For Angels and Airwave’s first album since 2011, Tom DeLonge wanted to go, as he puts it, “a little bit down to Earth.” “I was able to come in with Ilan,” he says, referring to Nine Inch Nails drummer Ilan Rubin, “and say, ‘OK, how do we do something that is a left turn from what people know of Angels and Airwaves?'”
If “Paralyzed,” the first song the band is premiering from the LP, is any indiction, the new direction is relentless, heavy and loud. “Lyrically, the song is about sleep paralysis,” the frontman and songwriter tells Rolling Stone. “I think we needed something that would turn heads and ignite a fan base of post-hardcore punk-rock kids that might still be lingering there from my earlier years.”
The project, however, will include far more than punk rock, and on October 31st, DeLonge’s label, To the Stars, will start releasing some of the music videos, animations, comic books, a novel and feature film that comprise the accompanying multimedia piece, Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker. The album itself, simply titled The Dream Walker, will be released shortly thereafter. While on the phone to discuss “Paralyzed,” Delonge chatted about its supernatural back story and the death of producer and engineer Jeff Newell, a friend he often referred to as the band’s fifth member.
This is the first album Angels and Airwaves have made since the death of Jeff Newell. What was it like working without him?
It was hard – he was my champion. He used call me the fearless leader, because I was putting myself out there when people weren’t so embracing of it. He would sit there and pour through the minutia of these little things I was trying to do, and understand it and talk to me about it and expand upon it, and it really made me feel validated as an artist of what I was trying to accomplish. It was an extraordinary journey with him. When I listen to those other Angels and Airwaves records, I just might break out with tears every once in a while because it was somebody who really was there for me in a really important part of my life.
What else on this album has you really excited?
There’s a song called “Tunnels” that’s really interesting. It was the first song that we wrote, and I wrote the whole song up until the chorus, lyrically, about doubting religion. So, flash forward a year-and-a-half later and about two or three months ago, my dad passed away. The night that he passed away, I woke up from my sleep with an extraordinarily massive amount of energy, and I can only describe it as though someone injected me with a gallon of methamphetamines and Ecstasy with electricity. My heart is going 1000 miles per minute, and something is in the room and I can’t figure out what this is. I reach for my phone, and there’s nothing on my phone. Mind you, I just left my dad at hospice a couple of hours before that.
I lay back down, and for 30 minutes I’m trying to fall back asleep, but I can’t because I’m literally high. Then my phone buzzes and it’s the hospice nurse and she said, “Please call me.” I called her, and she said, “Your dad passed away 30 minutes ago.” It was the most insane feeling ever. It was so supernatural that it literally changed my life, because it was so strong. Then I went back and I wrote the chorus for this song doubting the existence of God. It’s a juxtaposition within the song itself. That song, “Tunnels,” it sounds a little Motown or it sounds folky but anthemic. It’s so different than any song I’ve ever done. This is probably of the top two songs I’ve ever been a part of in my entire career.