He’s the type of guy your mother would probably have warned you against. Dark hair that hangs over his face, clothing that, had it not been clean, would have made him look like a vagrant. And, of course, there are the tattoos all over his arms. Mother would probably not have noticed the intensely brooding, mysteriously sexy, dark eyes or the knee-weakening smile.
Had I shown up at home with Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy on my arm, my mother would definitely have told me to stay away from him. Never mind that he’s an internationally renowned rock star, an acclaimed lyricist and drop dead gorgeous; she would simply not have approved. So I guess it’s a good thing that he didn’t come home with me after Fall Out Boy’s sold out concert at Joburg’s Coca-Cola Dome on Friday, 20 July.
In the country for a little bit over 24 hours after having spent four days in Uganda, shooting the video for their new tongue-twisting single I’m Like A Lawyer With How I’m Always Trying To Get You Off (Me & You), and doing charity work, Fall Out Boy’s African schedule was a very tight affair indeed.
The band was however treated to a safari at a private game reserve in the Pilanesberg on Friday morning, and what with sound checks and tons of general preparations before they hit the stage at 20:30, the fortunate few members of the media who were granted interviews were limited (very strictly I might add) to 10 minutes. Mambaonline thus showed up on time and took one for the team. Apart from being the only gay journalist privileged enough to get an interview slot, what sane gay man would be late for a face-to-face with the beautiful Pete Wentz?
So who is Fall Out Boy, you may ask? And why all the hype around Pete Wentz? During my short interview, Pete described Fall Out Boy (or FOB as they’re commonly known) as a soft-core alternative rock group. The band’s sound is also often referred to as punk and emo; but their music captures elements of all these genres. Pete Wentz is the band’s energetic bassist, one of the founding members and the primary lyricist.
Hailing from Chicago, Pete formed FOB with Joe Trohman and, in time, recruited the other band members: lead vocalist Patrick Stump and drummer Andy Hurley. Their album From Under The Cork Tree (that featured hits like Dance Dance, Sugar We’re Going Down and A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More Touch Me) put them firmly on the map, selling millions and winning them numerous awards. They continued the success this year with their latest album, Infinity On High, which has to date spawned the massive This Ain’t A Scene (It’s An Arms Race) and Thnks Fr Th Mmrs.
“Kissing boys is definitely different from kissing girls…”
Apart from being famous for his boyish, punk-rocker good looks, 27 year old Pete Wentz, who is said to be dating Ashlee Simpson, made big headlines when nude photo’s of him – taken on his cell phone – somehow got onto the Internet, allowing millions of fans worldwide too see ‘Little Pete’ (which isn’t really that little) in all its glory. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, they say, and Pete took the fallout firmly in his stride; including a spoof of the incident in the video for This Ain’t A Scene (It’s An Arms Race).
“This is rock ‘n roll,” I kept thinking to myself as I grappled with a mild case of the jitters while waiting my turn. The record company rep opened the door: show time! Thankfully, Pete looked exactly the way I imagined him (although not wet and naked). Low-slung denims, red t-shirt, sneakers and his trademark hoodie were all there, as was the black hair and drop-dead smile.
Seated next to him was Joe Trohman, co-founder and lead guitarist of the band – dressed super-casually and, along with Pete, calm, friendly and relaxed. Obligatory handshakes were exchanged and jokes about their morning safari were made.
Yet, once I explained what Mambaonline was all about, they both appeared even more relaxed. Pete joked that “this should be fun” because it’s always interesting to see “how [my] comments are paraphrased in interviews.”
Pete has delighted numerous queer fans with his statements about all things gay. In an interview with The Advocate, Pete said that he has many gay friends, but added that “I don’t really categorize my friends.” His androgynous look – girls’ trousers and make-up included – is influenced by the ‘glam rock’ era of David Bowie and Mick Jagger; a style he thought would be interesting to play with because it was missing from rock ‘n roll when he formed FOB. Most notoriously, however, he has said that he is “a bit of a make-out king” and that anyone – boy or girl – is fair game above-the waist.
I asked him whether there is any difference between kissing girls and kissing boys. Or do boys just taste sweeter? “Kissing boys is definitely different from kissing girls,” he grinned. “Guys tend to be much more aggressive when it comes to making out. But it doesn’t happen too often,” he added. “Guys in the USA tend to not take that good care of themselves when it comes to grooming,” he said, “and in that respect girls definitely have better breath, cleaner hair and such.”
That the man doesn’t have issues with gay men is obvious – the band even included a song on the USA-version of Infinity On High called Gay Isn’t A Synonym For The Word Shitty. “We did however have to use an acronym [for the word ‘shitty’] to sell it,” he smiled. The song evolved from a conversation with someone from MTV where they discussed how the word gay is being used to describe…uhm…shitty things. “We’re like if something is shitty, then say it’s shitty…there’s no reason to say something like ‘that’s soooo gay!’. Say it’s shitty!”
“There is still a lot of homophobia in America,” Pete mused on, “it’s like one on the last bastions of acceptable hate in the USA, where there are still many small-minded people. There are schools of thought that say that everyone is at least half gay, but generally the lines of sexuality are much more blurred today. There’s like tons of guys in America that are super closeted.”
This is just one example of the contradiction that is Pete Wentz. On the exterior he’s this grungy, punk-rock star that addressed his South African fans as motherfuckers. Yet on the other side he’s a well-mannered, highly intelligent and at times real sensitive man, who tours the world as an ambassador to his country (“to show the world that not all Americans are cocaine-snorting cowboys”). Ten minutes simply wasn’t enough to really get to the core of what he’s about, but it was undoubtedly enough to realize that Pete Wentz is a rock star worth admiring, especially by the gay community.
The concert? Mind-blowing would certainly describe it. In fact, the last rock concert I attended that had that kind of energy was Lenny Kravitz in the late ‘90s. Not only did the 19 000-strong crowd – moi included – love every minute of it, but so did the band. Towards the end, Pete thanked the crowd – adding that it was their most memorable concert of the year. Now, if I could only – somehow – get him alone for a little bit more than 10 minutes…