How Tom DeLonge nearly broke up Blink-182… three times

Photo of BLINK 182 and Travis BARKER and Tom DELONGE and Mark HOPPUS; Posed group full length portrait L-R Travis Barker, Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus
(Image credit: Mick Hutson/Redferns)

Sometimes, people don’t necessarily realise the consequences of their actions. So when Tom DeLonge took Blink-182 to breaking point in 2001 it could perhaps be argued that he was unaware of what he was doing. When he did it again four years later, however, he must surely have known what would happen.

When DeLonge formed Box Car Racer in 2001, he did so with an old pal David Kennedy and Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker. It was quite the snub for Blink 182’s bassist Mark Hoppus. He had every reason to think that, given 1999’s Enema Of The State had made Blink arguably the biggest rock band in the world, and that 2001’s Take Off Your Pants And Jacket had continued that run of success, the band would be continuing as before.

But DeLonge had other ideas. Then suffering from a back problem that required him to take strong painkillers, he says he was “in a weird mood”. It meant he didn’t want to write knockabout pop-punk anymore but instead wanted to be taken more seriously. Hence Box Car Racer and its more anodyne emo. But his actions put a major rift into his relationship with Hoppus, who was furious that DeLonge and Barker had gone off without him. “That sucked. It really sucked,” the bassist said. “At the end of the tour in 2001 it felt like Blink had already broken up. I took it personally. I felt like the odd man out, the forgotten bassist. It was really hard.”

DeLonge, though, had barely stopped to think about it: “I honestly did not think it would bother him,” but added, “I honestly never meant to alienate anyone.”

When Blink-182 reconvened to make their self-titled fifth album in 2003, it was with a strange atmosphere. DeLonge wanted to make more adult music, Hoppus’s songs recalled the past but added maturity and the resulting album was solid but disjointed. So, when a year after its release, DeLonge began to work on material for what would become his Angels And Airwaves project while Blink were on tour, Hoppus was understandably annoyed. 

This time Barker was on his side. It was a tour riddled with arguments, with DeLonge wanting to take time out to deal with his back problem and spend time with his family, Barker distracted by constant TV cameras that were following him for a show called Meet The Barkers, and Hoppus suspicious of DeLonge’s solo songwriting. They called it a hiatus when things eventually came to a head, but it was a break-up. “The break-up of Blink 182 was really trying and very heavy for me,” said Hoppus. “For a while there, everything was falling apart. There was just too much going on.”

Barker and Hoppus formed (+44) soon afterwards, and made it clear what they thought of DeLonge back then. “Fuck that dude,” were Barker’s thoughts on his former bandmate.

DeLonge launched Angels And Airwaves with much fanfare about how it was a band that was going to change the world. And, when it didn’t, he claimed that the reason he had said that was because he was still on strong medication at the time. DeLonge wouldn't stay away from Blink-182 for long – he rejoined the band in 2009 – but Angels And Airwaves was a project that temporarily ripped Blink-182 apart. 

DeLonge walked away from Blink for a second time in 2015, saying he "just found it hard as hell to commit", with former Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba enlisted to take his place. In 2022, to some surprise, he was welcomed back into the band following the announcement that Hoppus had been diagnosed with, and is now recovered from, a rare cancer. The band are currently touring and releasing new music – but how long for, only DeLonge knows…

Tom Bryant

Tom Bryant is The Guardian's deputy digital editor. The author of The True Lives Of My Chemical Romance: The Definitive Biography, he has written for Kerrang!, Q, MOJO, The Guardian, the Daily Mail, The Mirror, the BBC, Huck magazine, the londonpaper and Debrett's - during the course of which he has been attacked by the Red Hot Chili Peppers' bass player and accused of starting a riot with The Prodigy. Though not when writing for Debrett's.