Q&A: Blink-182 Man Launches Angels

Tom DeLonge on the "hiatus," and the debut of his new band and movie

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When Tom DeLonge decided to leave Blink-182 last year, he was walking away from something huge. The band — along with another California trio, Green Day — spawned massive hits, and a slew of pop-punk disciples. As Blink, singer/guitarist DeLonge, bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker (who replaced founder Scott Raynor), scored five Top Ten releases, including 2000's four-times-platinum Enema of the State and the 2001 chart-topper Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.

But DeLonge says he felt increasingly conflicted about both his creative freedom within the band and the toll touring was taking on his family life. (Now thirty, he has a three-year-old daughter.) After the band's announcement, one year ago, that it would be taking "an indefinite hiatus," DeLonge arrived at the concept of Angels and Airwaves — his personal vision for a group that would produce music more epic, expansive and open-ended than that aggressive, irreverent pop of Blink-182.

Alongside musicians David Kennedy, Atom Willard (the Offspring) and Ryan Sinn (ex-Distillers), DeLonge spent the next several months in his home studio recording what will become the band's 2006 debut. (Expect the first single, "The Adventurer," to premiere this month.) And, appropriate to their cinematic sound, Angels and Airwaves are preparing to premiere their record with an ambitious concept movie, the trailer for which can now be viewed at angelsandairwaves.com.

Not that long ago Blink-182 decided to take a pretty serious break. Why that decision?
I put the band together when I was sixteen, and now, you know, I'm thirty years old. I think people just grow up and grow apart. It's like if you start dating someone as a teenager and then you find yourself married later in life and you're going, "Whoa, we're totally different [now]." I think that was part of the reason.

All three of the band members had different goals and different ways of running their personal and business lives. It's hard when you're in a democratic band — where you do things based on what the whole band wants. I respect and honor it, but it was getting to a point where it was a lot more than I wanted to commit to. I needed to make some changes to be able to function as a father to my kid to the best of my ability.

Did you immediately come up with the concept of Angels and Airwaves?
When I decided not to continue with that part of my life, I still wanted the same things that I wanted when I was in Blink: I still wanted to be in the biggest band in the world, and I still wanted to be the best songwriter that I can. And it took me about three weeks to figure it out. I thought, "I can create anything I want to create . . . And it's going to be the most epic and anthemic and heroic music that I've ever made." And that's where Angels and Airwaves came about.

How did the idea for the album's accompanying movie come about?
At first it was going to be a documentary of what I'm trying to do [with Angels and Airwaves], then the album started getting really, really good. It's exactly where I wish I could have taken my old band. I was looking at some of the footage about a month ago, and I just saw someone who was scared to death but absolutely full of passion and belief that he could pull something off that's never happened in the history of rock & roll.

But the whole movie is this poetic metaphor about how humans can create the worst thing in life — war — and the best thing as well, which is love. It's a third CGI, a third documentary and a third love story. So as you're watching the story and the making of the record, it will come to life in a love story between [two actors] and then go into planes arcing through space coming down into a D-day of missiles exploding in a nebula. It's very The Wall . . . but futuristic.

How did Angels and Airwaves form? Obviously, you're coming from a band with a really specific chemistry . . .
That was hard [because] I loved sharing a stage with Mark and Travis. But that's not what I was looking for. I didn't want the best musicians in the world; I didn't want guys that I thought would add some crazy persona to the stage. With Blink, people would go, "What's your message?" and we'd go, "Fuck! We don't have a message!" With Angels and Airwaves, it's absolute message; it's absolute . . . positivity.

I needed something that was organic. The first [rule] was respect for the band members and respect for their families. And the second rule was the ability to grow into a really hard, predestined friendship.

What albums were you listening to for inspiration? Anything surprising?
I ended up listening to a lot of Peter Gabriel, U2, the Police, the Cure — bands that got to stadium-level size. I wouldn't listen to any independent rock bands, no cool punk-rock bands, no arty Radiohead-type bands. None of it was good enough for me. I can listen to the Police and always go, "How did they write a song like 'Every Breath You Take'?" I can listen to U2 and list at least thirty songs that make me go, "How the fuck did they do that?" I wanted to learn how music, as mathematics, can touch an amazing amount of people.

So you've been shooting for something "timeless" . . .
I want to come out with an album that people will refer to twenty years from now as the album of this decade. [There hasn't been] a record like that since Nirvana's [Nevermind] and I don't think there's ever been a band as good as U2. But I'm willing to take on that challenge.

Describe the live feeling with Angels.
Super-crazy visuals. Everything with the band, the photos and the imagery, is very futuristic. It's all about beautiful architecture, artistic photography and astronomy. I was always a UFO space-freak, so now I get to have spinning planets in high resolution behind my body as I play a song. You're going to feel like you're in one of Stanley Kubrick's movies, or Star Wars.

What can we expect to hear first?
We're releasing a short film with the first song, "The Adventurer." The whole thing is shot on 8mm black and white, and it's very sci-fi. It kind of looks like George Lucas' THX 1138, where it's all beautiful naked women and fast cars and concrete and glass architecture.

The song was inspired by a friend who whose marriage was kind of falling apart. It touched me so deeply that I was up one night crying for him — I felt so hurt. The chorus goes, "Hey, yo/Here I am, and here we go/Life is waiting to begin." It just keeps building and building and building, and says, "I cannot live and I cannot breathe unless you do this with me."

Imagine you're still in love with someone and that person doesn't love you back, and there's nothing you can do about it. I don't wish that upon anybody.