INTERVIEW: Pete Wentz Talks 'MANIA' Tour, Princess Diana And Filming His Own Sitcom

24 November 2017, 18:05

Pete Wentz
Pete Wentz. Picture: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

By James Wilson-Taylor

The Fall Out Boy bassist reveals all about their forthcoming European dates and his many other creative projects (including stand-up comedy).

It has certainly been an interesting year for Fall Out Boy to say the least, with a delayed album release, expansive arena tour and an eclectic mix of singles that have delighted and divided fans in equal measure. But, as usual, bassist, band spokesman and emo businessman extraordinaire Pete Wentz is fully immersed in the musical world he's created, with various side projects in development, dramatic concert "illusions" and a brand new reggae-tinged single in the form of 'Hold Me Tight (Or Don't)'.

We caught up with Pete to talk touring, high tea, stand-up comedy and, of course, Star Wars.

PopBuzz: How's the whole MANIA tour been going? Enjoying it so far I take it?

Pete Wentz: Yeah, it's been going pretty awesome. A lot of moving parts and probably the biggest production we've ever done. That's a little daunting but it's also exciting.

PB: It looks pretty awesome from the bits we've seen on YouTube. The backdrops look amazing, talk me through a couple of them. Because you've got the Colin Kaepernick stuff and Princess Diana in there. How did the whole concept come about?

PW: Well, when we write the songs I always think of visuals that go with the songs in my head. It's always cinematic to me, ya know, the songs feel like that. And each song has a specific visual for the most part already. But with the Kaepernick stuff I think that...I dunno how much this is known outside of the US...

PB: It's been a pretty big story for sure. He's maybe not a household name in the same way but the whole idea of the 'take a knee' movement speaks very clearly.

PW: Yeah, I mean, i just think that we, as a culture and in our country, are so founded on the idea of people speaking out, ya know. And it's not always gonna be things that I agree with, I just think that it's important that there are dissenting voices. That's just the way our society should work. Also in that footage we put Muhammad Ali...We're having a Muhammad Ali moment in a kind of way...We felt like with 'Centuries'...we owe so much to sports fans, like that's what made that song in so many ways that I think that we needed to take...it's not even a stand, it's just what's right. When someone's using their platform to speak, I think they shouldn't be silenced. I think that's kinda embarrassing as a culture. It's not gonna be everybody's opinion but it's kinda what we think.

Then with Princess Di, I always thought with that song ('Champion'), the chorus and particularly 'I am the champion, of the people who don't believe in champions', I always thought of Princess Di with that. And I think that we're, like, just far enough into the nostalgia where people...I don't know if everybody who is at the show even knows how iconic she was, ya know? And how massive it was.

PB: I guess this is the fascinating thing because it's the 20th anniversary since her death this year and for someone like me who's followed you guys for a long time, it's interesting that when I go to your shows now I'm almost one of the older people in the crowd. It's really cool you have this new younger fanbase. But it'll be fascinating when you come over to Europe because everyone in the UK, regardless of age, they still know her story and know her as an iconic person. It took me aback but it's a really powerful moment.

PW: Totally. It's interesting because I remember, the day she died, I remember staying up all night watching the news. Like "this is crazy", such a big cultural moment. And it's interesting, we were just talking about American Football and how it's distinctly...well, even though they are playing once a week in London now...

PB: Yeah, it's a bad thing, we're stealing them from you now, it's strange...

PW: Yeah, totally, it's so weird. But the royals and Princess Di is such a distinctly British or 'not American' thing that it'll be interesting to see how it is. The thing is so interesting to us because we don't really understand it. I watch 'The Crown'...and last time we were in the UK we had high tea and clotted cream and all that stuff. And we were so fascinated because we'd never done it before. This was this crazy, cultural...

PB: I mean, I'll break it to you, we don't eat like that all the time. But it is a nice experience.

PW: You would die if you ate like that all the time. I was like "this cream is so good but it already feels like I'm in a diabetic coma".

PB: Too much jam involved!

PW: Totally.

PB: The other interesting clip I saw of the MANIA tour is 'Young And Menace' has been stripped back. That's a Patrick solo piano number. What was the decision there?

PW: Well the real decision is, I remember being a little kid and watching this moment in this Michael Jackson concert where he gets inside this box - you can watch this I think, on YouTube or something - and then the box lifts up and he flys out on a jetpack.

PB: Oh 'moonman', I remember, I've seen that, it's the 'Dangerous' tour isn't it?

PW: Yeah and the implication is maybe Michael Jackson is in the box when it lifts up, maybe it's another guy but you just don't know. And I remember it was just amazing. And then he would talk about it, he'd talk about the moonwalk itself, the dance and he was like "it's not a dance move, it's an illusion". I remember being a kid like "this is pretty amazing". So, the truth is, and how does this relate to this, in every one of our shows that are bigger productions we try to have more attempts at an illusion or an attempt where you're like "how does this work?". So Patrick...this is so...whatever, I'm spilling the beans! Patrick playing solo lets Andy travel under the stage so he can make it to his drum solo in time. And then his drum solo lets Patrick travel under the stage. So that was the actual intended purpose. But, I thought it was cool because it was a reimagining of 'Young And Menace' and let Patrick have a kind of Jeff Buckley moment with the chorus that I think is cool. So the real intention was it allows the moving parts to work but I think it gives people a different perspective of the song which is cool.

PB: Well that leads quite nicely into the new single 'Hold Me Tight (Or Don't)' which I've been playing on repeat, it's definitely my favourite of the four singles so far. And interestingly, it feels like over the last couple of singles, but especially this one, Patrick's vocal runs and his improvised runs are becoming the hooks more and more. Is that a consicious decision or is that just the way it's working out in the studio?

PW: I wish I could say it was a conscious descision. I think it's just like, especially with 'Hold Me Tight', this was not a single really when we were writing it. It's just like we had the hook, kind of, the little hook vocal he did, and then we created a different music bed underneath it and it kind of became more of a single. So it was just like this weird little thing he does. Patrick's one of those guys who's like, um...he's a bit like Mr Magoo where he just, like, does stuff and it just is pretty amazing. And you ask him to do it again and he's like "Well I wasnt even thinking about it". The things he hums, they're accidental. Or maybe they're on purpose but they come off very accidental - this one in particular. But I think that's one of the great things about - and I can say this 'cos I'm not him - being in a band with Patrick is he's just one of those uniquely talented guys ya know? He just really...he could kind of sing the phonebook and it would be alright.

PB: Now obviously, there was a big rumour going around about MANIA that Brendon Urie was gonna be on the record. It was largely because of the llama video. And I know you kinda said he's not, but here's the thing - we had him in the studio a few months back and I asked him flat out "are you on MANIA?" and he said "I may or may not be. It's not a hard no". So, who is telling the truth Pete? Let's set the record straight, is Brendon on there?

PW: In the CURRENT version of 'MANIA', Brendon is not on there...

PB: What does that mean man? Come on...

PW: This is what it really is. The truth behind all of it is Brendon lives five minutes away from me and has been a friend of ours for like ten years now. So it's kind of...if someone's like 'hey is your buddy coming over today?" and you're like "well, he might, I don't know"...It's not a hard no in the way, like, he's not on it right now but sometimes Brendon will come over...we ended up on the same flight back from Texas like five months ago and we were like "Dude, let's do a whole project together" and so it's just like...it all ebbs and flows.

PB: Has he been in the studio with you while you've been working on it?

PW: (laughs) He has not but he's come over to my house and we've listened to mixes before.

PB: Ok, I just want the '20 Dollar Nose Bleed' sequel man, you know it. It's gotta happen eventually...

PW: Totally. I mean, watching that moment live when they recorded it was pretty magical. It was just like two guys who can like really, really, really, who really got pipes and can really sing. And it was just really crazy to watch.

PB: Another big milestone for you guys next year, I realised this today, it's the 15th anniversary of Take This To Your Grave. Do you think you will mark that in any way? Even if it's just, like, extra tracks in the live show or anything. Any plans there?

PW: I didn't even know that that was coming up! I don't know that we'll ever just be like a full-record, front-to-back kind of performance band but, that being said, I think it would be cool. I think that celebrating that stuff is fun, whether that's playing a song or playing a small show in Chicago or something like that. I think we should do something but I just don't know what it is.

PB: You've got so many creative projects on the go and I feel like I keep reading about them and then I never find out what happened to them. So I wanted to ask you about a couple of these. First up, I remember reading ages ago that you were working on a sitcom called Punk's Not Dad that you described as a pop punk version of Curb Your Enthusiasm. What happened to it?

PW: There's one episode. With that show, we went to a cable network who optioned the pilot. We made one episode of it and the thing that happened - which I guess is maybe super normal or happens a lot - is that after we made it, the executives 100% switched. It was all new executives in and they were like "nah, we're not that into this". So there is one episode but I don't think that will see the light of day in it's current incarnation unfortunately. But to me it was pretty funny but whatever.

PB: Speaking of funny, were you spotted doing stand-up in LA recently?

PW: (laughs) I did. I did do stand-up recently.

PB: Ok so talk me through your comedic style then, what kind of stuff is it?

PW: I told stories because I'm not a joke kind of guy really. I'm not that funny in delivering a joke because my timing is probably not good enough. But that was in relation to a show that I created called 'Permanent Vacation' and that I think we're really, really close to having a deal done. And that will see the light of day, I think, at the top of next year.

PB: One last quick question before you go because I know you're a big fan - have you made plans to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi yet?

PW: I have not made plans to see it yet but I am excited to see it. I think we're gonna be on tour the night it comes out so I gotta figure it out. Because I also have to go with my nine year old when I get home too so it's gonna be figuring it all out.

Fall Out Boy's new MANIA is out January 19th 2018. They will tour the UK in March.