I first met Tom DeLonge almost 20 years ago; he was in his early 20s on tour in Australia with Blink-182 and I was a teen who was meant to be at school in class but played hooky instead in favour of meeting and interviewing his band for my fanzine. That weekend they played a tiny club show in my hometown and it was so over-packed with bodies, sweat dripped from the roof of the club it was that steamy inside. I started feeling dizzy and my anxiety kicked in, I headed outside to sit on a set of stairs out the back of the venue to get fresh air and calm down. My vision became blurry and I thought I was going to pass out. My friends were inside watching the support band, I was by myself. Next thing I know, someone sat down beside me and asked if I was, ok. I couldn’t make out the person ‘cause my eyes were being funny but I just listened to their voice telling me to breathe as they gave me a bottle of water. I started feeling a little better and when I came to, I realised it was Tom. He remembered me from our interview and hangs, could see I was in trouble and waited with me until I felt better to go back inside. Later when Blink took the stage they dedicated a song to me (!!) which is a moment I’ve always held dear.
A couple of days ago we were reunited to chat about his extraordinary ambitious art project Angels & Airwaves on their exciting mission in creating and bringing “The Dream Walker” to us—a multimedia project that comes to life in the form of an album, short neo-anime film Poet Anderson: The Dreamwalker (which recently won Best Animation at the Toronto International Short Film Festival) a series of comic books, novels and videos. The crux of all these elements encourages dreaming—big dreams!—to create a life beyond your wildest dreams. You’re inspired to become the hero of your own life, to control your own destiny and to help, uplift and connect with one another along the way to create a more thoughtful, conscious world. How epic is that? Keep reading to find out more…
BIANCA: Are you familiar with the work of Joseph Campbell? Specifically his Power of Myth television series and books?
TOM DELONGE: I am. I haven’t had much of a chance to dive into the books but a lot of what we have thought of with this band and with the things that we are doing revolves a lot around his studies and books he’s written. I can see that there is some parallel there.
B: Yes. As soon as I had finished watching the trailer for your anime short “Poet Anderson: The Dreamwalker” I immediately thought of Joseph’s work. A thought from his book The Hero With A Thousand Faces that I immediately thought of was: “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
TD: [Laughs] Yes! That’s exactly what it is. He’s an orphan that is thrust into this world of dreams, his dreams. In the dream world there are these supernatural warriors that fight over the intentions and the persuasions of human beings. He finds his abilities and he comes back into the real world and has connections with different people and things going on, based on these extraordinary events. It is so funny, you got it! You said it all so eloquently. There’s a lot of esoteric iconography and “spiritual” themes running through what we do, it’s a very spiritual foundation.
Angels and Airwaves are an art project, we started ten years ago. We take elements of human behaviour and experience and fictionalise them and tell stories so we can get people thinking about their place in the Universe and hopefully come out with an idea that challenges their own view of themselves. We’re doing it with anything from human consciousness, like what we did with the feature film, Love, we put out; now with lucid dreaming, using that as a tool to influence your real world events. To become a “poet” of your own destiny. We have two more elements we’re exploring that are radically different that we’ll be dropping novels, animation and music for. We’re up and running. I hope all of them have a really positive “spiritual” effect of young adults. That’s my goal.
B: I like that in the bundles of merch you can get for The Dreamwalker project there’s a 160-page hard cover AVA Dream Journal. It’s great to encourage people to record their dreams, it’s like by doing that you become part of The Dreamwalker dream world. I feel you can learn a lot about yourself from your dreams, your subconscious.
TD: Yes! I really hope people will use it. I know it might not be the first thing you want to think about doing when you wake up in the morning but it’d be cool if they gave it a try. It’d be very interesting and cool to see what people came out with. I’m very curious; I’d love if they could write a page or even just a paragraph, if they drew a picture of their dreams—I’d love to get all that stuff and put it all into a book. It would be a real interesting exercise to see what people are dreaming about around the world.
B: Who has been one of the biggest heroes in your life?
TD: I’m inspired by a lot of people, anyone from John F. Kennedy to Steven Hawkins the physicist. I’m all over the map and into a lot of weird different stuff. “Heroes” though it’s hard to say because that’s a big word. I guess maybe I don’t have heroes, I have teachers.
B: On social media a few days ago you posted about the song, Tunnels, being inspired by your father’s passing. You’ve talked about the experience in previous interviews and have mentioned it changed your life; how did it change your life?
TD: I was awoken by what I believe with his soul passing through mine. It was such a profound force, it was a supernatural force. It was euphoric, enlightening and electric. It sucked the air out of my chest and I knew that at that moment exactly what it was. Then my phone rang and they told me that just at that moment my father had passed away. It changed me in the way that I less sacred of dying. It helped me come back and write the end of the song differently. The song didn’t have a chorus for a year and a half. It was all about doubting religion. My mother was very religious and my father wasn’t much and I was kind of stuck in the middle. Once I started touring in a band I hated all religion, I thought it was all a joke. I became very cynical about what’s on the other side. I always thought there was something but I just never knew what it was. When that happen it became an absolute for me that there is something on the other side. There’s three things that happened to me after that, that keep reaffirming it, that are very, very powerful supernatural moments. I got really excited to race back to the family and carry them through that crisis and also to talk to people that would listen. It’s crazy, it’ll happen different for each person but it’s all in that spiritual, paranormal category. It’s exciting because there’s more than this—that’s the biggest thing I got from it.
B: You father was a business man (an oil company executive) and you yourself are now an entrepreneur; what’s something important he taught you about business?
TD: My father was really big on relationships, stuff like taking the time to talk to people and to learn about them. To form a relationship of mutual admiration. I’ve spent a long time in my life trying to make relationships with people so that if I ever needed something or if I was ever looking for something or was on the wrong path, people were quick to want to help because they like me first as a person. That’s really invaluable to me. The better you treat people the more often than not people will help. That’s what we’re here for, to help each other.
B: In the Poet Anderson: The Dreamwalker trailer the phrase “if you find the power, you join the fight” appears; what does this mean? What is this power?
TD: In the Poet Anderson story he finds the ability to control and manipulate and use the fabric of space time to his advantage. It’s not describe in that regard but that’s basically what’s happening. I think there will be a time when kids tattoo that word “poet” on themselves. They’ll do that specifically to identify themselves as a dreamer, as someone who can flip what they dream at night and day dream about to create their experience in a way that they can control and enjoy. That’s what it’s all about.
This character Poet Anderson learns how to jump into what is happening and to create and forge his own destiny. He’s an orphan and he’s lost everything. When these things happen, they’re very important to him and his life. The only way for it to happen is for him to bare his soul – you learn more about that with the novel – but basically you have to put yourself out there and be genuine to expose what you want, who you are and what you’re trying to achieve. There’s a lot of parallels in that to when I started Angels & Airwaves.
When I came out of the punk scene and I started this band 10 years ago, I started calling records things like, Love. I wrote a song called, Adventure, which is about life waiting to begin and these other big hope, aspirational songs. People were like, what the fuck is he doing? [laughs]. After a while it started to resonate, people realised that I wasn’t giving up on it. I’m not the first one to do it but for this generation and at that moment in time it was a risk to do it. I like doing things that have risk.
B: How important is love in your life?
TD: Super important! That’s the one piece of glue that holds everything together. Whether that’s love for your husband or wife, children, family and friends, even if it’s love for a stranger that you pass in the street that you’re concerned about who might have had an accident or something so you stop to help—it’s all love. We did an experiment with the film title, we wanted people to look at it so we wrote the word love using an astronaut sitting on a crescent moon. The movie was about losing everything around you to make you realise that the most insignificant contact you may have with people can be so important if you could never have it again. I am constantly searching for the kind of existence where you really value the interactions that you have around you. That’s a goal of mine.
B: I know that you’re a lucid dreamer, I’ve heard you previously talk about having dreams with very specific landscapes and imagery that keep revisiting you. Could you share with us a little about these?
TD: I’ve had a few experiences that were really interesting, things from when I was travelling across the country in a van with the band. I woke up and looked all around me, out the windows at the landscape and I’d be observing what my band mates were talking about then my body woke up and sat up. So somehow I experienced sitting up and looking around before my physical body actually sat up and did that. I felt it happen! It was so profound. I was asleep but I noticed everything around as it was. I left my body. That was one of the strangest things I have ever experienced in my life. It was odd, I haven’t been able to repeat the experience.
As for landscapes there’s two things that I keep having dreams about. One, a really futuristic half dome, glass house in a forest of trees all light up at dusk. Also, there’s a big grass field on the side of a limestone cliff and there’s a bunch of people in robes. Both seem like they’re from the future, it seemed like I was really there but I have no clue what was happening. Those two images have stuck with me, it’s the weirdest thing.
B: I wonder what their significance is, it would be cool to work it out.
TD: Yeah, I know!
B: I have had lucid dreams where I visit the same place each time. It’s a desert, there’s certain makers that signal to me that it’s the same place I visit. I feel like I’m on a vision quest or something and often get insights there.
TD: Cool! It’s such an interesting thing.
B: Absolutely! When Blink broke up I understand that you spent three weeks in isolation and took time to reassess your life and had a “spiritual” journey. What can you share with us about the experience? What did you find?
TD: Well…you’re losing your identity, making a massive life change, you’re cutting off contact with people you’re really close to that you’ve been having issues with, you’re taking a very huge step in the opposite direction. I remember dealing with all these things at once. I was no longer Tom from Blink-182, I had to become Tom DeLonge. I remember sitting there and thinking, ok, what is my favourite art? Who am I at this moment? Who do I see myself as becoming? How am I going to make a path to get there? What are the experiences I want to have on that path? Who do I want to be around and have support me on this journey? Who do I want to support? How do I do something that challenges me as an artist and as a human being? During that short period of time there was a lot of soul searching to a conversation that ended up on the beach describing an entirely new path. That’s when the idea for Angels & Airwaves emerged, because I had good intentions first, starting as something that you can pick up that’s invisible, like a radio wave, a frequency. That led to so much more. Just good intentions reaching somebody through an invisible medium—that’s how we got the name. Here we are ten years later.
B: I’m so proud of you and all the positive work you’ve done and continue to do. Something else I want to ask you about that seems like an important part of your journey contributing to who you are and what you’re doing today is, the challenging period where you were addicted to prescription painkillers as a hangover from taking them when you had chronic back pain and surgery for a slipped disc years back. You suffered from hallucinations during detox/withdrawal from them; did you have night terrors? I noticed that the hero of your project Poet Anderson faces night terrors.
TD: Yeah I have. When you’re detoxing from opiates it can be terrifying. I tell people to watch The Basketball Diaries film, that’s what I went through. I remember these dark images of creatures, tar and grinding teeth. It was horrible, it was a horrible experience. I went for six days without sleeping. It was unreal. I never want to do that again ever! It’s not a fun thing.
B: Why is it important for people to value art?
Western ideas, it’s our biggest export. We might be going to wars in different countries but you can still find these far off places where the one thing they’ve heard about us is The Beatles [laughs]. I think it’s important, if we don’t cherish our art industry, whether it’s music, painting or film, if you don’t support those industries, artists will start to disappear and one of the greatest vehicles for expressing our ideas of the world, this part of the world will be severely handicapped. I think the quickest way to get people on the other side of the world that you might be at odds with to understand ourselves and to feel something the same way we feel something is to show them a film or let them hear some of the music. Those types of things are important. I’ve seen it work on people.
B: I saw a documentary with the comic creator, artist and ceremonial magician, Alan Moore, a while back. He was talking about how artists and musicians are like modern day shamans. He said: “I believe that magic is art and that art, whether it be writing, music, sculpture, or any other form is literally magic. Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words, or images, to achieve changes in consciousness. The very language about magic seems to be talking as much about writing or art as it is about supernatural events. ..Indeed, to cast a spell, is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people’s consciousness. And I believe that this is why an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world that you are likely to see to a Shaman.”
TD: Absolutely! That’s awesome. I think as a whole art does do that. Artists—what are we? We’re antenna, we’re picking up some type of signal and we’re creating things. We’re not making it up from thin air I believe it’s coming from somewhere. I’ve always consider myself an antenna.
B: It all relates back to even your art project name—Angels & Airwaves. It could be significant to what we’re talking about, being a channel, being a messenger, navigating the frequencies out there and putting them into a tangible form for people to digest and hopefully get something joyous and positive from.
TD: Yeah we are a channel! It’s funny, I never really thought of it that way. It’s absolutely what I feel like. I hope I have a good effect on people. I hope people just give it a shot. It’s the best album we’ve made and this project is the most ambitious yet and I feel the coolest I have ever attempted. Thank you for getting it!
(click through) For more ANGELS & AIRWAVES and to check out the exclusive pre-order packages! The Dreamwalker project drops December 9.
Love & light!