ATP! Feature: Tom DeLonge talks To The Stars, Angels & Airwaves and becoming a Children's Author
"This is the thing. I have ADD and I have this company that was a hobby that I built into a real thing," says Tom DeLonge when describing his recently launched company, To The Stars. "We do entertainment stuff, technology stuff and we build brands. I have the ability, which is probably a bad thing, to do a bunch of weird shit however I want. As long as I don't tank it, they are pretty supportive!"
The San Diego native's previous hobby has now expanded into an empire based out of Southern California, which is also home to his other business ventures Macbeth Footwear and Modlife – a technology that creates fan clubs for artists, with an impressive roster spanning from the likes of Pearl Jam to Kanye West to Nine Inch Nails.
When describing the origin of To The Stars, DeLonge says, "That was me asking how you can monetize the arts because the music is free. We figured out by blending physical and digital products together, you're going to download the album but you still want the limited edition poster and the vinyl together. When we did that with Modlife, we had a good handle on what the business would be but not the art."
The idea behind the DeLonge's latest venture was to mesh three industries together: music, film and merchandise, all the while keeping his band Angels & Airwaves – whose last two albums, LOVE and LOVE: Part Two, were proceeded by a feature film and graphic novel - at the forefront of the project.
"Angels & Airwaves isn’t really a band. We've always said we're an art project because we're part of this grand idea of what To The Stars was going to be," DeLonge continues. "Taking cool cherished merchandise and blending it with the music and the film industry: properties that last much longer than the album.
The alternative/rock four-piece have been hard at work writing songs for the past three years on their next studio album, slated for a Halloween 2014 release, which DeLonge describes as a massive departure from the band's previous sound.
"There are things that will never change, like my melodic sensibility and the way that I write. But the song structures, arrangements, chord progressions and tonalities have all changed radically," he says. "I did largely a lot of it by myself with the first four records and we wanted to keep those branded in a particular way as a certain sound and idea. When we finished the whole LOVE saga, we can put that to rest and stop writing songs about more anthemic songs about seeing yourself in the world. We've done that and don't need to use the same chord progressions."
But one thing DeLonge didn't have up until now was Ilan Rubin, who joined Angels & Airwaves as their new drummer in 2011 and became the writing partner he never had in the past. "I think having that writing partner has created that push and tug-o-war that a band needs to have. When I was writing by myself, there was no tug-o-war. Maybe what I was saying wasn't cool. No one was there to tell me that it wasn't."
And now with Rubin's input into the band, the passionate frontman cannot wait for the world to hear what Angels & Airwaves is capable of. "It will sound like we've done 5 albums in between our last album and this album. I'm really excited."
The band's fifth full-length release is going to be a launching pad for the band's latest endeavor, Poet Anderson, which will be accompanied by series of graphic novels and a feature film that is currently in-development. "I wish I could tell you everything about the movie. I think it's going to be phenomenal. It's not just ambitious and really cool. I'm optimistic about being able to control that beast and make it take shape in its form that it contuses of what the band has been trying to do in the last ten years."
Last year DeLonge expanded his ever-growing career portfolio by adding 'Children's Author' to his resume with "The Lonely Astronaut on Christmas Eve" - a tale of a lonely explorer in space who just wants a hug. The "why not?" idea Tom describes came out of nowhere and was an extension of Angels & Airwaves' LOVE saga and was something to do in a vacant period of time but while still working hard. "The children's book is really just a song about music in my mind. It was special and fun and I thought, why not? Everything at To The Stars is like that. We have so many resources to make things, sell and distribute things. We have the capacity to run really cool limited run projects. After we put it out, we really got excited about doing things like that, about what that rabbit hole could lead to over time."
When the announcement of 38-year-old's book came out, it was definitely the last thing his loyal fan base was expecting, especially considering his infamous potty-mouth sense of humor. "I kid you not, it was a hard decision not to make it a children's book and just make it really fucked up and NC-17!" laughs DeLonge. "We really did battle that discussion about if we should just put a bunch of dicks in it and make it really weird or make it just cool and real? I thought the cool and real one would be more unexpected to be honest, that's why."
Now with 2014 already six months in and an October 31st release scheduled for Angels & Airwaves' long-awaited album, the musician/entrepreneur explains this is just the kick off date for the band's Poet Anderson project. After a two-year break, they will be hitting the road later this year with a string of secret shows and a nationwide tour to follow. "It'll be pretty fantastic," DeLonge says. "It won't be gigantic places. If there are any fans who want to see the band play, because it's been a couple years, this would be the place to do it. I suggest they follow the website [AngelsAndAirwaves.com], which we're going to be launching in a matter of weeks."
When looking towards at what the future holds for To The Stars, DeLonge explains the goal is for the company to be a place where other bands and other directors with intellectual properties can develop their ideas and bring them to life. But right now, Angels & Airwaves’ Poet Anderson project is the center of attention and will show what To The Stars is really capable of.
“Angels & Airwaves doesn't just stand for four guys. It's a part of To The Stars and it's a field of really great artists from here to Portugal to Los Angeles to New York to everywhere. We're all working together to make this shit happen. Let’s see how it goes.”
Words: Jon Ableson
Photos: Cara Friedman