“The goal of Angels & Airwaves is that all the things we’re doing can live on their own. If you end up liking it all enough, though, you definitely do get absorbed into this world that we’ve created.”
Of all the people you would expect to grow out of Tom DeLonge – high-school kids, skate-punk diehards, ‘90s nostalgics – you may well never have picked DeLonge himself to be at the top of the list.
The musician, entrepreneur and Blink-182 dick-joke connoisseur has made some major changes when it comes to his ‘other’ band, Angels & Airwaves – and it’s the sign of not only a new beginning for that band, but for himself as well.
“Previously, I’ve just written all of the Angels & Airwaves stuff on my own,” he begins. “The other band members have always played on the record, but it always came down to what I was writing, directing, producing, engineering…” He trails off momentarily, perhaps getting caught in a moment in his own private universe. “At the same time, I was sick of myself and bored of myself. Growing up in a punk rock band, we were always suspicious of anyone that could play their instruments well. That’s not what we were trying to do – we were trying to rebel against that sort of thing. I knew that it was time for Angels & Airwaves to do something new. It felt time to catch people off guard.”
Pulling this off meant DeLonge had to include someone else in his creative process for the first time in the band’s history. In this case, it came in the form of Ilan Rubin, the prodigious drummer and multi-instrumentalist who has played with the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Paramore and Lostprophets. Rubin joined the band in 2011, following the departure of original drummer Atom Willard, but had yet to play on an actual AVA record until now. According to DeLonge, his presence has made the world of difference.
“Ilan is a master of a handful of instruments,” he says. “He’s infinitely better than me at guitar, he’s one of the best drummers I’ve ever seen and he plays the piano in the most beautiful way. I think where my strength lies in our relationship is having a direction when it comes to melody and being able to put a song together. I think that’s why it works for us – in a lot of ways, we’re complete polar opposites, but after a year or so of playing with one another we kind of worked into the other’s mindset. What you’re hearing is still Angels & Airwaves, but what we’ve made here is quite the left turn for us.”
The end result is the fifth album under the Angels & Airwaves name, entitled The Dream Walker. As DeLonge himself alludes to, it’s the sound of a band redefining exactly what it is it can be – adventurous, thrilling, and at points, so crazy that it just might work. The album centres itself conceptually around a new character, Poet Anderson, who also appears in the accompanying animated short – imaginatively titled Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker. Despite all this pointing further to DeLonge’s disconnect from himself, he indicates Poet isn’t entirely a new invention.
“There’s a lot of me in the character,” he says. “A lot of the music is assigned culturally on this record – it’s reflective of the kind of tribe that the character would be a part of. There’s songs about analogue and transistor radios, there’s songs about sleep paralysis – it all stands up on its own, and it all reflects my vision for the character. I make sure it goes into everything. You’d be amazed at the amount of conversations I’ve had with the artists, describing what Poet’s clothes would look like.”
It doesn’t just stop there: in addition to The Dream Walker and Poet, a novel is being penned with DeLonge as its co-writer. Of course, accompaniments are not a new thing for Angels & Airwaves – see their films Start The Machine and Love for proof of this. With that said, it’s worth noting that listening to the album alone or just seeing the film doesn’t mean you’re missing out on something that only the other can explain.
“The goal of Angels & Airwaves is that all the things that we’re doing can live on their own,” says DeLonge. “If you end up liking it all enough, though, you definitely do get absorbed into this world that we’ve created. That goes for everyone that’s been a part of what we do. The animators we work with are unreal, the person writing the novel is a best-selling author, the person writing the screenplay is a veteran of coming-of-age stories. We’re shooting for something that is career-defining for all of us working on it.”
Despite there seemingly being just DeLonge and Rubin serving as the figureheads of the band, it’s been revealed that the other two members – guitarist David Kennedy and bassist Eddie Breckenridge – both remain in the fold. According to DeLonge, it’s simply a matter of everyone knowing their role in the grand scheme of things.
“Everyone would be doing different things in the band,” he says. “Matt (Wachter, former bassist) would be the guy to upload our music onto the computer, getting all these segues going; David would be building stuff for the live show, set pieces and things like that; I’d be arranging or recording. It’s no different now. We’re just starting to talk about how everything is going to come to life onstage. That’s the most exciting part.”