When Blink-182 guitarist Tom DeLonge left the pop-punk heroes in 2015, it was reported that he’d done so to pursue “non-musical endeavours”. Fly fishing? Urban gardening? Motocross? No: he was setting up the To The Stars Academy Of Arts & Science, an organisation investigating – and producing literature about – the existence of aliens. In December 2017, The New York Times published a sensational exposé on the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), allegedly a Pentagon-run program monitoring UFOs. The article was wrapped around testimonials from Luis Elizondo, who claimed that he had overseen AATIP but quit to blow the whistle because the US Government was not doing enough to counter a national security threat from extra-terrestrials.
Now DeLonge, who says he’s had briefings with top-secret government officials privy to classified proof of aliens, has teamed up with Elizondo for the History Channel show Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation, a six-part series of hour-long episodes featuring military personnel and eye witnesses who insist that they have compelling evidence of extra-terrestrials. NME phoned DeLonge and Elizondo to see if the truth is in them and, fabulously, Tom would only talk about Blink if we could tangentially relate the subject to aliens.
Did you both feel validated by the New York Times article?
Tom: “I don’t think Luis was looking to be validated – he was working in the shadows in a very top-secret part of Department of Defence. Me, on the other hand, I’m out here getting to know all these guys I work with now and it’s starting to leak out a little bit that I’m doing it. Everyone’s looking at Tom, going, ‘OK, he’s obviously lost his mind – he’s talking about monsters! What’s he talking about?’ Then the New York Times article came out and I sat back for a minute to go, ‘OK, this is the beginning of people understanding: “This is the biggest story we’ve ever had”’.
“These were behind-the-scenes conversations – but that’s how the reporters were talking about it. So I was excited to see the Times do their diligence. But the public still doesn’t know everything that I was exposed to, so I am looking forward to the public getting up to speed on it.”
On one hand, Tom, your celebrity raises the profile of the issue. And on the other authorities might take you less seriously because you used to write songs about fucking dogs. Has it been difficult to navigate those two worlds?
Tom: “Yeah – I would always tell my team: ‘You’re dealing with a punker.’ I’ve spent decades running around saying obscenities and offending people, doing whatever the fuck I wanted to do. That’s the name of the game where I come from – carving your own path and not caring what anybody says. Then all of a sudden everything I say matters to the credibility of something so important I can’t even really begin to digest or understand the extent to which this is going to change our world. But all the conversations my team and I have are very evolved and self-aware.
“Believe it or not, we have very long conversations about what we’re going to talk about publicly, not because we don’t have the facts – but because people aren’t ready for the facts.”
Do you care if people think you’ve lost your mind?
Tom: “I have to brush aside what other people think of me and not think about it. When I left Blink 182, it was the top trending topic on Twitter a couple times that month – and it was all negative. I developed a really thick skin. No-one really knew what the facts were behind the scenes. So I was really prepared, going into this, to not really give a shit about what people were saying.”
What negative stuff were you reading on Twitter when you left Blink?
Tom: “People didn’t really understand why Blink and I had the issue. People didn’t understand the inner-workings of a band. All they saw was that I’d left the band to go and chase aliens. But at the time I couldn’t even tell my band members who I was meeting and working with – important people who don’t put themselves in the public. So I had a long period of being groomed to take the shots and to take the bullets. But I don’t care what people think because I know what’s coming; they’re gonna come back and say, ‘Sorry, man, for saying that – what do we do now?’ And I’ll say: ‘My team and I already have a plan for that’.
Luis, the Pentagon has claimed that you never actually worked there. How did that feel?
Luis: “It’s disappointing but not surprising. There are still elements of the Government that are still not very happy with my decision. If you like an organisation you stay with it but if you love an organisation sometimes you have to leave it to make it better, to change it and fix it from the outside. That’s precisely what I did. Clearly I’ve ruffled some feathers. For the first year-and-a-half the Pentagon did indeed admit that I ran the program and that it was real. It’s only in the last month that one individual has said, ‘No, you know what? He really didn’t run that program.’”
Do you have documentation that proves you were there?
Luis: “There’s plenty of documentation but my job is not to come back and say, ‘Aha! Gotcha!’ I don’t wanna make anybody look foolish. The bottom line is that we need the Government’s help. Given enough time I think that they will collect their misstatement again.”
Tom: “Let me jump in here with the grenade in the punchbowl. This stuff really pisses me off. I know Luis. I have seen the documentation. I know the people who took over his job in the program. This whole thing where people try to discredit him, with the enormous risk that he took… as a civilian – as a citizen – it infuriates me they’re trying to cover up who he really was and what he really did.
“Any day of the week I would stand with my hand on a Bible in the Supreme Court and say, ‘I know that this is real and I know what he did.’ Luis is a combat veteran who has fought in wars for our country. This thing to try and embarrass him and get him to not talk goes against our American values.”
It was also reported that To The Stars Academy is facing financial difficulties and an uncertain future
Tom: “I don’t care. We don’t want [those headlines] but people don’t know [the truth]. We are regulated by the Charities And Exchange Commission so every little thing we say can send us to jail if we don’t say it correctly. So all of the things that we’re working on – all of the programs, all of the partnerships we’re making – really can’t be talked about. Which is unlike most companies who aren’t regulated. People who say things do so from a vantage point of ignorance. You’ve gotta look at who this team is. You’re dealing with the head physicists and aerospace engineers in the entire military industrial complex. These guys are not freshmen; they know what they’re doing. You’ve gotta let us be a start-up for a little bit of time.”
So the company hasn’t run up a $37m deficit?
Tom: “We’ve never even raised $37m. People don’t read the filing form. That particular thing was about stock that was given out to all the people that have joined the company. That’s not money. That has nothing to do with the debt. People grab onto something because they don’t actually read it, and then the damage is done. This doesn’t just happen to us. It happens to Tesla, it happens to Apple. The articles about that deficit are totally untrue. We’ve raised one-and-a half/two million dollars and somehow people thought we’d spent 38 million.”
Unidentified suggests there’s a stigma around UFO hunting. What can you do to tackle that?
Luis: “Well, that’s a condition of the human nature – we tend to be prideful and want to have an answer for everything and put them in nice, neat tidy little boxes. Unfortunately nature doesn’t often abide by those rules. It goes way back to someone standing on the beach and saying, “I’m going to sail into the horizon’, and every else saying, ‘No, you’re going to fall off!’ Now, centuries later, we realise that we don’t necessarily have all the answers.
“It’s in our DNA to explore but the biggest challenge we have is stigma. We’ve spent years ridiculing individuals who have reported seeing something in the sky. I tend to look at the nuts and bolts of things. I’m an old gumshoe investigator. Just a facts man; that’s all I’m interested in. But if you look at the data and realise that these [UFOs] are real – we just don’t know where they’re from or who’s behind the wheel – we need to ask some serious questions.”
Tom, did you enjoy the fact that Blink dedicated the song ‘Aliens Exist’ to you during a recent show?
Tom: “It was awesome that they did that. I talk to the guys and we’re all good friends still. We’re like brothers. It’s cool, them doing that. It’s funny because for so many years, when we were travelling, I’d pin those guys down in a backstage dressing room and go, ‘Did you know this! Did you know this!’ It’s funny because I know they were annoyed by it but I was talking to Travis not long ago and even he was like, ‘Man, I can’t believe how far you’ve gotten!’ I said, ‘I can’t believe it either to be honest!’. That song that I wrote has a life of its own but it’s really interesting to hear it now, 20 years later, and think about the company that I started.”
Finally, Tom: if you were to show an alien what Earth music sounds like, would you play them [your side project] Angels & Airwaves or Blink-182?
Tom: “Oh my gosh! I would have to play Angels & Airwaves because they would recognise the space-prog sound. If I played Blink they wouldn’t get the jokes. They would probably get really offended and start an interplanetary war.”