|College and Alternative radio favorites Blink 182 have been burning up the charts for well over a year now with their hit album "Enema of the State." Their quirky and irreverent videos and self-effacing pop tunes have won them vast appeal. Guitar Center's Dustin Hinz recently sat down for a fun and frequently offbeat interview with Blink guitarist, Tom Delonge.
GC: First off tell us about your Fender Guitar.
Tom: My Fenders are made specifically for me, which means they're probably worth nothing. I have a Fender Stratocaster made with a 70's head stock on it, rosewood finger board, with no finish on the back of the neck, one Seymour Duncan invader pickup with one volume knob, no other pickups or knobs and Spurzel locking tuners. I also have a Baritone Telecaster neck on a Stratocaster body, and I'm going to get another one. It's being made right now.
GC: So why did you decide to play a custom strat over just a standard?
Tom: I don't need the other pickups and I don't need the extra knobs, and I like the way Fender's 70's headstocks look, and I need different tuning pegs and it just kind of made sense to throw my favorite humbucker in there and change some hardware. I like to keep my rig as simple as possible - plug straight in and play! Switching pickups and all that kind of weird stuff becomes too tedious for me.
GC: Blink has a pretty straightforward sound. Do you use any pedals or effects?
Tom: Sound from the amplifier! I think it's a sin to plug into a pedal or any effects before plugging into an amp.
GC: So your amps must be pretty important to your sound then. What kind of rig do you play through?
Tom: I love my guitar rig! I love the way it sounds and I use it for one main reason: I think it adds the two elements of guitar sound you need to make a big fat sound. I use a Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier and a Marshall JCM900. Mesa Boogies can have all that bottom end and saturation of distortion but it doesn't have that string note tone that a Marshall has. And Marshall has a lot of string note tone but none of that overdriven bottom end. So when you mix the two tones I think it sounds incredible. What I do is put the JCM900 on its clean channel and turn the gain up to 10 and I also do the same with the dirty channel on the Mesa. So you kind of have two totally different unique sounds blended in together. I run that out of 3, Mesa Boogie 4x12's.
GC: What is the coolest recent addition to your setup?
Tom: Probably my Triple Rectifier that's wrapped in snakeskin with the cool earth tone grill on it. It doesn't sound any different but it looks cool, and being the guitarist everything has to look good (laugh), and that's all that matters to me. Lights, shiny lights! The more money I spend, the more lights I want!
GC: What's next on your wish list?
Tom: You know, I want to add a third amp. I'm thinking of maybe adding like a Dual Professional, maybe a Fender Bassman, you know, just to get a beefier sound. Everyone I talk to says I don't need it. But we used one on the last record along with three other amps and I really like the way my guitar tone sounds on the record, so that's an option. Or maybe some more speakers to make it louder, maybe one of those Mesa Boogie Red Barons, those 300 watt amplifiers. That would be rad! I'd blow people's heads off!
GC: So, do you think it's more important to spend money on a powerful amp or a great guitar?
Tom: That's a hard one, because you could have a great sounding guitar and a sh---y amp and it would still sound pretty good. But the main thing that I think a lot of people don't realize is the pickup in their guitar is the number one thing that needs to be changed. I mean, if you have a good fat beefy pickup, it can make a sh---y amp sound much better. But if it's a sh---y pickup then the sound is going to suck from the beginning!
GC: Do you have a home studio to write or record in?
Tom: I don't really have a home studio, but I have a little room in my house where I record all my songs. I have a little Yamaha. It's a digital eight-track Minidisc or whatever. I also have a DAT player and a CD burner and other stuff like that. I don't really record seriously, I just record random guitar riffs and write chord progressions and stuff like that.
||GC: How do you write? Do you have a song writing routine?
Tom: What I usually do is come up with a guitar riff I really like and structure the chord progressions around that. Then I'll change various parts of the song after I start adding melodies. I want the melody to be the best thing ever, so a lot of times a chord progression will change and then it will work its way down and I'll end up changing the main guitar riff. Sometimes I'll go up and down throughout a song and it will take a few months to get it to where I want it.
GC: Does everybody in the band contribute to the writing process?
Tom: Well, Mark and I write all the songs. But we sit down with Travis after it's pretty much done and do arrangements and stuff.
GC: Do you warm up before a performance?
Tom: I drink about three or four Red Bull energy drinks!
GC: No Stretching or anything like that?
Tom: No stretching. Don't need to. I'm not an acrobat, although a lot of people think I should be in a circus sideshow!
GC: What advice would you have for a musician who might want to model their career after yours?
Tom: Well if there's anybody out there who wants to do that, then their parents are probably going to disown them! They'd have to work really hard and move back in with their parents and tour in a van and really try, really, really hard to write the best songs you can. But don't just make records because you have songs in your head. If you have twenty songs you should probably make eight, and make them really, really good. I think a lot of people just write songs and put them on a record because they wrote it, and worked hard on it but it still may suck. You've got to have the ability to throw away songs and really pick out the good parts of each song and try to make each song the best it can be.
GC: What do you see as the differences between the new punk movement and the original punks? Where does Blink 182 fit into that picture?
Tom: I think that obviously the new punk rock sound is more of musicians trying to play their instruments and concentrate more on, if not their lyrics, then their melodies and harmonies and trying to integrate their music. You know back in the day, you'd have punk bands that didn't care about anything! I don't know where we fit in but I think that a lot of kids relate to us and see that "Hey these guys are normal dudes that just picked up guitars and had fun!" We're just one band out of a very positive movement. We've never been an angry band and we never want to be. We want people to have fun and say whatever they want to say and offend people and run around naked and do whatever the f--k they want to do!
GC: Blink 182 went from being a band that would open for acts such as NOFX and The Vandals to a band that recently headlined the Warped Tour.
Tom: Yeah, well we've grown up a lot since then. I think we've gotten better at what we do. (We've) Learned how to play our instruments better and learned how to play shows better and learned how to focus on our strengths. I think a lot of bands learn to do that when they get a little bit of success. I think it's necessary. Bands that don't learn that, you don't see them around for that long. So we're trying.
GC: In the early days Blink 182 didn't get a lot of radio airplay, but now you're played constantly. What's your perspective on why and how that happened?
Tom: You know we're on a big label and we write songs that are radio friendly, but that's not anything we haven't done in the past. I mean, even on our past records we got some radio airplay and it's just because our songs are that way. We never tried to write a radio song, it just happened. And we were like, "Let's not change what we're doing, let's try and do what we already do but better!" When we did "Enema of the State" we spent a lot more time and a lot more money to make the "perfect record." Now you hear it on the radio and it's just weird! I wish I could say that there was a formula. But there are so many great songs out there that just don't click on the radio and you wonder how that happens. I don't know. I have no idea!
GC: Do you think the record company has an influence on that?
Tom: Well yeah, when you are on a big label they have all the money and the control. They have so much power and there's so much politics in radio that it's not even about having a good song! It's about who you know, why and where. I don't know about politics. Independent promoters control every radio station. You pay them a lot of money or you don't get your song on the radio. It's weird, I just learned this sh-t like six months ago, I couldn't believe it!
GC: Do you shop at Guitar Center?
Tom: You know, I do shop at Guitar Center and I think every musician does. Every musician will sit there and go "f--k! Guitar Center sucks" but it's not true! Guitar Center is rad because they have such a wide selection. Every musician wants to think that Guitar Center sucks because it's so big. It's kind of like when a band is really big and you want to hate them, but you know they're good, so you kind of like 'em. It's kind of like that!