It feels like just yesterday that everyone was ridiculing Tom DeLonge. The dude from Blink-182 was going to prove that aliens exist? The internet was having a field day. I reached out to DeLonge’s team around that time to see if I could speak with Tom for Uproxx, an attempt to be the one publication to actually get his side of the story on record. He understandably wasn’t entertaining press at the time.
Fast forward nearly five years, and DeLonge is finally ready to talk. During his time out of the spotlight, he wrote a few books and produced some television projects for his production company To The Stars, with a few musical releases here and there. Oh, also, he had a prevalent role in the Pentagon’s declassification of a series of videos revealing the existence of “unexplained aerial phenomena” (aka UFOs). DeLonge achieved exactly what he set out to do, proving everyone wrong in the process.
Amidst the effort to, you know, shift the very concept of life on earth as we know it (which he refers to simply as “the government stuff”), DeLonge was piecing together a new album with his band Angels & Airwaves. “I can’t seem to quit music,” DeLonge told me over Zoom in between hectic tour rehearsals. “I don’t know what it is. I just… I’m a musician and you don’t stop. It’s like who I am, it’s what I do. And regardless of the circumstance, I’m always going to go back to the guitar.”
The resulting effort Lifeforms is finally here, the band’s first full-length album in six years. The project serves as a companion piece to DeLonge’s forthcoming directorial film debut Monsters Of California, which will also feature a soundtrack from Angels & Airwaves. Lifeforms exists as a document of and homage to DeLonge’s entire musical life, echoing his biggest inspirations and even his own discography. “We have a song called ‘Spellbound,’ it’s all electronic for the most part, because of my love of Depeche Mode,” he explained. “‘Automatic’ was like, ‘here’s the song showing you how much I love The Cure.’ I’m being very intentional now. It was more fun to do that specifically on this record.” DeLonge knows how to write a hook, and Lifeforms is an impressive return for Angels & Airwaves that is certainly not lacking in moments that will get your head bobbing.
To celebrate the album, I spoke with DeLonge about inspirations and themes of Lifeforms, which morphed naturally into a conversation of parallel universes and flat time. Our below conversation has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
How does it feel to be getting back to touring, given everything that’s happened over the last 18 months?
It’s good. It’s a little frustrating because the pandemic is still wreaking havoc on the entertainment industry and people don’t really know what to do. Should they get a vaccine? Should they not? It’s just difficult, but I still think life needs to go on regardless. So I’m excited to get out there and help it go on.
The last few years, you’ve been working on a lot of non-music related projects, most notably getting those UFO videos declassified by the Pentagon. With all those other things going on to keep you occupied, what made you want to make another Angels & Airwaves record?
The government stuff was a sidetrack situation because I was doing what I was planning on doing the whole time, which was developing these things for the album. And then one of the stories I wanted to discuss just ended up becoming something much greater than I thought it would be. I just took the chance to just jump in headfirst and because I realized, “oh my God, this is something that’s going to change the world.”
I read that when you were putting this album together, you placed a big emphasis on guitars. In the grand scheme of everything that goes into making a record, why were the guitar parts such a specific focus for you?
I tend to look at art as progressive and cyclical. I was looking at the way music is right now it’s very pop and electronic. Just catchy songs and people creating memes that seems to be missing an element of soul and depth, which is what rock and roll provides. Rock and roll is not about being pop or popular. So our job in rock and roll is to be super authentic and put out a point of view that people can relate to or causes them to think differently, hopefully in a positive way.
I just felt like music was missing that. So being able to do something more grounded, have more edge, bring back a nostalgic feel of some of the guitars is what I think would be fresh. It’s not like Angels is going to be the one that changes music, the way Nirvana did or something. But I think that there will be a lot of bands around this time period popping up that are playing instruments again. At least that’s my hope. I still love electronic elements, so it’s always going to be there for us, but I had a very concerted effort on a few of these songs to make the guitars very present and really try to separate this band from the pack and go deep into my roots in a couple places.
Lifeforms seems like it’s almost a loose concept album about how we have a very base-level understanding of ourselves as humans and everything else that’s going on around us at any given moment. Can you speak a little bit more about that?
Lifeforms and the movie Monsters Of California are really a discussion of about our interactions with each other through love, friendship, and how we think that these interactions are the totality of who we are and what life is about. The movie takes it further saying, “Well, what if we aren’t the only life forms?” What if all of this stuff we’ve been agnostic on, all this stuff that’s kind of more esoteric — like the paranormal metaphysics, religion, and so on — is a big missing piece to the puzzle. Once you plug it in, everything starts to make a lot more sense, good and bad. I think that conversation is more easily digested when you put it in something that’s fun and adventurous and full of wonder. The things that come next hold a little bit more weight and have a heavier discussion.
These topics are definitely very interesting to consider, but they’re also often difficult to wrap your head around — how do you distill these ideas into a two-hour feature film or a three-minute song?
I’m not doing much different than I would normally do writing lyrics about things that I see, feel, or matter to me. I think that when done right, you’re able to dig into a specific thing in a really cool way that brings a lot of emotion and brings a lot of eloquence to the discussion. I don’t think that you want to tackle all these big themes in one film. You do one thing at a time and that’s what I’m trying to achieve.
I read a quote in Kerrang where you talked about what you were calling “stacked frequencies of thought,” which are all occurring simultaneously. Have you come across any evidence of this in your day to day life?
Oh yeah. I think all the stuff with the UFO phenomenon is evidence of that: machinery that are traversing different frequencies of reality that are manifesting all in real time, which is really just the manifestation of consciousness. And time is not linear. It’s parallel. It’s not like we start from one point and move forward. Everything’s happening at one moment. They did the famous double-slit experiment, where they were shooting individual photons through one of two slits on a plate. And the photon would literally go through the slit that scientists were thinking about — their observation was causing this particle to do things. That’s why you hear these stories where Native Americans were rain dancing and then it rained, or people that were meditating levitated off the floor or like Christians were praying and they healed the blind. Then you go over to the Middle East and in Islam, they were praying to a different God, but they healed the blind. What’s going on? It’s consciousness. We go all fight each other over the dogma, which is all a bunch of bullshit we all made up. But the underlying physics is very real. You shut your mind down and you talk to God or you shut your mind down and you meditate, and some crazy shit can start happening. Just focusing your consciousness, your awareness into physical reality, you can make things happen. It’s wild.
So this is more a concept of time being flat than universes being parallel?
People think a parallel universe is, “oh, okay, you just jump over to the right.” But I think it might [actually] be anything and everything is happening right now… and it might be infinite. I’m not fully sure, but I think that by creating a machine that can create a bubble and displace the fabric of space-time, you can basically just tune in and out of different time periods or anything that is ever being manifested. It’s an ocean of frequency. It’s a pretty wild concept, but it makes sense to me. Once you get exposed to enough of these… I just have been exposed to a lot of really cool ways of thinking and understanding everything around us on the forefront of physics and so on. A lot of it I don’t understand, but it’s just really cool.
Now that there are civilian space flights, when are you planning to go to space?
Probably four o’clock today.
What did you think of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin trip?
It’s a huge accomplishment, but there’s something different about Jeff Bezos. [With] Elon Musk, there’s a sense of wonder and he is young and he is funny and he doesn’t want to own anything. But Bezos is like, why are you taking so long to help change the world? When I see Bezos do things, I don’t know if I get a sense that he’s trying to fix the world at all. When he does something like, “Look at me, I’m going to space,” I think it’s missing a little bit of the soul.
What did you think of the shape of Bezos’ ship?
It did look like a penis. I think a penis is a super aerodynamic form. It’s probably the most important form that’s ever been formed. You couldn’t think of anything else? Literally. No other shape. That was the only one.
Any current punk bands that you are really enjoying that you want people to check out?
I really like Turnstile, but they’re definitely a harder-edged band for a lot of people. More melodic current stuff I wouldn’t even know, because a lot of the stuff that’s coming out just still seems poppy and not really from the street. Turnstile is probably the coolest punk band I’ve heard in a long time.
Lifeforms is out now on Rise Records. Listen here.