“To some,” a magazine recently declared, he “is the Antichrist; to others, he’s a savior.”
Who is this controversial and divisive figure? A politician—Kim Jong Il or Hugo Chavez? Could it be Charles Manson? Maybe L. Ron Hubbard? Rupert Murdoch? No, the polarizing potentate is the bassist and lyricist of the rock band Fall Out Boy.
Actually, that’s an inadequate description. Pete Wentz’s mightiest instrument is the Internet, and his true job is provocateur. Black-haired and five-foot-seven, usually photographed wearing eyeliner, he is the first web 2.0 rock star: A constant presence online, he has created an interactive relationship with fans enthralled by word-mad songs that sob or elate and comment constantly on their own emotionalism. Self-portraits of Wentz naked with cock in hand dominated the Internet in March 2006 and generated suspicion that he had issued them himself to create buzz. Wentz, 29, even met his wife, 24-year-old pop starlet Ashlee Simpson, via e-mail.
Androgyny has always inflamed fans’ hormones (“I’m pretty much half gay,” Wentz once said), but eyeliner alone isn’t the basis of Wentz’s stature. Fall Out Boy’s style of music, emo, has surged into the mainstream in the past several years because an entire generation hears its own experiences described in the genre’s diaristic lyrics about tortured romances and crippling self-doubt, and it prizes these scars like priceless jewels. Emo bands don’t merely wear their heart on their sleeve—they lift up their sleeve to show the bloody wounds underneath.
The oldest of three kids, Peter Lewis Kingston Wentz III grew up in Wilmette, Illinois, a prosperous Chicago suburb. He seems to have had a typical suburban childhood: He was a talented soccer player, lost his driver’s license for repeatedly speeding and enrolled at DePaul University while living at home. Like most suburban tales, Wentz’s involves hedge-hidden troubles: a variety of mental-illness diagnoses, a forced stint in boot camp and a medicine cabinet full of prescribed uppers and downers.
After time in several hardcore punk bands, Wentz formed Fall Out Boy—a fan suggested the name, which comes from a passing joke in an episode of The Simpsons—with singer-guitarist Patrick Stump, guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley. They put out their first album in 2003 (Wentz now calls it “embarrassing”) and followed it with Take This to Your Grave. Island Records noticed their underground following and, coincidentally, had a deal with the band’s label, Fueled By Ramen. Their two most recent albums, From Under the Cork Tree* (2005) and Infinity on High* (2007), have sold six million copies.
While Fall Out Boy was recording its fifth album, Playboy sent contributing editor Rob Tannenbaum to Wentz’s L.A. house for an interview.
Wentz has created his own suburban idyll in Beverly Hills. His wife, Ashlee Simpson, copiously pregnant in her second trimester, walked around the house doing arts-and-crafts projects with a friend to pass the time.
The first day we talked for five hours, sitting in matching armchairs overlooking the hills. When it was over Simpson said to her husband, “I don’t think I’d be able to talk to you for that long.” The next day we had another five-hour talk in the same spot. “You guys have to be best friends by now, right?” she asked me.
She also periodically texted him from the kitchen. “Let me see if I’m in trouble,” he said, checking for a message. Even though the couple try to keep their careers separate—“We don’t do too many interviews together,” he warned—Simpson gave up her crafts project long enough to talk about what she craves during pregnancy and why she made Wentz chase her so relentlessly.
PLAYBOY: Googling you is a fascinating experience. There are so many people who love you and so many who hate you.
WENTZ: I can definitely admit to the different things people like and don’t like about me. I’m probably the most outspoken rock musician of my generation. I pretty much say what I’m thinking. And people come up and tell me what they don’t like about me.
PLAYBOY: Really? We can’t imagine Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen having the same problem.
WENTZ: Life as a famous person in rock is vastly different now in the camera-phone culture. You know, there was no camera phone watching the guys in Led Zeppelin. There’s something about the MySpace-Facebook culture that makes me seem more accessible and easier to talk to.
PLAYBOY: So when people say what they don’t like about you, it’s as if they’re posting on your MySpace page. What’s the connection between Fall Out Boy and MySpace?
WENTZ: The biggest connection is that we came up around the same time. We embraced MySpace early on. We were definitely the first band to reach a million friends. We’ve had astounding successes based on MySpace and Facebook.
PLAYBOY: Do you think MySpace has enabled a generation of exhibitionists?
WENTZ: Everybody wants to be MySpace famous, to have more friends than other people, to have that angle that makes you look hot. It’s so out of hand and ridiculous, and I’m sure we contributed to this culture. I have to point a finger at myself for being one of the people who sat there with the building blocks of it. Backstage at shows, fans are far more interested in getting a photo with us than in having a conversation. We live in a Photobucket-Flickr culture where people are constantly documenting their experiences. I’m acutely aware of cameras now, to the point of paranoia. Do you see that big house across the hills from us? I swear I can see a telephoto lens in the window. That’s how crazy I am.
PLAYBOY: You don’t sound enthusiastic about a camera-phone culture.
WENTZ: Ten years from now we’ll know what it did to a generation. Like when our country was Ritalin-obsessed and then 10 years later decided, “Oh, Ritalin’s pretty much like speed. That might not have been a good idea for everyone to be prescribed Ritalin.”
PLAYBOY: But you’re as much of an exhibitionist as anyone.
WENTZ: I have four blogs. Sometimes I update them five times a day; sometimes I don’t update them for a month. I try to present myself as an open book. That’s the great thing about the Internet—it has leveled the playing field. So if some tabloid writes that Ashlee and I have broken up, I can take a picture of us hanging out and post it online. Or if I read something online, I can respond to it in my blog.
PLAYBOY: That’s the great part of the Internet. What’s the terrible part?
WENTZ: The terrible thing is that someone can sit there and write whatever they want. A lot of bloggers aren’t that funny, and the comments are pretty vapid. They’re just “This dude’s fugly.” The guy who wrote that is probably posting while picking all the marshmallows out of his Lucky Charms.
PLAYBOY: You say you have four blogs, but there are lots of bloggers who claim to be Pete Wentz.
WENTZ: There are just insane levels of impersonation. Some of the sites will let a Pete Wentz impostor go, and people will talk to him. These guys should probably be on To Catch a Predator. Anyone can go online and be like, “It’s Pete Wentz. You should send me naked pictures.”
PLAYBOY: So if our readers get an IM from “Pete Wentz” asking for naked photos——
WENTZ: Do not send the pictures!
PLAYBOY: One distinctive thing about Fall Out Boy is that the music is part of a larger cultural identity. It goes with a style of dressing, a way of viewing the world.
WENTZ: It is a culture or a movement. It’s a giant pop-culture idea, but it’s still weird and different. That’s what the culture of Fall Out Boy has always meant to me.
PLAYBOY: What do emo bands and fans have in common? What are the connecting traits?
WENTZ: You get the trait of this swoosh haircut over one eye and eyeliner on guys and tight jeans and 18 million blogs. The music has emotionally honest writing and lyrics that are pretty narcissistic and this idea of opening oneself up and pouring it out, which people then take further to suicidal cultures.
PLAYBOY: Are you happy to be so closely identified with emo?
WENTZ: All these magazines call us “the kings of emo.” I happen to like the way my eyes look when I wear eyeliner. We made fun of the idea of emo in so many ways on our last album, but people didn’t really catch on.
PLAYBOY: You make fun of it, but you’ve also devoted years to it.
WENTZ: I’m happy to be part of a culture where the guys who were made fun of in high school are now the ones the jocks go to see onstage. I like the idea that everyone can get depressed and that there is a way to get through it. Depression and misery are this great little house to live in by yourself. You know where everything is, and no one comes and bothers you.
PLAYBOY: But emo is more about community than about solitude. Blogs and concerts are ways of making connections.
WENTZ: People miss that idea. There is a community. I guess it’s a giant version of us versus them but in a more empowering way.
PLAYBOY: You’re a student of depression. How did that start?
WENTZ: As a kid I always went to therapists; the first time was when my parents separated on my sixth birthday, then on and off since then. I was diagnosed with ADD—see also: raised on sugary cereals and cartoons—and manic depression. So I was prescribed Ritalin for the ADD, and for the manic imbalances I was prescribed mostly benzodiazepines, which I loved, and antidepressants. The list of drugs I’ve been prescribed would read like a grocery list, everything from Klonopin to Prozac.
PLAYBOY: What medications are you on now?
WENTZ: Xanax, which I use to go to sleep and when I’m anxious.
PLAYBOY: When are you anxious?
WENTZ: Anytime attention is on me but I’m not in control of the situation. If I’m at someone else’s concert, that freaks me out really bad. If I have to meet a group of people, if I’m at a party, if I’m at an airport.
PLAYBOY: Is going through an airport a two-Xanax moment? A three-Xanax moment?
WENTZ: You wouldn’t want to know what my Xanax tolerance is. It’s very, very, very high.
PLAYBOY: In February 2005, the night before Fall Out Boy was supposed to leave for a European tour, you took an overdose of Ativan while sitting in your car. Why?
WENTZ: It had more to do with being depressed. I wasn’t thinking of killing myself. I’ve never really called it a suicide attempt. I just wanted my head to be completely turned off. I took a handful of Ativan.
PLAYBOY: How many?
WENTZ: Ahh, fuck. Probably 10. Enough that I was slurring my words, but I didn’t die in the car. I called my manager, then he called my mom, and she came and got me and took me to the hospital.
PLAYBOY: The official explanation was that you had missed the tour because of food poisoning.
WENTZ: Some members of the band didn’t even know what was going on, because I wasn’t talking to anybody. I was really, really, really weird. I was obsessed with death. I would lie with a blanket over my head and kind of just imagine what it was like to be dead.
PLAYBOY: Why weren’t you talking to your friends about how bad you felt?
WENTZ: I can’t be talked off a ledge. “Everything’s going to be fine” is one of the most annoying parts of Americana. Let me feel shitty. That’s the thing—we don’t let people feel shitty.
PLAYBOY: So what happened after the overdose?
WENTZ: I was like, “I’m going to quit the band.” I just wanted to sit in my room. I remember flying to New York, and my dad had to fly with me to get me on the plane.
PLAYBOY: Why did you need an escort?
WENTZ: There was a time when I couldn’t fly. I wouldn’t get on a plane. If I saw a plane crash on the news, it meant my flight would crash the next day. If there were babies on the plane, it meant the plane wouldn’t crash. If I was on the same flight as the rest of the band, it meant the plane would crash.
PLAYBOY: That’s pretty obsessive.
WENTZ: If I saw people who were flying without a lot of luggage, I would decide they were terrorists. And—this is crazy; I’ve never told anybody about this before—I’d walk over and say, “Hey, did we go to high school together?” to try to get them to tell me what they were doing. Anxiety generalizes really fast, and soon after that I couldn’t ride in the tour bus, couldn’t go on elevators. It was heading toward agoraphobia.
PLAYBOY: You’ve seen a few therapists. Why do you think you became obsessed with death?
WENTZ: Fall Out Boy was on the precipice of this thing that could be giant or could be a flop. I couldn’t micromanage everything in my life anymore. Also, I just thought I wasn’t a good person, so it wouldn’t matter if the plane crashed, because God wouldn’t care. I would think, If the plane lands, I’ll become a good person and I’ll never be in a plane crash. And trust me, my belief in God was strictly -airline-related. [laughs] It’s a wonder to me that I came out the other side of those years. I was having depression and manic episodes, plus I had a very short fuse with people. A doctor prescribed me Klonopin and Xanax, and I was abusing prescription drugs.
PLAYBOY: Did your temper ever get you into real trouble? Have you ever been arrested?
WENTZ: I was arrested the day before our first trip to the Video Music Awards, in September 2005. I hit a cop. I had come downtown to the Wicker Park area of Chicago, when I realized that the girl I was dating was cheating on me. I got into my car to leave her, and I smashed it into two other cars. It was like bumper cars. I wasn’t in my right head; this was pure anger and frustration. Then I got out and started punching out car windows. That’s when the police pulled up. I punched the side mirror off a car, and an officer grabbed me. I made an attempt to punch him as well. It was pretty pathetic. He handcuffed me and put me in the back of a car. By that point it had become a total Cops moment. The neighbors were outside, and the girl was crying. I had to call my manager from jail and say, “I don’t think I’m going to the VMAs.”
PLAYBOY: How did your relationship with Ashlee start?
WENTZ: I thought she was cute, and I had our management contact her management to get her e-mail address. I invited her to see Fall Out Boy play in L.A., and I knew she was the one when we first hung out. I chased her everywhere on the planet. I was like a caveman—I’d try to club her and drag her back to my cave. She hates when I bring this up, but we were both dating other people, and there was a long time when we were just buddies. I had to prove to her that I was ready to stop being wild.
PLAYBOY: How did you prove that?
WENTZ: It was a war of attrition. I’d call her, write e-mails, write letters. I’d send her CDs and flowers.
PLAYBOY: Can we get Ashlee in here so she can tell her side? [Wentz leaves the room and returns with Simpson]
PLAYBOY: Ashlee, why did you make Pete work so hard?
*SIMPSON: * I kind of have an issue with trust. But he chased me down for about a year. When I was in London to do Chicago, he would send me the best gifts and cards. My mom was like, “What are you thinking? Go.”
PLAYBOY: Was there a specific moment when Pete finally won you over?
SIMPSON: We were kind of seeing each other, and we planned a trip to Cabo. The day before, I called him and said, “Don’t come.” I kind of freaked out. So I called him that night and said, “Please come.” That’s when I fell in love with him. When he had to leave Cabo to go on tour, I cried.
PLAYBOY: Your mom liked him right away, but what about your dad, Joe? How did he feel about your dating a guy who wore eyeliner and had nude photos on the Internet?
SIMPSON: My dad knows that if he did say something to me, I’d say, “I’m not talking to you.” [laughs] It works a little opposite with me than with Jessica. I’m like, “Don’t tell me what to do.”
WENTZ: The first thing Joe ever said to me was “We saw a little too much of you on the Internet last year, Pete.” It was a funny way to break the ice.
PLAYBOY: Were you nervous when you met Ashlee’s parents?
WENTZ: Joe gets himself a bad rap in the press all the time, but they’re easy to get along with. I know everyone’s like, “He’s being told to say that by the Simpsons.” It’s really not that way. No one tells me what to do, I’ll tell you that.
PLAYBOY: Have you had any cravings during the pregnancy?
WENTZ: She craves pickles and pizza and Popsicles. And green olives go on almost everything.
*SIMPSON: *Yeah, I’m into olives. Well, you guys get back to it. I’ll go back to my dogs. [She leaves.]
PLAYBOY: What’s the toughest part of Ashlee’s pregnancy for you?
WENTZ: She goes to bed at eight, and I have one of the worst cases of insomnia on the planet, so it’s just me and the dogs, hanging out. You don’t even know the transcendent conversations we have.
PLAYBOY: How bad is your insomnia?
WENTZ: If I don’t take an Ambien, I’ll sleep for an hour. With Ambien, I’ll sleep from two a.m. until seven. But if you don’t fall asleep, Ambien makes you hallucinate. About four months ago I took Ambien and almost set the house on fire.
PLAYBOY: Is insomnia the key to being in a band, running a record label, having a clothing line and maintaining four blogs?
WENTZ: Fortunately, I have a bit of a Reagan administration, where you just surround yourself with brilliant people and then they credit you with all the ideas, when there’s really someone else a lot smarter doing the job better than you could.
PLAYBOY: You’re likening yourself to Ronald Reagan?
WENTZ: [Laughs] That’s great. I’m sure that will get me in plenty of trouble.
PLAYBOY: So you like prescription pills. How much experience have you had with illegal drugs?
WENTZ: I don’t know if I want my mom to read this. Let’s just say I haven’t tried anything you have to stick into your veins. I’ll tell you my ecstasy experience: I was 13 or 14 and did ecstasy and acid at the same time. It’s called candy flipping. Terrible. I was puking, and then the puke would wash off me because I was hallucinating, and the clock was moving backward. Everyone else was like, “Let’s smoke menthol cigarettes and give massages.” I learned quickly that I don’t like drugs that make me hallucinate.
PLAYBOY: When you were 14 you were sent to a boot camp. Were you a bad kid?
WENTZ: No, I was just directionless. I didn’t want to go to school—I’d skip and go skateboarding. So I had to see a counselor, and she strongly suggested I go to this boot camp in New Hampshire. The place later burned down, and the counselor who sent me there broke her neck and passed away, which is crazy.
PLAYBOY: Do you think you needed to go?
WENTZ: No. If anything, it caused essential changes in my personality that were not good. I was on the phone with my parents every day, asking them to take me home, because the place was filled with all kinds of maniacs. They didn’t believe me.
PLAYBOY: So how did that change you?
WENTZ: I’ve never met anyone who is less in touch with his emotions than I am. People make all kinds of confessions to me, and I have zero emotional reaction. The only two times I can remember crying are during Click, the Adam Sandler movie. I can communicate only by writing to someone or writing a song. In a one-on-one relationship I’m an android, like Data from Star Trek.
PLAYBOY: Has therapy helped?
WENTZ: I have a tendency to lie to therapists. In our song “Thriller” the line “Fix me in 45” isn’t a reference to a 45 rpm record; it’s a reference to a psychiatrist’s hour, which is 45 minutes. I don’t think I can be fixed. I see it like the Liberty Bell. Are you supposed to fix that crack? Then it’s not as interesting. I’m drawn to imperfections. All my heroes are tragic.
PLAYBOY: So what’s imperfect about Ashlee?
WENTZ: In Ashlee’s world, the world of Hollywood, she is the black sheep.
PLAYBOY: How did Fall Out Boy fans feel about your dating a singer who had been caught lip-synching on Saturday Night Live?
WENTZ: At first they were not superstoked. They said, “She’s fake. She’s Hollywood. She’s ugly. She’s a typical fake whore.” For a second she was getting the Yoko Ono rap, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
PLAYBOY: Did you see the SNL episode with her as the musical guest?
WENTZ: I saw it after it was broadcast. I think it’s funny how some people are singled out when it’s obvious a lot of people use backing tracks. The only thing I took away from it is that she’s the kind of person who always gets up after being knocked down. People won’t ever see Ashlee the way I do. I feel like a guy who found the end of the rainbow and has the leprechaun tied up in the corner.
PLAYBOY: Does Ashlee make good music?
WENTZ: Ashlee makes awesome music. I love “Little Miss Obsessive,” and I love “Boys,” which is a total gay anthem, by the way. I liked her music before I even met her.
PLAYBOY: How are Ashlee and Jessica alike?
WENTZ: Ashlee and Jessica are both like Dennis Rodman—they’re rebounders. They get back up again. Jessica is America’s sweetheart; she’s the girl next door but hotter. She has a big, forgiving heart. Ashlee marches to the beat of her own drummer.
PLAYBOY: Could you see doing a Sonny and Cher or Ike and Tina type of record with Ashlee?
WENTZ: Hopefully not Ike and Tina. [laughs] No, not right now. Our tastes are so different. We would have to be in the poorhouse to do that.
PLAYBOY: So after boot camp, how was high school?
WENTZ: I was pretty outcast, but a lot of it was by choice. I was kind of a geek. It wasn’t much fun.
PLAYBOY: You were a star on the soccer team. Jocks aren’t usually outcasts.
WENTZ: Yeah, but soccer’s a little fruity, and I looked weird. I would have been a giant Proactiv commercial.
PLAYBOY: There must have been quite a contrast between your affluent Wilmette home and life on the road in a rock band.
WENTZ: We went to Madison, Wisconsin to record Take This to Your Grave, slept on some girl’s floor and completely ran out of money. Every week, the recording studio would give us a case of Coke and a case of Sprite. So we asked if we could trade the Sprite for some bread and peanut butter. I ran out of deodorant, and they had orange-scented air-freshener spray in the studio bathroom. I used that as deodorant and ended up with these crazy hives on my arms. It felt as if I had taken razor blades and tried to slit my armpits.
PLAYBOY: We’re used to hearing stories about bidding wars for young bands, but no one wanted to sign Fall Out Boy.
WENTZ: Not at all. We sent our demos to everyone, and no one cared. The rejection letters were brutal. A lot of interns at Island Records were really into Fall Out Boy right after we’d gotten upstreamed, and the Island executives were like, “We should sign that band!” And everybody said, “You have the rights to that band.” We were completely ignored by all the right people and completely obsessed over by this other group of people.
PLAYBOY: Who were the obsessives?
WENTZ: They were in dorm rooms and on their parents’ computer. We were completely a viral band. You could get tons of downloads online. And not even legal downloads—we were a peer-to-peer band. That’s what made our band: illegal file sharing.
PLAYBOY: Even after your success you still lived with your parents, until two years ago. Why?
WENTZ: I was a loser. My room at my parents’ house is exactly the same as it was when I was six: the fliers on the wall, the posters, all my toys. When Ashlee and I visit, we sleep in twin beds. I still have the letters I wrote to my parents when I was 10, after I got grounded or spanked: “I hate you. I’m moving out. I’m running away.”
PLAYBOY: You were a very emo kid.
WENTZ: Totally. I was a solitary guy. I was definitely into invisible friends and making up stories.
PLAYBOY: What was so special about being six years old?
WENTZ: It was the last time I was truly happy, when every moment of my life was happy from waking up to bedtime.
PLAYBOY: Do you still feel like a loser?
WENTZ: I’ve never been able to see myself in any way other than I did when I was 14 years old. I’m always sure the band’s success is about to end.
PLAYBOY: How did you finally leave Chicago, at the age of 27?
WENTZ: I left because I hated a bunch of people in my life. I moved to California and went out seven nights a week. Out here I was just a nobody. I couldn’t get in anywhere. I had to be part of someone else’s entourage. I wanted to go everywhere and do everything, and I met everyone. That’s interesting for about two weeks.
PLAYBOY: It was more than two weeks. You dated Lindsay Lohan and Michelle Trachtenberg.
WENTZ: I was always pretty monogamous, outside of when I first got to L.A. The number of people I’ve slept with is under 15. I could name them all.
PLAYBOY: How many people have you made out with?
WENTZ: Fuck, I couldn’t count. I would guess I’ve kissed fewer than 100 girls. My wife will go apeshit if this makes it into the story, but I’ve made out with people whose last name I didn’t know. And this was long before I was a celebrity.
PLAYBOY: It sounds like you weren’t enjoying L.A.
WENTZ: I was lonely all the time. I was drinking by myself and taking pills at the same time. It made me crazy. Dude, I’ve punched out so many TVs, it’s unbelievable. My friend had a gun, and we used to play around with that.
PLAYBOY: Are you saying you played Russian roulette?
WENTZ: I pulled a trigger on a gun aimed at myself, yes. My friend and I did one pull each. We’d been drinking and had taken Ambien. I feel stupid even talking about it. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never owned a gun—I’m too impulsive. I’d probably get mad and shoot someone over a part in a song or something.
PLAYBOY: You’re worried you would shoot one of your bandmates? WENTZ: “Patrick, you motherfucker!” [laughs]
PLAYBOY: You’re a manic-depressive who likes to take prescription pills and has suicidal impulses when drunk. Do you still drink alcohol?
WENTZ: I don’t. At my wedding I didn’t even drink any champagne. At the same time, there’s a part of me in the past three years that would kill to steal a prescription pad and get some happy pills.
PLAYBOY: Did you and Ashlee have a wedding registry?
WENTZ: No. We asked people to give donations to a group called Invisible Children. We decided that would be better than asking for gifts. I was like, “We don’t need a new coffeemaker.” Then I was sitting around the house, and I realized we did need a new coffeemaker. [laughs]
PLAYBOY: Not very long ago you said, “My biggest dream is to move to Nebraska and marry someone superregular.”
WENTZ: Obviously, the exact opposite happened. Ashlee is far more famous than I am or will ever be. But part of me still wakes up every day and wants to break up Fall Out Boy and move to South America. We have a lyric on the new record, “I just want to go out and preach on Manic Street.” It’s a reference to the Manic Street Preachers, whose guitarist disappeared, just left, at the peak of the game.
PLAYBOY: How can you tell Ashlee is more famous than you are?
WENTZ: When we’re on a red carpet together, photographers sometimes don’t even want me to stand next to her.
PLAYBOY: Photographers actually tell you to get out of the way?
WENTZ: They’re like, “Oh, solo shot.” That’s a nice way of saying, “You shouldn’t be in the picture.” It’s a great ego check for me.
PLAYBOY: What if we were to do a pie chart of your fame? How much of it comes from being with Ashlee?
WENTZ: Okay, let’s see. Fifty percent is from being married to Ashlee Simpson. Twenty percent is from being in Fall Out Boy. Seven percent is from being related to Jessica Simpson. Six percent is from having penis pictures on the Internet. Where are we now? I’d say five percent is from “Pete Wentz Industries”—the bar, the clothing line, being connected to Panic at the Disco and Gym Class Heroes. Another five percent is for hosting FNMTV. Let’s say six percent from my gay quotes. And let’s add one percent for being in a video with Tyga, the rapper. On a couple of occasions people have said, “You’re the guy from Tyga’s video!” I loved that.
PLAYBOY: That makes 100 percent.
WENTZ: I’ll be honest; that’s very depressing because it’s only 20 percent Fall Out Boy, and I actually do Fall Out Boy 100 percent of the time. It’s the thing I work hardest at. It hurts because I don’t want to be the guy who drives to Ralph’s and pushes the grocery cart behind his wife.
PLAYBOY: Like Kevin Federline?
WENTZ: Exactly! I do work hard.
PLAYBOY: Now that you’re married will Fall Out Boy songs be less angry and morose?
WENTZ: I think everyone expects this to be a happy record. I don’t know that it is, because a lot of the lyrics are from before I met Ashlee. The celebrity blogs will assume every song is about her. But usually when people think I’m writing about a girl, I’m writing about something else.
PLAYBOY: What are your pet names for each other?
WENTZ: She calls me Petenut Butter, and I call her Kit Kat because when she was in London that’s what she liked to eat.
PLAYBOY: Very cute. You also said you two have different musical tastes. Are there any songs she won’t let you play in the house?
WENTZ: Lil Wayne has this song “Sky’s the Limit” where he says, “When I was five my favorite movie was the Gremlins. That ain’t got shit to do with this.” Ashlee couldn’t listen to it anymore. She said, “The words don’t make sense!” That was banned.
PLAYBOY: Did you and Ashlee sign a prenup?
WENTZ: We did one after the wedding. I think Jessica might not have had one, and that made her whole divorce pretty messy. A prenup is about the most unromantic thing you can do around your wedding, but there were no disagreements. What you bring into a marriage is yours, and what you make together is something you divide.
PLAYBOY: Are you and Ashlee having a boy or a girl?
WENTZ: We know with 90 percent accuracy that it’s a boy, and our due date is around Thanksgiving. We don’t have any names yet. My friend Andrew said, “Your kid has to have a name that would fit either a rock star or a senator.”
PLAYBOY: Do you know where and when the baby was conceived?
WENTZ: Ashlee claims to know a specific night when we were in New York. She was off her pill for two or three days before it happened.
PLAYBOY: Wow. You’re firing howitzers.
WENTZ: I’ve got to say, my dudes were working great! Tony Romo said to me, “I did not know you had it in you.”
PLAYBOY: It’s difficult to imagine you hanging out with the Dallas Cowboys quarterback.
WENTZ: I like Tony a lot. He’s a rad dude, and we’re both into Guns N’ Roses. Magazines always like to use pictures of us together: “Tony wears Nikes, but Pete’s checking out Balenciaga bags.”
PLAYBOY: That’s a clever way for them to allude to the Pete-is-gay rumors.
WENTZ: Because I was on the cover of Out people love to be like, “Oh, that means he’s gay.” I’m all for gay marriage, but that doesn’t really make me gay either. If I were, getting married and having a kid is, like, the world’s craziest beard. I don’t think it would hurt me if I were gay, to be honest. I don’t think I’d lose fans. At this point it would be easier for me to be gay, you know?
PLAYBOY: Are you done kissing guys?
WENTZ: Yeah, thank God. I’m done kissing everybody but my wife.
PLAYBOY: Despite all the attention you get from the paparazzi, you shot the most famous photos of you—with your dick in your hand and a Morrissey album in the background.
WENTZ: The day those photos came out they were Googled more than the war in Iraq, which is fucking crazy. Had I known that was going to happen, I would have manscaped a little bit.
PLAYBOY: Is it a favorable photo?
WENTZ: Does it show off the gear? [laughs] I guess so. I could have worse equipment; I could have better. When we go on tour, we take gang showers because that’s usually what they have backstage in an arena. The great thing is, now I’m not scared to go in the shower or walk around naked in front of people. And Ashlee knew what the equipment looked like before she got involved with it.
PLAYBOY: Pink Is the New Blog wrote that Fall Out Boy wouldn’t be as famous without the nude photos.
WENTZ: That’s the first thing I would assume: That dude probably just wanted to be famous. The pictures were intended for a girl. I don’t know how they got out, but I have no way of proving that. I’ll tell you one thing: It’s not worth it. I’ve always said I want Fall Out Boy to be the biggest band on the planet, but at the same time I wasn’t looking to shop pictures of myself naked.
PLAYBOY: Do you wish you had Photoshopped the pictures to make the gear a little bigger?
WENTZ: My wife’s happy with it, and that’s all that matters. At the time I was just embarrassed. I thought, Did my mom see it?
PLAYBOY: Your mom was the first one to see your gear.
WENTZ: But it has changed since she last saw it, thank God. I just don’t know that I need to have my mom see naked pictures of me hanging out in front of a Morrissey record. My mom’s got a Google alert for me on her computer. Her only reaction was “Be more careful.”
PLAYBOY: So what do the people who don’t like you say about you?
WENTZ: “Oh, Pete’s a fucking dick.” I get called a sellout pretty often. But I don’t do things just for the payday. I did a Gap ad. The clothes were things I was wearing at the time.
PLAYBOY: What did the Gap pay you?
WENTZ: Off the record?
PLAYBOY: On the record.
WENTZ: I get paid more to deejay for one night than the Gap paid me.
PLAYBOY: Aren’t you already set for life?
WENTZ: I’m far from being secure. I worry about mortgage payments, I eat leftovers, I buy the generic versions of things at the supermarket, I buy certified pre-owned cars.
PLAYBOY: Do you clip coupons?
WENTZ: I would, but I don’t think I get a newspaper.
PLAYBOY: You mentioned Fall Out Boy being called the kings of emo. Is that a title you like?
WENTZ: I’m not embracing it or rejecting it. I think about us as the Lemon Generation—like making lemonade out of lemons. We have safe lives, and we’re not worried about the Cold War; a lot of us aren’t worried about where our next meal is coming from. Our war is boredom. That doesn’t mean you can’t have mental illness or be upset that your parents are getting divorced or that the girl you love doesn’t love you.
PLAYBOY: So even if the music sounds self-indulgent and whiny, it helps fans understand that other people share the same problems?
WENTZ: This counterculture allows you to figure out who you are. I don’t see kids going right from high school to being married or going from college right into law school. Ninety-nine percent of my friends are still figuring out what they’re doing. We’ve realized we don’t have to become who we were supposed to be. That’s what I mean by the Lemon Generation. The losers have made their own culture. The losers have won.