As if Blink-182’s world tour and new record weren’t enough to keep him busy, Tom DeLonge is also on the verge of releasing his feature directorial debut with Monsters of California.
DeLonge’s edgier take on the Amblin-esque coming-of-age adventure opens Oct. 6 in select theaters and on digital. Co-written by DeLonge and Ian Miller, the film follows teenager Dallas Edwards (Jack Samson) and his wayward friends as they uncover government secrets that Dallas’ father left behind following his unexplained disappearance. From San Diego County and skateboarding to punk rock and the paranormal, the movie includes many of DeLonge’s passions, as well as the research that put him and his company, To The Stars, at the forefront of recent UFO/UAP revelations.
“There’s a lot of quality information in there during the serious moments, and I think people need to pay attention to it, for sure,” DeLonge tells The Hollywood Reporter during a Blink-182 tour stop in Portugal.
The Blink-182 co-vocalist and guitarist is also anticipating his band’s upcoming album, One More Time …, which releases on Oct. 20. Along with last year’s comeback single, “Edging,” the LP is DeLonge’s first studio output with the band he co-founded since 2012’s Dogs Eating Dogs EP and his 2015 exit to pursue other interests.
“This record is bitching. It’s really good, and I think people are going to really like the diversity and the progressive nature of it. I think they’re going to hear the shit that they’ve wanted to hear from us,” DeLonge says. “They’re going to hear the heart and soul of who we are, but they’re also going to hear some left turns that still fit. So I think it’s going to be received really well by our fans.”
Below, during a recent conversation with THR, DeLonge also discusses his journey to the director’s chair before explaining why he was initially skeptical about the concept of Blink’s latest music video, “One More Time.”
With Monsters of California, Blink-182’s One More Time … and a world tour, the fall season really belongs to you. It’s the fall of Tom.
(Laughs.) Thank you. Just trying to make shit happen.
So was David Kennedy forced to fire Dallas (Jack Samson) after he ditched work to go on a date? [Writer’s Note: Monsters of California’s main character works at a coffee shop called James Coffee Co., and it’s co-owned in real life by DeLonge’s Angels & Airwaves bandmate, Kennedy.]
That’s funny. Yeah, Dallas worked at James Coffee. That probably would’ve happened, or, knowing how big David is, he would’ve just punched him or slapped him. (Laughs.)
Matt Rubano’s (Angels & Airwaves’ bassist) cameo as a brash barista is quite funny as well.
He ad-libbed that shit! He just went for it. Rubano is really funny. He does comedy and shit.
Was R-rated Amblin the elevator pitch for Monsters of California?
You’re spot on. I used to watch these Amblin films and I’d be like, “They’re so perfect for the kids from suburbia, but I don’t really relate to those kids.” All the kids I grew up with were punk-rock skateboarders who made really shitty jokes. So in my version, I wanted to put my tribe into that and be able to relate to them more.
You’ve directed music videos and shorts over the years, and you’ve also worked with a long list of directors throughout your career: David LaChapelle, The Malloys, Jonas Akerlund, Will Eubank. How often did you notice yourself drawing on those experiences while filming Monsters?
All the time. I’ve been on camera. I’ve been in the editing room. I’ve hung with all the directors. I’ve gone through all the treatments and development of commercials and unscripted documentaries and even an art house feature [Eubank’s Love (2011)]. So I’ve seen all the pieces, and it all just made a lot of sense to me. I really felt like it was something I could understand and do. A lot of artists, if they’re really being true to themselves, can do their art in different mediums if they just try. But the one exception for me is painting. I really wish I knew how to paint, but painting is fucking hard. I also don’t have the patience for it. So I don’t think I could really just go and paint, but I do fuck around with it here and there. So I’m not a painter at all, but I can draw cartoons, though.
What surprised you the most about feature directing? What caught you off guard?
I wasn’t expecting the enormity of focus for four weeks straight and the mental exhaustion. When we finally finished the last day, it took me two weeks to have any energy to come out of that hole. My brain was fried. With our movie, we had zero room for mistakes and zero room to go back and fix anything. We had one moment to capture the best we could capture, and so that took extreme focus. I knew it’d be hard and I knew it’d be exhausting, but I didn’t think about that element.
Did you smuggle quite a bit of your UFO research into this movie?
I did. There’s a lot of quality information in there during the serious moments, and I think people need to pay attention to it, for sure.
Richard Kind’s character posits an interesting theory regarding religion and how it’s potentially been documenting the story of UFOs and extraterrestrials all along. Do you think there’s something to that?
I believe that all religions have done that. I think every religion on Earth has been talking about the paranormal in various aspects of it, and meetings with divine beings and messengers and so on. So we’ve written those down as miracles and the wrath of God and all that stuff. I think it’s something that people really need to pay attention to, and then we’ll start to understand that this shit has been here a long time. We just didn’t know how to write about it.
Your movie reminded me of how valuable it is to have fresh faces playing teenagers. It seems like the major studios don’t cast unknown commodities at the same rate they did in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Nowadays, many of the same young actors are cast in just about everything. So were you surprised by what Jack Samson and Co. gave you?
Jack was the first person I wanted to play Dallas, and two years before we filmed, I was like, “You!” And then I just kept him around and kept texting him until we finally got it going, and he was always so kind and stoked. The hardest part was just finding boys that were raw. In casting, you get cycled through so many of these Disney kids, and I was like, “I didn’t grow up with any Disney kids. All the kids I grew up with were very rough around the edges.” So I loved the idea of having actors that you don’t know. There’s just something about them that feels more real to me, rather than seeing a face that you’ve seen in other movies and you already have this idea of who they are. But in moviemaking, you need to have actors that people recognize if you want to get budgets for anything. We’re a tiny movie, so we were able to pull off what we did. But as you get bigger and bigger, unless you’re some crazy-big-name director, you can’t really do that.
How come there isn’t more filming done in San Diego County? Seeing those sights was one of the highlights of Monsters.
The resources just aren’t down there. The crew and the gear aren’t as easy [to come by], so the skill sets aren’t down there. Everyone that does all your lighting and electric and grip work are in L.A. or places like Atlanta and so on. When you shoot in San Diego, you end up having to bring people down there, and you have to pay for their hotels and all sorts of different shit. So it just becomes much more expensive.
Your other Angels & Airwaves bandmate Ilan Rubin composed the score, and I think it was originally going to be either you or Angels & Airwaves at the helm. Did you just run out of bandwidth?
Well, Ilan is a prodigy. That guy is such an incredible musician. When we first did Monsters, I really wanted it to be a companion piece with [Angels & Airwaves’] Lifeforms album, but with COVID and everything else that happened, the timing just wasn’t going to work out. So we were able to make it more of a stand-alone score and really have it be its own thing, which was absolutely the right decision to make. And once we got going with the musical component of the movie, it really just took on a life of its own. So Ilan and his brother Aaron just nailed it.
Both your bands lost key collaborators and unofficial members in Jerry Finn and Jeff “Critter” Newell, and I imagine there were days where you thought that you wouldn’t find anyone else that understands you on the level that those guys did. So have the Rubins been a godsend in that regard?
Absolutely. Aaron has got a lot of the same attributes that Critter did on all the old Angels records, but he’s also more musical. He’s a musician. So he’s able to pick up a guitar and get his idea out of his head, while Critter was much more programming based. And Ilan is a musician’s musician. I’ve learned endless things from him and the way he attacks things and how he speaks about the complexities of different instruments. So through osmosis, I’ve really been able to acquire a lot of cool knowledge from those guys. And on the reverse, I’m very simple about how I think about songs. I’m like Jackson Pollock. I just throw it all out and say, “That’s rad!” (Laughs.) And Ilan is like Albert Einstein. So we have two completely different ways of thinking, and I think that’s why we’ve always worked so well together.
The trailer for Monsters of California features an a cappella version of Blink-182’s “Aliens Exist,” and if a song ever warranted a part two, à la Box Car Racer’s “Letters to God” or Blink’s “Anthem,” it’s that one. Have you considered it at all?
Not until this moment, but maybe I need to. I wonder what kind of song that should be or what it should sound like, but I’m not opposed to it. Maybe it should be a fast song where you scream, “Run! Run!” That’s all it’s going to say. (Laughs.)
Or the lyric “Tom was right” is repeated over and over again.
Yeah! Just loop that.
The new Blink-182 record, One More Time …, hits shelves on October 20. Are you proud of what the three of you have made?
Yeah, this record is bitching. It’s really good, and I think people are going to really like the diversity and the progressive nature of it. I think they’re going to hear the shit that they’ve wanted to hear from us. They’re going to hear the heart and soul of who we are, but they’re also going to hear some left turns that still fit. They’re going to get the punk rock sensibility that they don’t want to leave, but they’re also going to hear accelerated songwriting and ambition. So I think it’s going to be received really well by our fans. I really hope so, and I’m really excited about it.
The new single “One More Time” makes grown men cry, and what I love about it is that it makes an impact and maintains emotion without ever bringing in heavy guitars. That’s a choice you probably wouldn’t have made 20 years ago, so I was impressed by that.
That’s the thing, especially with a band like ours. We’re always like, “When does it get big? When do the big guitars come in?” And it crossed my mind, but yeah, we did the ballad thing. We just kept it what it was, and it seems to work. So no complaints over here. It seems to be doing its job. To be honest, we’re just lucky to have anything that people care about at this point.
For the “One More Time” video, who came up with that ingenious treatment to do a kaleidoscope or slideshow effect of background images from different eras of the band?
I think that came from the label. One of the people at the label had that idea, and it works so well with that song. I wasn’t quite sure how it’d come off, so I was just cruising along and saying, “Just tell me where to be.” But when I saw it at the end, I was like, “Wow, this works really well.” It’s really nostalgic and really brings people into our story, which a band is always trying to do. So I’m thankful that it worked at all.
Monsters of California is available Oct. 6 in select theaters and on digital. This interview was edited for length and clarity.