. People were building fan sites (laughs) for a band they had never heard before, which is very flattering and cool. But then when Travis went and bought the studio last October and we started moving everything here, the rock that we'd always played kind of crept back into our music. We were playing live drums, distorted guitars, and the whole focus of the music changed, and I started taking over a lot more of the vocals. We kind of had this idea in the beginning that it would be all electronic and that I would sing some and she would sing some; and then when we actually got in the studio and figured out what the songs would turn out like, it became a lot more rock- so I actually did a lot more of the singing. And Carol wanted to start her own family, so she's starting a family right now. We've kinda gone different ways, but in a happy way. We still talk to her and we have nothing but love for Carol, she's awesome.

S: Does Plus-44 have any immediate touring plans?
MH: We do, yeah. Actually, they're all being put together right now. We only have one show booked right now, which is a Bamboozle, but I just saw a proposed itinerary for a tour that would take us all across North America. I know that we're gonna go to Australia, Japan, all through Europe. We're going to tour everywhere.

S: With Blink 182, did you ever feel you guys just hit the end of the road?
MH: No, Tom quit Blink 182, that's how it ended. That's how Blink 182 ended.

S: I can only imagine how upset you guys were by that.
MH: Yeah, it definitely ended ugly and it ended in a bad way. I think it ended real unprofessional and real ugly with Tom quitting the way that he did and for the reasons that he did.

S: Is there anything you would have done differently?
MH: No. I loved everything with Blink 182. I can't complain with anything Blink 182 at all. It was the best experience; we loved everything that we got to do. It completely blew our minds that we got to do everything we got to do. I have no bad memories of Blink 182 as a band whatsoever.

S: When you were a kid, what did you think you'd be when you grew up? Did you ever imagine you'd be where you are today?
MH: I never had any idea. The last job that I was trying to get, I was going to college- I wanted to teach English. Because in high school I had one of those English teachers who was like the ones you see in movies, where they're inspiring and they open up a whole new world for people.

S: I had one of those.
MH: Yeah. (Laughs) I've always thought that that was such a cool thing because so many of your teachers through school just want you to get the f*** out of their class. They just want you to learn whatever it is you have to learn and then go home. But there's teachers actually teaching us about Shakespeare. Not just "read these words and tell me what you've read" - more like, "what are the meanings behind these words, what does it make you feel, what does it make you think, where do you think he was coming from?" And I was always really inspired by that, so I wanted to pass that on. Instead, I started a band and here I am. (Laughs) So no, I never dreamed in a million years that I'd be where I am right now.

S: Do you keep in touch with that teacher that inspired you?
MH: No. The funny thing was, he was the best teacher inspiring in that way, but he was one of the least likeable people in the world. Like, if you showed up late for his class, he would berate you like you've never been berated before. He was sharp and he was mean. He was pretty strict as a teacher. So I never really kept in touch with him, but I always admired his ability to inspire a fascination of English literature.

S: You guys started playing when bands released their demos on cassette tapes. And these days bands release their demos online and things like that. Besides all the advances in technology, what else had changed for you since you first started playing music?
MH: The entire music industry has changed- every aspect of it. When we first started making music, the way that you recorded was, you saved up enough money to get into a small studio with the bare minimum of equipment and you had. I think on our very first demo that we ever recorded we had all of 12 hours to do it. I think we recorded over three nights and we had like four hours each night. We had to save up all the money we could to do that. And then we had to go and take the master tapes and get cassettes processed somewhere, so then you had to pay for that. And then you had a couple hundred cassette tapes you could sell at your shows and I personally drove all around San Diego and dropped off our cassette tapes. At Off the Record and Lose Records, and all these record stores in San Diego that allowed local bands to put their music there on consignment. That's how we started. Now, there's so much access to bands that you can seriously take your computer with garage band and you can record a demo on that. And it's included with the software on your computer! With this, everybody can go out and record a demo for a few hundred bucks. And they can put it up online and they can market it online for no money whatsoever. There's websites for that with the access and the ability to put out music on their own, it's phenomenal and it's really exciting. It's great because there's all these bands that you would never get a chance to hear before that you can hear at the click of a button now. It's pretty amazing.

S: When you guys were first starting with Blink you used to come to where I grew up in Vegas for shows, it seemed like every other weekend you guys were there with Unwritten Law and that's what was available, those demo tapes.
MH: That's awesome, (laughs) that's so cool! Where did you see us, the Huntridge Theater?

S: Yeah, that's where we had most of the shows. So it's funny to be sitting here talking with you because I'm just reminiscing, thinking about how much has changed over the past decade.
MH: Those Huntridge Theater shows were fun.

S: I don't know if that place is still open anymore.
MH: I heard that it wasn't. I don't know. I heard that it was for a long time and then the roof collapsed.

S: Yeah, and then it was shut down for like two years. Then they opened it up but they may have closed it again since then, I'm not really sure. (Laughs) Well, where do you see yourself in the next five years? What does the future hold for Mark Hoppus?
MH: That's so hard to say. In five years, definitely still playing music, definitely still touring, definitely still creating music that I love. That's all that I want to do, that's my highest aspiration is to continue to write better and better songs. And do that the rest of my life.

- Sierra Sky (SmartPunk.com)

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