Q&A: Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz
The bassist on the band's greatest hits album and why he's sick of talking about his personal life.
Fall Out Boy is on indefinite hiatus, but Pete Wentz, the emo quartet’s bassist, lyricist, and most media-savvy member, isn’t about to go into hiding. With the recent release of the band’s Believers Never Die: Greatest Hits, his Clandestine clothing line, Decaydance record label, and ubiquitous tabloid presence, the break from the band shouldn’t mean a publicity dip for Mr. Ashlee Simpson — a notion he’s not necessarily happy about.
The day before Believer’s release, we spoke on the phone with Wentz about what has to happen for him to go back to Fall Out Boy, why the band went on a break, and the weirdness of greatest hits albums.
With the band going on hiatus, does it feel like the right time for a greatest hits compilation to come out?
I think that anytime a band like us puts out a greatest hits there are a lot of questions: Does this band have enough hits? Is this the end of the band? Is this an attempt to get out of a contract? Is this a record label trying to squeeze some juice out of the catalogue the holiday season? We asked ourselves all those questions.
What answers did you come up with?
I can say that the idea didn’t come from us. The thing is, we as a band have been doing this for eight years straight and we’d come to the point where if we kept going at the pace we were going — record, promo, tour, tour, never more than a month or two off — there was going to be an implosion. So we decided we’d rather take a break and not put a set time on how long that would be. As a result, our label, management, whoever, goes, “Well, why don’t you put out a greatest hits?”
Obviously you were okay with that idea.
Well, this is our chance to give back and say thanks to the fans that have stuck with us for eight years. Honestly, the biggest fight we had with our management about it is that we just wanted to call the album Believers Never Die. They made the argument that your casual listener is just going to think that’s another Fall Out Boy record. That seemed valid to us. Calling it “Greatest Hits” allows people to be like, “OK, that’s the one that has all the best songs.” [Pauses] It’s so weird for me to say “Greatest Hits.”
Does it make you feel old?
It makes me feel narcissistic. It makes me realize how far we’ve come and how long the journey has been. We have to feed two audiences here: our diehard audience — I don’t want them to feel like we’re just trying to squeeze one more drop out of them. But we also have to feed a wide audience. If we’re gone for a year, then some guy who’s never heard Fall Out Boy before can dip his toe in the water. This is the record for you buddy!
What struck you when you went back through your older songs?
I guess [2005 single] “Sugar, We’re Going Down” is the one I looked at. That chorus was a throw away. Our label told us the chorus was too wordy and the guitars were too heavy and that the radio wasn’t going to play it. I felt so good when that song broke. If that song hadn’t been written and recorded and released at the exact time that it was, we wouldn’t be on the phone right now. I’d be working at a Barnes & Noble.
You said earlier that you didn’t want to put a timeline on when Fall Out Boy might work together again, but what will have to happen for you to want to go back to the band?
I’m kind of a loser — Fall Out Boy is my Rushmore. I’m ready to go back, but I think I have to look at Pete Wentz in capital letters; the version of me that TMZ knows about. That stuff is like a black cloud over the band. When I read a review, 90% of the review is about my lifestyle and the last two sentences are about the record. I feel like it’s detrimental to the genius that is [Fall Out Boy singer and guitarist] Patrick [Stump’s] musicality and songwriting. I’m sick of all the questions being about my personal life.
I don’t understand how taking time away from the band will help solve your problem. Won’t you just be increasing your own profile?
I haven’t really, like, mapped it out but I think it allows the other guys in the band to do whatever they want to do. Whether its produce music or whatever, they can do it without that looming idea of capital letters Pete Wentz hanging over them. One of the things that’s important for me is that when we come back to it, we’re all like, “Yeah!” I love doing Fall Out Boy. I could do it forever if we could do it on our terms. It just got hard to do that. I’m in the douchebag deficit because of what I’ve done to my image. I’d rather be like Hulk Hogan than the Undertaker. I don’t want to burden the band with that.
I guess I always thought that being in an extremely successful rock band would solve someone’s validation issues.
I don’t want validation. I want our music to be considered art and I want to be able to move the needle. But let’s move on. There’s nothing worse than hearing people who have great lives complain about little things.
How are you going to fill your time with Fall Out Boy?
We’ve got the record label [Decaydance]. I have a clothing line as a hobby to me. I’m having a lot of fun.
So no world-beating plans?
I’m working on stuff, but nothing big and nothing that the world needs to know about yet. My friend just gave me this amazing watercolor poster that shows Batman sitting drinking on a bench and looking disheveled. The poster says, “Hero time is over.” That’s how the capital letters Pete Wentz feels.
What is capital letters Pete Wentz’s favorite greatest hits album?
It would have to be Legend by Bob Marley. Is that technically a greatest hits record?
I don’t know. It might be a “Best Of.”
Well, Legend is my pick. These are the kinds of things I’ve been thinking about lately — what counts as a “hit?” [Pause] Greatest hits records are weird.