DS Interview: Josiah Hughes (Blink-155 Podcast)

Two Canadian sellouts started a podcast in which they discuss every single blink-182 song. They titled it Blink-155, named after the amount of songs the band had at the podcast’s inception. Two years in, Exclaim! journalist Josiah Hughes (also of Pre Nup) and major label shill Sam Sutherland (also of Junior Battles) are well past 100 episodes and make over $1,300 a month in Patreon support.

To get to the bottom of this senseless endeavor, I interrupted Hughes mid-settling in to his new Montreal apartment to talk about if Dude Ranch is a dirty joke, being friends with the singer of Imagine Dragons, and why he started a blink-182 podcast. You can read our discussion below.

DS: You guys are two adult men with wives and full-time music industry jobs who decided to start a podcast about blink-182. Why?

Josiah: We both have friends who have done really cool things and are very impressive punk people – but we have always tried to steer all of our conversations with them toward the topic of blink-182. We’ve been punishing everyone around us with these conversations for so long that… at least for me, why I had to do it, was because now I can just have normal relationships with people and get it all out in this way.

DS: I feel like the podcast is really propelled by internet culture in a lot of ways and even your inside jokes work in the same way memes do.

Josiah: Well, it is very weird because the time right now in the zeitgeist is like, just saying the word “blink-182” can be a punchline. That’s just how lazy comedy has gotten. You can just be like, “Where are you?” [mimics Tom Delonge] on a post and everyone’s like “oh my god, this is so relatable and good.” So that’s kind of like an accidental side effect of it. Saying blink-182 out loud is like the new dabbing or something (laughs).

DS: Do you think that sense of humor – punishing people with blink-182 – is actually helping the podcast in popularity?

Josiah: That has definitely helped. But I would hope there are people who listen to the podcast because they casually like blink-182 and then are like “oh, I can’t listen to this.” I would hope that it alienates some people, because obviously it’s about so much more than just blink-182. I can’t speak for Sam too much, but I’m extremely online and my sense of humor is very online and I’ve kind of lost my mind a little bit from reading too much Twitter.

DS: Your trolliness has really kind of worked its way into your guys’ success. My favorite [example] was when Dane Cook blocked you.

Josiah: (Laughs) Well the craziest one was – and I bring this up all the time – I was shit talking to Daniel Reynolds [of Imagine Dragons] and then he started like, chirping back. And then, from me shit talking him on Twitter, he came on Blink-155 to talk about it. And now we’re like literally friends. Like I’m friends with the singer of Imagine Dragons because he was a good sport, which is more than could be said about a lot of people.

DS: That’s so nuts too. Like, what an odd connection to have.

Josiah: I guess when we first started we were like “oh it’s gonna be about pop punk,” but the thing is blink-182 has [impacted] so many people, aspects of culture, different sub genres and so much of everything. It really does feel like we’re still just scratching the surface of talking about them.

DS: For one of your “sclusies” [Patreon Exclusives], you interviewed AJ DiGregorio from NASA about To The Stars Academy [Tom Delonge’s UFO-research organization]. What do you think about what Tom is doing, because a lot of people think he’s crazy.

Josiah: I think even after talking to a guy that works at NASA and to actual, real journalists, I’m still just so blinded by my love of Tom that I want to believe what he’s doing is good and pure. I think that he thinks he’s doing something great, and I mean he’s definitely doing something great in the sense that it’s large – the definition of “great” being large – because between that… I don’t know. I still think that if you’re going to be the rich guy who got rich from writing songs about your dick, that’s a better way to spend the latter half of your life: starting a space tech exploration company. And I really didn’t realize this until starting the podcast, but I truly just love Tom so much. He’s just so ridiculous and one of a kind and impossible to pigeonhole.

DS: He’s kind of the reason blink-182 stopped being a pop punk band for a little bit.

Josiah: Yeah, I think that’s true. He also just, very rightfully so, got bored of everything. Like that makes sense. It’s not natural to spend like 60 years or however long they’ve been a band playing “All The Small Things” every night.

Cover for the “Free Punk Lyrics” comp, available on Bandcamp.

DS: For people who don’t know, what is the Free Punk Lyrics comp and how did it come about?

Josiah: (Laughs) I always said the reason I couldn’t get into The Best Show is the episodes seemed so long and I was missing all these inside jokes and didn’t understand it. So I always wanted Blink-155 to be very seeker-sensitive, and it’s turned into the same thing where there’s like meta-inside jokes on top of meta-inside jokes and it’s just this confusing labyrinth of bullshit.

So basically, about eight years ago, my friend and I both had boring office jobs and he lived in a different city than me. We’d go on G-Chat and start one-off Tumblrs that we kind of gave up on after a while. But one that really stuck was called “Free Punk Lyrics.” The idea was in four minutes or less we would just write the lyrics to a punk song, and then they’d be posted online for any punk band that was looking for lyrics. They’re intentionally very stupid. Like teen punk lyrics about hating your parents. Most of them are about hating reading and hating books and stuff. So they’re really stupid, like the equivalent of someone drawing an anarchy symbol on their Duo-Tang in school and then thinking that it’s the Avril Lavigne symbol, not really realizing the history of it. You know, that kind of vibe.

So I just mentioned it in passing on the podcast once. I didn’t even say the URL of the Tumblr, I just said “oh yeah one time I had this thing called Free Punk Lyrics.” Then the next week somebody had turned one of the songs into a full studio version pop punk song (laughs) and I was like “oh my god, that’s amazing.” So we played that one on the pod. And then the next week there was another one, and then there were two more, and then there was more. By the end of it, there were 39 songs. And I’m talking D-Beat songs, pop punk songs, and there’s a prominent Canadian indie musician who did a song that’s fully an impression of the band Fucked Up. It’s so hilarious and perfect.

DS: That’s sick.

Josiah: Then there’s like spoken word and dance music and all kinds of stuff. It just got way out of hand. So I was like “I gotta treat this with the respect it deserves,” and we pressed all 39 songs to a cassette with a full huge booklet with essays and lyrics and stuff and it sold out in one day (laughs).

We have a Bandcamp so you can listen to it online, but I think that’s kind of the thesis of the whole [Blink-155] project. Like taking something very stupid very seriously. And paying way too much respect and seriousness to something that is essentially very idiotic.

DS: I think that’s kind of what made people like blink-182 in a lot of ways.

Josiah: Yeah, I think you’re totally right.

DS: It’s very punk when you think about the idea of not having to have all of your shit together to be someone.

Josiah: I guess that when you look at anything and just over, over, over analyze it, you eventually start asking big questions about what life is (laughs). And that’s what happens on our podcast, when we’re talking about [the song] “I Wanna Fuck a Dog in the Ass,” and it somehow turns into like some deep examination of something.

DS: You guys have done a pretty good job of taking Blink to task for problematic behavior and lyrics. Before you started the podcast, were you guys like “okay we’re gonna have to make sure we address this,” or is that something that just comes natural to both of you?

Josiah: It’s probably more the latter. Truthfully, Sam and I barely knew each other before we started this. We hung out, like, a couple of times in real life and had spoken online very briefly. The podcast is us truly getting to know each other at the same time.

DS: That’s amazing.

Josiah: Our conversations about starting the podcast were like… I appeared on This Exists, which is Sam’s old YouTube show. And then he was like “hey, that was really fun, would you like to start a podcast where we talk about every blink-182 song? I think we would really have to commit to it so I’ll give you time to think about if you want to do this.” And then two minutes later I was like “yeah let’s do it.”

And then we basically just like started talking. Like, everything about the show in terms of the format and where each piece goes – that we do covers, all that kind of stuff – just kind of happened naturally from us just talking. We both just talk way too much all the time. So yeah, we never planned that. There were definitely some things that we’ve been scared to talk about, because we don’t want to bum anyone out by talking about their shitty days or [problematic] things they did. So I think it’s more that we’re [not trying to] ignore what [blink-182] did or said, but also not sensationalize it and make other people feel shitty about themselves or whatever.

DS: This question actually comes from my friend Derek Wetenkamp. Out of all of the songs you’ve revisited, which ones were the most surprising as being way worse or way better than you remember? 

Hughes (right) with cohost Sam Sutherland (left) having breakfast in bed.

Josiah: (Laughs) I can’t even think of any songs. It literally all blends together in one big mass of nasal pop punk voice. There are a lot of songs – especially like older ones on Cheshire Cat and Buddha – that I didn’t really listen to much when I was younger because I was just obsessed with Dude Ranch. [Now] I’ll put those on and I’ll be like “oh my god, this sounds like timeless indie rock.” The song “Cacophony” sounds like Built to Spill or something. Noticing that kind of stuff has been really satisfying, because it’s just shocking to realize how many different styles they’ve done well. And then I guess I am coming to terms with the fact that Neighborhoods is good. That took me a long time to realize.

Also, I think we’ve talked about it so much that we’re kind of beyond the understanding of good and bad anymore. Now my taste has been fucked up. It’s as if I burned my taste buds off or something. So I’m still kind of confused by everything. But there’s definitely some songs that I very much hate. Like, for example, “Los Angeles” from California.

DS: How much time do you think you spend weekly on the podcast, including “sclusies?”

Josiah: It kind of depends. I think I play up how much research I do. But I would say it’s probably a good two hours and then we’ll talk for like two hours and then editing and posting… I mean, it’s a lot of time (laughs). I would say that it’s just so fun that it doesn’t feel like work. But definitely, this is my entire life now.

DS: You do reviews for Exclaim! right?

Josiah: I mostly do online news stuff and I run the film section there so I don’t do as much music reviewing anymore, but that’s my background for sure.

DS: Do you think Blink-155 affected the way you look at music and reviews? Because you were talking about your taste buds basically being burned off.

Josiah: I think that happened earlier on. Again, the podcast is just me being myself. All of the things I’ve been annoying people with at parties, I just do on here instead. I’ve always been really contrarian and really irritated by most pop culture and thought that everything was much cornier than everyone let on. I think I’ve just always been generally frustrated by everything, so the podcast is more of a natural extension of that.

I mean, it definitely has pushed me over the edge. Like, becoming friends with Dan Reynolds from Imagine Dragons has completely fucked up my understanding of the universe, because I used to hate Imagine Dragons and now they’re my friend’s band (Laughs). I’m getting generally confused by everything.

So yeah, I think it is weird. But I also just think that it’s fun and it’s way more exciting and you learn about yourself and about music if you over analyze things rather than just sort of do the surface “oh I like this! It’s post punk.” It’s better to really, really engage with something if you care about it.

DS: How often do you talk to Dan Reynolds?

Josiah: (Laughs) Not too often, but I have his email and we’ve definitely been in the DMs a few times. I’m gonna talk to him more but I don’t wanna fuck it up, ya know? I have a good thing going here.

The hosts of the podcast gearing up for their Blink One Fifty Live show this last July in Montreal.

DS: The format of your podcast is pretty irregular I think. There’s no introduction, no sponsors, no intro track, and the interviews aren’t really the main feature of the podcast.

Josiah: To be honest with you, I didn’t listen to podcasts at all before we started doing this, and I’m kind of glad that I didn’t. Because I’ve since listened to some and I can see how it would have been tempting to follow other formats. I think people have compared our podcast to U Talkin’ U2 To Me? [Adam Scott and Scott Aukerman’s podcast] and I can see that a little bit, but I’m just glad that I didn’t even know what that podcast was. It’s weird to be in the shadow of other things.

Generally the format has just kind of figured itself out. I think the main thing is that it used to be way, way, way shorter, because Sam was insistent on… you know, he’s good at making things that are actually digestible and professional, where as I’m more about bringing us to a dark night of the soul through trolling and what not. So he used to make it like actually a real podcast for the first few episodes. But I get bored really easily, and somewhat ironically my short attention span means the episodes are way longer. Because I like when we go on diversions and listen to other songs that have the same title or just like go way off the deep end. So yeah, I don’t know. With podcasting, you just need a mic and then you can do whatever the hell you want.

DS: Blink was a lot of people’s entryway into punk. At this point, since you’ve analyzed the better majority of their catalog, why do you think that band resonated with so many people?

Josiah: I think that there are tons of reasons but, for starters, they’re like, really good-looking. And they’re really good at writing pop songs. They’re basically a boy band hidden in skate punk clothing. Everyone’s like “oh my god, I love this! It has so much pop appeal,” but it’s like, yeah, obviously. They’re like N*Sync or something. That helps.

Also, I think so many people who grow up middle class or lower middle class or whatever just don’t relate to a lot of punk stuff because it’s not resonating with their experience. Whereas blink-182 is music for if you grew up in a cul-de-sac. Just like smooth asphalt, concrete punk (laughs). Everyone can relate to it. It’s just music for people who grew up in the suburbs and didn’t necessarily like see cocaine until they were older, ya know?

DS: (Laughs) Yeah.

Josiah: It’s for sheltered suburban kids, but it still feels punk. I think for a lot of people it really resonates for those reasons, because the problems they sing about are not really… I don’t really want to say they’re not real, because they’re still valid problems. But they’re so minor compared to big issues that other punk bands take on. So, it’s kind of just that it relates to people’s immediate surroundings. But then the way that they tip their hat to other bands and other styles serves as the perfect gateway to get into cooler shit.

DS: When you started the podcast, blink-182 had 155 songs. But now they have more and they’re releasing a new album soon… when are you going to stop?

Josiah: I guess we’ll have to see what happens if we catch up to them before they release more songs. But they’re at this pace now where they’re just trying to… I think probably because of streaming and however that works to game the system, they release a new song basically every week now, so I don’t know. I think we’ve built something that we both love and it’s really fun. Maybe we’ll just do them all again.

DS: Oh, you know what? I feel like I should get you to say something about “Dude Ranch is cum.”

Josiah: (Laughs) Sure. I guess this ties into what you were saying about blink-182 being a meme. But around the time that we started this, I was becoming really obsessed with a lot of memers on Instagram, and one of them – KornFan420, aka Hot Leather, who’s so good – I think he posted like a screencap of a Facebook memory where he was like “on this day I realized Dude Ranch is cum” or whatever. So that kind of blew my mind because I had never thought about it that way. I think there were people years before that had also insinuated the same thing. But to be honest with you, the Take Off Your Pants and Jacket wordplay? I didn’t figure out what that meant until I was in my 20’s or something. Like, it totally went over my head.

DS: Same.

Josiah: (Laughs) there’s all kinds of little things, but you’ve got that one and Enema of the State and then right before that is Dude Ranch. Like it’s all right there, it has to be a double entendre. However, the thing that we talk about on the podcast a lot is the death of the author, and whether or not an artist can determine what their art means after it’s been released into the world, or whether it’s more up to the beholder to decide what it means. And so basically, we had Mark [Hoppus] on the pod and he confirmed to me that Dude Ranch was not intended to mean cum.

[Then] this guy named Bill Billingsley – shout out to Bill Billingsley, I’m not going to explain who he is on here, but you’ll grow to love him if you listen to the pod – went to a Tom Delonge book signing in San Diego and asked him if Dude Ranch was cum, and Tom said he wished that they had been that clever back then to think of that.

So it was not their intention. But at the same time, Dude Ranch is definitely cum. One of our merch items is a Dude Ranch cum rag. And we also used to have enamel pins that said Dude Ranch on them, with a sort of Hidden Valley Ranch color, that, very tiny, says “it’s cum” on it. So “Dude Ranch is cum” is just another element of the pod that has ruined everyone’s brain.

DS: I remember when Clyde [Webb of KornFan420/Hot Leather] came up with that and then made it like a Life Event on Facebook. And [he’s from my hometown], so when I heard you got it from him I was like “oh, no shit!”

Josiah: Yeah, it’s funny. Like this is making me realize how small quote unquote “punk” is around the world. Everywhere I go, someone will know about the pod. It’s wild.

This interviewer is on Twitter. Blink-155 is on Patreon and Twitter.

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