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Tragedy Brings blink-182 Back Together

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Friday, August 21, 2009

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A song called "All the Small Things" put punk rockers blink-182 on the pop mainstream map.

But it was a big, and tragic, thing that brought the trio back together again in late 2008 after more than three years apart.

On Sept. 21, drummer and reality TV show star Travis Barker suffered extensive second and third degree burns in a plane crash near South Carolina that killed four others, including Barker's personal assistant, and also injured musical collaborator DJ AM. The news prompted guitarist Tom DeLonge, whose acrimonious departure form the band in 2005 put blink-182 on indefinite hiatus, to write a letter to his old friend.

"It was, I think, a very human moment, and we all just kind of started talking again," says DeLonge, 33. "It was a perfect time to brush away all the old bulls*** that really didn't matter.

"I think sometimes it takes something of that magnitude to make people realize how stupid they can be, you know?"

Correspondence led to conversation, and before long DeLonge was back in touch not only with Barker but also with blink bassist Mark Hoppus. "Even if that's all it was for, to be talking again, it was really good," the guitarist says. But, in fact, things did go further.

"The conversations kept progressing as far as, 'Should we play together?'," DeLonge recalls. "And once that got out to management, the next thing you know we're (playing) in all these different places. Now we're running after that target rather than us just creating the idea we MIGHT tour.

"It's kind of fun, actually."

blink, which announced its reunion by appearing together at the 2009 Grammy Awards -- and then issued a statement simply stating "We're Back. We mean, really back." -- is picking up as an active concern again. The group hit the studio to record a new album but quickly figured it was "too ambitious" to complete it before hitting the road. The band did, however, finish up one new track, "Up All Night," to roll out along with the tour.

"It's got a little bit of (Pink) Floyd, a little bit of Rush, a little bit of blink in there," DeLonge says. "It's crazy, but it somehow sounds exactly like where we left off."

At this juncture DeLonge says that despite the bitter verbiage between the group members, blink's split in 2005 was less about breaking up than fatigue and a need for rest -- and, in the guitarist's case, a desire to slow down and spend time with his family after selling 20 million copies of its five albums worldwide and scoring a string of cheerfully irreverent hits such as "What's My Age Again," "Adam's Song," "The Rock Show" and "Feeling This."

"Your priorities change from one another," explains DeLonge, who started blink in 1992 after meeting Hoppus through the bassist's sister, a classmate of DeLonge's at Rancho Bernardo High School. Barker joined in 1998. "I just wanted a break. The other guys felt like I was trying to control when and how we toured when I was just saying I wanted to go home for awhile."

During the split DeLonge launched a new band, Angels & Airwaves, which will release its third album and companion film project, "Love," in the fall. Hoppus and Barker formed a band, +44, as well, and Barker also joined Rancid's Tim Armstrong in a group called Transplants while Hoppus produced groups such as New Found Glory, Idiot Pilot and the Matches. But while blink was away for a shorter time than some bands take to make albums, DeLonge and his mates noticed a definite change in the blink's stature.

"I can't even define how much bigger the band is right now," DeLonge says. "It's like legend status. We were playing to 8,000 people a night, and now we're doing 25,000, 30,000 a night on this tour. It's insane. We're all kind of blown away by it."

Some things don't change, however. They maybe "responsible" family men, but the blink boys still like their potty humor -- and finding fresh ways to drop the F-bomb into the proceedings.

"I remember on the very first song of some of these larger tours we did, when the big F*** sign lit on fire, parents would stand up and walk their kids out," says DeLonge. "Now I feel like that's what I'm gonna be doing, but to my own (six-year-old) daughter. I'm gonna have to leave the stage to go walk her out.

"A DJ explained it really good to me once; 'I tell my kid it's not bad if it's art. If you're not doing art, you can't say words like that.' I thought that was a really good way to handle it."

The blink boys are hoping the fans' enthusiasm will greet the new album, whenever it comes out. DeLonge says that the first thing the trio did musically together was "passing around ideas for new songs to each other," even before they picked up their instruments to play together. The tour's success, however, delayed work on everything but "Up All Night.

And even now, DeLonge notes, "we're getting these offers to headline the biggest shows in the world, so I don't know what's going to happen" in terms of making new music. But he's confident that his band is a going concern again, even though he plans to keep Angels & Airwaves active alongside the other blink members' outside projects.

"I think there's room for what everybody wants to do," DeLonge says. "There's room for everything. We just have to figure out how and when we get together to do this piece of magic, and that, to me, is exciting. That, to me, feels free and that, to me, feels like, creatively, a great direction to go."

blink-182, Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco and Chester French perform at 6 p.m. Saturday at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are sold out. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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