Ex-Blink-182 Principal Gets Serious

Tom DeLonge may be best known for his mischievous antics with pop-punk trio Blink-182, but now he's turning heads for a different reason.

Last week, DeLonge's new band Angels & Airwaves debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Rock Albums chart and No. 4 on The Billboard 200 with "We Don't Need To Whisper" (Suretone/Geffen). The first single, "The Adventure," is No. 5 on the Modern Rock chart.

More than a year after Blink-182 announced its indefinite hiatus, the vocalist/guitarist has been able to shape his own sound with AVA, as the band refers to itself.

"I felt pressure after selling so many records and having a band that was selling out arenas across the world," DeLonge tells Billboard.com. "I really had to figure out who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do with my music and find my reason for doing music rather than just writing pop songs. So going into the studio I had a whole different mindset and a whole different set of goals, and it became quite an inspiring process -- as well as a massive amount of therapy to get over the depression of the breakup of my last band."

Following in the footsteps of Blink-182 may not be the easiest task considering that the band has sold more than 20 million records worldwide. But DeLonge isn't shy about being ambitious and shooting for the moon with this new project.

"It was time for me to make an album that was a timeless piece of art that was really representative of who I am right now," he says. "I think I really touched something more magical and spiritually enlightening with my art that I've never touched before."

To create this sound, DeLonge enlisted his former Box Car Racer partner/guitarist David Kennedy, former Offspring drummer Atom Willard and former Distillers bassist Ryan Sinn.

In the end, the music was mature, personal and seemingly politically charged -- things not usually associated with DeLonge's previous endeavors.

"I knew that people would apply current events to this record," he says, "But that's really not where I was going with it. It is about a conflict between love and war, which is a thinly veiled metaphor for what happened in my life and finding something good out of something bad. From song to song, it's kind of the chronological order of what I went through with the breakup of the band, losing my best friends and rebuilding my life.

"Angels & Airwaves is meant to bring together the most epic music with the most epic production and give everyone a sense of weightlessness and ascension," he adds. "I really think that it is going bridge the gap between the punk-rock scene that Blink and Green Day and all those types of bands are in and the crowd that likes Coldplay and U2. It's somewhere in the middle."

Throughout the whole process, though, DeLonge kept Blink fans in mind. "I was very aware that my fans would like this," he notes. "I knew that this was the best stuff I ever did [and] that my fans would like it, but I was very aware that this was an ambitious risk that I was taking. I knew that it would possibly be open to a much larger demographic of people, and at the end of the day you don't know if those people are going to like it or not."

As for the status of Blink-182, whose members went their separate ways in early 2005 and haven't been in touch since, DeLonge offers, "I'm happy where I'm at right now."

Then after a moment he adds, "I didn't want that band to end. It's not like I had some agenda. When it happened I was forced to find opportunity in a crisis. It was survival, and I ended up finding something a lot more powerful within me. I just find myself being me completely, which is good. It makes me really happy."

- Katy Kroll (Billboard.com)

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