Tom DeLonge: No More Compromises
Back in February, when Blink-182 announced they were going on "indefinite hiatus," fans freaked and Geffen Records winced. But for their part, the members of Blink seemed remarkably stoical about the decision, which effectively ended a 13-year partnership and killed a band that had sold more than 20 million albums worldwide. Bassist Mark Hoppus got right back to work, producing albums for bands like Motion City Soundtrack and launching a weekly podcasting site. Drummer Travis Barker became a reality-TV star and started roughly 78 new bands. And guitarist Tom DeLonge did nothing at all.
Well that's not entirely true. In the wake of the Blink bust-up, he did spend three weeks in complete isolation, away from his family and bandmates, thinking about his life and career. More specifically he wondered if he ever wanted to play music again, and as Hoppus and Barker began to give their first post-Blink interviews, he continued to ruminate on the subject, until the weeks became months and fans of the band began to wonder just why he was keeping quiet. Had the whole Blink incident been his fault?
But early in September DeLonge began to stir, issuing a statement through Geffen that explained where he'd been and why he'd been keeping silent. Turns out he was working on a self-described "greatest rock and roll revolution," a band called Angels & Airwaves, which he said would change the face of popular music for years to come.
And now, as he puts the finishing touches on not only the A&A album, but a full-length accompanying film — and as Geffen prepares to release a career-spanning (and some say, capping) Blink-182 Greatest Hits CD/DVD — DeLonge's finally willing to let fly on a host of topics. From his decision to once again make music and his high hopes for his new band to the inner workings of the Blink meltdown and his thoughts on Hoppus and Barker's lives, post-Blink, DeLonge lets it all hang out.
MTV: So after Blink went on hiatus, you became invisible, giving no interviews and disappearing from the public eye. Meanwhile your former bandmates seemed to have no trouble getting on with their lives. Care to explain where you've been?
Tom DeLonge: When Blink went on this hiatus, I sat around and was trying to reorganize the next chapter of my life. I literally stayed awake for three weeks straight and sat there and went, "OK, what have I done in my life?" I knew we'd already sold 20 million records, and we'd already come out with great records. Enema of the State redefined pop-punk in the era it came out, and then we came out with the last Blink record [Blink-182], and I thought that was a fantastic record and a force to be reckoned with. So I said, "Well OK, I've already made great records ... do I want to come out with another great record, or write great radio songs? No, this is the point in my life where I need to come out with the best record." So instead of going out and getting on TV and talking about what I was doing, I wanted to think it through and make sure that when I did talk, I would know exactly what I was talking about, and I would know exactly where I was with [Angels & Airwaves]. I didn't want to come out and just be like, "Oh, I'm going to play some more music," because I'm not just creating another band, I'm trying to create the world's greatest rock band.
MTV: You've raised more than a few eyebrows with some of your statements about Angels & Airwaves, calling it the greatest thing you've ever done musically. Are you worried that a statement like that might upset some Blink fans?
DeLonge: It's not like I'm taking this lightly. I'm not an egotistical a--hole. But I do consider myself to be a pretty intelligent person, and I know that when I had previously sat around and thought about taking Blink to another level — like when I did Box Car Racer [his more mature side project with Barker] — I always knew exactly what I wanted to do and what direction to push the music in. And with this thing, I spent a long time thinking about what I wanted to do. ... I started writing this [A&A] album the day we finished recording [Blink-182], because I knew I had to beat it. So I've been thinking about this sh-- for years, and before Blink took its break, I knew that Angels was going to be the biggest band in the world. We knew that we were the only band that could do something like that. Besides someone like Coldplay, I don't know of any rock bands that could do that. We want to take this project to that Police level, that Joshua Tree level. And I already had the songs to do it. So when Blink went on hiatus, I'm sitting around going, "OK, I know I have the material; how do I put it all together in my own way, without having to compromise at all?"
MTV: You mention two subjects that are rather contentious among Blink fans: Box Car Racer and Blink's last album, which, because of the move toward a darker sound and more profound subject matter, a lot of fans see as having your fingerprints all over it. In fact most people see both those things as the main reasons Blink went on hiatus.
DeLonge: There's no way I could've done anything in Blink without Mark and Travis. I mean, I had to compromise all the time, but that was part of the magic of that band. It's obvious that the music changed after I went and did Box Car, it's obvious that when Travis went and did the Transplants things changed too. But in Blink, I was the one responsible for the way the guitars started sounding, because I was the one playing that kind of stuff. One of the craziest things about Box Car Racer is that it was the both greatest and the worst thing for Blink. It was obviously the reason why we made that last record, which I thought was a masterpiece, but it also caused a great division in the band. It was really hard for Mark. He thought it was really lame Travis and I went and did that, but it was a totally benign thing on my part, because I only asked Travis to play drums because I didn't want to pay for a studio drummer. It wasn't meant to be a real band. But even before Blink was finished, Mark and Travis went out and started Plus-44, and I didn't even know until months later. I had to read about it in the press, and that's what I didn't understand, because the hypocrisy to me seems ridiculous. But I guess that at the end of the day, those guys had things they wanted to do with Blink, and I guess they couldn't do those things with me.
MTV: Both Hoppus and Barker have remained vague about the whole Blink situation, but they have spoken on the matter. Meanwhile you've remained silent, and as a result, many fans seem to believe that you were somehow to blame. Care to set the record straight about just what happened?
DeLonge: The reality is, at the end, when we decided to take this break, our priorities were mad, mad different. My priority was my family, and my life had to be structured in a way where I had to be around for my daughter. She was 2 years old at the time. And they wanted to keep touring, and it didn't work out to where our priorities were the same. But I'm sure a lot of people think that [I'm to blame]. All I want to say is that the last words that were said to me by my bandmembers were, "If your family is going to be your priority, then you better be cool with the repercussions," whatever that means. That was the last thing that was said to me. And I think there was a lot of paranoia and a lot of bitterness between all of us.
At the same time, it's not like they didn't love their families or love me, I just think that in the heated exchanges that were happening, it became evident that the ways we view our lives and want to live our lives now that we're older are just different. I couldn't imagine doing my work if I wasn't able to totally pick and choose how to be there for my family, because at that point they really needed me, and I don't think those guys understood that or didn't want to understand that. But at the same time, their lives are totally different. Travis is able to handle a lot more things in his life than I can, and the same goes for Mark. But at the same time, they're still great guys. Travis is the best musician I've ever played with, and Mark is a super-sweetheart, my best friend for a decade. But I think that the way all the sh-- went down, when money and fame entered into the equation, and the way we were all growing up and having kids, I think we all just grew apart.
MTV: You've said in previous interviews that since Blink went on hiatus, you haven't spoken to Mark or Travis. So do you hold any ill will toward your ex-bandmates?
DeLonge: Not at all. Not in the slightest. I'm not bitter or mad at those guys at all. Those guys are not bad guys, and I love them to death, and they were my best friends in the world and I miss them tremendously, and I hope to God that one day we can continue this, but I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon. I think there's still a lot of unresolved stuff. I mean, there's still a lot of stuff left over from Box Car Racer.
MTV: Any regrets then?
DeLonge: Not at all. What happened in Blink, and the way it all went down, I felt like I had to do everything for the right reasons. I started a charity, I'm doing these things to change the world, and in the meantime, I'm going to make the raddest rock band in the world to help me do it. This is the greatest part of my life. The stress and all the sh-- took years off my life, but I cannot even tell you how excited and how freaked out [I am] by how big I think this new thing is going to be. At the same time, I know that there are other amazing bands out there, and I know that this might fail, but I'm cool with that. Because I think for the first time in my life, I feel like I can make a difference. Everyone I talk to says stuff like "Music sucks today," and I'm going to try and change all that.
— by James Montgomery