Pete Wentz: 'People Want To See Videos That Are Still Exciting'
If you're hanging on to the hope that MTV might return to its golden days, Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz might just be able to help.
Posted on Jun 25, 2008 08:44 am
It's no secret that music videos have been put on MTV's endangered list over the past decade. If you were able to experience the music channel's heyday in the 1980s and early 1990s, then the fact that shows like The Hills and My Super Sweet 16 are the main attraction likely leaves a foul taste in your mouth. If you're hanging on to the hope that MTV might return to its golden days, Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz might just be able to help.
As someone who grew up watching legendary videos like Michael Jackson's Thriller, Wentz (like many of us) wanted to see that kind of creativity back on the small screen. After brainstorming with MTV, he developed FNMTV Premieres (Fridays, 8 pm ET/PT), a new show that is dedicated to both music videos and live performances. To ensure that it's keeping with the times, a big chunk of the show is dedicated to audience feedback, whether that means simply rating videos or actually uploading your own taped response. Wentz told Ultimate-Guitar that there were a few kinks that needed to be worked out after the June 13 debut show, but he hopes that FNMTV Premieres will finally give artists and record labels a reason to put time, money, and creativity back into music videos.
UG: It's admirable that you're attempting to revive interest in music videos with your new show FNMTV Premieres. Was the show your idea?Pete: It's not a particularly original idea, videos on TV. I think that's been an idea that a lot of people have had and a lot of people that watch MTV have had. I guess I pushed for it really hard, but at the end of the day it was up to MTV to kind of decide if they were going to back it and go full force with it. They could have buried it and put it on the backburner. They didn't have to put it on Friday nights, and the set is gigantic. They didn't have to do all that, so I have to give credit where credit is due. Pretty much everyone - individually and collectively at MTV - is really shooting for this show. They're really trying to do everything they can to make it work, so I have to give credit to them.
You had the premiere back on June 13 and it looked like the crowd was very much into it. Was it pretty much what you expected?
I didn't know what to expect. I got pretty nervous, I guess. The crowd was a lot crazier than I expected! They go nuts! It's like being at a concert. Getting people to quiet down and not yell is impossible. We'd have to be in a studio, and people are excited to see these performances and these videos. To try to tell people to be quiet or go over here, it's impossible to do. It's like lighting a fuse and trying to put it out. That was crazier than I expected.
A major part of the show is audience participation. Did that run smoothly the first time around?
It was my idea to have some type of feedback and have people rate the videos. That raises the bar. So if they're going to bring their video to the show, they'll bring the best video they possibly can. I think it goes along with any number of things, like people texting. That's the nature of culture, having this instant gratification in this text message democracy.
The interesting thing is - and this is completely honest - I expected in the room that people text messaging would really make it a positive-type of feedback just because we had the star there and it was in the heat of the moment. Last week people didn't really necessarily understand the criteria completely. There was a big mix of responses. There were okay, medium, bad and good responses on top of that.
This week we kind of described the criteria better and we had it online before they were able to submit their videos. So this time, of 400 people, 300 people voted and really voted based on how the video was. I think each week that will probably get better. On July 4, we go live and people all across the country will be able to vote. We're not going to make or break anybody. For the most part, they're already known or have been making cool videos before. So I think that it won't be like that. At the same time, I think people on a video show want to see cool videos. If you put up a video next to Smells Like Teen Spirit or Thriller, people want to see videos that are still exciting.
"Getting people to quiet down and not yell is impossible."
There hasn't been a whole lot of reason for artists to put much effort into actually making videos with MTV playing less and less of them. If FNMTV goes over well, do you think that we'll see bands raising the bar in terms of the creativity in music videos?
I really hope so. I think even more so it's for the people at labels. They're like, Well, it doesn't matter what kind of video we put out. It's just going to premiere on this website or whatever, or it will get played in the late-night hours on MTV2 or something. More than that, I think people still have big ideas. You can do really cool things with not a whole lot of money. As an example, the Vampire Weekend video was shot just on one camera shot that was continuous for the whole video. It was kind of like Wes Anderson and I don't think it was all that expensive. It's inspiration for the bands and director as well.
Can you recall some of the first videos that had a big effect on you in your early years?
Yeah. The whole November Rain series with Guns N' Roses. Obviously, Smells Like Teen Spirit. Jay-Z's Big Pimpin', that was a great video. I think the early White Stripes' videos were really interesting, really great. Michael Jackson put out great videos all the way from Thriller to Leave Me Alone, when he called out everything that everybody was saying about him. I think that blink-182 had a lot of great videos. The video for Green Day's Basket Case was great. There's been a ton of iconic videos in the last 20 years. Everybody points out a-ha - that was a great video!
What were some of the bands or musicians that inspired you to pick up the bass by their music alone?
Probably Duff from Guns N' Roses. I think I was interested in the bass because my friend was already playing the guitar. Green Day and bands like that, I guess. Originally growing up, I was first into them. Then I got into Jimmy Buffett and Michael Jackson, Guns N' Roses and Metallica. There was death metal like Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, and bands like that.
Did you ever see yourself eventually playing in a band like Deicide?
Yeah, I was in a bunch of bands that were kind of bad versions of them! I guess we were pretty good, though!
I saw that in April of 2007 you released the Signature Squier Precision Bass.
Yeah! I gave one to Lil Wayne last week on the show. He's been playing a lot of guitar lately, so I decided to give him one.
What was it about the Squier that delivered the specific sound you needed for Fall Out Boy?
I was really into the JP-90, which was cool. I like it because it was really light and the neck was really fat. The only thing different about it was the wiring. I didn't really like the pickups, so I switched out the pickups and put in the Seymour Duncan ones. The thing about the Squier is that it sounds great. I've played it on our records and on a couple songs now.
A lot of times people have to put a price tag on sound. I think that the great thing is that if you can get a good sound and it can be a bass where people can grow into, it's an important thing. The thing I want to do is inspire younger people who are like, Maybe I should try this out. I was interested in Mark Hoppus' bass growing up.
Sometimes people will switch their guitar or switch their amp, and then they use a process that's kind of impossible to figure out. They use very specific creative ingredients to get their sound, and we didn't try to do that. We wanted to give people the key to the castle to be able to kind of do it.
"We're not going to make or break anybody."
Do you tend to tweak things in the setup a little bit for each song to create a different sound?
It's pretty consistent. I like a metallic, overdriven bass that is kind of heavy. So on Take This To Your Grave and From Under The Cork Tree, there is a pretty specific sound with the guitars for the most part. This was a little more rhythmic and played with the bass drum. It was more with the rhythm section now. We'll change the distortion or the sound of the song in general. There will be times when there will be fingerpicked ones. For the most part it's a pick and a heavier sound. On the songs that are more acoustic-sounding, there are times when I played with felt picks. I actually had the ones that Tom Petty's bass player used, and it gives it a different sound. On the bass itself, there is only one knob for the volume and it's always turned up.
You're probably quite busy with FNMTV Premieres, but is Fall Out Boy currently at work on a new album?
Yeah. At the end of the day, Fall Out Boy is the most important aspect of my life and career. I realize that the only reason anybody gives me any attention for anything else is because of Fall Out Boy. That's the thing that is most precious to me and that's the thing that will always top everything else. If it's a TV show or a magazine or whatever, Fall Out Boy is the most important part of that.
I keep reading in interviews that there will be a folk element to the new record. Is that true?
I don't know really where that came from, if it was more of a lyrical element to the record. I don't know. I feel like anytime before your record comes out, if you say anything it becomes the thing that is saturated everywhere. So I think someone at some point said, Oh, there's going to be a folk element. It's going to still be a Fall Out Boy record. It will be different, but it won't be that different.
Interview by Amy Kelly