Tom DeLonge wears many hats. From his adolescent obsessions with punk rock power chords and delinquent deviance to his fascination with space, atmosphere and demolishing boundaries of art and media, the founding member of Blink-182, current frontman of Angels & Airwaves and all-around music mogul has lived a lot of life. But he'll be the first to tell you: This is only the beginning.
We chatted with the guy about his upcoming sci-fi novel Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker, co-written by Suzanne Young, as well as his live-action short film, the whopping four franchises he's in the midst of creating and, you know, just how he finds the time to do it all.
Congratulations on the book!
Isn’t that weird? My name is on a book. I didn’t even read books when I was in high school and now I have so many of them coming out. It’s pretty ironic.
How did it come to be?
I’ve built a few companies over the last 15 years and some of what I’ve done has been software for monetizing the arts. We built software that created the platform for Pearl Jam’s fan club to do pay-per-view events—for Nine Inch Nails and Kanye, too. A lot of big bands were using it. From that point forward I started to realize what the arts would look like [in the future,] a combination of music, books, movies, animation, everything. Multimedia is where it was going, so I started a company called To the Stars. We focused on developing four franchises and Poet Anderson was our first one.
I want to tackle big subjects with each one. Dreams haven't really been tackled in a cool way. Dreams were done in movies, like Inception, which is brilliant, but doing it in a way that’s very commercial and can live as a franchise that multiple demographics can get involved in the pieces, all that really excited me. Not too many years ago I came up with this character and didn’t really know what the storyline was. I saw a documentary on nightmares from Stanford University; they did this study that nightmares are preparing you for real world events. I thought was really interesting. I asked, “What if you had a guide?” That’s where it came from. It’s been many years in the making.
'Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker' is the first book in a trilogy. Is the full story already written?
It’s evolving. We knew what we wanted to do on the first one. We have an idea of where we want to end up on the third one. Like any art, you can’t jam it into a box. Even making an album, you write songs, you go to record them, you can’t go in there and expect it to be exactly as you thought. “I wrote it exactly this way, it’s going to be a ballad.” You go in there an have realizations like, “Wow, this sounds good, it would be better if it was louder.” You have to let the art pull you, what’s making sense along the way while you’re making it. We know where we want the story to go in macro brush strokes, but the details start getting worked out when you put your nose to the grindstone.
You co-authored the book. How did you get in contact with Suzanne Young?
I reached out to an agency in New York. I found an agent whose bio said he had a fascination with the paranormal. I reached out to him and I’m not sure that he believed me or thought that I would execute it or what, but two weeks later he comes back five authors and one of them was Suzanne. I looked at what she was doing and thought, “This is huge.” This can be great. Now it’s looking it might be the biggest thing she’s ever done in terms of what’s going to happen with the movie and stuff. I’m so happy because I wanted to make sure that she did the right thing for her own career. She’s the writer, an author. For her to take a chance on this project for me, I really wanted it to work out for her.
What is it like working with another author? You have this vision and another voice comes in. Is it like a writer/editor dynamic?
I’m much more of an architect and she’s the person who comes in and does the finishing materials, definitely not the one who's pounding away every single detail. We would have conference calls every week and we’d work through major story points and she’d hit me up with emails like, "I don’t understand this, how should we do this?" Then I’d push her to make certain leaps with some things that she didn’t really believe and then she’d come back like, "Oh wait, that actually is cool.” I wrote two screenplays when this all started and we combined both of them into one. Suzanne worked off that as a guide but then we evolved it and changed it so much more. That influenced the [animated film we released] and the animation influenced her back. It was a really organic ebb and flow of our pieces.
“Nightmares are preparing you for real world events...I asked, 'What if you had a guide?'”
Do you ever sleep?
It’s funny—this is only one project. There are four of them. I’m in Colorado Springs for another one. You’ll see another one come out at Christmas. There’s a lot that’s going to start happening. I’ve been really busy this year. You know, people will look and go, “Ahh, the guy doesn’t want to tour, what is he doing? Just sitting around?” That’s not how I work. I just want to create things and work with great artists. [The project coming out later in the year] is still under wraps but I will say this: There’s a novel that will be coming out, but before that novel, to launch the franchise, there’s going to be a rated-R children’s book. That will come out a Christmas. It’s not for children.
With this book, your protagonist is a young boy. The 'Poet' series started with the animated film. Who are you writing this for? Is there a particular attraction to youth?
Poet Anderson is going to be for everybody. It’s going to have the same kind of art of Harry Potter or Twilight where youth get into the books but then adults get into them, too. It’s got the Twilight-like love story that people like. They’re going to find that here but the adventure and action parts of this franchise are like Star Wars. It’s really violent. There’s a lot of profanity. It’s action-packed. It’s really stylistic. Those are the type of elements that pull all the men to the table. Boys and men. The goal was to create something that appeals to everybody. It wasn’t easy doing that but I think we did.
Before becoming 'Poet Anderson,' the lead is named Jonas, which is the name of your son. It seems like you’re writing from a personal, sentimental place, especially interesting because this is a work of fiction.
That’s just how I’ve always been, even with songs. My son Jonas has the same haircut Poet has. He has really long bangs so he became a little bit of inspiration for me. The logo for Angels & Airwaves came from my daughter, Ava. I had to do something for my son. In another project I’m working on, the main female in the story is named Jennifer, for my wife.
Let’s talk about this live-action film you have coming up. Tyler Posey of 'Teen Wolf' fame is starring in it. How’d you get involved with him? He must be a massive Blink-182 fan, I know he’s close with All Time Low and adores pop-punk.
He’s an awesome guy. The short film that we’re doing is an art piece. I call it a modest look at what the Poet universe is supposed to be because it can’t really do what we will be doing in the feature film, obviously, because it’s a $100 million film. This is small. But what we’re able to do is something that’s really cool, something that’s really artistic and gives people another reason to huddle around what this is really about.
You have so many mediums you’re playing with here. Is there a guide on how to navigate it? All the stories aren’t the same, but they all come together in this universe.
I think the novel is the easiest way to understand everything, but if you follow the trajectory that we’ve kind of set in motion: Buy the record from Angels & Airwaves, go watch the animation, read the three comic books and then read the novel. Then watch the short film and brace yourself for the future.
Just how intertwined are Angels & Airwaves and 'Poet'? You have the EP, but when you’re writing with the other AVA guys, are you writing with this universe in mind?
We’re always writing with some type of visual inspiration. We did that on every album, but you still let the art do what it needs to do in the studio. You don’t force anything. We were always thinking about Poet, what it is, what it feels like and where it can go. But Poet Anderson lives on its own. It’s not from the band. The band just did the music for it. As we go into the future, it’ll be interesting to see where else we take the soundtrack. I have some interesting ideas on that.
“People have tough lives and sometimes things like this get them to feel inspired and get them to be a little hopeful and to dream a little bit. That’s a good thing.”
I really appreciate that your co-author in this is female, because it can be difficult for young women readers and writers to identify with a young male protagonist, because there are so many. Will there be opportunities for young female leads in any of your other projects?
Absolutely, it’s massive. This is the deal: Number one, most women read books. Number two: Our franchise was just full of science fiction boy toys, glowing motorcycles and all this shit. We wanted substance, we wanted this thing that’s real, a relationship. Having Suzanne come in and have a female point of view is what made it great. It’s one thing to read a bunch of action, but if you can’t feel the heart and feel the pain and love and even feel what you felt in high school, it’s not fun at all. Suzanne is all of that. That’s the female perspective. That’s the only reason that this will work as well as it will.
If you’re recalling these emotions that are so personal—were there moments in the book that are drawn from real events in your life or hers?
In a Pixar movie, animators will look in a mirror and growl and then paint their own growling face into the character. That always happens [to all art] on different levels. I don’t have anything specifically because the universe is pretty different, but Suzanne is a high school teacher. All of the moments in high school where Poet is in school with a girl, their interactions feel very, very real and I know that’s because Suzanne has been there for many years as a teacher working with kids.
You can’t fake that. It's crucial to have that authentic voice. What do you hope people get out of this world? How do you want them to react?
I just want them to give it a shot. I want them to be entertained. I want them to think about the possibilities. I want them to have an escape. It’s hard for me to find escapes. If I can provide one, I would be very honored. People have tough lives and sometimes things like this get them to feel inspired and get them to be a little hopeful and to dream a little bit. That’s a good thing. I hope this is a good addition to people’s lives in some way.