Interview: All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth sets the record straight on their Mark Hoppus collaboration
The unheard song All Time Low co-wrote with Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus for 2009’s Nothing Personal is one of the scene’s holy grails. Even Hoppus has nothing but good things to say about the tune: When AP interviewed him last year, he said, “I wrote a song with All Time Low that I think is a great song that will never see the light of day.” So what exactly did happen to the song? Below, All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth [second from left] gives the full story of the collaboration: how it came to be, what the song sounded like and why it was never finished—at least as an All Time Low song. For more tales of unheard songs and albums, along with bands who never came to be, check out AP #288, on sale June 5.
How did you end up working with him?
That’s actually a really good question; it’s all really blurry now. [Laughs.] Actually, it’s a funny story, now that I think about it. Rian [Dawson], our drummer, got a Blink tattoo a few years back. He posted a picture of it online, and I think Mark saw that, I guess, because of the reaction. Mark sent him an email and was like, “Yo, that’s an awesome shout-out, blah blah blah.” As soon as he reached out, we kept in touch, Rian hit him back. One of us, I think Jack [Barakat] or myself, reached out. It was right around the time we started working on the record [Nothing Personal]—we just reached out, shot-in-the-dark style. We knew he was producing and writing for other bands, and put it out there: “Yo, it would be really fun to work on a song together.”
He was into it. We were already out in California working on the album, so he brought us out to his studio, and we sat down and worked on a song together. It was pretty crazy, because when it all happened, it was such a blur. Obviously, Blink is a big inspiration for us; they’re kind of a band that inspired us to start a band. That’s definitely a defining moment for us.
How nervous were you to work with him?
Super-nervous, actually. The first time we met him, me and Jack were hiding our anxiety, but I don’t think we were hiding it very well. We were definitely geeking out in the studio the first time.
What was working with him like? Was it super-collaborative right away? Was he taking the lead? How was the dynamic between you guys?
That was really the first time I had ever really reached out as far as quote-unquote co-writing. But for me, co-writing has never been a handout. I’ve always been the predominant writer in All Time Low, and I’m really controlling when it comes to what we do. That’s a general misconception of our band and how we make our records—even when we have been credited as co-writing, I’m always a massive part of that. I would never take handouts. Despite the fact that I’m terrified and nervous, it was really a collaborative thing from the get-go. I went in with a lyrical, vocal idea and he had worked on guitar parts that sounded super Blink-182-ish, and he played it for me. I was like, ‘This vibe’s perfect; I’m a fan. Let’s roll with it.”
What was the lyrical conceit of it?
It sounded like a relationship-kind of song, but it was actually about the trail of the scene, and how fans come and go and tend to be very fickle. At the time, Mark was still working on +44 and the members of Blink were in and out of different projects. It was a topic that related to both of us. We were working on this new album and taking co-writes, and people were disapproving. Everybody had an opinion and thought they knew what was best for our band. At the same time, Blink was not a band, and they were going through the same kinds of things—like, putting out music and putting their hearts into their new project and people weren’t receiving it the way I think people should. People weren’t giving anything a valid chance just because it wasn’t Blink—and because we weren’t the quote-unquote punk rock band we were supposed to be. [Laughs.] That’s kind of what the song is about.
That’s funny that your idol, however many years older than you, was going through the same things. It’s cool to find a common ground.
It’s very rad. That was one of the coolest things about us writing together—the topic became very awesome.
Was the song actually finished?
No, not in terms of All Time Low. We demoed it—it was one of the first songs we wrote for that album. It was never recorded as a full band; it was never seen through.
So it was a demo with you and Mark?
Yeah, it was fake drums, one guitar track. Super stripped-down. I still have it on my laptop; it sounds like absolute shit. But it’s a cool song.
Why did you decide to never go through and finish recording it?
It ended up just being the wrong vibe. It didn’t mesh with the other songs; it sort of felt like an outlier. Which happens pretty much every record cycle. Every record we’ve made, apart form our first one—when I think we wrote 12 songs and put ‘em out—every other record cycle, you end up writing more than you need. You have to pick your favorite children, I guess. Some of the children unfortunately get thrown out. [Laughs.]
And you want to put your best face forward and have the best material out there.
For sure. It’s all a matter of perspective—when you look back, maybe the song is better, maybe the song is worse. At the time, it didn’t feel like it fit.
Do you think the song will ever see the light of day?
It’s actually a funny story—I’ve mentioned it vaguely before. Before Blink fully reformed and confirmed they were getting back together, Mark was working on a project with a friend of mine, who now plays in the band Stars In Stereo, this guy Justin [Siegel]. They were a band for a minute—we took ’em on our small-venue tour that we did, it was their first and only tour as a band. They were this band called City (Comma) State. The first form of that band actually had Mark Hoppus in it, and it was a girl-fronted band—but Mark was a dual vocalist/bass player in the band. Justin played drums.
Out of the blue, I got a call from Mark, and he was like, “Yo, man”—and this was probably a year and a half, two years after the song was written. I got a call and Mark was just like, “Hey, been listening to the material we worked on. Would it be cool if the new project I’m working with used it?” So they actually tracked it as City (Comma) State, and it never saw the light of day. It’s a funny story you asked, “Was the song ever finished?” because the one time the song was finished by a band, it was not my band. It has this chick Joanna [Pacitti] and Mark singing on it, it’s pretty awesome. alt