blink-182 - Biography
By David Downs
As platinum-selling pop punk children of Southern California’s ’90s skateboard culture, blink-182 consists of guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge, bassist/vocalist Mark Hoppus, and drummer Scott Raynor—the latter of whom was replaced by ska band The Aquabats’ Travis Barker in 1997. Formed in 1993 in Poway, California, a suburb of sunny San Diego, the band mixed fast, melodic punk with infantile, yet honest lyrics that captured delayed adolescence, beginning in 1993 with self-released EP Fly Swatter and the Buddha LP (1994 Kung Fu). Dude Ranch (1997 Grilled Cheese) took blink into the stratosphere with platinum sales and a major label deal, resulting in Enema of the State (1999 MCA) and its hot singles “What’s My Age Again?” and “All the Small Things.” The Mark, Tom and Travis Show (The Enema Strikes Back) (2000 MCA), Take off Your Pants and Jacket (2001 MCA), and blink-182 (2003 Geffen), collectively sold tens of millions of albums. The band took pop punk to the top of the Billboard 200 chart with many of their releases including a number one for Take off Your Pants and Jacket. Singles “All the Small Things” and “I Miss You” became Billboard Modern Rock number ones while cracking the Top 40 alongside “What’s My Age Again?” and “The Rock Show.” blink-182 broke up in 2005, reportedly because DeLonge had tired of touring. Most members went on to side projects, most notably +44.
Bassist Mark Hoppus was born on March 15, 1972, in California. A child of divorce, he went to live with his father in Washington, who gave him his first bass and amp when he was 15, reportedly in return for helping to paint his house. He met Tom DeLonge when he was 17 years old.
Tom DeLonge was born on December 13, 1975, and raised by his mother and father in Poway, California. He worked construction and fast food in his hometown, listened to punk rock and skateboarded. Beginning to play guitar in the seventh grade, he covered Descendents tunes and by high school he was writing songs like “Who’s Gonna Shave Your Back Tonight?” and “Oxy 10.” A class clown with charisma to match, DeLonge was reportedly expelled from Poway High School for drinking. When he returned to Poway High he voted Homecoming King via write-in votes.
In 1992 DeLonge met Hoppus when, according to interviews, Hoppus complained to his sister that he wanted to start a punk band. The Hoppus sisters knew DeLonge’s older sister, and that connection proved serendipitous. Hoppus met DeLonge skateboarding and they began practicing together and looking for a drummer. Friend Scott Raynor, then 20 years old and weaned on Metallica, filled the role.
Originally known as “blink,” the trio focused on catchy, simple melodies with lyrics geared towards the things they knew—teen angst and poop jokes. NOFX, The Cure, Dinosaur Jr., Descendents and Screeching Weasel all influenced early blink as they set about recording demos. They started with the self release EP Fly Swatter, which was recorded on a four-track, and then put out Buddha, an album that helped propel the band into getting signed to Grilled Cheese/Cargo. On the new label, blink released Cheshire Cat (1995 Cargo), which garnered enough attention for a similarly named Irish band to threater a lawsuit. Shortly thereafter, blink changed their name to blink-182. The number has no significance, the band has said in interviews.
Touring through 1996 and 1997, the band built a major base inside the action sports culture, which responded to their ethos of permanent adolescence. Exuberant shows with Pennywise and NOFX on the 1996-1997 Warped Tour, plus appearances on countless skate, surf, and snowboarding videos set the stage for blink-182’s breakout follow-up.
The third blink-182 LP, Dude Ranch, hit number 67 on the Billboard 200 and went platinum by the end of 1998, partly on the strength of single “Dammit (Growing Up).” The album eventually sold four million copies worldwide, requiring bigger labels to distribute the album as it ascended. It was at this time that drummer Scott Raynor, precipitated by a problem with drugs and alcohol, was replaced with Travis Barker, the former drummer of The Aquabats’ who knew blink-182 material from past Warped Tour dates with the band.
Barker was born on November 14, 1975 and grew up in Fontana, California. He had been playing drums his entire life.
Now signed with MCA and rejuvenated by the addition of Barker, blink-182 found even more success with its fourth album, Enema of the State, which rocketed to number nine on the Billboard 200. Produced by Jerry Finn—who’d worked with Green Day and Rancid—the singles “What’s My Age Again?,” “All The Small Things,” and “Adam’s Song” smashed the charts, helping the band again go platinum.
The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show (The Enema Strikes Back) did equally as well a year later, only to be topped by 2003’s Take off Your Pants and Jacket, which became a Billboard 200 number one. The latter featured the standout track, “Stay Together for the Kids.”
Robert Smith of the Cure sang on the “All of This” and “I Miss You” tracks from the 2003 self-titled blink-182 album, helping it to number three on the Billboard 200. Constantly touring the world, the group finally ran out of gas in 2005 at the punk rock retirement age of 30. At this time DeLonge had quit, and it was up to the band manager to call Hoppus and Barker. Geffen released Greatest Hits (2005 Geffen) two years later, a collection of fan-consulted songs from blink-182’s catalog. Further testament to what blink-182 meant to its fan base, the album went to number six on the Billboard 200.
Barker continued on and collaborated with DeLonge as Boxcar Racer, while continuing to play drums with the Transplants. He also continued running his clothing line, Famous Stars and Straps, and starred in the MTV reality series, Meet the Barkers for 16 episodes in 2005. Hoppus started the Atticus fashion line, and began producing as well as hosting podcasts, while he and Barker released material under the name +44. DeLonge continues to work with his clothing company, Macbeth, as well as new project, Angels and Airwaves. DeLonge appeared as an extra in in the film Idle Hands and now lives with his wife Jennifer, daughter Ava, son Jonas Rocket in Rancho Santa Fe, California. Delonge also owns Macbeth Footwear, founded with former partner Mark Hoppus. Hoppus has produced albums for Idiot Pilot, New Found Glory, The Matches, and Motion City Soundtrack. In 2008 Travis Barker was involved in a near fatal plane crash, in which he sustained second and third degree burns, as well as a 48 hour blood transfusion. Shortly after, Blink 182 reformed, releasing the new LP Neighborhoods in 2011, followed by an EP called Dogs Eating Dogs (2012). There are future plans to record another LP and tour the world once again.
In closing, blink-182 lacked many of the critical accolades of their influences and peers, but made up for it in massive popularity. This was based mainly on blink 182’s devotion to writing simple ditties about their ethos of extended adolescence, as evinced by hit song “What’s My Age Again?” A synthesis of punk rock’s poppiest, most melodic elements, Dude Ranch and Enema of the State stand as prime examples of the confluence that happened with punk and the pop mainstream in the ’90s, all in the wake of acts like Green Day and Nirvana.