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Tom DeLonge has a lot to say. About life, about music, and—because he is, to my knowledge, the only rock star to have co-founded a company devoted to the scientific research of unexplained aerial phenomena—about UFOs. “When you study UFOs, you're looking at consciousness,” he tells me over Zoom from the patio of an Encinitas bar on a gloomy late-summer morning. He is not drinking. “You’re looking at the history of mankind, like archeology, or archeological evidence, or ancient texts, religious texts. You're looking at national security. You're looking at physics, unified field theory. You're looking at kind of the forefront of quantum mechanics and how the universe seems to be built. And what you start to realize is that the evidence of those phenomena is not at all what people think it is.” We have arrived here about five minutes into our conversation, before I’ve even had the opportunity to ask probing questions like What can you tell me about the new Angels & Airwaves album?, or How are you? “Hey, I dive right in,” he says, laughing. “I don't have time for like the fucking appetizer. I’m like: let's get dessert.”
It is a big dessert: two heady hours of talking about consciousness, inter-dimensional travel, prayer, Bigfoot, the physical power of love, children bending spoons with the power of their concentration, daimonic theory, the unified mind, the non-linear nature of time, the CIA’s psychic spying program, and at least three near misses where I almost get him to tell me something that is classified by the United States Government. But, somehow, in the middle of a conversation that pulverizes the definition of the word “wide-ranging,” Tom DeLonge says: “I mean, Angels & Airwaves isn’t going to change the world as a band or whatever,” and it is the single thing I hear that I do not believe.
This guy? The guy who went from naked on MTV to cited as a source by the Department of Defense within twenty years is not ambitious enough to think his music can change the world? Now, that’s preposterous.
We met DeLonge in the ‘90s as a member of Blink-182, the multi-platinum pop-punk trio that bridged the gap between the glossy boy bands and the aggro rock groups that defined the TRL era. But since their peak, he has released six albums between two other acts: Box Car Racer and Angels & Airwaves, whose sixth LP, Lifeforms, is due September 24. He has broken up with Blink, reformed Blink, re-quit Blink, and possibly re-rejoined Blink; he’s gotten married, had a couple of kids, divorced, and remarried. He’s devoted a great deal of time and money toward the study of UFOs, releasing videos of unidentified aerial phenomena that have been confirmed as legitimate by the Pentagon. Sixteen years ago, it was easy to scoff at the guy who left his band behind for aliens, who traded the radio-friendly sound of Take Off Your Pants and Jacket for the baroque uplift of Angels & Airwaves. But now it’s 2021, and until we can determine whether we are alone in the universe, we have this phenomenon to contemplate: the culture may have finally caught up with Tom DeLonge.
“I knew it was coming,” he says. “It's funny, when I got into this, people were making fun of me—he quit his band to chase aliens, he's lost his mind, tin foil hat, fuck this guy, he’s crazy—and then they all started to find out it's true.” The vindication arrived via the United States Government in 2019: “When the Navy and the Department of Defense talked about Tom DeLonge videos, they mentioned my name and stuff.” He shakes his head, and in the surfer-boy voice that in 1999’s “All The Small Things” managed to work a San Diego accent into the word “na,” says: “I's like: it is crazy.”
There was always a serious streak coursing through Blink-182’s work; that “Adam’s Song,” an unflinching track about teenage depression and suicide, is on an album called Enema of the State is a trick pretty much only they could have pulled off. “Blink was very much this rebellion against growing up. We were sad, kicked out of school, fighting parents.” he says. “It was nursery rhymes on meth. We had energy, and we wanted to break shit. We were like: we’re going to be so fucking funny and happy that we forget everything of where we came from.” But from the first song on Angels & Airwaves’ 2005 debut, We Don’t Need To Whisper, it was clear DeLonge had new worlds to conquer. “Once you become an adult, you’re not really pissed anymore. For me to be more authentic as an artist, I go: what do I really care about? And I want to make the world a better place. It's cool to be a good person. It's cool to have empathy. It's cool to have compassion and care about everyone. So that's the foundation of what Angels & Airwaves is: an art project that's composed of trans-media elements to discuss themes that can push us through that boundary.”
But isn’t that changing the world?
“I don't have an ego like that,” says DeLonge. “I don’t think I’m special, but after Blink got big, I learned that anything could happen. I was like: we’re not very good—well, Travis was good—this is not gonna happen. But it did, and then I was like, Fuck, anything could happen then. Then, once I had a taste of anything could happen, I was like, Fuck, go for it.”
Going for it, in this context, means introducing parapsychologist and physicist Harold Puthoff to senior CIA agent Jim Semivan, and teaming with them to start To The Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences, a company staffed largely by former government and intelligence officials. The entertainment division of To The Stars creates “science fiction stories for millennials that inspire and transcend, stories about dreams, consciousness, paranormal, UFOs, and many other things that once used to be taboo, but after newly declassified government documents are now proving to be absolutely real.”
I copied that quote from the To The Stars website, because when I ask Tom to explain the organization’s mission–slowly, in the way he would to his children, so that I might better understand it–the answer goes on for a good long while and concludes like this: “In certain locations, you have UFO events, cattle mutilations, ghosts, orbs, missing people, Bigfoot, like all the shit that no one thinks is real is all happening, in one location, in multiple spots.” I have questions, and nearly all of them are about the quality of sleep those kids are getting.
To The Stars aims to make the incomprehensible comprehensible, ahead of what DeLonge thinks might be a new enlightenment. “I think we're in for a rude awakening over the next kind of couple of years as we unravel everything that has happened, and that includes UFOs and what we may or may not know about that and how that's going to start rolling out, which is really hard for people to understand and digest.” Not that the knowing is going to be easy; I ask what would happen if all of the things he has learned were revealed to the rest of us all at once, and he says a legitimate, sincere “Oh my.” After a pause, he adds, “I...I think it would come off as horrifying.”
In the meantime, there is the new Angels & Airwaves album. Aside from a few lines like, “We’re not alone, and the government knows it,” Lifeforms doesn’t directly address the issues we’re talking about here. But it is full of the grandeur that is the band’s trademark. Like all of the band’s work, it– along with its accompanying film Monsters of California, out early next year–feels like it’s designed to change our consciousness, because it is. “You hear the album, But what makes it three dimensional, four dimensional is when the movie comes out, you start going, okay, what if we're not the only lifeforms?”
DeLonge compares his work with Angels & Airwaves, and his duty to write positive, empathetic lyrics, to the story of a Japanese scientist who printed out words like “love,” “hate,” “peace” and “racism” and taped them to Petri dishes of water. “Under the microscope, the ones that had negative words, the water froze as gelatinous mutated blobs, just like void of any kind of perfection, just whatever. The good words froze as the most beautiful symmetrical snowflakes you've ever seen, like crazy sacred geometry type things. The only difference was the intention placed near the water. And here we are, 80% water in our bodies, powered by consciousness and attention and love and whatever.”
DeLonge is in touch with his Blink-182 bandmates, both of whom are going through some significant life events: Travis Barker just took his first trip on an airplane since the deadly 2008 plane crash that left him and DJ AM badly burned, and Mark Hoppus is currently in treatment for lymphoma. “I was really, feverishly wanting to show Mark some of these things that I've learned and I know,” he says of wanting to aid Hoppus in his health fight. He tells me about a healer who visualized health and love, thereby curing lab mice of terminal cancer. He insists it works: "When we heard all the stories on Native Americans meditating to make it rain, we thought it was funny, a rain dance. Oh my God, they think group consciousness can manipulate the weather. But it really does work that way.”
(For the record, Hoppus’ cancer has responded positively to chemotherapy and he appears to be on the road to recovery, and a Blink-182 reunion is not out of the question. Prayers up for both.)
You cannot talk to the UFO guy without asking a question or two about UFOs, which I do. Have his years of studying led to any conclusions he feels confident sharing, particularly anything top-secret he may unwittingly reveal? “I can't say that I'm the guy that has it in my garage to prove everything, but the evidence does not suggest it's coming from planets. The evidence suggests what physics suggests, which is that time is parallel. It's not linear. I mean, everything past, present, and future is being manifested at exactly the same moment, which could be consciousness. That unified mind light is just creating fucking every possibility all at the exact same time. So does that mean some life form is really advanced at the same time that we're not, and can tune in to our timeline and then tune out? It's like dimensional. So the craft aren't spaceships, they’re more like submarines. They're more like displacement craft. They're displacing the fabric of space time and creating new geodesics that just go from here to here, bypassing timelines.” I wait until the Zoom call is over before I put my head down on my desk.
It’s easy to roll one’s eyes about all this paranormal stuff. Our reflex is to treat what we do not understand with skepticism, if not outright derision. But Tom DeLonge is not just some guy at a bus stop; his research on UFOs is Pentagon-approved. “All the weird shit that I used to pin my bandmates down to hear, and they would chase me out of the van like God, he's talking about this stuff again. Now I get to go, oh my God. It's like, I can't believe a lot of that is actually real.”
This makes what happens later in our conversation a bit more meaningful. We’re discussing how all of this paranormal talk goes down with his very Christian mother—“There’s probably a little crisis of conscience there,” he admits—and right in the middle of his answer, my own mother FaceTimes me. In fairness, she does this a lot, particularly when I’m in the middle of something, but still. “We sent mother vibrations out into the universe and she picked up on it,” I say, joking. “Oh yeah, that happens too,” he replies, not.
So words can change water, love can cure cancer, and Tom DeLonge can make my mom call me, but Angels & Airwaves can’t change the world?
“It might be that at some point we're playing stadiums like U2 or something," he says, "but it might not be that. It might be because the band existed and followed its art, and it created a mechanism to further that art, that mechanism ended up doing something profound and then it carried on long after the fight was even there. And that's what's happening now.
“I only started Angels & Airwaves to view ourselves differently, view the world differently, and talk about what is possible.”
Positive energy, channeled into music or prayer or science fiction stories, can have physical effects. Blink-182 can go from their garage to stadiums. And Tom DeLonge, the guy who left the popular band to study UFOs, can be the right guy for the moment. Dessert can be good for you. My friends, anything is possible.
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