Pete Wentz’s band, Fall Out Boy, for which he is the principal lyricist and bass player, has sold upwards of 5 million albums worldwide. Decadence Records, Wentz’s label, has signed bands like Gym Class Heroes, Panic at the Disco and The Academy Is…, who’ve all turned into massive successes. Clandestine Industries, Wentz’s clothing line and book publishing company, recently opened the flagship location in Wentz’s hometown of Chicago. He’s been busy in his personal life too, marrying his muse, Ashlee Simpson last month. And the two are expecting their first child later this year.
You’d think as a successful musician, entrepreneur and family man, Wentz would want to settle down a little, and soak it all in. Wrong! He’s just gearing-up for his biggest project yet: redefining the way we experience music videos on TV and the Web, as host of MTV’s new show, “FN MTV.”
So we got Wentz on the phone to talk to him about life, music and the next big thing in music video history!
Check out Pete Wentz’s full interview after the jump!
COED: Tell me a little about FN MTV, and what it’s all about.
Pete Wentz: Well, in my mind it’s a show that will bring the music video back–to make the music video an event again. I remember watching “Thriller,” “November Rain,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” They were all events; they were all moments that I remember what I was doing and what I felt like at the time. I don’t think that’s so much the case in the last couple years, as reality TV has kind of taken over everything. And I think [“FN MTV”] is good because the network can now say, “We’re about the videos and making the music videos a moment for you where it is apart of our collective memory,” where we all have The Cure “Pictures of You” the song.
COED: So you’d like to romanticize the music video again, and the whole experience that goes along with it.
PW: Yeah, I think it will be interesting for people to actually see that [again]. We’re going to go stage-dark before all the premieres, and we’re going to have a big premiere music video, and were going to turn all the attention and all the lights on the video. We’re going to world premiere all these videos, not the way they’ve been premiered in the last couple years where its like “Ehh, here’s a clip of the video” or whatever. We’re going to make them big events. People say they are sick of reality TV, and they want to see videos on MTV more, so… hopefully that’s actually true! [laughs]
COED: You’re kind of a renaissance man of pop culture, and culture in general. How do you feel about adding “TV show host” to your resume, along with everything else that you’ve done?
PW: [laughing] Well, I know it can’t get worse than “International Douchebag.” It’s interesting; it’s weird. Yesterday I was shooting a skit with Snoop Dogg, because he’s world-premiering his video, and Snoop showed up, like, three hours late–which I think might kinda be on-time in his world. And he was absolutely awesome to work with. But in general, I was like “Wow this gives me a new insight into the other side”–actually asking the questions and being on the other side of the interview. It was a little bit tougher, but I’m not looking to host Wheel of Fortune or anything like that.
COED: We’ve gotten a glimpse of the projected lineup for your show. Guests range from The Ting Tings to Snoop Dogg to Panic and an array of other bands. Will there be a specific type of music featured?
PW: I think it will be everything. I’m going to sneak in little things, here and there. I’ve got the access to the MTV video vault–and that includes footage from The Who and The Beatles, you know. They are giving me access all the way back to that. So we’re going to try to sneak in ya know little stuff here and there and also smaller bands that you normally wouldn’t get to see on MTV.
I mean, at the same time, for the four videos and interviews we do, they all need to be world premieres. So if the video has been on before, it’s not going to make the cut. But I’ve been pretty open to people’s suggestions; I put a poll out because I wanted to play a video that features some kind of ironic mustache humor, and people seem to really lean towards Blink 182’s “First Date” so I was like ‘Yeah, maybe I’ll play that.”
COED: You bring up The Beatles and The Who. If you could have a guest wish list from the past 50 years of music, what are five bands you would have on to premiere their videos?
PW: To premiere their videos? Hmm, well I don’t know if some of them would have videos. But if they did, I would definitely do The Beatles, I’d do Guns and Roses, I would do Michael Jackson. Um, who else would I do? Who would I honestly do? I’d probably bring Nirvana on with “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” for sure. Part of me wants to say Elvis–but the truth would be Green Day.
COED: I don’t know about that, I think Elvis would be pretty cool.
PW: I mean, knowing who Elvis is now, I would definitely say Elvis. But it’s hard to be in the time, in the moment and know. Who knew that when you were standing next to him, he was legendary?
COED: Do you think the democratic format of “FN MTV” will transform the way TV competes against the Internet?
PW: I think it’s going to be interesting. The only real experience I have with live blogging and live feedback where I’ve really watched–besides your American Idol and network TV series, which I don’t count because they are so giant–was CNN. And I think that’s closer to the format that we’re doing. Like kind of how Anderson Cooper does it.
We’re going to have a panel doing commentary on videos, receiving feedback on the videos. Basically, the choices people will have are, “are you liking it,” “are you loving it,” “are you not feeling it at all” or “is it an instant classic.” Those are the four choices you have, and it will be real interesting to see what real reactions from people are.
COED: So when the video comes up, fans will have the ability to see instant feedback on the TV?
PW: Yeah. What we’re going to do, actually, is as the video premieres, James Montgomery who is a blogger from MTV.com will be on the panel. And I’ll turn to James, asking him if the fans are liking it, loving it, are they not feeling it or is it an instant classic. And he’s going to say, “this is what the people had to say about Flo Rider, they loved the video and think it’s a party classic.”
And all week everyone will be able to respond at FNMTV.com and we’ll be able to come back and say, “Well you know what? You put your new video out there, but people say it doesn’t live up to the last one.”
COED: I know you were a student at DePaul University, close to graduating when life happened. What were you studying, and would you ever consider going back to finish your degree?
PW: I was a political science major. And I’m not sure how many credits away I am, but I always tell my mom I’m going to go back. I think she would like to see me have that, but I also think she realizes that life has sent me in another direction. But I was like, “Mom, maybe I can get like Bill Cosby-famous, and some community college will have me come speak at it and give me an honorary degree.”
COED: Do you keep in touch with any professors or friends from school?
PW: I keep in touch with one high school teacher, Mr. Randolph. I had a great professor at DePaul who I don’t keep in touch with, Dr. Brown, but he was one of those guys who changed how I saw the world a little bit. Yeah so I wish I could get in touch with him.
COED: We’ve gone through your resume: Successful musician, businessmen, new husband, father-to-be and now TV host. How do you find time in the day to manage all that?
PW: I’ll be honest, I really only sleep like four hours a day. And that’s just the truth. My mind is constantly racing. It drives the wife [Ashley Simpson-Wentz] crazy; it drives the people that work with me crazy because I’ll call you at 1-2AM, then I’ll start calling you again at 7Am. It pretty much makes people totally crazy. But it’s kinda just how my mind works. It’s just always going, “What about this thing? And what about this?” Like, “How the hell did this FN MTV even happen? It was a weird late night idea. Some of them pan out like that, and some of them don’t work out.
I think that is the important thing: seeing your ideas out. It’s one of the most genuinely amazing experiences you can have. Seeing one of your ideas come to life. It’s like, “Man, I thought of that idea in my bed a year ago, and there it is.” Anyone who has the chance to do that, do it. Even if people are telling you no, or it’s stupid or stick with what you’re good at. It’s like, No, you’re alive only once. It doesn’t matter what people say about you, if you want to do it, and you think it’s cool, then do it.
COED: How did “FN MTV” start?
PW: I had an idea to do a video show and it went through many different formats and many different versions. Then you bring that idea back and figure out what to do with it. Can we do it at MTV? Then this guy Jesse had this idea to put it on Friday nights on MTV, and from there it was like, “We’re going,” and everything sped up. And all of the sudden, I’ve got the first episode coming up really soon.
COED: I saw the Spencer “reality” promo spot. I almost pissed my pants. Did you come up with that?
PW:Oh man, yeah I came up with that. The other ones coming out are crazier; you’ll have to scope them out.
COED: Being an insider at Clandestine and Decadence, could you offer advice to college students looking to obtain an internship at one of your companies?
PW: What I look for in someone is: someone who is genuinely dedicated and interested and in love with the things we do. That means, one day you’re running and getting coffee and the next day you could be designing a graphic; one day you’re picking someone up from the airport and the next day you’re telling me which song is a single and which song is not a single. I am most interested in passionate people. I don’t need someone around me who is going to “Sir, yes, Mr. Wentz, yes Mr. Wentz.” I need someone who is going to be like, “No that is stupid” or whatever. I’m interested in that. I want you to be passionate and believe in what you do and love what you do.
COED: You were a high school soccer star. What teams do you support?
PW: I’m still a Chicago Fire fan even though I’m in Galaxy territory. They we’re having open tryouts for the Galaxy and I almost went out, but my ankle was still broken so I couldn’t do it. They said of the 800 people that came out only two were of “MLS ability.” I don’t think I’m of MLS ability, but it would have been fun to get out there and run around.
Check out “FN MTV” this Friday, June 13 (yes, it’s Friday the 13th!) at 8pm EST on MTV.