Interview: Tom DeLonge of Angels & Airwaves
Mon, 31 Mar 2008 13:49:57
"I'm sorry we had to reschedule this a few times," says Angels & Airwaves frontman Tom DeLonge. "I am an asshole! Sometimes it's hard to make time to get everything done." Ain't no thang; DeLonge is a busy man with a lot going on and after a 20-minute chat with him, I could tell the hamster never, ever stops running on the wheel in his brain. He's constantly thinking, creating, and making changes in the world through the vehicle of his band. AVA, featuring members of Blink-182, Rocket From The Crypt, The Offspring, and 30 Seconds To Mars, have released their second album, I-Empire and DeLonge, who has dealt with a shattered disc in his back, is firing on all cylinders, especially that of social networking via the Web.
This is the second album for Angels & Airwaves. Is Blink-182 done and over with for good?
Yes, absolutely. That band ran its course, and it was time for us to part ways and start our young adulthood. We were different people at the end, with different priorities and desires. I needed to do something that made it easier to cruise around with my family.
You went from a youthful-sounding, yet massively popular pop punk band in Blink, which was essentially the proto-Fall Out Boy, to making more serious rock with AVA. It's a big change. How did you navigate those often murky waters?
It was passion. I decided to do this band after the breakup of Blink. I didn't want to play music again, so I challenged myself to create music that made me feel good, in a time when music made me feel bad. I had passion for it, and I needed a release that would help change a dark time in my life, and this became a human experiment to make the world what I wanted it to be. It worked profoundly well, and then it got scary. It was not just a couple of decisions and me trying to be happy anymore. There was a whole lifestyle change that came with this, and now there is this cult following. People who are diehard fans say, "Coming to see AVA is like going to a play that you are part of."
How do you make the band such an interactive experience?
We involve people in everything we do, and we have an operating system called "Mod Life." We built this for two years. You can broadcast yourself in a handful of ways: live broadcasts, podcasts, video blogs, short films, movies, and you can digitally deliver records and information. It allows you to see the people interacting with you at the same time. It costs money, yes, but you have fans getting way more involved in other areas of the band, not just the music. Angels & Airwaves is much more of a "fine arts" project than a band. We did a motion picture that we are currently editing and a documentary that we have been filming for two years. We have interactivity with our fans. The system is in Beta form right now on our website, but you can't fish through it without a password. We will launch some acts in the next couple weeks and it officially goes live in the summer. I believe that we have something here that is gigantic. It's an operating system with an Internet base, but it's also a social network ingredient. It markets and distributes all of the content. It’s a way for musicians to make money and it challenges them to be more artistic.
How did you raise money to do this expansive project?
The company has been in existence for eight or nine years. I had an online company LoserKids.com, and we were the first to carry action sports companies online, like DC Shoes, Dickies, Vans. I also had the Atticus t-shirt line, but I’ve got nothing to do with that anymore; we sold it. This is all about being half-technology, half-brand. I am the figurehead, but I don’t run it day to day.
Do you scoff at the supergroup title that is often applied to Angels?
I understand why people say that because we have all been in successful bands. We wanted to go out and change the world and be the biggest band in the world, so we were looking for good dudes with good morals and values to complete the line up. It was not about how good you are musically, or how much notoriety you have. Whether or not you are a good musician was not the first question we asked when we were putting this band together.
Talk about the plot or the narrative of documentary and feature film you plan to release.
It's about the breakup of Blink and the genesis of Angels. The stumbling blocks, the drug use, how the press took it, when the first record finally came out and succeeded… It was meant to be a "making of the album" feature, but so much more happened. The motion picture is meant to be The Wall for this generation. It’s super ambitious, and there are multiple vignettes dealing with sacrifice and giant decisions in everyday life. It's bookended with a Stanley Kubrick feel. It has an epic message.
Sure sounds like it. It's certainly different than Blink-182!
On "Mod Life," we fuck around and joke more than we ever did with Blink and that's part of the success. The thing about Blink was that we were a lot smarter than we led people to believe. We loved the idea of anarchy with teenage life, and we were obsessed with it. Blink was a teenage movement and it was fun to be a part of. People always walked away realizing we were smarter than we let on.
The I-Empire artwork is Star Wars-influenced, and was created by the artist Drew Sturzan, who worked with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Do you have an easy time getting your visions across to people?
Everyone thinks I am crazy, till it starts happening, and I do what I say. It might take longer, but I do everything I say, so now people listen to me more versus a few years ago, when people looked at me and said, "You are out of your mind."
How’s your back?
It’ll be fucked forever. I am forever plagued with a broken back.
The new single "Secret Crowds" has such an epic, expansive feel. Is it your goal to have that over the top, room-filling vibe?
Yes. Even if the songs are slow or fast or big, they are all meant to paint a portrait of a landscape in your head and to get you in the mood, and make you feel like you are among a group of people who want to feel like you do. When everyone feels hope at the same time, wonderful things can happen, and that's what the band is about.