Tom DeLonge: "I've Been Gone From Music For A While – And I Feel That I Have A Lot To Say"

Tom DeLonge on the Angels & Airwaves comeback, lessons learned and discovering UFOs

Tom DeLonge: "I've Been Gone From Music For A While – And I Feel That I Have A Lot To Say"

2019 could easily go down as the year that Tom DeLonge had the last laugh – if only he wasn’t so humble about his achievements…

What’s the one word that springs to mind when you think of 2019, Tom?
“I would say ‘enlightenment’. Getting the U.S. Navy to admit that Unidentified Aerial Phenomena is real was a big deal.”

That happened through your company, To The Stars Academy Of Arts & Science. Did it feel like you finally proved to people that you know what you’re talking about?
“A lot of people asked me if I felt vindicated or validated, but I didn’t really. I’ve been brought into something that’s a little bit scary and unnerving, so I don’t really feel vindication; I feel compassion for those people that are going to have a hard time digesting this stuff. And my job is to help them digest it better.”

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As well as these developments with To The Stars, Angels & Airwaves made a comeback in 2019. What was that like?
“It was a lot to fun to start playing music again! Everything with To The Stars was really complicated. It was a long process, and I was swimming in waters that I’ve never swum in before. I was very unprepared for the difficulty of it. Playing music is so much easier than all of that, because I know how to do it (laughs).”

Having said that, you were very nervous about touring for the first time in seven years…
“Oh yeah, there was nervousness going back into it. Angels & Airwaves is a really complex show. It’s different than blink-182, where blink was more about anarchy, and fun, and rebellion, and you could play however you wanted to play. The joy of it was the fact that it was rough around the edges (laughs)! Angels & Airwaves is a completely different beast – but it ended up being in the top couple of tours of my life, and also, by far, it was the most professional I’ve ever played. It feels really good, and I’ve got a lot of pride in that band and what we’ve achieved.”

Why do you think you were performing better?
“Well, the type of music that it is really fits the skill sets that I have. I’m not the best guitar player, I’m not the best singer, and I’m not the best frontman… (laughs). I’m good at a lot of different things, but I’m not really a master of any one of those things! But with the way the compositions are, I fit into it very organically, and I can rely on my bandmates, and that really makes me feel free to be myself. It really fits who I am, musically and spiritually.”

You’ve been in the studio a fair bit this year. How enjoyable has that been?
“Oh, it’s awesome! This next record is probably going to be the best of my life. I have a lot to say, and I’ve been gone for a while, so I feel like I’m more prolific a songwriter than I’ve ever been. Angels & Airwaves aren’t pigeonholed into any one particular sound, and our fans are absolutely feverish about what we do and the message of the band. They really support who we are, so it’s a really great spot to be in.”

An Angels & Airwaves movie that will accompany the new album went into production this past July. How’s the progress going there?
“Oh, super good! To The Stars has many big projects, one of which being the film that is accompanying this album. All of that will come out together as we tour the record next year. You’ll start to see all the pieces of all the media that I’ve been doing come out with the show, and it’ll be a multimedia experience. That’s always been the dream for the band, but we just haven’t had the chance to do that yet.”

What’s the biggest lesson you learned about yourself this year?
“That true happiness, and sticking to what you believe in, and trying to create the life that you thought was never possible, is all very possible. You just have to have the ability to follow your heart, no matter the cost. I’ve been underestimated my entire life, and the things that I’ve accomplished at this point in my career are so much bigger and more sprawling than I ever thought. No-one thought that I would ever pull off the things that I’ve been a part of so far, and that’s only empowered me to really stick with what I believe in. When I quit blink to ‘go and chase UFOs’, people were laughing. But then they found out that I’m actually working with these people and they’re like, ‘Wait a second…’. At this point I feel that people take what I say seriously, and I want to protect and cherish that. I want to continue doing the things that I said I was going to do. And there’s quite a lot of things still coming, so it’s an exciting time to be me (laughs).”

How have you managed to stay gracious within all that?
“There are moments when you feel frustrated, and you want to stand up and say whatever you want to prove your point, but that’s just your ego – which is a really thin shell that protects how you feel inside. And if you feel really strong inside, it doesn’t matter. Usually the people who have made money in their lives want to flaunt it and act like an asshole. But then in comes a guy who’s just wearing a baseball cap, and he’s super-humble and super-nice, and then you find out that he’s a billionaire (laughs). He knows who he is and what he’s accomplished, and that’s the person I aspire to be.”

With that image of the baseball hat guy in mind, who’s been your biggest hero of 2019?
“My hero of the year would be Fernando Tatís Jr., the rookie shortstop for the San Diego Padres baseball team.”

“I don’t know – he’s just really good, and we needed somebody really good (laughs).”

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