To describe Tom DeLonge as ‘enthusiastic’ about Angels & Airwaves would be a grave understatement.
Even before a single note had been recorded, the former Blink 182 frontman made it crystal clear that Angels & Airwaves was not just his way of killing time, dubbing it “the greatest rock and roll revolution” and “the most amazing music I have ever made by a long shot.”
With Blink on ‘indefinite hiatus’, DeLonge acquired the services of Box Car Racer guitarist David Kennedy, bassist Ryan Sinn (formerly of The Distillers), and drum god Atom Willard (previously of Rocket from the Crypt and The Offspring) to form this pop/rock supergroup.
Devoid of toilet humour, the group’s debut album We Don’t Need To Whisper is imbued with powerful sentimentality designed to make a statement. musicOMH caught up with David, Ryan and Atom to discuss life-altering albums, ‘laminated lists’, and extra-terrestrials…
After launching into an impassioned dispute on the comparative intensities of London and Californian heat, the guys began by explaining how the name Angels & Airwaves was conceived.
“Basically, we wanted a name that was larger than life to reflect the great expectations we had on the band. The ‘Angels’ part was inspired by one of our managers who walked away from a serious car accident with just a few scratches. We realised that we needed a delivery system for our message to be heard, which led to the perfect marriage of ‘Angels’ with ‘Airwaves’.”
Anyone who has read a Tom DeLonge interview in the past year is bound to have noted the copious mentions of the word “epic”, coupled with uber-ambitious proclamations of wanting the music to give everyone a sense of weightlessness and ascension. While acknowledging the undoubted influence bands such as U2 and Pink Floyd, the group’s sound was inspired primarily by feelings and emotions which routinely go unnoticed.
“We would sit in Tom’s studio, making a mental note of how random things like a photo, a movie scene or the sunset made us feel, and how we can translate all these emotions into musical form,” explained Ryan.
Despite the aspirations of grandeur in terms of their sound, David emphasised the importance of wanting to create relatable music which reflected the vicissitudes of daily life.
– Atom on Angels & Airwaves & Aliens
It’s impossible to watch the news right now without feeling this dark vibe. Lives are lost for no reason, the economy isn’t doing too well – everything sucks. It was important for us not only to reflect this overall state of the world, but also to make music which drags listeners out of whatever miserable situation they find themselves in, and to give them a temporary ‘happy place’ they can escape to without having to close their eyes and clicking their heels three times. That’s some Wizard of Oz shit you’re probably too young to know…”
Tired of rationalising my alienesque apparent youthfulness, I simply took solace in Ryan’s anecdote, in which he recalled being carded a week ago. Speaking of aliens, it’s been widely reported that Tom has a computer solely devoted to researching extraterrestrial life. Are the guys all trekkies?
“Well, we’re all absolutely fascinated by the notion that extraterrestrial life exists,” explained Atom, who joined us mid-interview. “And it’s pretty evident from our videos and short films. I just wished they would fucking show themselves.”
Fighting the urge to unzip my forehead, I chose to ask the guys about the upcoming Angels & Airwaves movie, a World War II based CGI creation based upon the band’s music. The movie is just one amongst a myriad of innovations in the artillery of the Angels and Airwaves enterprise. Just how far does the band’s agenda go beyond creating an album?
“We definitely intended right from the start to make use of new technology as a vehicle to reach a wider audience and to give people a bigger way to connect with the band,” noted David. “So many bands are stumbling backwards because they don’t really want to embrace the future. Growing up, my favourite thing to do after buying an album was to run out and peel off all the plastic and dissect the inlay booklet. I guess we have to accept the fact that things have changed – it’s important for a band to evolve with the times.”
“The movie is our way of evolving. We thought it would be a good way to tell our story. In fact, we’re even ahead of technology. There’s something we want to do at our live shows which we’ve spoken to a few scientists about. Scientifically, they’re just starting to figure it out how to do this, and it will probably take around 6 years before they sort everything out.”
Given that the Tom has emphasised time and time again that this is not a side project, perhaps longevity is to be expected of this supergroup. Maybe they can afford to wait another 6 years. Nonetheless, Ryan accepted the fact that the first batch of listeners would inevitably be fans of Tom. Was there a fear that the average Blink-182 fan would not be receptive of this more intense and mature new sound?
“No doubt, the sound is different. I’ve slowed things down. It’s more solid than the bass I’m used to playing with The Distillers,” explained Ryan. “But I see the album more as a way of appealing to ourselves as opposed to other people. Of course we want our music to speak to this particular generation, but if your primary objective is to satisfy other people, then it’s never going to work.”
– Ryan starts the internet-as-starmaker backlash.
It seems like the only way to connect with this particular generation is through the internet. What does the band make of MySpace as a way of discovering new music?
“I’ve only ever found one band off of MySpace. No doubt there’s some good music which can be found through MySpace, but my problem with just discovering music through a website is that it’s an act completely devoid of emotion. With that being said, I think it’s a great way for bands starting out who don’t have any sort of PR or management to get more attention. I mean look what it did for Panic! at the Disco.”
At this point, I was curious as to how the guys themselves came to discover music to be their calling. With all the talk of Angels & Airwaves’ music being epic and mind-blowing, was there a particular album or track which they would regard as life-altering?
“Fugazi’s 13 Songs. It changed my life,” said David. “But it’s hard to pick just one track or one album…” And with that, he rattled off a laundry list which included the likes of U2, Minor Threat and Depeche Mode. Atom instantaneously retorted that such a list had to be a focused, upper-echelon thing, much like David’s ‘laminated list’ (see season 3, episode 5 of Friends). The random mention of Nelly Furtado led to a discussion of collaborations, not that an Angels & Airwaves/Nelly Furtado collaboration would be particularly organic.
– Atom on Angels & Airwaves’ debut
“I don’t think any of us are really into collaborations,” explained Atom. “It’s better not to meet the musicians you admire, since you don’t want your perception of them to be tainted or altered in a negative way. And very often, it will be. So don’t anticipate a U2/Mary J. Blige type thing in our future.”
Another U2 reference. With tracks entitled Valkyrie Missile and The War, I had to ask whether We Don’t Need To Whisper was comparable to U2’s War. Did they intend to create a political album?
“I think it’s more accurate to call it a socially conscious album,” explained Ryan. “There’s this duality between love and war on every track, and our live shows definitely have a political edge to them, but the album is more about acknowledging the state of the world and reflecting upon the social climate rather than telling you who to vote for. We just wanted to deliver a sense of hope which will lead to a fucking better future.”
On my way out, I ran into a returning Tom, who not only withheld the plethora of penis and fart jokes which may have been fermenting in his head, but also remained poised and composed during our brief chat. Perhaps he was cognizant of the fact that in order to convey a powerful, life-changing message, one must first be taken seriously. With that in mind, Angels & Airwaves could very well be on the right track.