Six Pack: Angels & Airwaves' Tom DeLonge

This is Six Pack, our mini compendium of the informative or the quirkier aspects of rock music. This week, it’s Tom DeLonge on growing up, taking creative risks and running around without any pants.

**ON GROWING UP **“During my childhood, my parents would fight all the fucking time. My dad left when I was 18 and my sister was 12. My brother was off in the army fighting wars and shit. My mom lost her job at that point too. Right then, at that moment, I said, “this is fucked,” and I moved out. My sister was in tears all night long, wondering where her entire family had gone. But I felt like I had to start my life. It was horrible. That’s why I wrote Stay Together For The Kids in Blink. All of that song was describing a situation in my mom’s apartment – the shades were always down, it was really dark in there and she was probably suicidal to a degree, her kids had left, her daughter was crying, she had no job or money, my dad had another relationship going. It was all this fucked up stuff.”

GOING FROM JOKER TO SERIOUS ARTIST “The emotional intensity in Blink is about eternal youth, rebellion and taking the piss – and it was awesome. I was a skater kid who used to take the piss out of my own mom and the next thing I knew people were paying me money for that. The whole thing was like a joke, but the music really represented who I was. Every kid needs something that’s about playing fast and telling people to fuck off, because that’s what helps you learn independence. “I know why it’s so hard for people to swallow [me doing something different]. People go, he’s that shithead that ran around naked, telling dick jokes and now he’s acting all pretentious and talking about his message and being some deep artist. I get that. So what I have to do is work really hard to pound that guy in the face with quality art. One day, that guy will surrender. I’m not some full of myself, crazy, serious artist guy.”

**ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BACKSTAGE AND ONSTAGE **“Before a Blink show, we were largely serious and then Mark and I would have quite a lot of fun onstage. Before a show with Angels & Airwaves, we would be out of our minds breaking shit, blasting music and doing stupid shit – but we would get onstage and be super-serious. Both bands seemed to work in opposite ways. In Blink, I could be part of myself. In Angels & Airwaves, I got to be all of myself. I think it’s important for artists to have those outlets. If you were a painter but every time you painted, you had to do it with the same people, then every once in a while it can be limiting, even if it’s awesome.”

**ON PROVING YOURSELF **“I think artists do their best work when they’re constantly trying to prove something, because they’re always trying to be better. If you think you’re fucking cool already, then you get complacent. You act like you think you’re God; you go onstage and let your guitar feedback for 20 minutes. I mean, come on! That might be why kids in their 20s have that ambition: they have to prove themselves to everybody. They just got out of their teenage years where they might have been outcasts and now they’ve got something to say, and they’re going to say it loud.”

**ON BEING A BUSINESSMAN AND A MUSICIAN **“I spent 15 years defining a generation of suburbanites – I understand these kids. I understand how the world works, how the economy works, how business works, how art works, so I want to be able to grab from all of that and do something special.”

ON SUCCESS “Being in a band that has any level of success fucks with your head. It makes you a little paranoid because you have a lot of time to sit around and think about shit because you’re not in a cubicle typing all day trying to get something turned in. You’re sitting on a tour bus, watching cities pass by you, seeing lots of sad people or happy people or pretty landscapes or whatever. And you’re listening to music and, depending on what you’re listening to, as you’re looking out of the window it kinda makes you think about a lot of weird shit.”

Tom DeLonge’s new album, To the Stars… Demos, Odds and Ends, will be released on April 20.

Tom Bryant

Tom Bryant is The Guardian's deputy digital editor. The author of The True Lives Of My Chemical Romance: The Definitive Biography, he has written for Kerrang!, Q, MOJO, The Guardian, the Daily Mail, The Mirror, the BBC, Huck magazine, the londonpaper and Debrett's - during the course of which he has been attacked by the Red Hot Chili Peppers' bass player and accused of starting a riot with The Prodigy. Though not when writing for Debrett's.