For a long time, Tom DeLonge's interest in aliens came out in small ways. In the early years of Blink-182, he would read about abductions and quantum physics for hours as the band drove from gig to gig through the desert. For 1999's Enema of the State, the multi-platinum album that launched the group to TRL megastardom, the singer/guitarist wrote the song "Aliens Exist." And in the years that followed, as DeLonge founded a tech company, continued to play with Blink and started the band Angels and Airwaves, he kept researching what he calls "the phenomenon," the collection of eyewitness accounts that has led generations to believe we're not alone.
But since DeLonge parted ways with Blink-182 in 2015, his interest in extraterrestrials has become more than a hobby. "The more I got into it, the more I realized it was all real," he tells Rolling Stone. "Then I was like, 'OK, what am I going to do about it?'" So he started spreading the word. He began creating a multi-part, multi-platform rollout of an entirely new philosophy, one based on the theory that aliens have been visiting Earth for most of our species' existence – and the only way for us to have a prosperous future on the planet is if we take that into account, and soon.
The newest addition to this project is the book Sekret Machines: Gods, the first in a non-fiction trilogy he's co-writing with occult historian Peter Levanda. Released in March, the book opens with an extended scene of a primitive tribe in the South Pacific experiencing their first contact with the outside world during World War II – a metaphor for humanity's alien encounters. "These people had never seen anybody outside of their tribe before," explains DeLonge. "They saw the planes drop cargo so they automatically assumed they were gods. They started worshipping these planes, trying to get medicine and food. And their religion still exists to this day." Just as these communities were changed after more advanced civilizations dropped items from the sky, DeLonge and Levanda suggest, so were humans changed by a visit from above.
"Religions around the world consistently say that beings from the heavens came down and taught us this or gave us that," says Levanda. "In Gods we go into the nuance of this, from Aztec blood sacrifices to various creation epics that say we were created as servants to some other race of beings." For this volume, they went back and looked at original texts from various civilizations to see what information they could glean. "We don't create myths out of whole cloth," says Levanda. "Something happens and we create a myth around it. We're talking about events that are being described by people using the vocabulary they had."
But, as the authors point out, they're not claiming that everything you've seen on shows like Ancient Aliens is real. "Humans are responsible for building the pyramids, for instance," says Levanda. "I think we can agree on that. But what was the impetus behind it? What we're saying is the initial contact is what prompted all this. Not that there were aliens out there telling us how to build pyramids. I think that just devalues the entire conversation, and we're trying to get beyond that."
DeLonge and Levanda are not the first high-profile believers to expound on the existence of extraterrestrial life forms. In 2010, Stephen Hawking said that, given the size of the universe, it was a statistical probability that we aren't alone; more recently, Neil deGrasse Tyson called it "inexcusably egocentric" to believe that we're the only planet with life. But DeLonge veers from the scientific establishment when he suggests that alien beings have not only visited our planet, but were integral in helping us establish human society as we know it. "What would happen if those intelligences were roaming around the universe and getting involved in the genetics and colonization of other types of life?" he says. "Look, we do that to animals and indigenous tribes."
Subsequent books in the Sekret Machines trilogy will move away from ancient texts to focus on claims of interactions with aliens documented by government agencies since the 1940s, many of which are available by Freedom of Information Act requests and a recently digitized cache of CIA documents.
Instead of continuing the adversarial relationship between UFO researchers and the government, DeLonge reached out to officials like Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta – a correspondence that was revealed when Wikileaks published the last batch of the Clinton emails last October. Though he declines to talk about it, he notes that "one thing I can say is, when the Wikileaks came out, at least people found out I wasn't lying."
"When the Wikileaks came out, at least people found out I wasn't lying." –Tom DeLonge
DeLonge's plan is bigger than just a few books. In addition to the nonfiction series, he is writing a historical-fiction trilogy with novelist A.J. Hartley, the first book of which was released last spring, as well as a documentary and a scripted film, all of which discuss the theory that we're not alone. He's also putting to use methods he developed for his software company Modlife, which he created to help musicians monetize their media in the post-Napster age. "I learned a lot about how fans want to absorb art: a combination of digital and physical products coming together," he say. "Here I am with all this knowledge of something I want to communicate to the world. So that's what I'm doing now." He's also working on a movie called Strange Times that begins filming later this year ("A lot of people think 'skateboarders and UFOs' – that's not what it is, even though there are skateboarders and there is a part with UFOs," he says.)
DeLonge and his team are careful, though, to emphasize that their theories are only that. "People have been spending 70 years trying to prove it's real, and if you're waiting for the government to do it, good luck," says Levanda. "What we're saying is, let's proceed under the assumption that this is real. What does that mean for history, for medicine, for physics, for chemistry, for astronomy? What does it mean for us as humans if we accept that the phenomenon has always been real?"
DeLonge's own theories on the matter aren't flawless, and in talking about his work, he can sometimes come off like one of the conspiracy theorists he's made such an effort to distance himself from. (In discussing his new project, he veers into topics like the Astors and the Kennedy assassination; he's also claimed to have seen alien crafts first-hand.)
Yet it's clear that he sees this research as a last hope for his children's generation: "This project is aimed at creating a beacon and a vehicle to be able to interact directly with Millennials across the world," says DeLonge. "Some of this stuff is empowering, and some of this stuff is frankly kind of scary. But you need to understand it, and you're going to need to deal with it when we're gone."