Elliot Ingham Joe Trohman
Joe Trohman's new memoir is everything a rockstar book shouldn't be. After all, he's not entirely sure if they exist anymore, anyways.
"Rockstar is an energy drink, I hate the term," Fall Out Boy's lead guitarist tells PEOPLE during a video call. "I don't even think there are rockstars anymore. I feel like that's an outdated character. So I've never been comfortable with all of it. Even though I love all the rock gods, I love classic rock, I grew up in the '90s with grunge and cool noise-rock bands... But I feel so corny attributing that to me."
For two decades, Trohman and his bandmates Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz and Andy Hurley have pop-punk'd and mutton-chopped all over the term "rockstar" and repurposed it with abnormally long song titles that weren't radio-friendly and output that left even Kanye West wondering what was happening on remixes. Since the days of their first LP, 2003's Take This to Your Grave, they've embraced standing out, so when Trohman began to search for a title for his debut memoir, None of This Rocks felt perfect (even though he dislikes the term "rocks," too).
The Sept. 13 book, which Trohman started working on during the height of the pandemic at a time of personal reflection, covers everything from his past mental health struggles, to his relationship with his ill late mother, to the formation and eventual world-domination of Fall Out Boy. But, as Trohman shares during a lengthy call that sidetracks into talk of JNCO jeans and Kanye puns (really, listen to this song), he never wanted his book to insinuate that he's anybody but himself. And since he doesn't think he's a rockstar, that meant avoiding the archetypal rockstar book entirely.
"I just don't have a great ego," Trohman says. "I feel like you have to have a great ego to write these books, so I just had to approach it from the angle of 'I don't have an ego,' and that I don't feel like I deserve any of the success that I've had. Definitely, no matter how many tattoos I've put on my body, I don't feel like a guy that should be in a rock band. I really don't. I feel like such a f—ing dork. All the time... Therefore, when I went in to write this book, it was from a pretty self-deprecating angle. I've always been that way."
Neilson Barnard/Getty Pete Wentz, Joe Trohman, Patrick Stump, and Andy Hurley of Fall Out Boy
Writing the book, Trohman explains, was a process that began with what felt like sitting down for journal entries. But journaling is a relatively private exercise, so the non-rockstar wrote the book often forgetting that he was actually writing a book.
Tapping into that honesty, emotional details from his childhood that could've otherwise remained private are now in the hands of Trohman's fans—for example, his familial struggles in his early life. As he reveals in the book, his mother Cathie, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer when he was a child, would physically reject him when he tried to hug her and never repeated the words "I love you."
"I needed to get it out. I don't know if everybody needs to get it out in the way I got it out, you know, but I did," Trohman tells PEOPLE. "I grew up in a very weird household with a very strange mother that was unlike everyone else's mothers, and I always wanted people to understand what it was like for me growing up, and now I think I just really did it in a public forum. So I think the desperation is over. I'm done being desperate to let people know what it was like."
Trohman's mother was the only person, outside of himself, who he "threw under the bus" in the book, he jokes. Of course, there are also his digs at bandmate Patrick Stump's massive sideburns during FOB's beginnings, but those are only in good fun. He had some terrible sideburns himself, and even a regrettable soul patch that's still somewhere on the cover of Alternative Press, he says.
When asked how often he gets to reflect on the band's successes outside of sideburn length — the four No. 1 albums, stadium tours, Grammy nods, and being very much responsible for a pop-punk explosion in the '00s — Trohman admits the book gave him the chance to sit down with all that's happened since the four-piece formed in 2001. As he says, the book allowed him to "organize those thoughts and go deeper into that reflection."
"I have all of these regrets about the way that I behaved [in the band], because I was a child. A child with like a lack of patience. A child who was still finding himself in the midst of the band, having kind of found itself," Trohman tells PEOPLE. "It was a big mistake to conflate my identity with the band, but ended up putting a lot of my dark emotions that were connected to that, to the other guys. So they were probably often subjected to a firestorm of like anxiety and depression. Depression isn't just somebody sad moping on a couch, you get irritable, we get f—ing grumpy, make snide comments... I wish I had my s— together. And so I think a lot of that I reflected upon that in the book, especially. And now I like, 'No,' and I'm comfortable with my place in the band. It's also like, I don't identify myself as the guy in Fall Out Boy. I'm in Fall Out Boy, but I identify myself as me."
Now still part of the same band that grew up with him, with two daughters, a wife, and a book to his name, Trohman says his elder daughter, 8, is already asking when she can open the book. He's not ready for that just yet, even though she's already seamlessly getting through The Hobbit with very little help. "I'm a mentally ill person. And I grew up with a mentally ill parent, and I want things to be so much better for them," Trohman explains. "So I hope one day if they decide to read this book, they don't feel embarrassed by it. And that maybe it's possible it allowed them to get to know me in a way that maybe they could have never gotten to know me just by being around me with me and talking."
"I always like talking about my brain and what's going on with it. And I love talking to other people about that and it makes me feel better and makes other people feel better. And I hope this book does open up a conversation about mental health that can just remove taboo," Trohman says. "Because people are still understandably so afraid to discuss that stuff. Our overall overarching culture has made it very difficult, but I do think more people are talking about or wanting to now than before."
As for if Trohman sees another book in his future, that's still up in the air. But if it came down to titles, he says another book might require him to tap into the lengthy songs from FOB's past. "You know, just a long-winded, None of This Rocks Part Two: A Bunch of Stories, I Hope You Really Enjoy It, and It Is a Book (So Enjoy This Book)."
None of this Rocks (the first part, at least) is now available via Hachette Books.