Chat transcript with Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy

Moderator: OK, let’s begin. Moderator: Hello everyone, and thanks for joining us for today’s chat with Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy. Moderator: Pete, other major artists and several college students recently sat down with mtvU to discuss their personal struggles with mental health issues including depression, bi-polar disorder and suicidal thoughts.

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By Sandra Diaz

By Sandra Diaz

Moderator: OK, let’s begin.

Moderator: Hello everyone, and thanks for joining us for today’s chat with Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy.

Moderator: Pete, other major artists and several college students recently sat down with mtvU to discuss their personal struggles with mental health issues including depression, bi-polar disorder and suicidal thoughts.

Moderator: These very personal interviews will launch on HalfofUs.com April 2nd, as part of mtvU and The Jed Foundation’s “Half of Us” campaign — designed to fight the stigma of mental health on college campuses and connect students in need to the necessary help.

Moderator: We’re honored to have Pete Wentz with us today and invite you to now begin submitting your questions for him.

Moderator: Pete will be on the chat for approximately the first 30 minutes.

Moderator: After that, we will also take questions for Stephen Friedman, GM of mtvU, and Courtney Knowles, Director of Communications at The Jed Foundation. They can each provide additional background on the “Half of Us” campaign, why it was launched, etc.

Moderator: So, let’s get things started.

Question – To kick things off, Pete, can you please let us know why you decided to take part in the “Half of Us” campaign? Pete

Wentz: i feel like i am not much of an expert on anything from music history to questions about love. this is one thing i felt hit close to home. i felt like i could offer my side of a conversaiton maybe not answer people, but at least let them know someone else felt similiarly.

Question – Pete, how did you deal with your depression in the middle of recording and performing and trying to jump start your career?

Pete Wentz: not very well. i secluded myself. i refused to get on airplanes or buses. i stopped talking to all of my friends completely…. i pretty much brokedown in front of everyone but in a very secretive way.

Question – When you write lyrics, are you trying to capture a feeling or are you supplying images for the music?

Pete Wentz: i think i am usually trying to put myself together, figure myself out. i want to become a better storyteller but for right now its just a cathartic thing for me.

Question – How do you reach out to someone who is suffering from depression? What act or moment finally resonated with you during your battle with it?

Pete Wentz: i dont think you can really reach out to anyone. they need to reach out to you. the best thing is to let them know you are there for them. but not to be overbearing… i think what resonated with me was realizing that at some point i didnt want to glorify depression… i didnt want to make it something cool.

Question – Pete, I was wondering what effect it has when, after you post a particularly unhappy-sounding journal entry or what have you, there’s this huge outpouring of empathy from your fanbase. It seems like there are thousands of people who would like nothing better than for you to be happy…how do you react to that?

Pete Wentz: i dunno. at some point there are these people that just seem like lost souls. everyone wants to be there compass- sometimes in my head i find myself feeling guilty when i am happy, like it is something wrong or unauthentic… im not sure. in a way it feels amazing to make a connection with people that care about you beyond a t-shirt or an away message. like maybe it is true evidence that we are all in the same boat. i feel very similiarly when i look out into the crowd at some people…

Question – Pete I’ve noticed that as of late youre really playing into your role as the sex appeal behind fall out boy (not wearing a shirt in the thanks for the mmrs video, rolling stone mag,ect.) Was this a corporate decision, or was this pete wentz deciding that it was time for pete wentz to fully capitalize on what hes been given?

Pete Wentz: if youve eve known me- from day one i have never liked wearing clothes. i dont wear underwear often…. its just not my thing. i like turbulence. when you go on the cover of rollingstone you know just as many people are going to hate you as love you for it. i like shaking peoples perspectives. pete wentz still makes all the decisions for pete wentz….

Question – Okay, what is your take on the word emo and its overuse in describing todays youth?

Pete Wentz: its inescapable. i dont have much of an opinion on it. it is a misnomer originally used to describe “emotive hardcore” making fun of bands like rites of spring and ian mckaye…. reduced to “emotional” and then to “emo”- put on dashboard/thursday and now us and panic! it doesnt affect my life one way or the other. we dont have meetings about what color to paint our nails or how to take over the world or anything…

Question – In the special edition of your latest album, what is the significance of the tarot cards?

Pete Wentz: the idea of prediction… except in reverse. how we are capable of changing our pasts, rewriting them. spitting in the hands of palm readers. that kind of thing.

Question – How did your bandmates help support you through everything?

Pete Wentz: the only one who knew was patrick i think. i lied to everyone and hid it. patrick knew because of the words. i didnt speak to anyone at the time. they were there at the end and were just friends to me. most of what goes on between patrick and i is unspoken. its a weird bond. but if it werent for them i dont know where id be… bouncing into padded walls probably.

Question – You present yourself very well in public. Not many people would expect such an energetic force to struggle with depression. Do you feel that makes coming forward with this issue even more important, as a way to impower those who feel that they are helpless and can’t make anything of themselves?

Pete Wentz: i have a strange combination of extro/introverted moments. i cant speak to close friends about much of anything. but i can watch patrick sing my words to thousands. or hit the send button. i am not sure why. i hope it makes people know that its ok to feel blue and down. its also ok to find something as an outlet for it. lets not just make an industry of misery.

Question – What’s a Fall-Out Boy song you would recommend for someone who suffered from the same feelings you once did? Pete Wentz: haha hmmm. i am bad at this kind of thing. “dark alley” is the first half of a conversation and then “hum hallelujah” is the second half that happened like a year later. if anyone ever decoded those i would say you know the whole story of my own neurosis… but we definitely have songs with more bits of hope in them then those…

Question – I was hoping Pete, you could tell us what it feels like knowing that by participating in this campaign, you will be helping many college students by using your own rough experience?

Pete Wentz: i think going away to college for the first time and tour arent that different from eachother. i have done both. there are the same feelings of isolation and homesickness- attatched to whatever other anxieties you might already feel… i dunno i am not sure i could help anyone but it feels good to be a real person and know other people are real.

Question – What is the number one thing that helped you out of the struggle?

Pete Wentz: seeing myself in a mirror. reading articles about myself. probably, honestly the rollingstone article and an alternative press one were just eye opening for me. i couldnt just tread water anymore. it became sink or swim.

Moderator: At this time, participants, you are also free to send through your questions for mtvU or The Jed Foundation.

Question – When people tell you that your music saved them or helped them in any way, what kind of pressure does that put on your and your band? Is it tough to create music to live up to that pressure?

Pete Wentz: i want to tell them that this band saved me too. and as far as pressure goes if anything it makes me wan
t to do this band forever. id rather connect with people that way than have them say half of the other reasons they love us.

Question – Pete Wentz, what is it like to know that 2/3’s of Blink 182 will be opening up for you on the upcoming honda civic tour? A band that surely has inspired almost every pop punk band of today. Is this a case of the student becoming the teacher and vice versa?

Pete Wentz: its pretty insane. we played a couple of these venues on the sidestage for blink years ago. mark supported our band long before it became cool to do so… i dont think its the case of the student becoming the teacher. we have so much more to learn. we are still in the adolescence of being a band and i think we could still learn from those guys.

Question – Brittany Spears’ battle with depression is obviously highly publicized. Do you think it was harder to deal with depression when you are in the public eye?

Pete Wentz: yes. people dont want to hear about celebrities having problems- america also has a fascination with building people up and tearing them down. imagine if there had been gossip magazines around when van gogh was alive…

Question – Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Pete Wentz: i learned not to even think about that. 10 years ago i never would have guessed here. and 3 years ago i would have probably said dead or washed up somewhere… i take it day by day

Question – Pete Wentz, when you were in college, did you suffer any rough patches emotionally like many other college students?

Pete Wentz: yeah. i felt pretty isolated. its strange to go from a place where you feel really comfortable to a new place where you dont know anyone- and this was in my own city…

Question – The Jed Foundation — What can college students do to help stop depression and suicide?

Courtney Knowles: By becoming more educated about mental health problems, we can all decrease the stigma and be better prepared to recognize the warning signs in ourselves and others. Halfofus.com is a great starting point to learn more and get involved.

Question – what advice do you have for anyone who has a loved one suffering from depression?

Pete Wentz: be there for them. let them know that. try to engage them in outlets that seem cathartic for them- painting, running, writing- whatever. let them know that you are there but dont crowd them. if they seem like something bigger is a problem- get them help. neither you or they can fix certain problems on your own.

Question – For mtvU and/or The Jed Foundation: Why do you think Pete is a good spokesperson for Half of Us?

Stephen Friedman: I think Pete’s candor is exactly what is needed to shatter the overwhelming stigma around the issue of mental health. Here is a guy who is part of a hugely popular band, who gets a visceral pleasure of connecting with this audience — and what better way to connect than by help others grapple with the same issues he’s gone through.

Question – Are there any bands that you are a crazy fan for like some of your fans are for you? Are there any bands you wish you could open for?

Pete Wentz: sure- morrissey, the cure, greenday, michael jackson, guns n’ roses— id like to open for greenday someday

Question – Where do you see Fall Out Boy in relation to other bands? Do you see yourselves as among the pack or above the pack?

Pete Wentz: i mean i dunno- there are always bands above and below you. its just a matter of perspective… its harder to see when you are in the middle. there are certain bands that i feel like we are in a gang with- everybody pretty much knows that… we dont think of the pack too much- try and make our own way.

Question – This question is for the Jed Foundation. What does it feel like to be partnering with a major outlet like mtvU on this campaign? Do you feel that will make the college student target audience more available?

Courtney Knowles: We view this as an incredible partnership and a groundbreaking campaign. mtvU understands how to connect with students and raise awareness of important social issues. The stigma around mental health is so dangerous. Real people telling their real stories are a powerful tool to fight that stigma.

Question – This is for mtvU. What do you hope the Half of Us campaign will accomplish for students?

Stephen Friedman: We hope this will begin to address the massive denial surrounding the issue of mental health. When someone breaks their leg, everybody is there to get them help, but when you feel depressed, you hide it. There needs to be radical rethinking of this issue — and it starts with letting people know that this affects half of all college students — which means ultimately everyone is affected.

Question – Who created the Jed Foundation, and what’s your mission?

Courtney Knowles: The Jed Foundaiton is the leading nonprofit organization focused on preventing suicide and promoting mental health among college students. Our organization was started in 2000 by Phil and Donna Satow after they lost their 20-year-old son, Jed, to suicide.

Question – What can we expect from your yet to be released book that you’ve been working on with William Beckett – one of the more attractive female frontwomen in recent memory?

Pete Wentz: hahahahaha. blah blah i got your lil dig on william. i dunno what is going on with it as we are focusing on both of our records currently. i like writing with him alot though.

Question – Pete, did your depression ever lead you to suicidal thoughts? How did you get past that?

Pete Wentz: yes. i am not sure. i always have a few people i know i can call if it ever gets that bad i guess. usually people have got me figured out enough to know when i stop calling or how my voice sounds when something is really wrong.

Question – (FOR THE JED FOUNDATION) How can students launch Active Minds on campus? What does Active Minds exactly do?

Courtney Knowles: Active Minds is a student-run mental health awareness, education, and advocacy organization. They are an incredible group that work to increase awareness of issues related to mental health and encourage help-seeking among students. You can learn more about starting an Active Minds chapter on your campus by visiting the Fight the Stigma section of Halfofus.com

Question – Pete, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Why did you decide to discuss your personal bout with depression, etc.?

Pete Wentz: uh i dunno i think the first question i answered kind of answered this. i guess i just feel like this is one situation that actually afflicts me. i dont have any answers but maybe i can show my perspective at least.

Question – I want to know was music your main outlet of your depression and if so, what songs did you write or inspired you through that time?

Pete Wentz: mostly just writing. words. then listening to music. emoting to it onstage. hearing people sing with it…. there are far too many to list— the most selfaware stuff is on IOH and the most out there is on “my heart will always be”….

Question – What’s your favorite song on the new album?

Pete Wentz: i dont really lthink about them that way. but i guess the one that means the most to me is hum hallelujah.

Question – (FOR MTVU): MtvU has been very active with raising awareness for issues from genocide to AIDS to depression. At the same time, it seems that 20-year olds are enthralled by materialism and celeb-reality all over the media. Is it challenging to get students to care about the things that really matter?

Stephen Friedman: The great thing about college students, which hasn’t changed over time, is that they are truly the engine of social change. And while that isn’t the case with all of them, the whole atmosphere of college lends itself towards questioning and challenging and that is always a great incubator for activism. It is inspiring. This generation of college students has been on the front line of raising the international awareness of the g
enocide in Darfur and I’m confident that they will lead the assault on the stigma around mental health.

Question – Pete when you guest starred on One Tree Hill last season your presence came right after the school shooting episode was it important for you to send a good message during that time about overcoming hardships and what comes your way?

Pete Wentz: ah i remember watching those episodes. i dunno it felt important but at the same time it didnt really include me other than my interaction with peyton.

Question – Looking back, what would you have done differently to deal with your growing stardom and while dealing with this depression? Are things you wish you would have known then?

Pete Wentz: i wish i was less open with the press. i wish i could have written my former self a letter from today and told him where wed end up

Question – This is for mtvU. As the stigma suggests, coming forward and being honest about a mental illness is a very sensitive thing. How do you approach celebrities or those in the public spotlight to ask them to support your campaign?

Stephen Friedman: Interesting question. We start by taking a look at their music. That sometines gives us a great clue as to who would be open to it or not. We are all fans of Pete and Fall Out Boy, so we were thrilled that he agreed. So far, most people we’ve approached have had a personal connection to this issue — and that’s what makes them effective messengers.

Question – How do you think music can save someone from depression? I’ve heard fans and artists alike say that it does.

Pete Wentz: connection. i dunno there is something magical about it… enchanting. it can change moods…. Question – Constantly being in the spotlight, do you feel more pressure to serve as a role model to teens and college students out there suffering with depression or other psychological conditions?

Pete Wentz: yes. i feel like i should constantly let people know that i dont want to glamourize it… i dont wanna live in a rut forever and i dont want the fans of my band to either. Question – This is for The Jed Foundation. How can young people progress from just recognizing warning signs and overcome any embarrassment or stigma in order to ask for help?

Courtney Knowles: As Stephen said, we don’t think twice about seeking treatment when we are in physical pain, but most students are afraid to admit they are struggling emotionally. We need to realize that mental health problems aren’t something we can always fix on our own. The artists and students that are sharing their stories through the Half of Us campaign are making a huge impact on the preconceived notions around mental health. Everyone can follow in their footsteps by learning more, speaking up and looking out for the people around them.

Question – for mtvU or The Jed Foundation: Why did mtvU and The Jed Foundation decide to join forces?

Stephen Friedman: The Jed Foundation is the leader in this field and we were honored to partner with them. They are the perfect partners for us.

Question – Pete, you’ve said that Fall Out Boy saved your life, in a way. How so?

Pete Wentz: i escaped the small town i was from. i adventured. i saw the world. i get to escape for an hour every night on stage. hear that you mean something to someone. it gives me something to believe in. it makes me want to be a better person. it makes me want to stick around.

Question – Why do you believe suicide and mental health are important issues on, specifically, college campuses?

Pete Wentz: because kids are on their own often isolated. there is alot of pressure. i feel like sometimes people think its not normal or they are all alone…. you need a support structure.

Question – Being on the road can be really tough – how do you stay grounded? Oh, and how did the Honda Civic tour get its name?

Pete Wentz: i call my friends alot. i have pictures around. my bestfriends are out with me… i guess it got its name from honda.

Moderator: Thanks for all the amazing questions. We’ll probably keep going for another 5 minutes or so.

Question – Do you have any idea what provoked your depression in the beginning?

Pete Wentz: i think brain chemistry sparked by certain overdramatic events in my life dealing with people i was very attatched to.

Question – Pete, Growing up in the Chicago hardcore scene, how did you transition to playing a more mainstream pop-rock sound?

Pete Wentz: at the time the hardcore scene in chicago disgusted me. it was filled with homophobia and boring ideas. we began fob just to goof around- maybe as a plan to go out and see california. this was all accidental. i mean its weird to even think pop rock to me.

Question – How will Fall Out Boy, as a band, evolve in the future after the trendiness of “emo” music has died down?

Pete Wentz: i dont know. we dont plan our evolution around trends or even plan it at all. when this stops being fun and real we will stop it. until then well keep travelling the globe until people stop coming out. i think we have more to offer the world than a few swooshed hair cuts and eyeliner— but well have to wait for the dust to clear to figure that all out.

Question – Pete, 1- To be blunt, is it difficult to be almost thirty and play to audiences that are barely teenagers?

Pete Wentz: not at all. its more fun to play music to people who arent jaded. to be someones first show. theres nothing worse than someone “whos seen it all before”.. if i wanted that i could hang out in a room by myself…. we have never written about highschool lockers or anything like that- we have never written down to our audience and i think they appreciate that.

Question – Fall Out Boy has become such a huge success nowadays, what is the band’s next move after the tour?

Pete Wentz: more tour for awhile. possibly a dvd or a b-sides record. we plan to go to every corner of this earth and maybe do some good now and again….

Question – Growing up did you have an idol or someone to look up to and strive to be? If so, have they indirectly helped you through everything?

Pete Wentz: it varied from age to age… mj to axl rose to morrissey to robert smith… i think maybe elliott smith helped me alot

Stephen Friedman: Hey Pete, I want to thank you for your tremendous support of the Half of Us Campaign. I also wanted to let you know that Joel Schumacher loved working with you on the upcoming Half Of Us series.

Pete Wentz: hey guys i just wanted to thank you. i am over in germany so i have to do a couple of interviews and then get onstage. i appreciate the sincerity of your questions, also for being respectful and not just talking bout my weiner…. thanks to mtvu for doing this and if i get a chance to meet any of you at a show or doing an interview make sure you say hey…. xo p

Courtney Knowles: Pete, thanks for your time and your contribution to this campaign. Thanks to all of you for your great questions and for your interest in covering this campaign and raising awareness of these important issues.

Moderator: Thanks for participating, everyone.

Moderator: If you have additional questions about this story, please contact Jason Rzepka of mtvU at 212-654-7198 or jason.rzepka@mtvstaff.com

Moderator: We hope you enjoyed this chat, and trust that it provided you with some great material for your use in writing stories on this topic.

Moderator: Thank you, once again, for attending today’s CPNewsLink conference.

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