Blink-182’s incoming seventh album ‘California’ – out July 1 – will carry a British flavour after London street artist D*Face was commissioned by the rock trio to design the album’s artwork. We caught up with D himself to see how the transatlantic collaboration came together and also to get a look at some cover ideas that could have been, which you can see below
How were you approached by the band?
D*Face: “I’ve been friends with Travis [Barker, drummer] for a couple of years now – he came to one of my galleries a few years ago, and he’s bought a few of my pieces. He reached out to me about five weeks ago and said ‘We’re doing an album, and we need some artwork for it. Would you do it?’”
Have you always been a Blink-182 fan?
“I wasn’t a massive fan – I’m a little bit old for them, if that can be claimed! But obviously I’m a big fan of their music ability; certainly Travis’ drumming is incredible, he may be the best drummer out there. To have a band with such a great legacy and talent like Blink ask to work with you is a great honour and privilege.”
How did you come up with the idea for the artwork? Did the band give you a brief?
“It was quite tricky because time was the tightest thing, because I have a hugely-busy schedule – just like the band do when they’re touring. I’m all over the place painting, and I’ve got shows coming up and projects on the go. So for me, it was like: ‘You’ve been working on this album for a while, if you could have just given me a heads-up before now then I could have had time to find something for you!’ But they came back and said ‘anything that you do would be really cool for us, have you got anything that you’re working on that we could use?’
“The album title at the time was either going to be ‘Los Angeles’ or ‘California’ – there was also the name ‘Riot’ – all of which had good reference points in my work anyway. So I threw them a bunch of ideas because I really wanted to do it for them – I had a look at what I’d already got and what I’d been working on to see if anything fitted with those album titles. They sent me a couple of tracks, and gave me the brief that they wanted the artwork to represent California, but with a subversive side to show that it’s not always great and there’s always something under the surface, in the underbelly – which, predominantly, is what my work represents. So that was a perfect brief.
“But those first ideas that I sent, they said ‘nothing’s really doing it for us.’ [see above and below for the rejected album artworks] There was an illustration, however, that I’d worked on about a year and a half ago that I’d parked up and not got round to finishing. I looked at it and thought how California, to me, is about driving, the birth of the hot-rod and that whole lifestyle – so it made sense if it had a car in it. So that was the first checkpoint for me where I realised it was working. I sent that idea over and Matt [Skiba] and Travis were like ‘that’s the one. That the shit!’ But, to be honest with you, Mark [Hoppus] was like ‘I’m not so sure…’ – so it wasn’t straightforward, let’s put it like that!”
How much of ‘California’ have you heard? What does it sound like?
“I don’t know at what point in the album-making process that I heard the songs, because they weren’t named at that point, but it sounded quite raw to me. But yeah, they sound typically Blink: twisted, subversive lyrics, but also lots of humour in it.”
And what about Tom DeLonge [ex-Blink guitarist]? Was it weird that he wasn’t involved?
“I guess it’s difficult for people to get their head around him not being in the band, but in truth the sound [of the new album] is still undeniably Blink. Without Tom in the band, it’s gonna have an impact, but I think the band is stronger than the sum of its individual parts – it’s the sum of all of its parts, and Matt coming in is an asset to the band.”
What’s next for you?
“I’m doing murals in New York, Australia and Canada over the next few months – lots and lots of painting! I’m building motorbikes as well: it’s a side project that I’m passionate about, and it ties into my artwork under the name ‘Rebels Alliance’ – so I’m really busy!”
From the archives: Watch Mark, Travis and Tom walk on-stage together in Manchester back in 2012