Since his “friendly divorce” from Blink-182 earlier this year, pop-punk renaissance man Tom DeLonge has swaggered into creative bachelordom. He recently called NME en route to Los Angeles, where he’s plotting a feature film set in a “universe that looks like Blade Runner, with action that feels like Star Wars, and a character that looks like he came out of A Clockwork Orange.”
The story is Poet Anderson, a cross-form project based on a teenage boy whose car plummets off a cliff and plunges him into a dark, lucid dream. The book, Poet Anderson… Of Nightmares, will be released on October 6, while DeLonge’s band Angels & Airwaves put out an accompanying EP ‘…Of Nightmares’ on September 4. Intrigued, we took the first opportunity to dive into DeLonge’s strange universe and get the inside story.
You have a lot of projects on the go at the moment. How closely involved are you with it all?
Tom DeLonge: “Dude, this is my company. I run the company, I fund the company, I started the company. I hire every single person. I come up with the story, I find the author, I find the concept artists, I find the comic book artists. I will write the screenplays and then someone else might twist and turn that screenplay. I spearhead all the conference calls on what we’re writing about in the novels. I do the branding, the logo, the name – I made it all. I even choose the lenses that go on the camera.”
Do you ever feel out of your depth?
“It’s challenging, but I’m not trying to do things that I don’t understand. If I was building a rocket to take us to the moon, I would be terrified, because people could die and I have no idea what the fuck I’m doing. But I’m using skill sets I’ve acquired over the years. I understand how to use words, you know? I understand how to monetise art. My company Modlife to this day still runs the entire business of Pearl Jam. We did all Kanye’s stuff, Nine Inch Nails’ stuff. Ticketing, subscriptions, T-shirts, digital media. I’ve done it all. What I’m doing now is grabbing from a lifetime of experience and funnelling it into an architecture that is pretty much where art is going.”
How do you mean?
“The computer that allows somebody to make a record in their living room will allow that same person to make a movie and write a book. Anybody that grows up and just wants to be in a band, and just writes and records songs and that’s it – I think you’ll have a very hard time cutting through the noise of the internet to be heard. I’m a genuinely imaginative person and a very curious person. So I spend every minute that someone’s not bothering me reading about UFOs or time or space travel. Reading about the wonders of existence, near-death experiences. [I’m exploring] all that weird shit that would make people think you’re crazy years ago.”
Do you feel like you’ve been misunderstood? Does that drive you?
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“When people look at celebrities, they think they know what that person’s full potential is. ‘He plays guitar, he’s a punk rock kid who grew up in a garage, he’s only capable of writing fast songs about girls.’ They have no idea. By the time the [Poet Anderson] feature film drops – which is live-action, by the way – and people see the live experience as we tour it, I think they’re gonna realise that, damn, this is big. ‘How the hell did he pull it off?’ No one knows the companies I’ve built, the artists I’ve worked with, the three-dimensional industrial design products, the marketing issues, the fulfilment centres, the commercials I’ve directed and produced. But my Achilles heel is that I spend absolutely no time, and have no desire, to tell the world about what I’m doing.”
What else are you working on?
“Beyond feature films, I’m doing a project I can’t talk about that’s bigger than Poet Anderson, that’s dealing with issues of national security. So I’m flying out to New Mexico to have a meeting with the general of the US Air Force Space Command.”
“This’ll be my third meeting with that individual. What’s even crazier is I had breakfast with two guys who work at Area 51 three days ago. So I’m telling you, I’m doing some really, really important things right now. And I don’t have time to try and get people to believe in me or buy into it. When it rolls out, people will understand.”
So is Blink-182 on the back-burner?
“It doesn’t feel like Blink is behind me. I loved that band, I started that band. That’s me. I named the band – that shit came from me. I came from a broke, suburban house, got kicked out of high school, was a hardcore skateboarder, and started that band. But at 39 years old, [being in Blink] cannot be the only thing in my life, or the absolute priority. But can it be a part of my life? Absolutely. I could not do anything that I’m doing now without the fans of that band. If I did not have the fans of Blink, I would not exist.”