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Tom DeLonge

"My goal here is to have a vehicle that can handle big storytelling, big immersive musical experiences and trans-media experiences, that each time it happens it’s big enough and loud enough that it moves people to think a little differently at times."

Transcript

Tom DeLonge:
Most people pick up a guitar and they're trying to be the best guitar player that can be. And they might take lessons and they might study all the Metallica records or whatever they want to learn. That wasn't me. Then there's another person that might want to be a pop star or a singer and they take voice lessons and they're really good singers. That wasn't me. I was somewhere like in the middle. When I picked up the guitar, I did not want to be the best at it. It was nothing more than a tool to carry something I wanted to express.

Tom DeLonge:
I used to come home from school and I would be all amped up from school and I would get on my bed and I would play as fast as I can. And then it would get slower and slower and I'd throw the pick down, I'm finger-picking and then I'd fall asleep with it on my chest. Because I'd always be doing that, laying down on a bed and then I'd just fall asleep and I wake up on an hour later. That like happened every single day at 3:45 or four o'clock and I'd wake up one hour later and go, oh, I either got to go to work or going skateboarding. It was always a way to get out my anxiety and how I feel and I think that's why I gravitated to it so strongly.

Tom DeLonge:
My guitar playing style, the genesis of it was because I was the only guitar player on Blink. So I try to incorporate riffs that have like resonating notes and things that are happening behind the riff because I want it to sound like there's a rhythm guitar. The other thing was is I was self taught so I'm not doing things the same way as people that would probably learn chords first and learn music theory. As the band got more popular, as Blink got more popular and then Angels and Airwaves got more experimental, I really wished I had more things to pull from a larger toolbox. And that's why it's such a good situation for me to be riding with Ilan Rubin in Angels and Airwaves. As you know, I'm a kind of a songwriter and a melody guy and as an overall style guy and he's just like a maniac on any instrument you hand him.

Tom DeLonge:
When I created Angels and Airwaves, I didn't change the style of guitar I was playing. Literally I played the same way but I was adding effects to it that made those riffs sound different and because all I wanted was something that sounded like it was echoing over a large place, so put echoes on everything. And if the song was good, put a whole echo on the song so people can hear it twice, is my idea. But big issue for the longest time when I was creating Angels and Airwaves was I would overplay the tempo because I'm used to going so much faster. But my style has been the same. The difference is is the songs have changed because guitar isn't always the only featured thing in it. Like I'll listen to [inaudible 00:03:48] and I'll say that's a cool world. That song lives in a world and what the drums are doing and what the synthesizers are doing and what the vocals are doing creates this kind of planet. And I want to create a song like that planet.

Tom DeLonge:
It's really weird how I've grown to that place because then I might say we need a riff for the song that we're building versus I have a riff and let's build a song from the riff. I've kind of switched it.

Tom DeLonge:
I kind of put being a musician into two categories. You create the art and the second category is you communicate the art. And they're both difficult to do because creating the art is a year long process in the studio building it and the big kind of win at the end is when you get to play it. Like when you're in your car and no one's there. And I could turn it up loud and go, wow, this is wow. I really love what I was a part of here and I'm really proud of it. And then you get caught like at the intersection with your windows down and you're blasting your own song and you're singing, you're crying, you're no shirt on or whatever, turtleneck, I don't know, what have you.

Tom DeLonge:
The second part of it is, okay, now you got to go communicate it. You now you've got to go on stage and play it. I mean you have to show people how you mean it. Like if you just go up there and look at the floor and play it, then that's telling people that's how you feel about your own song. I think it's a big deal to go out there and give it everything you got and make a show that's visually and sonically immersive and grabs you by the throat and shakes you a little bit.

Tom DeLonge:
I'm sure there's plenty of guys that shred on guitar and then they get on stage and go, I never really thought about what to do with my body and I'm up here and I'm just standing here. And people go, "Dude, you look like you're not into it." You know? So what you want to find out is how do you be you. And how do you express your body in this environment where the music's really loud and you're expressing because the way you move your body and the way you move your guitar is an extension of what you're feeling inside.

Tom DeLonge:
And I was somewhere between like Social Distortion. I was Mike Ness standing there, masculine, just like a wall of muscle and tattoos. And then you have guys like NOFX that are just jumping all over the stage, like jump on this rad, you know? But then you also have like Pete Townsend that is spread his legs and did his big windmills with his arm and it's just like a power stance, you know? So I kind of got into the way I perform by having those attributes try to merge all together and then it becomes instinctual. I go those are elements that I feel mirror my heart. They become second nature to you. And that's the way you present yourself.

Tom DeLonge:
I think the best thing for me would be someone follows me holding a microphone and he comes with me. He's like on a leash. I'm playing, I'd play but there's a leash on my belt and it's attached to him. I mean I just drag this person with me and he's always holding the mic in front of my lips. What do you think? It's just an idea. If I don't want to wear the headset, I can just bring a little person, but he's got to be small. It's like a four foot person, with like pigtails, but it's a boy, but there's no pants.

Tom DeLonge:
They've done these studies where you'll go to a concert and they find that everybody in the audience, their brain waves are all doing different things and then they all match up with the brainwaves of the artist. And it makes me think back to when I first started playing with other guys. And I think that's kind of what's happening. I'm not trying to get all scientific about it because for me it's just all about feeling. When you turn a guitar on at a a hundred decibels, I mean it's overpowering. It's like a jet engine, it's so loud. And then you get another guy that does that and then drums or whatever. As soon as everyone's playing the same thing, everyone's brainwaves, I swear, get brought together. It's almost like a boost of adrenaline on what you're trying to express.

Tom DeLonge:
If I wrote a song about here's my broken family and I'm going to leave my house and I'm going to go out and aspire to do great things, you can sing that and you can be as passionate as you want, but once it's aloud and other people come in and add other instruments and it just reinforces what you're doing. It's like a superhero feeling. It's like expression of what's inside but turned up to the max. And so that's what's really cool about being in a band. If you ever want to say something, you say it that way with multiple people, then you have a crowd yelling something versus just one person and it's much more powerful.

Tom DeLonge:
I've always used the Ernie Ball heavy bottoms. They've always been super supportive. They probably treat their artists better than anybody in the music industry. Better than anyone I've worked with with amps or even guitars. For a band like ours that was touring for years in a van and couldn't afford anything, we were honored that anybody would help us with that kind of stuff. Help us do our art, help us sound better, help us play better. Yeah.

Tom DeLonge:
Over the years, Ernie Ball, they helped me more and more. I mean one of the things they did was the Pursuit of Tone documentary. At the time I didn't want to do it because I didn't think I should be featured in anything, you know? And to this day I feel like everything happens for a reason. It helped with the public, but it really gave a group of people more insight into me and what I'm trying to achieve as an artist.

Tom DeLonge:
When I did the space thing, I think people were like, okay, that's his thing. He's like into space. He's going to make a space punk band and there's astronauts talking, that's his thing. Cool. Like it or not, it's cool. But then I left to go create a real aerospace company. And I think people were like, wow, he really does like space. He really is into this. And then my company has been so actively involved in disclosure and bringing out technology and science and the true stories surrounding the UFO phenomenon and all government related stuff. And what happened was is it just got bigger and bigger and took on its own life. And so it really kept me occupied for a handful of years. This is the first year where now we're getting to a point where the company is going to start growing on its own and I don't need to be there every day.

Tom DeLonge:
But when it came down to like, okay, you're going to put a guitar back on and you're going to tour, I was like, wow, it feels a little weird. Now I'd been playing guitar, electric guitar in the studio, but that's different than someone just handing it to you and turning it up and playing. Like when you guys did that in the other part of the interview, that's the first time I just jammed with an electric guitar in years, just right then. So right then I was going how is this? I actually was just thinking about them all. This is kind of rad to have volume, because in the studio it's different. You're kind of plugged into a computer and it's coming out of speakers. It's not as loud and there's other things going on. But to sit there with an amp turned up, it was awesome, you know? Wow, this is dope. Sounds good.

Tom DeLonge:
And the first thing I was thinking of was I need to write music with volume because I think you just write different kinds of stuff. These are all the things that are going through my head with what does it feel like to put the guitar back on when you're doing so many things where the stakes are so high, but they're in completely different industries. But I'm excited because I think I'm getting to a point where I can focus on music again as a priority. I haven't been able to do that for a handful of years, but it's probably meant to be.

Tom DeLonge:
12 years ago when I said I was doing this band I described it as an art project. I said it might have a few revolving doors of people, but at any given time there's going to be a large group of people that are going to work on one common theme. Came out and said all this stuff and I think people thought I was crazy. They were like you just left Blink. What are you doing and what are you talking, movies and books. You're not going to do any of this shit. Took me awhile to figure it out. Where finally, after 12 years, we are going to start putting out major motion pictures with albums consistently.

Tom DeLonge:
All this can come to life where the band performs and you will see everything that we've done. You'll see the declassified UFO videos, you'll see a little bit of everything I've been involved in, which all points to who we are and how we're evolving, how we see ourselves and where we are determined to go as a unified race. And so my goal here is to have a vehicle that can handle big storytelling, big musical, immersive experiences, trans media experiences. That each time it happens, it's big enough and loud enough that it moves people to think a little bit differently at times. And so when you ask me what I'm most excited about, it's to see the plan come to fruition. And I think we might have a shot at it over the next couple of years.

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