I just want to start by saying I’m a long-term Fall Out Boy fan, and am pretty excited for this interview.
Oh so it’s going to be a puff piece? That’s perfect. That’s what I like to hear.
I wouldn’t have it any other way (laughs).
So, how is the tour going so far?
It’s going awesome, to be honest with you. Well, I’m lying to you actually, because I knew it was going to be a puff piece. It’s actually been a little bit cursed. We’ve had two trips to the hospital and we’ve had a show that was cancelled due to lightning … So we have a shaman coming to bless the tour today and we’re making the opposite of voodoo dolls, whatever that is.
Jesus Christ, what’s with all the hospital trips?
I don’t know man, people are kicking it to a whole new level here.
As in, like, members of the different bands?
Food poisoning ran rampant though one bus and then someone did something to their ankle, so there’s a bit of a hex on this tour but the show’s nuts.
Do you think you’ve pissed off the music gods with your most recent record?
Possibly a higher power of some kind. I don’t know.
What’s it like to be one of the moved loved and most hated bands all at the same time?
If you’re polarizing people at least they’re paying attention, you know. We don’t purposely make people hate us but apparently we’re able to do that. At least they’re listening. We go on stage, and we speak our minds. We do the things that we believe in, and people are going to appreciate that, or not appreciate it. And that’s good. I like that. It shows the youth of America and the world are paying attention.
You guys are everywhere. You’ve been around the world, you’re on the charts, you’re all over newspapers and magazines. Is this where you thought you’d be, or are you still amazed you’ve reached this level?
It was all accidental. People think that there was a master plan but there wasn’t one. Or if there was, we weren’t the ones who put it in place. We just went out and played, and played, and played, and played – and for some reason it just clicked one day.
Did it feel instant to you?
No. We felt it [our rise] exponentially but for some reason it just clicked in the mainstream one day. We never bent or change our sound or ideas for anyone. If anything, it’s been for us.
How has your rise to fame in the mainstream pop world affected you guys? Mainstream pop is not where the roots of your band are, so have you changed your music to adjust?
Never, no. It’s like, mainstream is like Siberia—you stop and you’re dead. You’ve just got to keep moving, and do your own thing, and either you’re going to get hypothermia and fall asleep slowly, or you won’t make it out of the woods.
So you try to steer clear of it?
Not really. We do our own thing. But you can play interesting pop music. David Bowie did it, Bob Marley did it, Kanye West does it—why can’t we do it?”
Your new record is more of a piss-take… It’s like tongue-in-cheek delivery of lessons you’ve gleaned from your time in the music industry, and it’s pretty much the first time you’ve commented on the scene. Did you guys feel like you were finally at a point where you were big enough and wise enough to make some comments?
After Infinity On High came out I was just devastated with what people, and the media’s perspective was, of me, versus my perspective of myself because I thought that the two were so distant. I spent that entire record crying and whining about how it’s not like that, and then I realized that that’s not relatable to anybody at all. So on this record, we thought, our culture teaches us to be incessantly selfish, it’s drilled into our heads. And it’s only in moments when you fall in love, or someone close to you gets sick, or you have a child, that you have these sparks—flashes where you think ‘man I’ve been completely selfish for the last 29 years of my life’. And I just wonder why we can’t, as a culture, kind of, cultivate the notion and the idea of selfless–ness. There’s nothing wrong with that, you’re not losing out. That’s kind of what we did. There’s a lot of satire on the record. But people don’t take it as satire. They take it as ‘I really will never believe again.’ Or ‘I don’t care what you think as long as it’s about me.’ That’s what people take it as, but it’s not meant to be that.
I think it’s awesome. It was a great step forward. On the surface it’s more fun than your earlier work, but it’s actually a deeper delivery, and melodically and lyrically it’s stronger too. Is it getting really easy for you guys now? Did you just know where you wanted to go this time around?
We get in the car and we have a destination in mind, but at the same time we’re like a compass and the song is a magnet, and when you get too close you just start spinning, you know what I saying. So it’s like, at some point we were just spinning.
What’s fatherhood been like for you?
I’ve only experienced it for about five months but it’s definitely been the best five-month-experience of my entire life.
For what reasons? How does it make you feel?
It’s hard to explain. It’s like all the clichés ‘If you’re a dad, you’ll get it,’ and ‘If you’re not, it’s hard to explain.’ I just like totally understand so much more about my father, and the sacrifices that he made for me now and I appreciate that on a whole different level. And if I can be half as good as him then I’ll be alright.
Has it changed the way you view your music, or relate to your band, or your day job in general?
Well yeah, I always thought I was fighting the good fight but I realized I was fighting a lot of little fights. I realize the complications of the things that got under my skin before are just so silly and trivial to me now. They just don’t mean anything.
Is it hard to be away from your son and wife on tour all the time?
Yeah, I mean, we find ways to make it work. When Ash isn’t working, they’re with us, and when I have a day off I’m with them, so we find ways.
Have you, at any point over the last five months, reconsidered your role in FOB to perhaps spend more time with your family? Or that’s not even an option?
Right now it’s not an option because these are the lives we signed on for and we knew that going into it. But I want my son to have a nomadic upbringing. I think it’s important to see and experience other cultures in the world. He’s been to England, and he’s been to France, and he’s been to Japan, and that’s all before he was four months old. I want him to be able to experience that.
Is he a musician yet? Can you feel it? Is it in his blood?
He was on the piano the other day and man, it was blowing my mind. He hasn’t got it all down but he likes making the noise, which is half the battle, you know.
How do you deal with all the media exposure? Do you feel a lot of pressure, like people are always watching you or waiting for you to slip up in some way?
I know there are people who are, but I don’t feel pressure from it. I know there’s always a camera on me, or there’s always a microphone on me, but that’s ok.
You never just want to escape with your family to a faraway place?
Sure. Everyone’s got a grass-is-always-greener dream somewhere, right?
Now, you’ve got a clothes line, a film production company, a record label, a bar. How the hell do you do it all?
I sleep about three hours a night—that’s probably part of it. The other part is you just surround yourself with really intelligent people and take all the credit.
So three hours sleep, you get by on, on average?
Yeah, I mean in Europe I did about one or two, here it’s about three or four.
You’re also co-writing a book with William Beckett at the moment. Is that right?
We’ve got this thing we’ve been working on forever. Who knows if it will ever see the light of day. But you know, if me and him get it done it’s good enough. It doesn’t matter if the rest of the world sees it, right?
So how do you manage to give everything time? Some people can spend their whole lives trying to be a good musician or a good dad. How do you divide your time evenly?
Low expectations and high tolerance gets you through life very easily.
What do you mean?
I mean, expect the worst and plan for the best, and you’ll get through life. It’ll happen.
You make it sound so simple.
I think it is so simple and it just blows my mind that people haven’t figured it out.
It’s well-known you attempted suicide in ’05. It’s a pretty long way to come from being at a low point and wanting everything to stop, to where you are now, where you’ve probably going more going on than many people will even attempt in a lifetime. How do you explain the shift?
Imagine if a shark was a vegetarian and it just swam round and did nothing. It would be depressed and possibly just get addicted to the depression. But when the shark’s out hunting, and always has to keep moving, it’s doing what it was designed to do.
So you were built to do a million things at the same time? That’s what gets you going?
I don’t really know. It feels like my brain was maybe designed for that, I don’t know. I do a lot of things without an end goal in the set up in mind which often gets me in trouble.
So then what drives you when you get these ideas?
I think everyone has all these ideas, whether people want to write a book, or quit their job and start a farm, or whatever. For some reason, it’s like, I just start the farm. I don’t really know why. I have a thing in me that kicks in that makes me want to do that extra thing. If an idea crosses my head a couple of times, usually I’ll do it.
So you’re a doer.
I’m a doer if I believe in it. If I don’t believe in it, then I’m a procrastinator.
Are you a Crackberry? Like, are you addicted to a Blackberry or an iPhone?
I spend about $5,000 a month on my phone bill when I’m not in the US. So that’s a $5,000-per-month addiction I guess.
Is that how you conduct all your business? Are you a chronic emailer and texter?
I think my wife would probably say that. That would be one of her complaints.
Would you say you’re a good husband?
I think I am a good husband. I think one of the ideals of a relationship of any kind is that you can always be better. I know I can always do better and I need to make sure that I’m always making myself better, and that’s a goal, you know.
With the media spotlight that you get, you play it pretty smart. You encourage a lot of it, like going on the cover of a gay magazine just to get a reaction. Do you get guidance on how to manoeuvre yourself and behave in a way to get the best results?
No. I get no guidance, really, whatsoever. I do now have a publicist who tells me when I should shut my mouth, which is good, but for the most part to be honest… To me, homophobia seems like one of the last fashions of acceptable hatred. And I don’t feel so comfortable with that, so that’s why when [the magazine] approached me, that’s why that turned out the way it did I guess.
When it comes to your label, what makes you decide to sign a band? Is it because they’re your mates?
Usually it’s an intangible. We have a gang—I don’t really think of us as a record label. I think of us as a gang, where it’s like, if you fit in the gang, it makes sense and if you don’t, it doesn’t. There have been plenty of bands that I’ve passed up on that have become very successful, and there are bands that I’ve passed up on that haven’t been successful. So I do it based on my gut.
Because you were the first of your band buddies to make it really big, have you felt like a role model in any way to the Cobra Starship types, or The Academy Is… over the last few years?
Nah, I mean, I care about them like they’re family to me, but I don’t feel like I’m a role model. Sometimes I feel a little bit like a big brother or a babysitter, but not a role model.
Now let’s get on to Booz. What does it feel like to be the major headliner on the first day? Is this an honor?
It’s definitely an honor. We played at Bamboozle when it was called Skate and Surf and it’s been a big deal for us and we’ve never really seen ourselves in that [headlining] light before. So to be asked to headline not just that—we headlined the west coast show as well—it’s a really big deal to us.
Do you pinch yourself you’re in this position? Do you think about how lucky you are?
Yes, and I always think about how unlucky I could get if things went the wrong way. We’re constantly thinking about that.
What sort of show are you going to put on for fans?
We’re going to put on the biggest show we can at a festival. At a festival, all the bands have even playing ground. We’re not bringing most of our tour set up with us. And that’s the great thing, you just need to go out and earn the fans with your music and with your stage show. You don’t have all the tricks, and the smoke and mirrors to pull people in. But we’re excited to get out there and do it like that.
Do you still get nervous after all this time?
I get nervous every single time. I get butterflies in my stomach and I’m sure that everybody’s not going to care.
Well, I hope your string of bad karma dissipates after this interview.
We’re doing anti-rain dances. We’re going to make it happen.