As punk rockers Fall Out Boy get ready to release their fifth studio album, Folie à Deux, bassist Pete Wentz talked to TIME about his love for fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama, why he used to hate Led Zeppelin and naming his child Bronx Mowgli.
Last time we spoke, I was moderating a phone interview between you and Robert Smith of the Cure. Did you guys ever get back in touch?
I remember that. I was more nervous then I'd ever been in my entire life. I think my wife [Ashlee Simpson] hung out with him following that, but I didn't get around to it. Actually, tomorrow, I was going to try to sneak into a Cure show, but we're out of town.
On this new album of yours, you have a ton of guest stars: Lil Wayne, Elvis Costello, Debbie Harry, Pharrell Williams. Do you just try to get those people that you've always wanted to work with?
Not really. There are people that we are probably able to get that we don't go after and those that we probably shouldn't be able to get, like Elvis Costello, that we do. More than anything, they serve the purpose of a character in a musical, where this character's voice makes the most sense. I mean, what if Darth Vader had spoken in that regular dude's voice? You needed James Earl Jones. Certain lines need to be conveyed in certain ways.
And in your own musical tastes, are you as cross-genre as these people suggest?
I'm multigenre, but I'm not the kind of guy you'd bring to a cocktail party who can talk about any kind of music. [Fall Out Boy lead singer] Patrick [Stump] and many of my friends are essentially the Wikipedia of music. I'm not into bands for the sake of being into bands. I've grown past that. There was a time in my life when I was that guy.
Was there a certain point where you felt like you had to lie about liking a band when in your heart of hearts you didn't?
I don't think I understood guitar rock as well as I probably should have. I don't think I understood bands like Led Zeppelin. In their era, everyone had such a regard for them because of them ushering in rock 'n' roll and this larger-than-life lifestyle. But then they had these songs that would just not stop. I didn't fully get it. I appreciate it in a different way now. I'm able to understand that, hey, that guitar riff is awesome.
I think it was some rock critic, maybe Chuck Klosterman, who said that every guy goes through a Zeppelin phase at some point in his life.
He did say that. I believe he also said that every rock band is based on either Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath. I'm pretty sure that's what he said. I'll be honest: I'm a lover of Klosterman. Even when he goes over the line, I love it. I read Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs and then I just finished his collection of articles, Klosterman IV, which had a great Britney Spears story in it.
Does it happen in reverse, then, where something you really dug back then is just unlistenable now?
No, but I'm able to understand that it's about 50% the music and 50% where you are in life. There are bands that I got into when I was 15, when I was mad at my dad and just wanted to be different. I don't think I'd give those bands half a chance now. But I hold some kind of nostalgia for them that I won't let go. Bands like Minor Threat and Black Flag. If someone just gave that stuff to me and I didn't have any of the associations that went along with punk rock or the angst, do I think that I would just go, Hey, I like this song, as opposed to "Umbrella" by Rihanna? I'm not sure. I think I would probably go with "Umbrella." I'm probably going to get shot for saying that, but it's the truth.
I read that you were going to release your album on Nov. 4 but then pushed it back because you didn't want to conflict with the election. Then I read that wasn't true. Was that the real reason? I know you're from Chicago and a big Barack Obama guy.
Yeah, it was absolutely the real reason. It's not like it would have conflicted with the election. That's like Pluto competing for planetary status with Jupiter. There's no real contest. It was more that it had become cutesy. It became a gimmick. It became a "vote for Fall Out Boy" thing. And to me, more than any other election I've had the chance to participate in, this wasn't a cutesy election.
There have been several newspaper stories about how Chicagoans were really jazzed when Obama got elected, but now they're bummed out because of this whole Blagojevich thing. Do you feel that way too?
I think it's absolutely crazy if those charges and allegations are true. Chicago has had a history of bizarre politics that we thought we had moved beyond with Obama and with [Mayor Richard] Daley. And I think that it's a great city and it's a great place, and I hope that we don't get judged based on that. We're hoping for the Olympics, and I don't want anything to blow the chances of that.
You've been doing this music thing for a while now, and you're a new dad. Do you think your fans have grown up with you, or is the band still for teens?
I'm not the kind of person who is interested in only collecting teenagers' tears. At the end of the day, you have to stop singing about cafeterias when you're not sitting at the loser table anymore. But at the same time, the truth is that high school goes on forever in some form or fashion. The workplace is like that, the world of music is like that. And while I'm not sitting here pulling out my gray hairs, I'm a dad, I'm growing up, and that's O.K. There are bands like Green Day that have done it before, or the Clash, which did it before them. It's O.K. to get older, and it's O.K. to be cool with it.
I'm from the Bronx, and I was wondering why you named your child after my borough. Are you a big Yankees fan or something?
It comes back to a very specific story between me and my wife. But I would just like to say that it wasn't because either of us were trying to give our son street cred. At the end of the day, we like the name. Brooklyn gets a lot of love. It's time for the Bronx to get a little bit of love too.