Tom DeLonge Opens Up About Government Secrets, "Paranormal Stuff" and How It Felt to Quit Blink-182 The Exclaim! Questionnaire
"We still have material from a crashed craft in the '40s of unknown origin. We still have that material being studied with the US government."
Published Sep 21, 2021When Tom DeLonge answers Exclaim!'s call, he's sitting in his car in San Diego, CA, gazing out at the water. "I'm looking at the beach," he says contentedly. "I park here and do interviews every day at the water."
It's a moment of serene self-care for a guy who has devoted his life to goofy pop-punk, dick jokes and classified research into extraterrestrial life forms. After conquering the mainstream with Blink-182, he took a series of sharp left turns — first by starting the space rock band Angels & Airwaves, then by devoting himself to searching for UFOs with his company To the Stars... Academy of Arts & Sciences.
His alien pursuits were initially easy to dismiss as rock star eccentricities, but then the company released a series of declassified military videos depicting "unidentified aerial phenomena," which both the Navy and the Department of Defense confirmed were legitimate. WikiLeaks shared documents that showed DeLonge had corresponded with Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta, about the alleged Roswell flying saucer crash. For anyone who treated DeLonge's alien-hunting as a joke — who's laughing now?
On September 24, Angels & Airwaves will release their sixth album, Lifeforms. It's an intrepid voyage through icy electro-rock ("Timebomb"), shameless Cure worshipping ("Automatic") and new wave robo-pop ("Rebel Girl"). "Now what is this bullshit / I said we're not alone, and the government knows it," he sings on the towering single "Losing My Mind."
We asked DeLonge to reflect back on his dizzying career by taking our Questionnaire, and he discussed some of his best (and worst) Blink-182 memories, his bad habit of sharing government secrets, and an early masterpiece called "Who's Gonna Shave Your Back?"
What are you up to?
The album Lifeforms obviously comes out in a few weeks. The movie Monsters of California will come out and premiere sometime around the holidays, and probably be more readily available worldwide just after that. I have around another 10 feature films and television series that are in various stages of development that are coming out. We still have material from a crashed craft in the '40s of unknown origin. We still have that material being studied with the US government.
What else we got going on? Oh my gosh, I've got tour starting in two weeks, so that's a big one. I forgot about that. I'm going to have to pack my bags here pretty soon. So I've got a lot going on in that in that regard, just between the film and the touring and the album and all that kind of stuff, and a little bit of the government stuff. It's pretty wild.
What are your current fixations?
Right now, skateboarding and science fiction are overtaking my life, because those go together so well, you know? Monsters of California is about three skateboarders, which is funny, and it is a science fiction film — so I am making it work somehow.
Why do you live where you do?
On the coast of San Diego, where we live, there's this 10-mile stretch that literally is the best place in the world to live, in my opinion, because you have the Mecca of skateboarding. If you want to be a professional skateboarder, it's here. If you want to be a professional surfer, it's here. If you want to be a triathlete, it's here. And if you're a yogi, if you're into new age meditation and spirituality, the Self-Realization [Fellowship] centre on the coast right here where I live — that I'm looking at right now — was started by, I forgot his name, the guy that wrote the book Autobiography of a Yogi [Paramahansa Yogananda]. So it became this place that people from India and everywhere fly out to Encinitas, where I live.
So you kind of have this very spiritual place in the best weather in the country, with the epicentre of individuality and being an entrepreneur and being counterculture with skateboarding and surfing. It ends up being a lot of young people, a lot of progressive, loving ideas. It's incredible place to raise a family and live, because quality of life is measured here, not quantity.
What's the last book or movie that blew your mind?
It was a really cool story about these like Russian mob dudes, Operation Odessa. It's a funny, weird documentary about these mob guys that go deep in with the drug cartels. It's just wild.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational concert and why?
Probably seeing NOFX, a punk rock band, when I was younger. They were playing with the Offspring and Face to Face, so these are three punk rock bands that were a big deal in Southern California in the scene. But I remember going there, and the amount of jokes and stopping songs and blaming each other for fucking up, and people throwing shoes and then them throwing shoes back at the audience. Totally casual, punk and funny. I was like, "Oh my god, my friends are on-stage right now. These are the people that I hang out with." I didn't even know that you could be in a band and still be yourself. I thought bands were like, "Don't say anything and play the song perfectly." And this was exactly the opposite. I said, "This is what I'm doing, no matter what." I was like 15 or something at this show, or 16. It was amazing.
What's been the greatest moment of your career so far?
The greatest moment of my career, probably, was one day where I learned we [Blink-182] sold like 40,000 albums in one week, on an early record. This is even before our big record came out — it was our second album [1997's Dude Ranch] and Christmas hit. And this is when there were record stores and stuff, outside of just the digital streaming platforms. When we signed a record deal, our very first one, the owner bet with his son that we wouldn't sell more than 3,000 albums. So here we were, all of a sudden selling 40,000 in one week. I remember audibly screaming at my manager, I was like, "Holy shiiit!" I remember I felt like Superman at that one moment. It was really cool.
What's been the worst moment of your career so far?
The worst moment of my career was probably the first time that Blink broke up, where I had to really grapple with loss of ego and identity and career and life path and purpose. It was the worst moment of my career, maybe, but it was the best moment of my life — to start building back in a much more evolved, self-aware place, of who I am and who I want to be and all that kind of stuff.
Who's a Canadian musician that should be more famous?
Oh, that's a good question. Maybe Drake?
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
I've been given some advice by my government colleagues about how to say and not say certain things. Sometimes I wasn't the best at it. And I remember after I've said certain things, those were very uncomfortable conversations with people that come from some very powerful places. I've gotta go, "Sorry, sorry! I'll get it right next time!"
What was the first song you ever wrote?
The first song I ever wrote was for a girl. No, actually no — before that I wrote a song called "Who's Gonna Shave Your Back?" I played that at the fuckin' high school battle of the bands in front of the whole high school in a gymnasium. I don't know what I was thinking, but I thought it was funny. It's so stupid!
Did you win?
No, no, no, I didn't win at all. But guess what I did do? I found our original drummer there [Scott Raynor]. He was playing with one of the other bands. So that beautiful song — that God-given beautiful song — led to the creation of Blink-182.
Actually, the two things that led to Blink were: one, that song, and secondly, getting kicked out of high school, because I went to that [new] high school and that's where I played the battle of the bands and then met that dude. It's just funny how it all works. Everything's ridiculous. Rebellion and dumb jokes.
What's the meanest thing anyone has ever said about your art?
Oh my God, people have said a lot of shit about my art. That would be really hard for me to say. I mean, people take potshots all the time. You just learn that you don't really care. I learned a long time ago when we got like a really bad review— I was just so pissed. [But then I] remember that it's just some dude named Kevin that works somewhere, and we all care about what Kevin thinks. Who the fuck is this Kevin guy? It's me caring that the busboy down at some shitty restaurant gave my record a bad review. So I remember that kind of moment — I never really paid attention to what people say. But, the meanest thing? I don't have a way of identifying that, because it's a bunch of toddlers screaming about which french fry is theirs. It doesn't matter.
What was the first album you ever bought with your own money?
I bought an album by a band called D.I. They were a punk band and it was called Horse Bites Dog Cries. There was a song called "No Moms" and I was blasting it out: "No moms! No moms!" Like, a fast punk beat. My mom walked in and heard it. She pulled the cassette out of the fuckin' thing and broke it and threw it in the trash. I was like, "Goddamnit! Now I'm into punk rock for sure!"
What was your most memorable day job?
Working at a retirement home with some skateboarder friends of mine. We would just fuck with all these people that lived there and worked there. We were assholes, but we did some funny, funny shit. I would never do it now, knowing how to be kind to people. We didn't do anything, like, mean, but the things we would do to entertain ourselves were just fucking funny. But it was just not very cool. But because of that, I remember that job. I was like 15 and I was just a renegade.
If you weren't playing music, what would you be doing instead?
Shit — if I wasn't playing music, I'm pretty confident I was always going to end up doing something for myself. It would do it have something to do with creating something. I have to be creating. So I don't know if i would have ended up a filmmaker, like I am doing now, or if I would have ended up as some type of architect or graphic designer or something. I've just got to be creating things that are much bigger than myself.
How do you spoil yourself?
On a certain day of the week, I might just go, "Fuck it. I'm not doing anything today other than what I want." I'll put on some crazy, true Bigfoot story and go down to the beach and just listen to it and grab a chair and lay there. Listen to cool paranormal stuff and get lost in the wonder of what's all around us.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I think it's the same trait. My strength and my weakness revolves around my ability to have such passionate bouts of ADHD. I jump in deeply into things and go after them really hard if I feel that it's interesting. And that also can be bad, because I jump into things way too hard and crazy that maybe I shouldn't. It's kind of like my super strength and it's my kryptonite.
What's the best way to listen to music?
Oh, it's probably nude, on a horse, somewhere in Siberia. I'm just saying, it's the best. You didn't ask, "What are some good ways?" You said, "What's the best way?"
What do you fear most?
Not living completely authentically. Just being completely authentic about what you want and who you are, [but] shutting that off because it's not acceptable.
If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?
I would create a neutrino accelerator and receiver, and I would be communicating with neutrinos and modulated code that I would be sending and receiving to other life forms that are in parallel dimensions. Neutrinos are atomic particles that can go through anything — they can go through planets and lead and stars. These particles are kind of magical particles. They travel, potentially, through time and all this different stuff. They're really interesting particles. I don't know much about them — I just know that that's what I'm supposed to be doing at some point.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
I met Sting for a really quick moment. He was walking past me, and when I realized it was him, I wanted to say hi, so I turned and yelled "Sting!" And he just got in an elevator with all these people. And he's taller than all of them, so he turns, and I'm tall, and now we make eye contact. We're staring at each other and then the doors shut. It was the weirdest, funniest thing ever! It was like the end of a movie, and it's like, "Nooooo!" And [the elevator] shuts and then we never saw each other again. Maybe one day we'll be on a mountaintop and kissing and stuff. But for now, the universe is like, "You can't have each other!"
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
There is a board member at Boeing right now, and that's who I would bring over for dinner. This specific person. I'd serve a whole lot of questions.
What is the greatest song of all-time?
It has to be "Who's Gonna Shave Your Back?" Someone played it a couple decades ago at a high school battle of the bands.