Why did Tom DeLonge leave Blink 182?

I heard about not one, but two rather distressing attempts to ruin my adolescence this week, but rather than a film director who literally doesn’t know when to stop (as he keeps changing his mind), we’ll get into something about punk rock music instead.

When I heard that Tom DeLonge had quit Blink 182, I’d honestly forgotten that they were at some point in the recent past still together anyway. What I thought were just a bunch of reunion gigs in 2009-10ish actually turned out to be the promotion behind an album. Thinking back, I struck upon the last time this kind of creative and personal conflict came up between the three punk kids done good.

box car racer blink 182

Box Car Racer

I was 17 when Box Car Racer released their only album in 2002; DeLonge wanted to do something that “didn’t feel locked in to what Blink was”. Having found Blink at precisely the same moment as everyone my age – after ‘Dammit’ but before ‘What’s My Age Again?’ – you could see how much of a departure this album was for DeLonge, but apparently not so much of one that fellow 182ers couldn’t be involved. (Travis Barker was the band’s drummer just so DeLonge didn’t have to stump up for a session musician, while Mark Hoppus sings on one of the tracks.)

When Blink returned in 2003 with their self-titled fifth album, there was certainly a mix of both early Blink and Box Car on there, you could see how the side project had to take place for these fresher songs to emerge.

Hoppus was understandably rather offended that he wasn’t invited to fully contribute, but I guess the record company and management wanted the next Blink record to be strictly Blink – the likes of ‘I Feel So’ and ‘All Systems Go’ wouldn’t have been acceptable for a band world-famous for dick jokes and spiky pop-punk riffs.

Hiatus and the death of Jerry Finn

Blink took another hiatus in 2005 while artistic and personal differences reared their ugly heads. This time, Hoppus snagged Barker for a new band, +44, while DeLonge spread his wings into Angels + Airwaves. Both did alright, but neither were Blink.

The sad death of producer Jerry Finn – if you like any band from California in the 90s (and I did), chances are he was at the console – got the three bandmates talking again, and soon they were back in the studio, differences resolved and alternate artistic outlets suitably chased down, ready for another go.

Reading some news stories today I discovered that their sixth album Neighbourhoods was recorded in different cities: DeLonge in San Diego, Hoppus and Barker in LA. It’d be one thing if they were on different coasts, but even in a state as large as California I don’t see the need for this distance unless there were still some wrinkles to iron out. Unsurprisingly, they were unhappy with the results of recording, as were their label with its sales.

So when it came time to record for their new one earlier this year, DeLonge said that, with A+A back on the road and several film and book projects in the pipeline, he found it “hard as hell to commit”. Hoppus responded by alleging that DeLonge was “holding Blink 182 back” from carrying on, and have since played a live show as Blink 182 with a new guitarist/vocalist. But we’ve covered that already.

Why did Blink 182 split up?

why did Blink 182 split up

image author: IllaZilla

Look back along the timeline and you may see a key event which led to something of a breakdown in communications between two lifelong friends: Box Car Racer. You can understand DeLonge’s frustration at, as he’s called it, not being allowed to use any more than one colour on the canvas Blink were painting, but in choosing to release a new album with one bandmate and not the other, you can also see why Hoppus felt some resentment about the whole arrangement, especially as he didn’t see the need to nip out for a sandwich between meals like the others.

A ten-year ripple effect of personal and professional problems has led to DeLonge’s departure from one of my teenhood’s most influential bands – itself very much predicated on an ‘us vs them’ attitude which punk rock gives us – which leads me to wonder why, short of fulfilling some distinctly non-punk legal obligations to tours and an album, Blink 182 can’t just call it a day for the third and final time.

Matt Skiba joins Blink 182

Twenty years of growing fame, family commitment, near death experiences and professional pressures mounted on Blink 182 guitarist Tom DeLonge, leading to bandmates Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus announcing his departure from the band.

But at the time of writing, Blink 182 have played two shows and are on the bill for another with a brand new guitarist-vocalist.

The new line-up played a warm-up at The Roxy in LA on 18th March, and here’s a song that Tom should be singing:

 

It’s a bit blurry, so in case you didn’t recognise him by his vocals or the loud F-bomb he drops during Mark’s verse, here’s a new photo:

Matt Skiba Blink 182 Alkaline Trio

In his resplendent Hurley t-shirt you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s just his head photo-shopped onto Tom’s body, but – holy crap – that’s Matt Skiba from Alkaline Trio!

Billed as ‘Blink 182 with Matt Skiba’, they’ll be headlining MusInk Festival on Sunday night.

From the video it’s kinda hard to tell with so much crowd participation – and Travis Barker’s usual enthusiasm on drums – but you can tell Matt’s very into it. (You could say he’s feeling this…I’ll get me coat.)

For now it’s a temporary gig, as Skiba’s already announced he intends to continue with his bandmates in the Trio. Did you ever think this would happen?

It’s blowing my mind a bit more than it really should, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot ever since I saw the above footage for the first time last night. I’ve had plenty of ‘dream band’ discussions with friends at practices and after a few beers, but I never thought that lifting Skiba out of the Trio and into Blink would figure in the equation.

And to be honest, it still doesn’t – I much prefer Skiba’s musical talents over DeLonge, but Blink 182 just isn’t right without Tom. Alkaline Trio were once one of my very favourite bands, in fact they probably received the baton from Blink once I’d heard Private Eye for the first time, but in the days before I Miss You and Feeling This, Blink were much further along the poppier, sunnier side of the road than Alkaline Trio ever were, a gateway band into punk rock for me along with The Offspring.

If nothing else at least it’s a fun novelty.

Whether that fun novelty should ever find its way into a recording studio is another debate entirely. I’ll be posting later in the week about Blink 182 – let’s see if we can nail down the root of the problem.

A rant about Pokemon Shuffle

Nintendo, Pokemon Shuffle and the slow death of traditional gaming

I received a ‘gift’ from Nintendo the other week on my 3DS; the much-hyped Pokemon Shuffle. Now as I’ve never really played one of the actual games, my experience with the iconic franchise doesn’t extend much beyond semi-regular viewing of the cartoons in my teens (along with a bang-on impression of Bulbasaur’s voice) so I wasn’t sure what to expect with this ‘free-to-play’ puzzle title.

Ahh, free-to-play. We’ve all got opinions on freemium games, haven’t we. Some say it’s a clever use of in-game mechanics to reward the more devoted fans with the chance to play as much as they like, while others see it as a cynical cash grab driven by game companies who simply need to spin their franchises into a big pile of moneys, plural.

People can, and do, spend a lot of moneys on these games as a result. Whether it’s the disposable income or just phenomenal levels of fandom for the games, it does happen.

I get that Candy Crush Saga and the like can be addictive games to certain players, really I do. But I’m not the type of gamer who’s willing to spend money on an otherwise completely free game just to get the hearts, jewels and extra lives which I can get just as easily by spending my time, rather than my money, waiting to play again.

And of all the guilty parties that try and throw something together in the name of building up their Scrooge McDuck-style coin vaults, Nintendo has become, for me, one of the very worst offenders.

Pokemon Shuffle – the mini-review

In an attempt to get in on that freemium action they’ve released Pokemon Shuffle; where you gotta catch ‘em all within a set number of moves by matching Pokemon symbols into rows of three or more. Once you’ve won the battle, you get to tap the screen to throw out your Pokeball and, if you’ve finished the fight with enough moves to spare/have gained enough points, you’ll catch ‘em.

But if you need a little competitive edge – and god how I hate that the very definition of ‘competitive edge’ has become this – you can always do a cheeky couple of microtransactions to boost your catching power or buy another few lives.

Maybe it’s just that this attempt to get in on the freemium action has come far, FAR too late to make a meaningful dent on the market – or maybe it’s that Nintendo has underestimated the X factor needed in getting you to part with your money once the action gets too hot and you only need another jewel or two to advance – but…

Pokemon Shuffle is BLOODY RUBBISH

pokemon shuffle review

My sentiments exactly, Ash.

Really. It is such a waste of time. No denying it looks gorgeous – we all know Nintendo can make a game look amazing. After all, the gorgeous graphics they continue to develop is 33% of how they’ve survived the various console wars for all these years. Sadly the other two thirds – accessibility and originality  – are absolutely nowhere to be found here.

So let’s address each guilty count.

Originality, that’s simple enough – Nintendo has made a business decision to keep nipping at players’ pockets by creating this godawful attempt at a Candy Crush clone, and used one of their very best franchises to do so. Pokemon is simply one of the best game concepts of all time, and even their bi-annual glorified roster updates do very well as there’s always a new hook to keep the audience interested.

Accessibility – the same thing that got a whole new generation of players off their arses and playing some Wii Tennis; the simple yet genius concepts, rewriting the rules of every genre they try their hand at. There’s a reason Nintendo was the first love of a hell of a lot of people, and that’s because Nintendo continually changed the game. Now, by charging you money to get ahead in Pokemon Shuffle, they’re actually blocking access to 99.9% of people who otherwise are enjoying the game but don’t fancy stumping up for an extra life. At best it’s an unusual approach, at worst it’s tantamount to exclusion.

But with the recent announcement that Nintendo’s branching into mobile games – signing a partnership with a leading Japanese mobile developer rather than taking time they don’t have to establish an in-house operation – this sort of thing could come to have been expected sooner or later anyway.

pokemin shuffle

Here’s a picture of Squirtle to cheers us all up.

For the die-hards it’s a tentative step in the depressing direction that former nemesis SEGA ended up taking – these days it seems you’re never more than ten feet away from a new Crazy Taxi conversion – but if there’s one thing Nintendo knows how to do, it’s diversify. Let’s just hope that the next step isn’t as equally backwards and debasing as Pokemon Shuffle.

Excited for Wrestlemania 31? (What do you mean, no?)

Wrestlemania 31 – predictions and sadness

We’re just over two weeks away from the 31st instalment of the WWE’s signature event, Wrestlemania. As with most years, by now the major ingredients are in place and we can safely start breaking down what may or may not happen.

Wrestlemania 31 card

Usually this all comes with more than a pinch of excitement for what’s ahead – but for various reasons this year I’m hesitant about booking the Monday morning off and getting ready for some seriously exciting matches and outcomes.

Here are my thoughts on a few of the bigger-profile matches set for the Wrestlemania 31 card.

Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal

With a galaxy of talent named in the second ever Memorial battle royal including Sin Cara, Fandango and Adam Rose, please forgive my less than spirited enthusiasm, especially considering the less than stellar year that Cesaro had since winning the first one – it’s thought that he won’t even be appearing on Wrestlemania proper at this point, as he’ll likely defend his Tag Team titles with partner Tyson Kidd on the preshow. Unless Cesaro gets into this match with a good story about trying to defend his (broken) trophy, my hopes are low…

Triple H vs Sting

…though maybe not as low as they are for this match. Considering Triple H’s own admission that he doesn’t know what will happen out there, with the competitors’ combined age of 100, and Hunter resting the feud on the age-old ‘Monday Night Wars’ through interviews, it’s been difficult to get fans to care much about this one. Seeing Sting wrestle in a WWE ring will be a revelation for many, but for me Sting’s late TNA work didn’t get me pumped up for seeing him in the ring with a great performer like Triple H – especially at Wrestlemania. Sting will probably win here – anything else only lends more weight to the fact that post-WCW WCW was an absolute mess.

Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Title

Quite a motley crew here – Bad News Barrett, R-Truth, Dean Ambrose, Luke Harper, Dolph Ziggler, Stardust and Daniel Bryan, plus potentially another name or two between here and the big night. Not content with a losing streak even Less Than Jake would be envious of, Bad News Barrett now has to deal with the consistent theft of his Intercontinental title.

As if needing to literally prove that the rightful owner is the man who wins the multi-man ladder match, they’ve been stealing the belt off each other. It’s a poor substitute for some proper character development in my opinion, especially as the loosest possible plot is all that some of these guys even need to make it to the next level of the card, such is their talent. I can see Bryan winning this, but wouldn’t mind Dolph taking it or – controversially – Barrett retaining. I’m a big fan. Either way, the IC title is frankly below most of these guys.

More to come later this week – even more reasons why the build towards Wrestlemania 31 isn’t exactly doing it for me.

A Tune For Tuesday – Happy Mario Day!

Today is Super Mario Day. I approve.

I don’t even know when this started being a thing, but the marketing geniuses at Nintendo did something clever with their Calendar phone apps to decide that as today is the 10th of March, or rather, Mar10, that it should be Mario Day.

SuperMarioBros

I guess I’m okay with this. He is the face of many a brilliant video game after all – from the original trilogy of games for Super Nintendo (and especially Super Mario Bros. 3 which was the first one to really hook me into console gaming) to the recent stunning Galaxy games, not to mention the Mario Kart series which is easily my favourite racer of all time.

When it comes to Mario music, you know there’s so many tracks to choose from.  More than 30 years’ worth, in fact, across a multitude of gaming platforms each with their own distinct sound. From 8-bit original goodness to massive orchestral versions, the soundtracks are always a highlight, and one of the staples of a memorable video game – in fact, it’s basically unfair that Mario hogs so many of the musical highlights of video game culture.

How best to celebrate Mario Day? Well, seeing as it’s Tuesday, why not write a long-winded introduction to my less than semi-regular series celebrating the best geek culture music of all time.

Outside of that theme tune, it’s far too hard to choose a single piece – so instead I’m going with the entire Super Mario Galaxy OST.

 

Alternatively, why not celebrate Mario day by trying one of the following:

  • Take your princess to another castle.
  • Wear a tanooki onesie. (They must exist, right?)
  • Duck down atop a large white building and see if you disappear behind it.
  • Watch the Super Mario Brothers movie starring Bob Hoskins. Actually, god, no, please don’t.
  • Play the damn games.

How will you celebrate Mario Day?

AdVenture Capitalist – shut up and give me money

An ‘idle’ business sim game for mobile that’s fun and educational.

My brother is evil. There, I said it. (In fact, I might just click Publish and leave it at that.)

About a week and a half ago he happened to show me and my good lady a game he’d installed for his mobile phone – a business sim called AdVenture Capitalist. It looked fair enough to me and, long since tired of Geek Resort and more than a bit fed up of Tiny Tower, decided to give it a go.

adventure capitalist mobile game

Now? I wake up and check my bank account. I buy hundreds of ice hockey teams at a time without blinking on the train home. Don’t even ask me how I get through a full day at the office without digging out my mobile. (Hint: I can’t. Just don’t tell my manager.)

This game has me gripped in its clenched capitalist fist. And it’s so much fun.

AdVenture Capitalist is a simple enough ‘Idle’-type game to begin with – you set up your very own lemonade stand and make money by tapping the lemon, squeezing out some profits from sales. Once you’ve made enough money you get to take on a newspaper round – more money per press. If you’re getting particularly flush with the cash you can buy more lemonade stands, more paper rounds and so on.

From here you work your way up the business chain, via car washes and pizzerias all the way up to banks and oil companies worth billions per press. You can even hire managers, dispensing with the button press as the meters fill up automatically.

Naturally your lemonade stand is going to give you some cash a little faster than waiting to strike oil – but once your profits start climbing, your businesses multiply and the profits come even faster thanks to the ownership bonuses and purchasable additional profit multipliers.

Still with me? Good. Now it gets tricky.

Once your empire has been amassed, you attract the attention of angel investors. These blessed backers will multiply your profits even more – at 2% per angel. The only catch is, for the angel investors to get on board you’ve got to sell up everything – everything – and start again from scratch. It can be painful watching everything go, especially with all that waiting around to increase your fortunes.

But once they’re in, your empire can be built again, even faster. On my most recent restart I pressed Lemonade once and was able to make the jump straight up to purchasing an oil company and make my way back down! The power. The riches. The numbers so high they sound as if they’re made up – quintillions and sixtillions, oh my!

Ahem. Yes. So, in closing, this game is rather moreish, and my brother is evil. Good day.

The Week In Geek: Live Long and Prosper

Saying goodbye to Leonard Nimoy, plus two big pieces of sequel news.

week in geek culture news

Leonard Nimoy passes away

There’s been a huge outpouring of emotion at the news that Leonard Nimoy passed away today at the age of 83.

Though he’s played many roles and directed many different things, obviously a lot of people know him best for his portrayal of Mr Spock in the Star Trek series and films – including me.

I can’t begin to imagine where I’d be today without having loved Trek so much as a kid – and nor do I want to. Spock was cool, logical and calculating in a big old universe full of emotions, and his detached approach will no doubt have influenced many a curious mind like mine.

It’s very sad to hear this news today.

spock hot dog

Alien 5 may discard previous films

It started as a bunch of concept art on what was thought to be an abandoned project, but when the designs for a potential Alien 5 surfaced, the internets went crazy and District 9 director Neill Blomkamp had to eventually confirm that it was actually back on.

But with the presence of Michael Biehn’s Corporal Hicks appearing very much alive and well in the concept art, and the fate that his character met very, very early on in Alien 3, could the new Fox effort actually force the latter two Alien films out of canon?

He told AlloCine that this won’t be the case; only that “I want to make a film that’s connected to Alien and Aliens. That’s my goal”.

Although later viewings confirmed that it did not hold up, as a youngster who was far too young to watch it, I rather enjoyed Alien 3…well, except for that ending obviously…and that’s actually the latest Alien film I’ve seen. (Yes, that includes the extremely needless prequel that was Prometheus).

But yeah, I think I might give this one a go.

 

Blade Runner 2 confirmed

And in another piece of news regarding Harrison Ford’s shrinking bank account, he’ll be back to complete his trilogy of franchise characters by returning to the world of replicants in Blade Runner 2, which is set to start shooting next summer.

Although he’s helped come up with the story for the sequel, Ridley Scott will not be directing – instead Denis Villeneuve will be handling that side of things.

According to BBC News, the story will take place decades after the events in the original film.

 

With all this, and an R-rated Power Rangers ‘deboot’ that’s actually surprisingly good considering the low budget (and Dawson’s in it), it’s been a pretty big week for geek culture, has it not?

DawsonCrying

 

Don’t cry, Dawson – you can check out previous instalments of The Week In Geek right here.

WWE Fastlane and a bad crowd

The road to Wrestlemania hits a speed bump thanks to a dodgy Fastlane crowd.

Following the, ahem, blur that was my 30th birthday night out on Saturday, I was far too hungover to stay up and watch WWE Fastlane on Sunday night, so fit in a viewing on Monday night with my lady.

It could have been the below-average quality of my WWE Network stream, it could’ve been my speakers, it could even be my imagination, but for me there were roughly 13,000 different reasons why the PPV didn’t deliver.

wwe fastlane bad crowd

The crowd at the event just didn’t seem to care.

Not even being in Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler’s neck of the woods could give the show a real fight night feel, because the Memphis audience just weren’t into it. Their reactions to the different wrestlers’ appearances were subdued at best, and just flat-out absent elsewhere.

I’ve never been at an event where he’s wrestled, but if there’s one sound effect that’s guaranteed to get a huge response, it’s the Undertaker’s gong. Then again, given that it was Bray Wyatt trolling the fans, and we would definitely have heard in advance if The Phenom was scheduled to appear, perhaps that explains the hushed response.

But Cena! Even John Cena couldn’t elicit the usual high-pitched response from the 13,000 in attendance. Ah, there’s probably a reason for that actually – everyone was confused as to why his music was playing so early on in the night (lol).

No, seriously though: I never like to get on my soapbox about these things – because it’s wrestling and I’m paying £9.99 a month to be patronised, not so I can patronise everyone myself – but the crowd’s low rate of interest throughout the night sort of detracted from my own enjoyment of the show. A live crowd really adds to the atmosphere of the show for those watching at home, and for the Memphis fans at Fastlane to seemingly care so little as came across on my TV (and as reported elsewhere after the fact) definitely bumped down the quality a notch.

I guess after watching the show I’ve got bigger issues than the live crowd; like the creative paper bag that Roman Reigns can’t get booked out of, or that Dolph Ziggler’s crusade against The Authority has taken him from sole survivor in November’s main event to losing in a six-man tag opener which featured Kane and The Big Show on the winning side.

Ah well. Four and a bit weeks until Wrestlemania. They can fix all this, right? They can make Roman Reigns a credible enough opponent in four and a bit weeks to knock off the Streak-ending, world champion, practically-a-babyface-by-now awesome powerhouse that is Lesnar, right?

The 30-Year Old Geek

My thoughts on turning 30 – good and bad.

This week I celebrated my 30th birthday. I’d been in two minds about it, but I’m now decided it’s fairly cool.

First of all, it’s a nice round number, and if there’s one thing us OCD maths fans appreciate, it’s a good round number.

But apart from that, I had a weird memory of something the other day.

30 years old and still taking selfies. To be fair though, I didn't really start doing them til last year.

30 years old and still taking selfies. To be fair though, I didn’t really start doing them til last year.

The year was…well, okay, let’s not get into that. But I was at college one time, listening to a Media Studies lecture, when I got to a weird thought.

In 2015, I’ll be 30 years old. But that’s absolutely miles away, why am I even thinking about it?

Well, it happened, and I don’t know why but I still remember myself thinking that thought and dismissing it. True enough, it really was that long ago, and even the year itself seemed all distant and practically science fiction. You know why they named the comic 2000AD when it was created in 1977? Because they didn’t think the comic would still be around by then, and it was some fantastical year that nobody dared dream about.

Just like that, I didn’t dare imagine where I’d be in the year 2015, when I would turn 30. In college I’d made a pretty decent music video for a project with my friends (think Jackass meets garage band performance…no, actually in a garage, the song was punk) and harboured some sort of thought that that was what I could do with my life. (I recently uncovered the video, and after getting ripped off at Max Spielmann’s, was able to get it converted to DVD. It definitely holds up.)

Joey Friends turning 30

It’s not so bad, Joey.

As it turns out, I’m still rather undecided what I really want to do with my life. It somehow involves the written word, though, and it’s partly through blogging that I’ve realised this. For once though I’m just glad that things have opened up for me, when for the longest time it’s just been about surviving the day.

30 is supposed to be some massive milestone isn’t it; time to stop dicking about and settle down, basically. But I don’t see why getting a year older should be the slap in the face you think it should. If you wanna heed it as a warning, that’s cool, but don’t let it stop you living your life, if that’s the live you wanna live.

(I should put that on a coaster or a t-shirt or something.)

There are a lot of things I’m thankful for this week as I start a new era in my life, and one of them is the fact that it’s a new era; I’ve got to say, the majority of my twenties was pretty bloody bleak, and it just so happens that I’m arriving out of that particularly dark tunnel just in time to start my thirties.

I’m actually excited about the future, and it’s been a long time since I’ve felt that way. Between now and February 2025 I aim to absolutely destroy.

That particular destruction begins tomorrow with many drinks with many friends. If you see me at the bar, mine’s a pint of John Smiths. Here’s to thirty.

Judge Dredd – The Mega Collection

Oh yeah, I almost forgot – there’s a new edition of the classic Judge Dredd comics.

Those partwork collections are funny things, aren’t they? I remember as a kid collecting the entire Tree of Knowledge and Discovery partwork collections, separating the articles in each new issue out and adding them into massive binders. It was a hell of a financial commitment that I’m still so pleased my mum and dad were prepared to shell out for.

Throughout the years, publishers have still realised the value of the partwork, putting out exceedingly large collections in return for that weekly, fortnightly or monthly commitment from readers. And it isn’t just the reading material either; from knitting and sewing to modelling boats, planes and even starships, the chance to build up both your skills and your general knowledge is a valuable reason to stump up – provided the collection is affordable enough.

Judge Dredd Mega Collection

Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection raids almost forty years of prime Dredd archives to provide some of the biggest stories and hidden gems along with extra concept sketches, essays and follow-up stories. The promoters have been giving it some welly too; with TV adverts and strong social media and online outreach.

The most prominent batch of books in the line are some of my favourite stories; Necropolis and Day of Chaos are oft-mentioned among the elite in Dredd canon, while The Apocalypse War was one of my favourite collections, which I picked up in the early 90s and thoroughly enjoyed. Issue one (just £1.99) is America; another huge favourite of mine and definitely worth a read whether you intend to get the full set or not.

Priced at £9.99 per issue and released each fortnight, it’s certainly enough to put off all but the hardcore audience, especially as there are 80 issues planned for release – much more than a couple of shelves’ worth.

And that’s kind of the issue for me with this partwork; having read Dredd from a young age and throughout my teens I know there’s a great big chunk of Dredd stories to choose from, but for me, putting out as many as 80 hardback books might be pushing it – ten pounds twice a month would be a shade over three years; quite a commitment whether you’re a die-hard fan or just looking for a good regular read.

I’ll certainly keep an eye out for my favourite Judge Dredd stories though, and try to overcome my OCD for a collection which will invariably have a few gaps in the numbering.