Interview: Tom DeLonge – Angels & Airwaves [December 2014]

By Lais

Last week Angels & Airwaves released their fifth album, ‘The Dream Walker’, alongside a short film (‘Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker’) and a multitude of other projects – novels, comic books etc – that will come out over the next year. It’s a hugely ambitious project, and one that seems to be paying off for the band. We were lucky enough to have some time with the legendary Tom DeLonge (also known for his work in Blink 182, just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock), so we got to delve into the concept behind ‘The Dream Walker’, where the inspiration came from, and how DeLonge manages to juggle his two incredibly big day jobs.

When we speak to Tom, ‘The Dream Walker’ has just come out around the world. How does it feel to have released their fifth album? “Well, we’re top ten in about thirty countries, so pretty good. I had to say that at the beginning of the interview because it makes me sound really cool,” he laughs. “But that doesn’t mean anything: we still have a lot of work to do. We are so excited though, because we’ve worked so hard. We’ve been a band for ten years, so to have our most ambitious idea actually happen is a big deal for us.”

‘The Dream Walker’ is obviously not just an album, but a huge project. “Angels & Airwaves is an art project. When we started, we had all these aspirations. We put out a feature film on the last record and we learnt a lot. Now we have the staff, the company and the experience, and there’s no major companies involved, so now we can do what we always wanted to do, which is build fictional stories based on non-fictional behaviour.”

“The last record was about consciousness and connection, and this one is about dreams. We have a best selling author writing the novel, and we have comic books, graphic novels, and a feature film that’ll follow the novel. We have concept artists, illustrators, animators, everything – everybody is working on one project based on the concept of dreams and the way they prepare you for real world events. It’s an interesting exercise but it’s so much fun seeing it come to fruition.”

With such a huge concept behind the whole project, where did the ideas come from? “I had the idea of this character Poet Anderson who’s a dream walker, someone who has the rare ability to go into the dream world at any time of his choosing. In the dream world there are these fantastic warriors that fight nightmares and protect you as you sleep. As a dream walker, he will become one of these warriors. These guys use their souls to protect yours and others.”

“The whole concept is potentially that your soul travels to different experiences when you sleep. Half of your experiences as a human being are sleeping and dreaming and the universe is an infinite realm so there’s no reason a theory couldn’t be constructed that your soul is travelling and experiencing something somewhere else. That’s basically where the idea came from for ‘The Dream Walker’.”

Although the album works as a whole and almost seems like a journey, there is one song that stood out for me, and seems to have had that effect on a few others. The track is called ‘Tunnels’, and funnily enough, it has a particularly interesting backstory. “I wrote that one about religion, and then a year and a half later my father passed away and I had a supernatural experience. It changed my life. It completely changed the way I feel about what’s on the other side. It was that profound,” says Tom.

“It was the strongest force of nature I’ve ever felt. And so I went back and wrote the last part of the song. A lot of people think that when you die you die and there’s nothing else, but that’s not true. Something happened to me in the middle of the night that woke me up and then I found out my father had just passed away. It was an incredible moment for me.”

As for the actual recording process, the band recorded with drummer and keyboardist Ilan Rubin’s brother Aaron Rubin. “It was a long process, two years. We would generally start an idea, fight over it for a year and then turn it into something Ilan and I both liked. Aaron did a really great job producing and making sure the songs sounded unique,” says Tom. “It really was a very strong collaboration. A lot of times I’d describe it as I would push the boat off the dock, Ilan and I would fight over the steering wheel and Aaron would push it to the shore. That’s the best analogy of how we work together.”

“As friends, Ilan and I get on amazing. But as professional musicians, we’re from polar opposite worlds. I’m always drawing a circle, and he’s always drawing a square, and it’s like, how do we make them fit? Aaron became the guy that figured that out. He was the person in the middle who dealt with negotiation and translation.”

Obviously Angels & Airwaves is taking up the majority of Tom’s time right now, but he still has to juggle that with Blink 182. How does he manage to split his time? “It’s hard. I just gotta schedule my time and commit and give my all to whatever I’m working on. But you know, Blink doesn’t take a lot of my time, because it’s kind of spread out and comes out in waves. Angels & Airwaves and our company To The Stars, that’s my full time thing. That’s what I wake up and do all day long down here at the beach in San Diego. That’s my life. Blink is a massive thing but we just do music and it comes in spurts. But with this, we’ve got all these things scheduled to come out over the next year so it’s a lot to deal with, but fun.”

When it comes to future plans, Tom DeLonge is tight lipped. We ask if there are any touring plans for next year. He says: “It’s a big secret, but we’ve got some really great things on the plate for the that. I’m so cryptic!” Despite the mysterious answer, it’s safe to say Angels & Airwaves have a lot of things in the pipeline, and nothing is going to hold them back.


Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]