Tom DeLonge (AVA, Blink 182) - 09.29.11

Interviewed by
Tom DeLonge (AVA, Blink 182) - 09.29.11For those of you who have written Tom DeLonge off, it's not really that simple. It can be hard to break or change perception when you grew up in one of the biggest punk rock bands of our generation, and then one day you wanted to do something completely different. With an early November release of Angels and Airwaves' LOVE Pt. II to wrap up both LOVE the album and the feature film, DeLonge may just have his head more on his shoulders than we would like to believe. At the Austin screening of the feature film, I got some time in to talk about the current ambitious project from one of punk rock's most loved and highly criticized people.

[Due to time, I got a quick minute in with Tom walking to the see LOVE. We would continue our conversation after the film.]

Love Pt. II
is coming out in November, so you're going to box that with this movie and LOVE. Do you think that's going to better tie-in the overall meaning?

I think so. It's hard to tell people, with my history and where I come from, that I'm dreaming this big. The only way I can really feel like I'm getting this across is to deliver something so big and of this quality. My goal here is to do a double album of 20 or so songs and feature film that's getting critical acclaim but taking us five years to do it. I think when it comes out in November, two things might happen - one, people will say, "Oh my god, he lived up to everything he said he'd do," or there's so much to take in that they're completely overwhelmed and don't understand any of it. [Laughs] I'm cool with either one. I'll figure out how to navigate those waters once it happens.

This whole project is completely separate from the first two records - We Don't Need to Whisper and I-Empire - do you think that's where the backlash is coming from? You're like, "Okay, I was just getting started, these are the ideas and better thought through" now?

I think that a lot of backlash happened because, number one, no one really knew what happened with Blink. I said a lot of stupid shit because I was addicted to drugs and didn't know how to deal with it and I lost my complete identity and I didn't know how to communicate. I fixed all that part in my life and started this LOVE project with all this experience of fucking up and also getting off the ground for the first time. This LOVE project is one of the most ambitious things I've ever done as an artist, but it's also the most rewarding because I'm putting myself out there. I'm really trying to go out there and say something and communicate something that's not only very cerebral, it's a part of the person I want to be and the person I'm becoming as an adult. It's very fulfilling to take that chance and that risk as an artist, despite what the punk rock kids felt they knew of me when I was younger, because that's not who I am anymore. I'm 35 now, it's just not the same.

[At this point we walked in to see the film. Below is our conversation after.]

After seeing that, how much of a challenge was it to take all your vocals out - all your lyrics - and score it. I was not expecting that…

Well, you expect a band to be self indulgent and narcissistic. What rock band takes the opportunity to duck out and go in the background. That's what I'm so proud of. I'm so proud of…you know…I'm idiot…to find it wasn't about me. Stick to the message. That's Angels and Airwaves. The message is bigger than the band. It made it very easy scoring it. It was so much fun. I felt like I was painting. When recording [the] music, it felt like I was painting.

You think you'll ever release that actual score?

I think we probably should. I know a lot of those pieces are going on the record. I actually got in trouble in the theater, because I was typing notes on my phone of what parts of the movie I want to go on the sequence on Monday. I have to make sure that that specific piece of music is on there. Guy comes up to me, "You can't have your phone on in here." "That's my movie." Okay, I didn't say that.

That's the Alamo. I guess what I'm trying to figure out is what came first. The sequencing in a way. First you release LOVE and then this movie and now we'll get LOVE Pt. II. You were saying almost a year ago that you think LOVE Pt. II is better than LOVE

I do.

Now that it's a little over a month away, do you still feel that way, if not more?

I do. I do. Sometimes I wonder, because I'm really proud of LOVE Pt. I and II. When I started out this band it was purely atmospheric and then we discovered this rock side of it. Now we're at a point where we're diving into territories that are more known with The Police or Radiohead or whatever musically. To be able to still make a song out of it that has to do with the film, that has to do where we are right now, it also has to be new for what we done - I'm really proud of part two. I think the songs are really introspective; they're really great; they're really diverse. It's really about the composition as whole, as you go from song to song, as the pieces or woven with the score and you're able to listen to an album that never stops after you start. That's why I think for the Blink [182] fans, it took a lot of time to get into Angels thing. If you're a punk rock fan, a lot of times you want to get shit moving and going. A lot of times it's about relaxing and enjoying and thinking. As an artist, I love to do both. I love to go out with Blink and say a bunch of bad shit and play really fast, because that's still a part of who I am, but I'm also a 35 year old guy who reads books on spirituality and physics. I like the idea of playing with those topics and seeing what they do when I put them into music.

To crossover…at the time when you were working on Pt. II, you were also working on new Blink material. I'm wondering, was it hard to separate the two, or did it help in both processes?

Yeah, it was definitely a juggle. Blink's record was: Mark would fly out to the East Coast to work on his show and I would work on the some of the score or whatever. Travis went out on a tour for his new record and I would take pieces of the score and work on new songs. I found that they both helped each other out a lot. I'm largely responsible in Blink for things like arrangements and yelling and screaming to push the band forward musically. Being so immersed in Angels and Airwaves not only for the past seven years, not only for the movie process and LOVE Pt. II, I constantly had that on my mind and would bring those elements over to Blink. You can hear that on the record. You can hear it on ["Ghost on the Dance Floor"]. The same goes the other way. I would be reminded that the spirit and energy, angst and the eternal youth of Blink was sort of lacking in Angels and Airwaves that people probably missed a little bit. I was able to go, "Wow. This band can probably use some adrenaline." It helped me on both sides of the fence in songwriting. Now I feel completely artistically satisfied by being the young rebel with Blink, but also being an armchair philosopher with Angels and Airwaves. I feel like I get to express myself in totality.

On a question of criticism, this having to do with both Angels and Airwaves and how certain people might feel about Blink 182 being back together and their thoughts on Neighborhoods, well, I wrote this op-ed piece about Blink being back and no matter what they have given us, they already have set their name in stone, so in essence they don't really owe us anything. As an artists that continues to grow, what do you think about any sort of backlash. Really, what if you didn't do another album and everyone in Blink kept doing their own thing. Thoughts?

That's a really great question. I would expect nothing less from a hardcore fan or part-time fan or someone who is new to the music and hasn't made up their mind. It's our job as the artist to make music that isn't easily digestible. If it was, it would be top 40 bullshit fodder. It would be a Transformers movie. It would be a Britney Spears record. Stuff that would be more fun, you know? As an artist, you are always challenged to present something that will take a person quite some time to digest, possibly hate it at first and then later [they'll get it]. That's how Radiohead was for me when I was growing up. We thought that shit was lame. It was shoegazing, weird and experimental. I was wrong. I was so wrong about it! I never took the time to listen and read all the lyrics and took the time to understand how they recorded those records and got those tones. So much so, that Angels and Airwaves - I was researching "Idioteque" and analyzing all those sounds and getting into all these analog systems with components that were handmade and started in the '60s with wiring and creating all these signals. I figured it all and it was fucking awesome. It's on a song called "Clever Love." Then I found out Radiohead didn't even make those tones, they sampled it from a guy in the '60s. [Laughs] "Fuck, I thought you guys were the geniuses! You just sampled someone else." I learned so much. They are geniuses. The point is that I find that in so much art now. It's awesome. It's like Pink Floyd. I didn't like Pink Floyd when I was young. I was into NOFX, Bad Religion, The Descendants. I was PUNK PUNK PUNK. Then one day you can really sit down and listen to The Wall and be like, "Oh my god. Oh my god." It's insane to me how they could come up with that in that time and that film. That's what I want to do with Angels and Airwaves. I want to fall into footsteps like that. I don't want to fall in the footsteps of punk bands that never got out of clubs and are too scared to change. I know them, because they're my friends and I have arguments with them. They're too insecure. I can't tell you who they are. "I don't have a good voice. I don't know if we need a light show, etc." You sound like a crying girl. Go up there and be an artist and challenge people. If you want to stay small and anti-corporate and pissed because that's what is in your heart, then that's cool. Don't do it because you're scared. Don't settle because you're afraid to piss off a punk rock kid who doesn't know what they want. Punk rock, that's what you need when you're a young person and a young adult because you need to find your independence and individuality. You need to find out who you are by not being like everyone else. That's what the greatest thing about it is. By the time you're 30, you better fucking know who you are and have something to say, otherwise you're going through life not doing anything. I think my job now with Angels and Airwaves, specifically, to create stuff that people don't quite understand, but are intrigued. In a couple of years, they can look back and say, "Oh, well, that was actually pretty fucking cool and I get it now." At some point, taking a word like LOVE and making it true and digestible to a lot of my fans was going to be difficult. I also knew if I named it any other word that's just normal and just got it instantly, they won't even notice it. If we name this record something that's so difficult to digest, by the time they actually do digest it, when it clicks, they will be ten times more invested and intrigued and connected to our art. That's what is happening one person to one person.

The last thing I want to touch on is the idea of punk and how you see it now as opposed to when you first started in Blink 182. For myself, I think I'm starting to get it. I've been writing a lot about this year and I wrote something along the lines of using your powers against the system for the greater good. Matt Embree of the RX Bandits told me it's not us against them, but just us. Do you think those rebellious ideas of what punk should be will ever die though? Do you think each generation will just continue to see punk as being a rebellious thing until they grow out of it for the most part, this never ending cycle? I would you beat the shit out of 16 year old you? [Laughs]

[Laughs] I think that no different than high school, junior high, your first girlfriend - it's a right of passage. Punk rock is a category for certain types of people to funnel their angst, to learn how to control it, to learn how to embrace it and to find like minded people who wanted to be part of a tribe - a tribe who doesn't want to think like everyone else. That doesn't leave you, it becomes part of your foundation. I think every generation uses it in different ways. When I was a punk rock kid, all the punk rockers were skateboarders and listened to garage-y punk. Then all of a sudden the next generation got cleaner. NOFX had some really great sounding records and really great sounding songs and really funny stuff. They weren't really that pissed. Certain songs started getting more political as albums went on. Then [Blink 182 was part of] the generation that really wasn't pissed at all. We came from broken families. I got kicked out of high school. Mark came from a horrible situation out in the desert. Travis came from a gangland, lost his mother and had a whole different set of tragedies all his own. We didn't feel the need to be angry. [We] were very inclusive. Everyone was in on the joke. I think that's what attributed to our success. We weren't elitist. We hated that about punk bands. We hated the elitism of Lookout! Records and all that shit. We were the outcast, and we didn't want to feel like outcast in our own scene. I think every generation of punk rock kids will have a way to bottle up their angst and do something with it. I think it'll always change forms. I think in the early '80s it was a lot of drugs and fights. In the '90s it was a lot more fun, action sports and people going, "I'm not going to join the football team, I'm going to pick up a skateboard," it's the Warped Tour and all that stuff. In the 2000's it's a lot of new stuff. A lot of these hip-hop bands and electronic bands still have all this angst, but it doesn't sound like anything I knew as punk rock. It doesn't matter. It's a way of thinking. I think as an adult, the greatest punk rock band of all time - The Clash - they never chose that word. When I met Joe Strummer, the first thing he told me…I asked, "What as it like to be in The Clash?" He said he used to walk around saying, "Fuck you, I'm in The Clash. Fuck you, I'm in The Clash. Now that I think about it, the Talking Heads were pretty fucking cool." From that point, I flew out and watch Oasis - Blink was playing a show with them, this big radio thing - and I was so dumbfounded by how good they were. It was the first time I opened my mind up past punk. Then when Oasis played, I was like, "Oh my god, I can't do that." These guys were getting in fist fights with each other on stage. [Laughs] It sort of went with the music. Then we played, said some really rude things, some really bad shit on stage that was pretty funny, and Liam [Gallagher] runs into our dressing room and I'm just sitting there sweating and he goes, "Are you guys Blink 182?" I said yes. He says, "You guys are the best I've seen in America." You like us? "I didn't say that, but you guys are the best I've seen in America." Fuck, that was pretty funny. Those guys are rad, they remind me of my friends. They reminded me of the people I grew up with. They reminded me of Fat Mike - just witty and crazy and totally unpredictable.
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 74
10:36 AM on 09/29/11
Zack Zarrillo
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This is a fantastic interview.
10:37 AM on 09/29/11
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pobrien's Avatar
This was an incredible read. His answer to the second to last question couldn't have been said any better. Mad props to you, Adam. Great questions
10:42 AM on 09/29/11
The Low-Cal Calzone Zone
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spiffa0's Avatar
Really enjoyed this interview. Tom gave some great and in depth answers
10:43 AM on 09/29/11
Are you watching closely?
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Nolessthanblink's Avatar
Hopefully now that Blink's back, people will be a little more open-minded about AVA. Kinda funny though that he believes that people who don't like AVA just aren't mature enough yet cause they "don't get it"... I can see where his point's coming from with that thought
10:45 AM on 09/29/11
Registered Member
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Jasper112's Avatar
Good stuff!
10:54 AM on 09/29/11
I'll be back around
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phillycheese37's Avatar
I really enjoyed this interview, and I'm starting to understand the word "punk" more and more as I age.
10:57 AM on 09/29/11
good pants are hard to come by.
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justinwho's Avatar
Awesome interview!
11:07 AM on 09/29/11
Jonathan Bautts
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Awesome stuff. Great job Adam!
11:07 AM on 09/29/11
This Is My Design
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dash64's Avatar
Thank you for this! Very informative.
11:20 AM on 09/29/11
Your pictures are already burned.
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MyFriendsOver's Avatar
Great interview, a fun read. One thing: WE don't need to whisper.
11:24 AM on 09/29/11
Alex DiVincenzo
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This is awesome. It's even more incredible that you transcribed this and wrote the review all in one night.
11:25 AM on 09/29/11
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cbaksa's Avatar
I like Tom. I respect his message, his intent and the answers he gives, but it seems, to me, that there's a gap between his answers to these questions and the music that AVA actually produces. I don't view their catalogue as a multi-layered, elaborate work of art that takes years to truly grasp. It's, in all honesty, pretty simple music with a lot of repetitive melodies, digital delay and reverb. I'm not trying to oversimplify things here, but really - I just don't see the results. I respect what he wants and is trying to do, but I'm not seeing it so far. Maybe the film will change my mind.
11:26 AM on 09/29/11
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Great interview. I've been a Blink fan since Cheshire and I really hope the next blink record is more like the old stuff. I respect the creativity of the new album and all of that but I just think blink is at their best when they are playing fast punk rock. I used to only listen to punk rock myself and over the years my tastes have evolved and I can appreciate a lot more styles of music too. But my friends and I have been rocking blink for over 15 years and we all agree that it would be nice to hear another record that was like dude ranch (the best blink album ever IMO)

I will always love Blink-182
11:30 AM on 09/29/11
Are you watching closely?
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Nolessthanblink's Avatar
I like Tom. I respect his message, his intent and the answers he gives, but it seems, to me, that there's a gap between his answers to these questions and the music that AVA actually produces. I don't view their catalogue as a multi-layered, elaborate work of art that takes years to truly grasp. It's, in all honesty, pretty simple music with a lot of repetitive melodies, digital delay and reverb. I'm not trying to oversimplify things here, but really - I just don't see the results. I respect what he wants and is trying to do, but I'm not seeing it so far. Maybe the film will change my mind.

Well, in hs opinion, it will take TIME, and maturity to change your mind. And that's not me saying you're not mature or anything, cause I didn't see how old you were, but maybe he really thinks you gotta be in your mid 30s to REALLY appreciate it. Who knows though man, there's a lot of music I didn't like at all as a teen that I listen to now in my mid 20s. I can only assume that my tastes will continue to change and develop, and it sounds as if Tom is convinced people will "understand" AVA more as time goes on. I just hope that with Blink back, people will get off the dude's nuts a little bit about AVA. I really enjoy what Tom contributed to the new Blink record, and even wonder if the other members of AVA are pissed that he didn't keep some of those Blink ideas for their band. Haha.

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