By Jay Tilles
Tom DeLonge has a master plan. In various interviews over the past year, he’s done his best to explain to fans exactly what he’s up to and why. But it seems that all too often his message is derailed by misleading headlines or simply ignored in favor or salacious articles, generally along the lines of “he left Blink-182 to chase aliens!”
Well, DeLonge has decided to tell his story, instead of letting the media do it for him, which he admits he’s done too often. The San Diego musician is now the subject of a one hour and twenty minute documentary by guitar string maker Ernie Ball titled, The Pursuit of Tone.
Presented as an autobiography, DeLonge takes fans on a deep dive into his personal life: who he was, who he wanted to become, and who he is today. The journey is broken up into chapter-like segments beginning with childhood memories, and moving through his discovery and love of punk rock, the formation of Blink-182, the band’s success and subsequent turmoil, the creation of Angels & Airwaves and his reasons for creating the multi-media company he currently runs today.
Blink fans will likely see a side to DeLonge that they’ve rarely been privy to. The musician goes behind some of Blink and AVA’s biggest hits, explaining how and why they were written and constructed. Many “aha moments” are explored; musical moments where he realized he’d broken real ground and his sound would never be the same.
One example of these moments was the creation of “The Adventure,” AVA’s first hit. “That night after I sang it, I remember sitting in this studio at 2am, I was at my house, my family was asleep, and I was listening to this thing and about half way through the song are these tears in my eyes and I felt like there was something magical happening. That happens every once in a while when I’m a part of something artistically where I get kind of overwhelmed emotionally and feel like I’m really onto something that’s important. Not that I think it’s great or better than anything else, or that I think it’s going to be something giant or big, it’s because I feel it touches on something important to me and it grabbed a hold of—like a nerve—and is just gripping it and I could feel it and it’s like electric waves through your body. It doesn’t happen on every single thing but it happens every so often and you kinda go ‘Wow, this is what I was meant to do.'”
DeLonge recalls his funny and life-changing run-in with The Clash’s Joe Strummer and Oasis’ Liam Gallagher. A few simple words from the British rockers forever changed his perspective on his beloved punk rock. “From that day forward I stopped listening to punk rock music and I started listening to everything. […] It was kind of my graduation. I never looked back.”
DeLonge also discusses the heavy topics.
Why Blink-182 broke up the first time in 2005 has been a long speculated topic among Blink fans. But in The Pursuit of Tone, DeLonge reveals exactly what went down. “There’s a whole second-side of the Boxcar Racer story,” he says with a nervous laugh, referring to his side project with drummer Travis Barker. DeLonge looks back at the decision to record and tour with Barker—unintentionally excluding Mark Hoppus—ultimately resulting in tension and anxiety between the three Blink-182 members. These destructive emotions ultimately weighed on Blink so heavily that another breakup was imminent. “I think people were so passionate about Blink and the press starts to get weird, like there’s some rift in the band, that we’re trying to start a new band… it wasn’t any of that. It was like we painted a painting and wanted to show people the painting. Coming back after that [Boxcar Racer tour] there were insecurities and issues within the band and that started this long path of awkwardness.” DeLonge admits that making a “dumb phone call to one guy to play drums created a lot of weirdness and suspicion and conflicts.”
DeLonge doesn’t attempt to hide anything in the film and yet is very respectful of his Blink-182 bandmates, although no mention is made as to his current relationship with Hoppus or Barker.
Meanwhile, DeLonge explores what really drives him, the motivations that pushed him to leave Blink in 2005 and again in 2015; his passion for creating and pushing boundaries. The camera finds him in the recording studio, his To The Stars office, and the San Diego beach were he’s found solace since childhood.
DeLonge comes across as honest and open in the new film. He’s earnest in his quest to be more than a musician… the quest that may well just take him to the stars.
Ernie Ball: The Pursuit of Tone airs Friday, August 19 at 8pm on The Audience Network (DirecTV Ch. 239 and AT&T U-Verse Ch. 1114)