Tom DeLonge on Angels and Airwaves' free 'Love,' the blink-182 reunion, and more: The Music Mix Q&A
Angels and Airwaves
Tom DeLonge is a busy guy. Last night around nine, the singer-guitarist (pictured, one from right) helped finalize the track sequencing for LOVE, the album that his band Angels & Airwaves will release online for free this Sunday, Feb. 14, as a complimentary Valentine’s Day gift to fans. (LOVE will also be available for free two days early this Friday on Fuel.TV.) This morning, he met with his other band, blink-182, which reunited for a 2009 tour after a four-year split, to talk about their plans. After that, he rushed off to meet with a few potential partners to secure a theatrical release for the sci-fi film, also titled LOVE, that Angels & Airwaves oversaw to accompany their album. (Trailers are viewable at Apple and the band’s website.) Oh yeah, and DeLonge also plans to “fix the music industry” via Modlife, the website he owns. The Music Mix got him on the phone to hear about all the items crowding his schedule.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you feeling about the new Angels & Airwaves album?
TOM DELONGE: I consider this, at this point, the pinnacle release of my life. There’s nothing that I have put more effort, more time, more heart, and more stress into than this release. It’s been a very long time since a band has attempted to make a motion picture associated with an album — not to mention have the album be completely free of any corporation, 100 percent independent. Artistically, I think this record has far exceeded anywhere I’ve been. So I’m just quietly anticipating Sunday’s release and hoping for the best.
How is this one different from the two albums you’ve released with Angels & Airwaves in the past?
Going into the writing of this record, we knew that the music was going to score the film, so we had to compose the songs in multiple movements. So when you listen to the record, it’s not orthodox by any means. There’s a lot of interludes and segues that draw you in and transition you to different levels of excitement. It’s by no means meant to be this mainstream, commercial record, or formulaic in any way. When you do it with a corporation like a major label, you have your songs start a certain way, the vocals come in at certain times, and it’s only two and a half minutes long. To be honest, Angels & Airwaves has never really been good at that, anyway.
Can the album be enjoyed independently of the movie?
Oh, absolutely. I write in a very melodic way, so that will never leave. I think my records will always tend to be approachable. I’m a little left of center, for sure, with Angels & Airwaves. But even when I get really weird, it’s not that weird. It’s not like some obscure Sonic Youth record or something. We don’t take it quite that far. But what we do like are crescendos, and we do like when a song catches you offguard and it gives you the chills up and down your arms. Those types of reactions in people are what we’re trying to create in our music. I think we’ve learned to do that pretty well.
What’s the movie Love about?
It starts in the Civil War and you travel through time and space. There’s a couple of different storylines. The main one is, a guy gets sent up to the International Space Station, and he gets abandoned up there. He doesn’t know why. So throughout his years of being stuck up there, he sees the Earth starting to collapse below. He ends up basically becoming the last person alive. And then decades later, he wakes up one day and there’s something outside of his spaceship, in low Earth orbit with him…The record and the movie are called Love simply for the fact that love is a symbol — when you write it out, it’s a symbol of lines and geometric shapes that has a very specific intention and energy with it. It’s the one thing that every near-death experience [has]: When people come back, they all try to describe the word love, but in a physical state. So we tried to attach that phenomenon, philosophically, with how we wrote about the context of that word.
How long had you been thinking about making a movie?
Well, we wanted to do one six years ago when we first started the band, but we never knew it was going to be like this. We started this film, actually, as a collection [of shorts]. But what happened was the film came back and far exceeded our expectations, so we decided to hunker down and reinvest in it, and take it across the finish line with a much more ambitious goal…And we’re completely independent. Literally, our band is doing all the music videos and the film and the album ourselves. Just the four of us and a few extra people on the fringes that believe in us. It felt amazing. When we were teenagers and we were going out skateboarding, we’d film ourselves. You’re trying to make yourself look cool. [Laughs] This is the same kind of thing. But it just so happens to be the greatest release of my life. It really is. I’ve never to date put as much of myself into anything. Not only monetarily, but spiritually and with my heart. Thank God my family supported me all along this path, because this has been a crazy few years.
Are you acting in the film?
Oh, no, no. That’s the first misconception. Everyone assumes I’m in the movie or something. No, the band’s not in the movie at all. There’s real actors. We have all these great people that came on because they loved the idea that a band was trying to do this again and that it was actually good. Our editor came from Oliver Stone’s camp. Our sound designer came from Darren Aronofsky’s camp. All of our special effects are done by a guy who did Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. So we have incredible people that are working pretty much pro bono to make this film happen. And at the end of the day, no, I am not acting in it, because that would probably ruin the film easily within the first five minutes.
Did you write the script?
No, the director did. The band set out parameters, with a very macro vision of how the movie needed to fit the philosophy of Angels & Airwaves. We had to plug in certain attributes that were hyper-stylized to what the band likes: The science fiction, the color palette, the storyline on a macro level. But Will Eubank, the director-writer of the film, was a prodigy. We found him at 23 years old. He’s now 27. He turned out to be the most perfect person to do this film. We’re really proud of it.
Are you planning to release the film theatrically?
Absolutely. To what degree we don’t know until we make our deal. This isn’t going to compete with Avatar, but I think this is going to be an incredible arthouse flick that has tremendous heart and soul to it. And it has an incredible message, and at the same time it has this science fiction acumen to it that I think will span different demographics. I think this is going to open up a lot of doors as to what people would think we’re capable of — but even more so, what bands are capable of if they just try.
Getting back to the album, how did you decide to release it for free?
We planned on a free record a long, long time ago. Years ago. It was always part of the plan. We always knew that our band would grow immeasurably by having a free album and by learning to monetize our band in a way. My company created a platform called Modlife, this prepackaged website that runs an artist’s website. If you go to angelsandairwaves.com, it’s sitting on a Modlife platform. It allows us to do pay-per-view there. It allows us to sell movies there. It allows us to sell music there. A whole host of things. We knew, if we had a free record, if a small percentage [of fans] came back and interacted on our website in a variety of ways, we would far outweigh the business model that we had with a major label. That’s how we’re trying to be a little groundbreaking. And at the same time, we learned a lot from Radiohead going out there and doing the model where [fans decide how much to] contribute. They did a huge thing that was very risky and very different, and we’re just trying to take that and step it up a bit. We think we’ve found a model that works to fix the music industry. I think we’re going to be a perfect case study for it.
How much money did you spend making this album that you have to make back without charging for the music?
Oh, well, the Modlife platform is a brand new revenue stream. It’s never existed in music before. That’s what financed our movie — one and a half million, two million bucks, whatever we’re into that for. The album itself, God, we’re into that over a half million dollars just for recording. The way we get our money back is not going to be through selling records. It’s going to be, for example, if on a Thursday night you want to lay in bed with your girlfriend and watch Angels & Airwaves live from London, you’re going to watch it at angelsandairwaves.com. When the movie comes out, you can go to angelsandairwaves.com and rent it or buy it. Or if you want advance tickets and early entry into the shows so you can watch the soundcheck, you can become a member of the site.
How’s the blink-182 reunion going these days?
It’s going great. We are just now outlining how we’re going to start the album and the next 24 months of the band’s career. I just left that meeting about 20 minutes ago. We’re just now getting back on track.
Have you gotten back into the studio, or is it still in the talking it out phase?
This is the talking phase. I mean, we started recording about a year ago when we first started. We have some stuff already in the works. But getting really into it formally will happen shortly.
When do you think we’ll see another blink-182 album?
That’ll happen probably a year from now.
What has it been like working with those guys again compared to the first time around?
Well, both of those guys [Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker] are extraordinarily talented, so it’s always a lot of fun to figure out how we can mesh together. We’re all so different in our musical taste that it’s really interesting to see how it all comes together. That’s always been the case. I think the most different thing is how busy everyone is. Everyone owns all these companies, and everyone has all these other side projects. It takes us five weeks to figure out how to get in a room for one hour. So it’s been hard.
Have you had a chance to think about what you want blink-182 to sound like in 2010 or 2011?
It’s too early to tell. I’d rather talk about Angels & Airwaves right now until I have something more to offer you for blink, to be honest.
Okay. Are you going to tour this album with Angels & Airwaves?
Yeah. We’re going to announce tour dates in the next couple weeks. We’re really excited about that. The Angels shows are really intense. We play for a couple hours at a time. They’re very theatrical and full of audience interaction and emotion. I’ve seen a lot of people crying and stuff. It’s a little bit like church, but it’s very secular.
Are you shooting any Angels & Airwaves videos aside from the movie?
We’re going to have the best video we’ve ever had [for new single “Hallucinations”]. We went out and shot it with just the band members and two friends of ours with handheld cameras, no lighting at all. While three members are pushing a car in neutral, a guy is sitting in the back with his camera out the window, and I’m walking. It’s going to look like we had a giant production, but at the very end of the day we’ll probably spend just a few thousand bucks. It’s going to look like we spent 400 grand on this video. It boils down to, once again, if you have great people and just a few of the right tools, you do not need to spend any money. We just go out and do it just like when we were skateboarding when we were teenagers. We’re laughing and sweating as we’re pushing cars, trying to make s— look cool. It’s so funny and so anti-rock star. It’s beautiful, absolutely beautiful.
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Angels and Airwaves