Tom DeLonge: Rebirth of a Frontman

When Blink-182 frontman Tom DeLonge left the band last year to spend more time with his family, fans freaked. Now, Tom has been regrouping, literally.. his new band Angels and Airwaves has been launching bigtime on the net with several sites and, starting this week, will start on a spring tour in support of their debut album “We don’t Need to Whisper”, due for streeting May 23rd.

“Angels”, consisting of Tom, his friend and former Box Car Racer member David Kennedy, Offspring drummer Atom Willard and Distillers former bass-player Ryan Sinn, are atmospheric rockers, believing in their message of rebirth Phoenix style from the ashes. Yes, Tom says it’s all about his life changing transition. Inspired by bombed, burning cities in war and sci fi movies, Tom sees the end of Blink as an apocalypse that he has risen from with only a bright future ahead of him.

You can check out the Angels and Airwaves first single “The Adventure” along with its video on www.angelsandairwaves.com . If you are in a tour city, expect the “Angels” performances to be packed with weird and crazy visuals. The band is working on a movie to illustrate the entire album. We chatted with Tom via phone recently and found him to be a new man...still zany and fun-loving of course (hey Blink has performed in their birthday suits!) but with a new goal and a new sound. Check out what this re-generated rocker has to say...

TeenMusic: Can you explain your fascination with Sci fi and futuristic themes? I recognize a line from Bladerunner at the beginning of your video for “The Adventure”.

Tom: I’ve always been kind of a futurist, modernist kind of guy. I like new ideas and looking to the future rather than obviously, doing what America seems to do really well; repeating the mistakes of the past. Science Fiction is kind of cool because it brings about this endless hope of space and time and the future. It seems to really encompass an lot of how I think about what Angels and Airwaves is. It’s been a common thread.

TeenMusic: Can you tell us how the name of the band came about?

Tom: A lot of this band was built with the express purpose of wanting to do something really positive and beautiful in my life so I can effect my family in a good way. Also, to really try to do something that’s different in music because, right now, there’s so much negative, angry kind of stuff happening in the music scene. I wanted to be the anti-thesis of that so the word ‘Angel’ seems to encompass that kind of good reasoning and then ‘Airwaves’ is more about the sonic medium that I’m using. That’s the way it works. So, Angels and Airwaves seemed to fit the idea.

TeenMusic: Talk about the film you are making.

Tom: The movie is going to be close to the length of the album or longer. It’s going to be something that creates a visual medium to the feeling of the record and the feeling is very much an emotional event that took place in my life over the last year, leaving my old band and creating this new experience and using analogies and metaphors of love and war, the movie is going to kind of be the personification of that emotional event. It's very much like ‘The Wall’ but for this generation using modern technology to create these vast, visual landscapes. [It will] take documentary footage, turn it into a fictional story and culminate in performance stuff. I think it’s going to be fantastic. It’ll be for theatrical release.

TeenMusic: Do you have an interest in filmmaking in addition to music?

Tom: It’s really to express the music. There’s so many complexities in this record and what it’s about. I knew right off the bat that a movie was needed to tell the story.

TeenMusic: Have you left the prankster life behind for a more serious side or will we see you performing in your birthday suit?

Tom: [laughs] Well, it’s not a new me. It’s definitely just a different side of me. I’m still that same guy. That’s the funniest thing. I’ll say something that seems pretty profound and deep and then turn around and make some really dumb joke. So, I’m very much still that same guy but I am taking this thing very seriously because it is a powerful experience to come close to this music. I’m trying not to ruin it with my dumb jokes.

TeenMusic: You’ve said that you left Blink 182 for family reasons.. True?

Tom: Absolutely, yeah.

TeenMusic: What do you miss most about Blink and what do you miss least?

Tom: I miss Mark and Travis the most. They’re amazing people. Mark was one of my best friends for over a decade and the funniest most intelligent person I’ve probably met in my life and Travis, the most amazing musician I have ever seen and ever will have the honor of playing with. I tell people that I would love to spend an hour of everyday of the rest of my life just playing with him. He’s that incredible. I’ve learned so much from them both. I miss the time when we were really close and things were clicking really well. I guess what I miss the least is the point when things weren’t clicking so well or I didn’t have control over the things that I needed to have control over to try and be more of a family man. Now, because this is my deal, I can do whatever I need to do to be with my family when I need to so it’s a great environment for me.

TeenMusic: Do you feel a bit like Paul McCartney when he created “Wings”?

Tom: Well, I don’t know a lot about the band ‘Wings’ but in the history of rock and roll, I don’t think a guy’s ever left a giant band and created a bigger band. A lot of artists have left to go solo but when we made ‘Enema of the State’ with Blink and they sat me down and said ‘you’re going to be more famous than you ever thought. You’re going to make more money than you ever thought possible and you’ll book arenas right now because you’ll be playing them in three months’, I started laughing, I thought the president of the label was on crack. I made jokes about it. We walked away down the hall and said ‘oh my god, that guy’s crazy and he’s running this huge record label’ and it all happened. What’s happening now with Angels and Airwaves, is so much bigger and powerful and I recognize the ripples from the splash of creating something that’s going to be accepted on a large level but the ripples on this one are so much larger than it’s really scaring me and I’m starting to have panic attacks.

TeenMusic: Hang in there! You have a several websites and have been previewing “The Adventure”. Do you think a web presence is important in today’s musical world?

Tom: Of course. It’s basically the window into every single household in the entire world. If you do it right, they'll have instant access into whatever it is you are thinking and creating. We have planned and worked very, very hard to have a massive web presence. It’s interesting, before we even released a song on the radio, we had double the amount of fans that Blink ever had on 'My Space'. At the peak of Blink’s career we had about 60 thousand hits a day on the website we’re up to about seventy-five thousand on Angels and Airwaves so it’s really incredible what is happening and a song, just now, is getting out on the radio.

TeenMusic: Do you call yourselves punk or now more alt rock?

Tom: This is big rock and roll. There’s no other way to put it. It’s a huge rock band. But, it’s built on a punk rock foundation. We all came from the punk scene and that’s very much a lifeforce in the veins of the fans but I seriously, at this point in my career, I couldn’t give two shits about a punk rock scene, what’s cool or what’s not. I just know this is the coolest thing in the world. I just know it so I don’t have to think about it. No label.

TeenMusic: Can you talk about choosing your band members? Why David, Atom and Ryan?

Tom: David I played in Box Car Racer with he’s been one of my closest friends for a very long time and he’s got such a great heart and great common goals of what he wants to do with his life and his art that it made perfect sense. David introduced me to Ryan and I knew Atom through other acquaintances and it all boiled down to what do these guys want to do? If they’re given a chance to be part of a powerhouse in music, what would they do with it and we all have the same feeling. We all wanted something special and positive. We want to have an impact on people’s lives in a good way. Angels and Airwaves is truthfully about creating an experience that challenges the way that you view yourself in this world. If you can see yourself walking on water, then you can truly do that. You just have to want to see yourself doing it. This is a testament to that idea.

TeenMusic: Does the song ‘Valkyrie Missile’ kind of epitomize what the album is about or is there another song that more typifies the sound?

Tom: It’s definitely the whole thing completely. ‘Valkyrie Missile' was a missile that was made to carry nuclear weapons throughout the cold war. The reason we named the first song that was because it is describing the situation where life, as you know it, is going to be annihilated but something beautiful and epic is about to be created that you have no idea could even exist. There are words at the beginning and ending of the song that say ‘this is the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life but I can see the sun coming over the horizon’. The lyrics say, ‘everyone will listen even if it hurts sometimes’.

TeenMusic: So, it’s about changing your life for the better?

Tom: The new album progresses and takes you through these arcs of finding love and experiencing love in a war zone which applies to anybody’s life where there is a mess going on and they're out of their comfort zone. At the end of the record is a song called ‘Start the Machine’ which just kind of sums everything up. As you see the war burning across the sea, you’re not apologizing for any of the decisions that you made and it wraps up saying ‘if love is a word you say, then say it and I will listen’. It basically says you’ve found your new life and happiness. It is a long road of emotions in creating a new life for yourself. It’s autobiographical I guess.

TeenMusic: Okay.. on to the fun questions. As a song-writer, what is the weirdest object you have ever written lyrics down on when you couldn’t find any paper?

Tom: That’s such a great question. I guess I’ve written lyrics on everything from cocktail napkins and my phone.. I’ll pop open my sidekick and type stuff in there. But, I’ve written things actually on my guitar before and on my hand or business cards in my wallet.

TeenMusic: What is your songwriting process like.. lyrics first.. music?

Tom: It’s always been a specific way until this album. This album we would start with a specific instrumentation whether it’s on the synthesizer, keyboard, piano, guitar, whatever or maybe it’s just a percussion thing. Then we’d start doing an array of things to create an emotional response with the music. Once we’d get that basic foundation, I would put on either Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 on TV and open up these giant two page spreads of a World War Two historian Steven Ambrose with these cities burning in the 40’s. Just a space age movie on the TV, a science fiction type idea and then pictures taped up all over the studio of cities burning and women holding their kids running out of a war zone...then I’d write a love song [laughs]. It was a really complex series of emotions that would come out within one song. It’s really interesting how we did it.

TeenMusic: That’s wild. What do you do on tour? Are you a ‘visit the town guy’ or a ‘hide in the bus’ guy?

Tom: I’ve done plenty of looking at the town stuff. I’d really like to just hang out at the venue and just get ready to do the rock. I don’t like to travel out of the venue. It’s too tiring.

TeenMusic: Who, of the new band, is the biggest jokester and who is the peacemaker or disciplinarian?

Tom: I’m definitely the biggest jokester still, easily. I’m kind of playing all those roles I guess. Everyone definitely has their part. I’m still the one doing stupid jokes when I shouldn’t be.

TeenMusic: What, in life, makes you feel ‘out of control’?

Tom: Out of control is when I go onstage. When I go onstage, it’s absolutely the power of the moment and living in the moment is never more real than when you are in front of fifteen thousand people. Usually, during the day, you’re worried about the future or events in the past that are going to reoccur. When you’re on stage you are only thinking about that moment. It’s a really amazing feeling.

Catch Tom and Angels and Airwaves out of control..onstage:

4/12: Pomona, CA, the Glass House
4/14: Ventura, CA, Ventura Theatre
5/5: San Francisco, Great American Music Hall
5/6: San Diego, House of Blues
5/8: West Hollywood, CA, the Troubadour
5/9: West Hollywood, CA, the Troubadour
5/15: New York, Bowery Ballroom
5/16: New York, Bowery Ballroom
5/18: Philadelphia, Theatre of the Living Arts
5/20: Boston, Avalon Ballroom
5/21: Washington, DC, 9:30 Club
5/24: Toronto, Phoenix Concert Theatre
5/25: Chicago, Vic Theatre

- Lynn Barker (TeenMusic.com)

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