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Thinking Out Loud: Third Eye Blind's Stephan Jenkins

On war, hedonism and The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Stephan Jenkins, 50, is the frontman for Third Eye Blind. To date, the Californian quintet have sold over 12 million albums. Their latest full-length, Dopamine, is out now.

War has clearly shown that it doesn’t work. What wars do is they win battles and they hit targets, but they don’t achieve peace. The United States keeps getting this lesson over and over again, since we’re really great at winning battles and hitting targets, but wars are won by being in the peace business. In the United States, the right wing loves saying ’Peace through strength’, but what we’ve really learned is that strength comes through peace.” 

I'm embarrassed by American politics. We’re the richest, most powerful country in the world, but the right have created an almost total gridlock of dysfunctionality in our ability to govern through legislation. And the group of people who have come up on the right [in race for the Presidential nomination]… it’s mindblowing that that’s who we’re talking about. Hopefully it’ll settle down in the next couple of months and there will be some people who actually have some sense in what they’re talking about. But what’s really incredible to me is that we’re either the first or second biggest polluter in the world and in a three hour debate they talk about climate change for three minutes, all of which was each guy echoing the other guys saying ‘There’s nothing we can do about it.’ They can’t be in total denial about it anymore, so they go ‘Oh, there’s nothing we can do about it.’ And the whole world’s watching. It's just embarrassing.”

I think altruism is alive and well. You know, you’ve got the Pope visiting here today and I haven’t been a big fan of the way the Catholic church conducts itself in the past, but in this Pope they certainly have someone who’s a big fan of altruism. It's kind of amazing how it resonates with people and you see these streets filled with joy, and it’s kind of great. Have I seen the video of Republican politicians denouncing him? Yes! [laughs] And so many of these guys are Catholics, and his messages of looking after the neediest and most vulnerable just drives them insane. And we’ve made huge progress LGBT rights in the United States in the last few years, and I guess there was a reception for the Pope where not everyone who was invited was straight, and this just ignited the right wing of how terrible it was that some of the people there might have been gay or transgender. [laughs]” 

I have a lot of fears. Not fulfilling my own potential, not delivering, wasting the day and wasting the moment – I’ll wake in the morning and I have to actually get control of my breathing to approach the day with something less than a sense of panic. And I’ve got one of those shoulder bags, which is just really a purse, and finding my keys – I fear it every time I reach in there. ‘Where the hell did they go?!’ And then I surf in Northern California. We have the biggest sharks in the world out there and I’m just dangling in the water like drumsticks – ewww! We love our sharks, but there’s just a lot of them over there.” 

I don’t know that I’m really self-aware enough to know how success has changed me. I don’t go through my days thinking of myself as a success. There’s a Hindi adage that says ‘A man must always maintain a lean and hungry face’, and so I think more in terms of what’s to come.”

I know that I wanted fame when I started. I wanted to be famous. That was something that really compelled me, and I think once I got famous it was almost like ‘Check!’ Like, ‘Okay, I went skydiving – check!’ Now, I want to try to do something good. Like, I want to write a good song and I want to do a good show, I want to make a good performance or write a good lyric. It’s a curiosity for me when people notice me on the street or in a bar or café or something like that. I guess I don’t absorb it. I don’t see it as being me. Most times I’m able to be gracious – I was in Williamsburg last night and I walked out and someone was going to bump into me, so I stepped back and she goes, ‘Oh! Stephan!’ And suddenly I was kind of in her arms and I started laughing and we took a picture together. Fame doesn’t usually bring me any closer to anybody. It sort of separates you, but this was just a chance bumping into somebody who had a tattoo of my lyrics on her shoulder. And thinking about it, when I go onstage, I just go straight up, like I’m baddest motherfucker who ever walked onstage. I really do switch modes. And then when I walk offstage I really do let all that go. It’s the 40th anniversary of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Tim Curry is one of my idols – and the way that he plays [his character] Dr. Frank-N-Furter as this crazed extrovert was a huge influence on me I the way that I perform when I play live. And that’s about, like, playing to your fame.”   

Rock’n’roll hedonism is always intense but brief. We’ve had guys on drugs in our band and it doesn’t last. I think that what we’re about is a kind of vitality and you’ve got to generate that seratonin yourself. With that said… I’ve certainly had a brilliant time. [laughs] Nobody likes a goodie two-shoes! All things in moderation including moderation!”

I really haven’t experienced getting older. I stalled out at 27 a long time ago. There’s really no such thing as age anymore, right? Like, [fashion designer] Rick Owens’ wife [Michele Lamy], she’s in her 70s and she’s the It Girl of the party scene. She’s everyone’s muse. So I’d say age is bullshit. I still feel like we have a long way to go. And pretty soon we’re going to be uploaded into video games and live forever. I figure we’ll just cure death. That’s my plan!”

I have regrets. But by pondering them, I’ve gotten the perspective that maybe lets me be a little bit more forgiving to myself. I’m a person who’s very hard upon himself. It’s kind of back to being a way of curing me, to some extent, of self-recrimination, so that’s a useful aspect of regret. I’m not one of those people who has no regrets. I don’t have that.”

Family? The source of my pain and power. There you have it!”

Third Eye Blind will play Manchester Academy 2 on November 5 and London Kentish Forum the following day. For more details, visit their official website

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