Featured in Blunt issue #134
BLUNT waxes lyrical with Angels & Airwaves and Blink-182 frontman Tom DeLonge about life, death, the universe and everything in between.
“This song is about aliens ‘cos Tom’s a Trekkie,” quips Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, introducing the track “Aliens Exist” in what’s now become a famed example of the band’s on-stage banter.
“I’ve been abducted, and probed in the anus,” guitarist Tom DeLonge shoots back in response.
When we reach him, the singer has recently gotten back from seeing the sci-fi epic Interstellar; Tom DeLonge has never been one for hiding his fascination with otherworldly phenomena. His artistic mission statement for Poet Anderson – the concept at large for the latest Angels & Airwaves record, The Dream Walker, and its accompanying artistic endeavours – reads like the thesis of a fourth year philosophy major.
“What I’ve been tackling with To The Stars is large concepts of human life and human behaviour. With the movie Love, it was all about isolation and the idea that a person has to go through losing everything to realise that every connection to every single person should be valued above anything else in their life,” he says, noticing the similarities between his own 2011 film and the Hollywood blockbuster he saw that day. “It’s interesting; it started with a documentary about dreams and nightmares preparing you for real world events. We spend half our lives sleeping, and if the universe is infinite, that means there’s infinite possibilities and what that means is that there’s a possibility that when you dream, you shut down here and go somewhere else and you’re possibly experiencing things in another part of the universe…” he trails off, chuckling at the magnitude of such a mind-bending prospect. “I wanted to use the Love movie and the one that’s coming [Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker] as a way of inspiring young adults to think a little bit differently.”
The Tom DeLonge we speak to is chatty and excitable; he’s passionate about his subject matter while remaining focused and level-headed. He’s certainly in a more comfortable place than when he first transitioned from pop-punk superstardom to esoteric, new-age art project back in 2005. Few bands ever put themselves in the realm of religious figures and come out unscathed – John Lennon caused a furore in the 1966 when he proclaimed that The Beatles had become “more popular than Jesus” – and DeLonge’s offhand and subsequently arrogant comments, such as those that referred to the newly-formed Angels & Airwaves as being “the second coming of Christ”, generated extraordinary hype for the band’s debut record, We Don’t Need To Whisper (2006), but at the cost of a somewhat tarnished reputation for both the band and DeLonge. The press paid an extraordinary amount of attention to the words of a man who, up until then, had made a living off of his ability to not be taken seriously.
Admirably, the frontman never wanted to compromise his artistic vision; he just needed the infrastructure to make it all happen. In 2014, his company To The Stars has grown into a record label, film studio and book publishing house all rolled into one.
“I’m surrounded by concept art and 3D art; I’m working with New York Times bestselling authors, I’m directing actors, I’m doing all the voices for another animation, I have three screenplays in the works, a big graphic novel, and I have three novels coming out over the next 12 months. I’m involved in all of it and it’s so diverse and fun; I couldn’t be happier. That’s my full-time gig and making a record takes a couple of years in the midst of that; Blink is sparsely within that kind of matrix – we only tour about once a year and we’re only just getting ready to start recording as we changed up how we wanted to release the record. That’s pretty much how my life is scheduled. Since Blink got back together it’s been more of a juggle, but I get eternal youth with one – feeling angst and remembering a really great time in your life – and then I get to be the more adult and cerebral side of myself with all of this other stuff. I’m a pretty well-rounded dude these days,” he laughs.
DeLonge assures us that he does in fact sleep, but we’re not totally convinced.
In an entirely non-morbid fashion, and as conversations are wont to do, we steer towards the subject of death and what lies beyond it; something that causes the singer to reflect on how one of The Dream Walker’s tracks came together.
“The whole song was about doubting the existence of God from a religious standpoint but I never had a chorus,” he says of “Tunnels”, the first song the band wrote for the album. “So we shelved the song for a year-and-a-half, and then my father passed away one night; I left him at the hospital bed and then three or four hours later, I was asleep and I woke up with this rush of energy. It was like heroin; like a million gallons of adrenaline all rushing in my body and my heart was going a thousand miles an hour. It felt like a supernatural experience, and then my phone buzzed and it was the nurse saying, ‘Your father just passed away’. This was at 3.30 in the morning. It was profound; it didn’t feel like anything that was a normal, earthly feeling, you know?” he chuckles excitedly. “We went to the house where he passed away and my family was just… they’re all crying, ‘Do you wanna see him?’ and I’m like, ‘Well, he’s not there; he’s not there’. I left going, ‘There is something so big – so big – on the other side’.”
Needless to say, the chorus for “Tunnels” – called so for the light one hurtles towards in death – came together with ease.
“When you follow the light, there’s something beautiful and amazing there and it was such a life-changing experience; I love having songs that really mean something so special to the songwriter,” he adds.
Angels & Airwaves have never been ones to do things by halves and it’s this greater artistic pursuit that keeps DeLonge ticking as he forges ahead with the development of a Star Wars-type universe with Poet Anderson. Not surprisingly, his time spent harnessing his wild creative energy has led him to the belief that, in 2014, perhaps simply making music isn’t enough.
“I personally think just being in a band, it’s not that cool anymore because everyone can do it. It’s almost like being an incredible photographer, and then Apple comes out with the iPhone and then there’s Instagram and now everyone’s ‘a great photographer’,” he laughs. “It’s so much easier with the tools at hand to make something that’s good. I know I gravitate towards stuff that’s really ambitious and unique and communicating on a more cerebral level, but that’s just me; I’m not the same. When I was younger, I wanted stuff that was gonna be fast and rebellious and crazy. We were touring with bands that were lighting drumsticks on fire out of their butts,” he says letting out a laugh. “I’ve come a long way.”
Started at dick jokes, now we’re here.
“I’ve gone from the dick to the brain.”