Tom DeLonge can’t believe he’s still relevant — but why wouldn’t he be? After building Blink-182 up into a rowdy, ridiculous pillar of the pop-punk era, DeLonge left the group to excavate his own obsessions. He formed his transmedia musical collective Angels & Airwaves, wrote children’s books, and started apparel lines. Then, in a move that would eventually rattle world governments, he founded To the Stars, a company aimed at uncovering the truths about Earth’s UFO encounters. DeLonge did not take his reputation as a high-profile paranormal theorist lightly, and in 2020, his advocacy for transparency about so-called extraterrestrial encounters led to the declassification of UFO videos and an official report from the Pentagon.
Somehow, he also found time to direct a movie. This month’s Monsters of California tells a coming-of-age story about a group of friends poking around the fringes of the universe — or at least the greater SoCal area. Through the haze of maybe a bit too much pot, the teens uncover government cover-ups, otherworldly creatures, and the meaning of friendship.
The earnest and extremely Tom DeLonge indie is out in theaters and on VOD at yet another explosive moment for the musician turned filmmaker: Blink-182 is back, riding a TikTok-driven nostalgia wave. Their new album, One More Time, hit on Oct. 20 along with the announcement of an arena tour planned for 2024. But when I jump on the phone with DeLonge to discuss Monsters of California and the Blink-182 renaissance, the conversation naturally turns to bigger questions. Rather, the Big Questions. The truth, as is the case for Tom DeLonge, is always out there.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Polygon: You’ve been working beyond the music space for years now, but when did the idea for Monsters of California hit you? Does it date as far back as Angels & Airwaves?
Tom DeLonge: With Angels & Airwaves like 15 years ago, I started getting into the multimedia aspect of music and narratives and short stories and animations. We did an arthouse sci-fi film called Love that won a bunch of awards. A lot of the Blink fans were like, “This shit’s boring!” I’m like, “Eh, you don’t get it.”
But Monsters of California started probably like five years ago, six, maybe even seven. Writing a script, rewriting it, rewriting it, rewriting it, rewriting it, finding a partner, COVID hitting, finally getting it off the ground, and now we’re in a really good space and it’s finally out, and I’m really proud of it. We did this thing with literal peanuts. Every $100 bill was like a tragedy to spend. We were able to squeeze it all onto the camera, so I’m really proud of it.
Why did you want to tell this story as a traditional movie, as opposed to an album or experimental video?
Music was pretty monotonous for me. It felt like Groundhog Day. And it felt like people just don’t care that much. You hear a song on the radio, and it’s like, Is there static on the radio? Are you in traffic? Is someone calling you? But when you see a movie, you’re in a dark room and lose your state of mind and state of being. You get sucked into something and get more emotionally affected by it. Kind of like what it feels like if you go see one of your favorite bands live and it’s a great show — you’re really present.
So I wanted to play with that. I’m really moved by art that can make people feel something. I thought this was a way to get people to feel something more, more than just a song.
But then I learned that [film] is a really complex art form and takes a lot more focus than, like, just writing a hit song and recording it! Say you write a good song. Then you’re like, OK, I wrote the parts, now we just got to record it over the next few weeks, and you just sit there every day. And it’s not even that creative. It’s more tedious. But with a film, you’re worrying about a camera moving in a three-dimensional space. You’re worried about your human performance, special effects, visual effects, the color of the film, the pacing of the edit, the score, the sound design… There are so many elements that come together. The challenge artistically is pretty phenomenal. I really want to do things that I have no business doing.
The need for order on a movie set might stand in contrast to the punk ethos that has fueled Blink over the years. Was there room for rebelliousness on Monsters, or did you have to be super buttoned-up and prepared for more natural chaos?
When you’re doing an independent film the way I did, there are a lot of similarities, if you have a DIY attitude. The difference is that you are on a very, very tight budget and schedule. You can’t just stop and say, “You know what, we’re going to film this horse over here, because it’s fucking cool-looking.” I mean, you can, but you better have a good reason for it.
But the idea of being fast, improvisational, making decisions on the fly, and just doing it your own way… That’s what I grew up with, with skateboarding. We’d go out and film ourselves skateboarding and make stupid videos, hitting each other in the nuts with baseball bats, Jackass-style. That kind of take-a-camera-out-and-do-whatever-you-want [method], there was a lot of that on this movie. I felt my first film should be reflective of who I really am. So it’s about skateboarders in Southern California, they make fun of each other, it’s how they talk, and there’s a brotherhood in the culture, and then a fascination with interesting, weird shit that no one else thinks is cool but you.
As a longtime believer in alien life and UFO research, you are one of the kings of “being fascinated by weird shit that no one else thinks is cool.” (And your work has vindicated that obsession in recent years.) Monsters of California has its fair share of extraterrestrial hijinks, but it’s also working on a few other levels — most surprisingly for me, a spiritual one. There is a strong message about our connected energies with the universe. Which brings me to my big question: Do you think a lot about what happens after we die?
Yeah, I do. But I think it’s nothing to be scared of. Most civilizations celebrated it because they had a larger understanding of how the universe worked. I think that ancient civilizations were far more advanced than we give them credit for. And I think that their understanding of consciousness in particular is what we’re finally rediscovering now.
Back in the day, we would basically say, Anything we can measure with the tools we have, we will call science, fact. Everything else we don’t understand and can’t measure, we just call religion. And that’s been the problem up until recently, over the past couple decades. Now we’re building tools to study all that religious stuff, all that faith, spirituality, metaphysics stuff. It’s consciousness — consciousness-based science. And once we measure that stuff, we’re finding out, Oh shit, this plugs in perfectly to Newtonian physics. This all works with general relativity. This is all one unified field theory. This isn’t just stuff that’s woowoo.
And that’s really where things get interesting: We’re going to start to learn that the human experience is completely different than we thought it was, now that we can measure consciousness, spirituality, and what all those things mean.
We used to say, Oh, that’s just a paranormal religious experience, it’s crazy. But when someone’s like, I saw something in my bedroom, or I heard voices in my head, or I knew you were gonna call me, we’re now gonna say, “That’s because you are an antenna. And you are tethered to a radio station that we all call God. We all give it different names and argue about it, but it’s all the same thing.” And I think once we have that understanding, we’re all going to come together and go, Holy shit, we’ve gotten it all wrong.
We’ve been arguing over how to boil water because I say you have to use fire, and over there you say we have to use electricity. Then we argue about it, but it’s really just heat. And that’s the same thing with prayer and meditation. Someone says, “I prayed for somebody, and they got better, so I know my religion works.” Someone else is like, Well, I meditated and did energy healing, and it worked. So who’s right? Physics doesn’t care. If you shut down your mind and talk to the source it works. We’re getting caught up in words.
I think that’s where this gets exciting. That’s what the government knows. That’s what’s coming out. But it comes with a lot of baggage, and it’s going to change the world over the next five to 10 years, for sure.
I want to ask about science fiction films you love that might have informed Monsters of California, but the “fiction” label may not sit well with you. Do you have genre touchstones, or were you actually looking to challenge the classics with your movie?
Thank you for the question. There are a lot of movies that I think get some things right, but a lot of times, they’re just trying to make a really good movie that sells tickets, right? So it’s like Close Encounters [of the Third Kind]… Everything about that was perfect up until the smiling aliens at the end, and everyone hugging. That part is the bad part. Or look at a newer movie, like Everything Everywhere All at Once. It got consciousness right — it’s all happening at the exact same moment. But it was so chaotic that a lot of people might not have totally gotten the message. It’s a wonderful, fucking awesome movie, so maybe they did.
But then you have things like Back to the Future, when he’s in the DeLorean, and pop, goes right from a parking lot into a barn. That is how the universe works. Everything that did happen can happen and will happen, is happening all at once. Time is parallel. It’s not linear; we just think it’s linear. And so you have UFOs, and you have these things that took us literally 70 years to realize: These are not crafts coming from other planets; these are crafts that are traversing the frequencies of time. And it’s complicated. We have to realize that everything we can imagine happening is actually happening. So once we build the tools to discover that, to utilize that, the world is going to change in crazy ways.
The movie grapples with all these big ideas, but also has a lot of tiny flourishes I appreciated. Please talk about the scene in which a Bigfoot pisses on a guy’s face.
OK, so everything that is happening with UFOs right now, it’s happening because me and my partner [Jim Semivan] from the U.S. government brought it out. We brought out the first declassified videos of UFOs, we got all the various committees in the Senate, Congress, we got them all briefed. We brought in all the people in the military and the people that worked on the programs to go brief Congress.
And then Congress created the task force; we had a hand in that. And so now that’s going, Congress has got the bills to disclose everything, Chuck Schumer, [majority] leader of the Senate, has that going. It’s all happening. So I always tell people, “I knew what I was talking about with UFOs.” For years, my band members and people would make fun of me — in good spirit, it was funny, I laughed it off. Tinfoil hat stuff, yeah, but I knew what I was talking about. It’s real. And so now people got to trust me when I tell them the Bigfoot stuff is very real.
There’s actually more evidence for it than there was even for UFOs. And we’re going to learn that there’s multiple things interacting in our environment that have to do with frequency and consciousness and time that are beyond even just a flying saucer in the sky. There are different life forms are all over the Earth and our oceans and our forests that are of varying sizes, shapes, and probably types of consciousnesses that they share — that’s one of them.
So the spirit of Monsters of California is that ghosts are real, Bigfoot is real, UFOs are real, demonic possession is real, orbs of light are real — it’s all happening. And it’s not weird or unique or rare; it is a part of the fabric of existence. So if you go into the ocean, you’re gonna see a jellyfish, you’re gonna see a dolphin, you’re gonna see a whale, then you’re gonna see a boat. And then you’re gonna see a Coke can and some banana peels float by, and you’re gonna realize there’s an island somewhere.
You’d have no idea the ocean is a lot bigger than the jellyfish. It’s got everything in it, and things in it that make no sense that are left over from somewhere else. That’s kind of the point, is that “paranormal” just means “more than normal.” But pretty soon, it will be just normal. Frequencies of life are intersecting, and in certain locations in certain places, we will see the echoes of that. And we will interact with that. And we will understand that. We won’t call it weird. We are at a point now where it’s an inflection point on our understanding of consciousness.
There’s a lot of consideration about finality in both Monsters of California and the new album. Where are your priorities? Do you want to make another movie?
Yeah, we [at To the Stars] have like 10 to 15 major projects in the works. Bigger budgets, bigger stories, better writers, more serious themes. All of it deals with aspects of the UFO subject, whether it’s consciousness, time, what the government’s doing about this stuff. But it all plays within very mainstream stories, where people hopefully can have a lot of fun and digest the information easier.
And what about Blink? Your album One More Time is out, and you’ll go back on tour this summer. But does it feel like the final album and a last hurrah?
No, Blink is gonna continue. This thing’s a monster. I mean, the band’s bigger than it’s ever been, by miles. On paper, I guess it makes sense, but in my heart, it doesn’t, because I feel like a skateboarder from East County, San Diego. I don’t know how I got this position. Looking at old videos of us, I’m like, Have I really been doing this shit for, like, 27 years? But it’s bigger than it’s ever been. Somehow it’s relevant.
I get it on paper — the songs are catchy, there’s a lot of energy, so it’s fun. The humor and friendship and brotherhood, everyone can relate to. Maybe that’s all you need. But I know that exists in other bands, too, so I’m not quite sure why it’s all working the way it is. But I am so grateful. It’s weird, because for so long, people were annoyed by these dumb skateboarder kids that would tell dick jokes on stage, singing pop songs. They would say we were like the Beach Boys on meth. But, fuck, the Beach Boys are fucking good — I wish I was that good! But here we are still doing it.