To mark the release of his remarkable new album The Dream Walker with Angels & Airwaves, Tom DeLonge discusses visiting Area 51, the next step for Blink 182 and why precisely he brought back the giant flaming 'Fuck'.
As one third of Blink 182, Tom DeLonge has sold over 35 million records over a 22 year career. When that band went on “indefinite hiatus” in 2005, DeLonge emerged with Angels & Airwaves - a prog rock band with stadium aspirations that sounded like U2 covering Muse (in a good way). Now, with both bands going strong, DeLonge is set to release Angels’ fifth album and their best to date, The Dream Walker.
More than just ten tracks, the album is part of a wider multi-media project incorporating novels, a children’s book and an animated project that just took home Best Animated Film at this year’s Toronto International Short Film Festival. DeLonge took a break from his hectic schedule and joined Gigwise over the phone from San Diego to talk musical progression, aliens and the chances of ever hearing a new Boxcar Racer album.
The new Angels & Airwaves album is a huge advance from the previous record in terms of music and you also have a children’s book out animated film. What’s the long term plan for this band?
The idea this time was to challenge myself in a much larger way than I’ve ever challenged myself before. The whole goal was to do an art project that was a transmedia project, gathering a whole bunch of artists who explored the same theme in their own individual media. We wanted the music to evolve and be a radical step forward, so it’s quite the adventure these past three years. I’m excited.
The influence of [DeLonge’s new writing partner and Nine Inch Nails’ drummer] Ilan Rubin can really be heard on songs like 'Kiss For A Spell'. How resistant were you to experimenting with the sound of the band?
The whole reason Ilan joined the band three years ago was to change the sound. Not because I didn’t like what was being done, but because I just wanted to do more. I feel like that song is a really great blend of what we do. I usually come up with the chord progressions but Ilan skilfully executes the rest of the layers within the songs.
Is the band a two piece now? Do you plan to tour live?
No. Eddie is still around and David is still around. As far as writing and music it’s always been just myself, but now it’s myself and Ilan. We do plan to tour, but we’re planning a tour that’s radically different to what we’ve previously done. Right now it’s all about getting the record out.
Your children’s book is called The Lonely Astronaut On Christmas Eve. The lonely astronaut seems to be a recurring theme in Angels’ previous feature film Love and the Blink song 'Asthenia'. Is this a purposeful thing?
I was always fascinated by the astronauts who went to the moon and came back and they always said that when you see the Earth floating in the blackness, you realise how insignificant we are, and it really affected them. 'Asthenia' was influenced by Edgar Mitchell who was the sixth person to walk on the moon. The whole concept of Love and The Lonely Astronaut was to dig into human consciousness and the connection between individuals.
You’ve been out to Area 51 countless times. You had a strange experience recently where you woke up in the night and heard hundreds of voices outside the tent...
Yeah, we had a really strange experience with missing time. Something happened at our campsite in the middle of nowhere that we couldn’t explain. It really kind of affected us and we were tripping out. We were in the area looking for strange things like that and it was such a great thing to happen. I think they’re doing a lot of testing of stuff that they’ve had their hands on for a while. Everything there [Area 51] is 30 to 40 years ahead of what we know of.
Have you seen Interstellar or Gravity? What do you think about their depictions of space?
What’s so cool about science fiction is that everyone has their own idea of what could be out there. All I ever say about space is that if the universe is really infinite, that means there’s infinite possibilities of what’s happening out there.
When you’re writing how do you decided if a riff is for Angels & Airwaves or Blink?
I naturally write at this point in my life like Angels & Airwaves, but I really love to re-visit where I came from. I love to play Blink music. It’s enormously fun and second nature to me. It’s interesting, I just take it step by step.
The new Angels song “Paralysed” is a throw-back to the post-hardcore stuff you’ve explored in the past with Boxcar Racer. Will we ever see a second album from that band?
Boxcar Racer? No that won’t happen, but it would be fun. I think in an alternate reality it would be a lot of fun to do that, I just have no time. Or a band because they’re all involved in my other projects.
Have your influences changed as you get older?
I definitely still love bands like Stiff Little Fingers and I listen to them before I play live shows, for sure, but now the things I’m inspired by are pretty different, you know. Films, directors, photographers, some weird drum'n'bass songs that I heard on someone’s radio. I’m not the kind of guy who’s like “Oh this band had a great record this year and that’s really fired me up.”
What’s your favourite lyric you’ve ever written?
My late co-writer, producer and close friend Critter that I did all the Angels records with, he loved the lyric “Dance across the treetops and set them ablaze/ soaking in your warm summer haze”. It’s from a song called 'Shove'. He made me feel like it was really special.
You’ve said Blink have found a house where you’re going to start recording the new album. Will this be a similar set up to [2003’s] Untitled album?
I’m not totally sure how it’s going to work but the goal is to find an area or an environment that’s different and not just a normal studio to be together as were architect the songs and inspire each other in ways that we did back in that timeframe. I think if we can pull off those few things we’ll be in really really good shape. We’ve always done what we liked, and on the Untitled record there was a lot of debate where we thought our fans wouldn’t even like it, but I think we succeeded by sticking to what we wanted to do, and it turned out to be the one that the fans like the most.
Will we ever see the behind the scenes documentary The Blinkumentary?
Yeah. I’m excited about getting that footage out. I just think it’s just incomplete, but it’s great footage and we will definitely see it come to fruition somehow.
Describe one of your worst ever gigs.
I remember walking out at the Video Music Awards with two billion people watching and my guitar didn’t work at all. I went into “First Date” and it just didn’t work. You just deal with it. Many times someone throws up a beer from the audience and it hits the mixing board and shuts down the PA, but what can you do?
You brought back the flaming “Fuck” sign this year. What was the feeling behind that?
Just as a celebration of Blink and going back to Reading. Us hoping we can be worthy of everyone watching. Pyrotechnics isn’t everyone’s thing, but we’re the only band that lit the word “fuck” on fire, you know? And it worked out good for us.
The Dream Walker by Angels & Airwaves is out now.
Tom Ward is the award-winning author of A Departure.