I had the pleasure of actually speaking to Angels & Airwaves front man Tom DeLonge yesterday as he was traveling to Boston for tomorrow night’s show. We had a chance to discuss a wide array of topic’s including the origins of the project, his experience collaborating with Eubank, the film’s themes of isolation and loneliness, why this is not your average rock ‘n’ roll movie, scoring and producing the film, making more movies, Wednesday night’s event, and Love’s inevitable comparisons to Duncan Jones’ Moon. Here is what he had to say:
To begin with, can you talk about how you first became aware of Will Eubank as a filmmaker and then why you decided to start working with him on the music videos that would eventually lead to making the film Love?
Tom DeLonge: Well we got his promo reel through a third party that was a friend of his through our drummer, and we put it in, muted all the sound, and put our music over it and we said man, if this guy can do this kind of stuff for us it would be a fantastic visceral experience. So we hired him and we started. The scariest thing is starting, but once we started then we were like, okay we're off to the races so let's see this thing through.
When I was speaking to the film’s director Will Eubank recently, he mentioned that there was a point when he realized that he was trying to achieve more with the project than just making music videos and so he decided to scrap everything he was working on to write a proper script for the film. Can you talk about your reaction when Will told you what his plan was for writing the movie and at what point did you decide that it was the direction you wanted to go in with this project?
DeLonge: Well it's not fair that he's calling them music videos. I guess for him in his perspective that's what they were. From our perspective I never thought that was a fair description because I was always looking for high impact visuals that were vignettes to help kind of push the cinematic consequence of the record forward. But what happened is … see you're asking at what point did we realize that this was more than that, and he came back a year later with this idea but for me he had created a problem. He didn't deliver what we asked for, he delivered something better, but it wasn't good enough to be a film either. So it was like in this no man's land. I said, “Oh my God, we can either scale this back and switch it, or turn it around and kind of not be as ambitious.” But that isn't even in my DNA so I was like, “Cross that off the list. We're not going to even talk about vignettes anymore.” Although we couldn’t put it out the way it was because it would’ve never stood a fighting chance. Due to the category it was starting to enter into, I think all of the film snobs would have been like, “Oh this is boring and it sucks!” So I was like, okay well you need to go off and do some more. So he leaves for another year and comes back and the stuff was incredible! Now it wasn't just good, it was incredible. I was like, okay now we have another issue. Now we don't have this kind of straight to DVD really cool film, we have something that's better than that, but still not good enough to be in theaters. So now we need a beginning and an ending. So we go out and hire all these CGI guys. They got the guys from Star Wars, you know … Lucas film. Then he went out for six months and built a civil war battle in his parent's back yard. So my long winded answer is, it was about three or four different points over a three year period where he kept delivering more than we asked for and less than what it needed to be because it kept changing categories each time.
So what was your initial reaction when Will told you that he was planning to build the film’s spacecraft and all the Civil War sets in his parent’s backyard? With the budget that he was working with, that’s a pretty ambitious endeavor isn’t it?
DeLonge: Oh yeah absolutely. I mean it was super-ambitious. But I learned early on that he could do it. He dug for three weeks by hand a mine, a civil war mine. With like timber and lanterns, I mean it's insane what he did. So I already knew he could build anything. He built a robot-cyborg for one of the early vignettes that had nothing to do with this film. He just built a cyborg, and it was like odd. Like this guy, he could do anything. He's not only a cinematographer, but he grew up on a ranch, and I mean he had so much time. His mom was an artist and a children's book author, so they have these wild imaginations. His dad was an art curator, so it is infused in that family’s DNA to not only climb Mount Everest, but to go out and make films and write books. Like his brother is a novelist, it's a crazy, really interesting, and amazing family.
Can you talk about some of the themes that the film deals with such as isolation and loneliness, and as an executive producer, and as a member of the band, why you wanted to explore those themes in this movie?
DeLonge: Yeah, I mean it's an Angels & Airwaves project so we set out very macro parameters of what this would have to be. It had to be set in space because space is infinite by definition so it holds up to that possibility. That’s something our band is really serious about and that's inspirational. It had to be meditative, philosophical and cerebral. It had to follow in the ambitious physical footsteps of Kubrick. We wanted something that would really be accepted as a very hardcore, incredible do-it-yourself independent film. Because we knew we wanted to do more film, so we wanted to make sure that the film that we did first was critically acclaimed to some degree as much as it could. We also wanted to make sure that the music didn't get in the way. We wanted the scene and the message to be larger than any kind of narcissism or self-indulgent nature or rock n' roll. So we set up that rule as well. So the band is there to provide a score for the film, to support the film, to get the message across, but not to get famous for our words and our choruses, because we could do that on our record you know? So we set that type of a template for ourselves.
Eubank also made mention to me that Love is not really a rock ‘n’ roll movie. It’s not Pink Floyd The Wall or Help! Angles & Airwaves don’t appear in the film, and it’s not a movie about a band but rather the group just provides the score to the film and agrees with the ideas of the project. Do you think that is fair description of the movie?
DeLonge: Yeah, you know because once again you got to think of Angels & Airwaves as an art project. Where we do things to make people think differently. It's not about the band, the album or just a movie. This specific indulgence is about human consciousness, connection, your daily interaction with other people and what that means to life overall. So we communicated that over twenty songs on a couple albums that comes out on November 11th. 11/11/11. We also communicated a different version of that through a science fiction film set in the future. Then we branded the entire thing with iconography that spells out the word "Love" that has its own set of definitions of mystery in its own symbology.
As a musician composing the music for the film, what was the process like for you? Did you create exclusive songs for the movie in a traditional way after it was shot, or did you use existing music and create scenes that would fit that tone or mood?
DeLonge: There were two moments. There were the initial sets of landscapes that Will was hearing in our band that inspired him to set his story in motion. Then it was scoring the film afterwards, taking those pieces off and saying, you need a whole new score that reports how this art has evolved. It happened over a few years and it definitely changed shape a few times, but that's how all art projects are to be honest.
You mentioned that the new albums are dropping in November, are those "Love Part I and Part II?" Are these albums sort of the soundtrack to the film?
DeLonge: Yes there's Love Part I, which is an album that we put out for free on our website for a few months and took it off, you can't get it anywhere now. And then Love Part II, which is another eleven brand new songs. So it'll be Part I and Part II, which will be over twenty songs in response to the album available through Angels & Airwaves.com on 11/11/11.
What has the experience of executive producing a film been like for you? Is it something that you would like to do more of in the future?
DeLonge: Yeah, Angels & Airwaves is already working on two more films for the next two albums that we do and we really enjoy it. I personally love it. To me, giving somebody a chance to sit down and experience with full attention an idea that you have is incredible, and especially if it has to do with sonic and visuals at the same time. So that's like the best thing ever. For a musician that's used to people hearing our song on the radio in their car with street traffic coming over a static station, you know this is awesome to sit in a theater with a great sound system in the dark with some food and friends and experience it in a different kind of way. It's a really exciting time for art I think for me.
What can you tell me about Angels & Airwaves Presents: Love Live, the live event that is taking place in Boston on Wednesday for the official debut of the film?
DeLonge: For Angels & Airwaves it makes a lot of sense because there is a performance so we get to be the band that we are. There's a movie that we'll air right before that so we get to show the art project that we worked on for five years. And there's a Q&A so it's all packaged with the technology element, which our band is very big on. So it kind of sums up everything that this whole project is about; it's independent, but it's multi-media. We're really excited about it and were also going to debut the music video for the movie on the big screen. It's just infinite potential to do these things in the future. The one thing I love about our position is that we have a lot of latitude because we started as a band. We're sitting right in between two industries of film and music, so we could do anything we want now when other directors can't necessarily. They're a little bit more in the box and the box that they fit into is a little bit more defined. I think we're the first band in history that made an actual movie, not a rock opera, not fly-on-the-wall footage, we're not acting in it, it’s not a documentary or concert footage. This is an actual feature film. I think we really are the first to do it and I love that. So we're going to want people to hold tight for the next one we do because this one was meant to be art house and next one is much grander.
Finally, your film has received a lot of comparisons to Duncan Jones’ Moon, and Will Eubank has said that he had an “oh crap” moment during production of Love when Moon was released. What was your initial reaction to Moon and did you have any concerns of your own regarding comparisons between that movie and your film?
DeLonge: Oh I was pissed you know! Will had been working so hard and here comes another space movie with a treadmill. The art is so erratically different, but you know great minds think alike. That's what I tell myself if I end up doing exactly the same thing as somebody else. That it’s respectable to pretend we're on the same astral plane. But I think this movie stands on its own two feet. It's a whole different project, that's for sure.