The Swellers drummer Jonathan Diener weighs in on the recent back-and-forth between Tom Delonge and the other members of Blink-182.
After Tom Delonge’s unexpected departure from Blink-182, outspoken fan reaction is probably taking over all of your social media feeds. Diehard followers are heartbroken their favorite band’s troubles are finally out in the open, and naysayers keep making the same tired joke about not knowing the band even reunited. Ha. Between the explosive interviews Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker gave to Rolling Stone and Hoppus gave to AltPress, as well as Tom’s own statements, there seem to be two distinct versions of the story. But regardless of what caused the split, let’s look into what we know going forward.
Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba will be filling in for Delonge on guitar and vocals in order to fulfill the band’s obligations at the Musink Festival. Skiba has a similar guitar style and, of course, comes from a trio himself, so he seems like the perfect candidate to fill the position. As an established musician and a punk icon himself, we can rest assured he will not be mimicking Delonge’s vocal stylings. He’ll add a new perspective to Blink classics. (Maybe there’s even a chance of this new incarnation of Blink performing an Alkaline Trio song at a show?) If the band did decide to tour, it would almost be like seeing two great bands tour together. Though Hoppus and Barker said there’s no current plans for a new Blink album, who knows what the future holds? I would personally love it if Skiba was included in a new record as a songwriter or a featured vocalist. Early Alkaline Trio songs were upbeat and punky, and his presence could be a much-needed adrenaline shot that would bring the band back to their roots, and eliminate some of the experimental weirdness Blink in later years.
LEGALITIES AND BUSINESS
The legal logistics of this whole situation is where things get ugly. Will the band still be able to legally use the name Blink-182 without Tom? For reference, Sublime legally had to be Sublime With Rome when Rome Ramierez took over onvocals, and Kyuss had to become Kyuss Lives when Josh Homme wasn’t a part of the band (though they couldn’t record under that name). The use of the Blink-182 logo and original name is important because it attracts sales. If the original owners are not associated, someone is technically taking advantage of your band’s drawing power. On the other hand, Paramore parted ways with the Farro brothers and were able to keep the name, so there’s a good chance if the remaining members wanted to continue as Blink-182, they could come to some kind of an agreement. I know if I was leaving my band, the Swellers, as one of two songwriters, I would not want the name to remain without me. And obviously, when band members communicate to each other via their managers, the prospect of peaceful compromise seems slim. If there is some sort of, “severance pay” or a “butt-out” situation, each member could soon have his own lawyers waging war.
It should be stressed that, whether the fans like it or not, a band is a business. It’s an artistic endeavor, sure, but there are so many stakes at play. Before plans stalled, Blink-182’s new record contract was signed by Hoppus, Barker and Delonge, so can they get that document voided and end the band, continue without Delonge or be forced to release albums with him? The 60-page label contract apparently stated that Angels & Airwaves would have to be put on hold for around nine months and Blink would need to complete an album in the next six months. Sure, the nine-month hold on AVA was eventually waived, but according to Tom, tensions were already high. But the contract was signed, so the lawyers enter again. Having been on several labels, I am well aware of the money being put into bands’ album cycles and the initial press campaign. The second the contract is signed, a label knows they get a guaranteed amount of money from album sales. Sure, the Swellers weren’t one of the big sellers, but even we knew the major responsibility that was in our hands. Blink-182 is one of the biggest bands in the world, so this specific contract will be a sticky one with many stipulations. The label will most likely be treated as a fourth member fighting in the legal battle to at least get some sort of settlement if a new record won’t be released. In a perfect world, the label would understand and soften the blow between band members by helping them make a clean break with minimal negotiating, while still finishing up their tour dates. Unfortunately, everyone likes money, so that outcome’s doubtful.
My band met Tom when we were in San Diego hanging out at the Macbeth headquarters and he was working on some new music, which he let us listen to. The stuff we heard was most likely for Angels & Airwaves, but we were informed he was also in the studio to record the newest Blink album. He was very nice, funny and generally cool to all of us, especially for having no idea who we were. It definitely changed our opinion on what we thought was going on between the three of them, because before that meeting, we were told each member were recording hours away from each other on their own. When the record really did appear to be a mostly Delonge song release, we weren’t so sure. He could have been the driving force for the album while like he said in one of his online statements; the other two members could have phoned it in and only recorded for a short period of time. Again, the whole situation devolves into he-said, he-said. As for me, I imagine a large chunk of songs were recorded and they just narrowed it down, which could be why one vocalist had more album time than another.
I know what it's like to have communication issues and money problems between band members. There are many times when whoever is handling the finances, promotion or helping lineup tour dates forgets to mention to the other guys what is about to happen. It's not withheld on purpose; people just have busy lives and it slips their mind. I've done that dozens of times to my own band and it was never malicious. I can't even imagine the confusion it would cause communicating between different band members' managers. Information would get skewed and potentially be misrepresented. The second a paycheck is involved, these situations escalate, people start assuming or overthinking and things can get very nasty. It's not just goofing off playing music with your buds anymore when thousands, or in their case, millions of dollars are at stake.
As someone who doesn’t have an extremely strong opinion on the band, I can say that I am at least interested in seeing the lineup with Skiba. It will sound great and the morale of the band will be better than ever. These strange circumstances will at least strengthen the bond between Mark and Travis. I know a few bands who have toured with Blink and like any major band, the guys have their own dressing rooms. They travel with their families and they continue their adult lives separately, while living on the road for large chunks at a time. Are they best friends? Probably not, but that isn't a bad thing.
My band was touring for over eight years and over time we slowed down talking to each other between trips. It wasn’t because of bad blood— you just get overexposed to people. We’ve also gone through several lineup changes over the years. Some were very bad splits, but I’ve rekindled some amazing friendships with them when I gave it a chance after some time passed. Airing band drama publicly is usually a last-resort situation that can put a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. I don't think anyone wanted to hurt anyone, but just let their fans know why things are taking so long and force something to finally happen. Whether there are legal issues at stake, or the rumor mill is churning out speculation on when Mark last talked to Tom, we can’t be sure if there will ever be a true Blink-182 reunion. But this is one fan hoping to see them play —together —to really put Blink to rest.